Homosexuality is a much broader issue than many people recognize. They hear the term “gay” and immediately think “sex.” But, how much of heterosexuality surrounds sex? Even in our hyper-sexualized culture, romantic love still triumphs over empty, animal passions. One mustn’t subscribe to Christian values to acknowledge and pursue the emotional attachments that sex complements, but can never replace. The fact is, homosexuality is every bit as complicated and involved as heterosexuality. We do the subject a great injustice when we reduce it to a discussion of sex.
All that being said, a discussion on the other aspects of homosexuality will have to wait for another time because in this particular study, we’re talking sex!
When I first started paying attention to the Bible’s teachings about sex, I was amazed at how bluntly it dealt with the subject. It was a stark contrast to the taboo we’ve regrettably allowed sex to become in the modern Church. I hope in this study to approach the subject as openly as Scripture does.
Although the Bible doesn’t deal with the subject of gay marriage (and understandably so, as such a notion would be as foreign to the biblical writers as satellite television), it would be a mistake to support or oppose it solely on the basis of its absence from Scripture. So, we are left with one course of action. We’ll first examine what it says about marital sex in general, and then we’ll apply the principles we uncover to the issue of same-sex marriage (which, as it turns out, is marriage in general).
Let’s begin by examining one of the most profound biblical teachings on the subject, offered by the apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthian church.
“Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.  But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.  The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Paul teaches here that although singlehood is preferable, avoiding fornication is a legitimate reason to married. To that end, neither spouse should deprive the other of sexual gratification, except during an agreed upon period of time for spiritual reasons. Sounds reasonable, but let’s consider the implications of what Paul is saying here.
If we consider verses 1 and 2 in conjunction with one another, Paul actually makes a very important point. Although it’s good for a person to remain single, it’s better for him/her to avoid fornication. He makes this point even plainer in verses 8-9.
“But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.  But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Paul says that although it’s good for people to remain single (and, by implication, celibate), it’s better for them to marry than to burn in lust. He basically emphasized the point he made in verses 1-2. Although singlehood is good, avoiding lust and/or fornication is better.
From this admonition, we can derive an important principle. Marriage was intended to, among other things, serve as an outlet for sexual expression. Simply getting married does nothing to curb fornication or lust. So, the implication of the passage is that sex within the framework of marriage is God’s prescription for our sexual passions.
But notice that it’s better to marry than to burn in lust, even though one is giving up the “good” state of singlehood. The question is: Why is singlehood preferable if a person can contain themselves sexually? Why shouldn’t everyone seek to get married, even if they are gifted in the area of celibacy (v.7)?
The way Christians act these days, marriage is the pinnacle of the Christian experience, and everyone should seek it. If you’re not married, church folk are trying to get you married. Many aspects of church culture are centered around “the family.” So, why does Scripture, contrary to modern church culture, call singlehood a preferable state? The answer is found later in the chapter.
“But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;  but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife,  and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”
When people are single, they generally have no one who requires personal and special attention. Therefore, they’re free to serve the Lord without distraction. Married individuals, on the other hand, are also concerned with pleasing their spouses (and rightly so). Therefore, being single and “without care” (as Paul puts it) allows people to give more focused attention to the things of the Lord. That’s why the state of singlehood (with the implication of celibacy) is a better state than marriage.
It’s not that marriage is a bad thing. In fact, Hebrews 13:4 says that marriage is honorable. So then, what we have here are two good things—singlehood and marriage. But among those good things, being single is better, provided that the individual is able to contain his sex drive. If not, then for that particular individual, it becomes better to get married.
It appears that God has a much more realistic perspective on the strength of human sexual passions than many modern Christians. He understands that we have legitimate, important sexual needs, and that there’s nothing ungodly or un-spiritual about acknowledging and even celebrating that. According to Him, it’s not good for a person not especially gifted with celibacy to remain single, subjecting himself to the heightened temptations that accompany unfulfilled sexual passion.
It’s not only interesting to consider what God said in this passage (through Paul), but also what He didn’t say. He didn’t say, “If you cannot contain, go to the altar and ask for special prayer.” He didn’t say, “Go on a spiritual retreat and fast and pray for 30 days.” He didn’t tell us that our sexual drive was a curse of the flesh that indicated a lack of spiritual maturity, or that we were being carnal and needed to develop more discipline. To the contrary, He acknowledged the realities of our sexual drive and provided sex through marriage as the prescription for it.
There are those who believe that sex does not require marriage in order to be approved in the eyes of God. While this study is not intended to deal with that particular question in detail, it should be understood that biblically, marriage is the only state in which sexual activity is approved or honored by God. While it cannot be firmly stated that pre-marital sex is a sin (this requires a study all its own, and is beyond the scope of this website’s subject matter), the fact is that it is wrong, nonetheless, as falling short of God’s purposed intention for sex within the framework of marriage. If this were not the case, the 7th chapter of 1Corinthians would make little to no sense—for why is it better to marry than to burn in lust, if all one has to do is love someone in order to have God-approved sex with him/her, thereby facilitating the need for sexual gratification?
SIDE NOTE: You might be wondering how I can say that pre-marital sex is wrong, but in the same breath say that I can’t flat-out call it a sin. The reality is, those two “classifications” aren’t the same thing. Paul said that all things are lawful (in a manner of speaking), but not all things are expedient. We know that sin, by definition, is a transgression of the law (1Jn. 3:4), and yet, there actually is no biblical law against pre-marital sex. I know… You’re thinking about all those passages that condemn “fornication.” The problem is, the Greek word translated “fornication” actually means “sexual immorality” in general. We can’t automatically assume that pre-marital sex fits under that umbrella term. I know that it’s wrong because of Paul’s teaching here in 1Co. 7; however, as a Bible teacher, I am honor-bound not to teach presumption or tradition. Consequently, I cannot, in good conscience, declare it sinful.
Consider this… The Bible is not a commentary on social structures. That’s why it doesn’t major on things like women’s rights, slavery, and other social issues. It’s not even a treatise on marriage, which is why only select passages deal with it specifically (in a theological sense). The Bible is nothing more than a book about God and man, about His plan and purpose to reconcile us to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. All 66 books serve to paint a fuller picture to this end. Every other notion or doctrine expressed in Scripture, while 100% right and good, is only a consequence of that ultimate purpose.
This reveals how serious and encompassing our relationship with God is. All that the Scriptures deal with are ultimately intended to help strengthen that relationship, so there’s really nothing more important than that—being reconciled to God, and made faithful servants of His majesty. The notion that He would be willing to share our attention with another human being under any circumstances is nothing short of amazing. It goes without saying, then, that sexual sin must be exceedingly bad in God’s eyes, considering that their avoidance is so important that He considers it “better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Apparently, sexual sin is more a bad thing than undistracted service to God is a good thing.
Now that, my friend, is a WOW notion! Amazingly, it’s a principle expressed within the first few pages of the Bible.
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'”
There are two very important things to consider in reading this verse…
This verse records God’s perspective before the Fall, when He’d already looked upon everything He created and pronounced it good. In a “good” creation, where Adam had no outlet for his sex drive, it was not good for him to be alone.
Some claim that what was “not good” had less to do with sexuality than with companionship. I beg to differ, however. God and Adam enjoyed an intimate fellowship; so in that respect, Adam was not alone. Yet, God was not satisfying the physical needs Adam had.
Walking with God is great… absolutely great. But, we still have needs in these earthen vessels. It doesn’t matter how spiritual you are. You still need to eat and drink. You can speak in tongues until your tongue falls out of your mouth, but you still need to sleep. God recognized that despite the fact that He and Adam enjoyed an intimate fellowship (to the comfort of Adam’s spirit), Adam also needed physical intimacy (to the comfort of Adam’s physical person).
This means that our sex drive is not a result of the Fall! We were created by God as, among other things, sexual creatures. Even prior to the Fall, Adam had physical needs were both present and potent. That flies in the face of so much of what the traditional Church makes us feel about sex. It’s not a nasty, sinful excursion into the flesh. It’s a legitimate need that we were created with.
The fact that it takes a gift from God (celibacy – see 1Co. 7:7) to be able to go without sex is really saying something. For those without that gift, He assists us in avoiding the consequential temptations of lust and fornication by providing marriage as an outlet for sexual expression.
When it came time to give Adam a helper, God determined to give him something suitable for him (for Adam). Traditionalists interpret this as some divine pronouncement of marital suitability for all humankind, meaning that what was suitable for Adam (a woman) is necessarily suitable for all men. This interpretation, however, is full of logical problems, including:
- the fact that although it was not good for Adam to be alone, singlehood was commended elsewhere in Scripture (as we have seen in 1Corinthians 7). If it’s not “not good” for every man to be alone just because it was “not good” for Adam to be alone, how can we claim that it’s “not good” for another man’s suitable companion to be another man just because Adam’s suitable companion was a woman?
- the fact that the number of people permitted in marriage was not set in stone by the Adam/Eve model (e.g. God Himself gave multiple wives to David—2Sa. 12:7-8). If the number of people within a marriage was not set by God’s creation of one woman for Adam, why would the biological sex of a potential spouse be set by Him?
- the fact that God allowed Adam to determine what was suitable for himself. God didn’t choose Eve for Adam. Adam chose her. Remember: God only presented her as an option (Gen. 2:22). It was Adam who pronounced her suitable, not God (Gen. 2:23)! So, if God didn’t choose Eve for Adam, He certainly didn’t choose woman for man (in general).
NOTE: Because God presented the animals to Adam in allowing him to select a suitable companion, a case for bestiality finds a small degree of surface-level biblical backing. However, such a notion is quickly and easily shot down in that bestiality is expressly condemned in Scripture in a universal sense (not just in relation to idolatrous worship or sexual exploitation, as is the case with condemnations of same-sex sexual activity). Furthermore, it violates the law of love, upon which every word of Scripture hangs! For example, love is kind and selfless (1Co. 13:4-5). Bestiality under any and all circumstances absolutely violates that standard, just like pedophilia (which doesn’t have an explicit condemnation in Scripture but can still be deemed sinful by this standard). Apparently, then, God used this process of naming and dismissing animals as potential companions as a parable, in order to teach us that He’s given us the power of choice when it comes to the person we choose as our suitable companion.
We see, then, that even in the earliest narrative in the Bible, God was concerned about humanity having access to an outlet for sexual expression and gratification. Unlike “spiritual” Christians treat the subject today, sex is not the bad guy. It simply needs to be enjoyed within God’s provided framework.
Let’s revisit Paul’s teaching in 1Corinthians. It’s important to get a good understanding of all that marriage should provide in terms of human sexuality.
“…it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” – 1Co. 7:9b
Sex within marriage is supposed to satisfy the sexual longing that we have as human beings. Okay, we know this… But, how does this apply to gay people? Traditionalists would say that a homosexual must either remain single and celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. But, would either of these states accomplish God’s will regarding human sexuality? Let’s examine…
Gay people are just as human as Adam was (imagine that). We have every bit a need for emotional and physical companionship as any other person. Likewise, just as there are straight people gifted with celibacy, there are gay people gifted with celibacy. For those with such a gift, I agree with Paul—it’s “good” for them to remain single and celibate; for then, they can commit themselves more fully to serving to the Lord. However, should a gay person not be gifted with celibacy (and most gay people are not, just as most straight people are not), the same spiritual principle would necessarily apply—it’s better to marry than to burn with passion.
Okay, so eternal singlehood and celibacy are out. It’s only a legitimate option for those who are gifted in that area. I’m not one of them! Statistically speaking, you probably aren’t either. That leaves only one option—marriage. But, does the traditionalist prescription of opposite-sex (heterosex) marriage fulfill the sexual needs that marriage is intended to fulfill?
A homosexual is, by definition, sexually attracted to people of the same sex, as opposed to people of the opposite sex. So, the pertinent question is: Does opposite-sex sexual intercourse satisfy the sexual needs that a homosexual has? If it does, then an opposite-sex marriage would definitely be an adequate answer to the problem that gay people are faced with.
Unfortunately, anyone who would answer this question in the affirmative is almost certainly straight, and is simply incapable of understanding the nature of sexual orientation. I would respond by asking, “Would having sex with someone of the same-sex satisfy your sexual needs?” One may try to avoid an answer by claiming that it’s not a legitimate question; but, in fact, there isn’t a more legitimate and relevant question to ask.
The very nature of sexual orientation precludes the possibility of a person being sexually fulfilled from someone of the counter-orientational sex (e.g. a woman for a gay man, or a man for a straight man). There may be aspects of sexual fulfillment that would be served, like achieving ejaculation; but anyone who knows anything about love-making knows that there’s a heck of a lot more to sex than having an orgasm. It’s about the melding of body and soul. It’s a sexual need in conjunction with an emotional one. It’s what separates us from animals—love-making, rather than mindless, empty sex. Yet, this sexual bond is found wanting for people engaged in counter-orientational sex. If this isn’t the case with a particular individual, I’d have to call their actual orientation into question.
So then, opposite-sex intercourse does not serve to facilitate the need for a gay person that sex within marriage was intended to facilitate. By traditionalist reasoning, then, a gay person may as well stay single and celibate, because opposite-sex intercourse won’t serve two of its primary purposes—fulfilling the sexual passions we were created with, and helping us avoid sexual sin.
So, we’ve already ruled out Option #1: singlehood and celibacy. And now, we’ve ruled out Option #2: counter-orientational marriage. Lord, what’s a gay man of 30, with hormones racing, to do?!!
The traditionalist perspective of marriage presents a Catch-22 for gay people. We’re damned if we stay single and celibate (unless we have that gift0, and we’re damned if we get married to an opposite-sex partner. Somebody tell me how God is glorified in either of these states, considering how pragmatic He was regarding human sexuality, in that He provided marriage as a sexual outlet in the first place. Tell me how God is glorified, considering how bad sexual sin is in His eyes—so bad that He, our admittedly jealous God (Ex. 20:5; note: He’s jealous for us, not jealous of us), is willing to share us for life with a spouse!
There is but one answer for gay people: same-sex marriage—the only union that perfectly facilitates the sexual needs of same-sex attracted people in exactly the same way as opposite-sex marriage does for heterosexuals… in exactly the way originally intended by God! Considering that Scripture doesn’t condemn same-sex marriage or even same-sex sexual activity outside of specific contexts involving idolatrous worship (Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Ro. 1:26-27) or sexual exploitation (1Co. 6:9; 1Ti. 1:10), considering same-sex marriage ungodly or unbiblical is wholly baseless. It finds its real source in personal ideology, rather than Scripture. (NOTE: Just because something is extrabiblical doesn’t mean it’s unbiblical.)
Considering the realities surrounding human sexuality (realities that God Himself acknowledged and took measures to address), Christians should champion and celebrate sex within marriage (whether hetero- or homo-). It’s certainly the best and only way to walk out the Bible’s teaching regarding sex and marriage consistently.
Here’s the reality we’re faced with. Forbidding people to marry works contrary to God’s intentions for sex and marriage. It forces gay Christians into the very position He desired to avoid—heightened susceptibility to temptations of sexual sin because of the lack of sexual fulfillment. We can now understand why such teachings are considered “doctrines of devils” in Scripture…
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,  by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,  men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods…”
Notice that it’s the Holy Spirit who expressly warns about Christians giving heed to “seducing spirits” that would, through false doctrines (theological teachings), forbid people to marry. And, of course, these spirits wouldn’t be seductive if they didn’t make their case appear, on the surface, so biblically sound. This is why it’s so important to not settle for a face-value approach to Scripture, and certainly not for a traditional point-of-view. Understanding how important it is to God that Christians avoid sexual sin, it makes perfect sense that such doctrines are “demonic” in origin, as stated by the holy Spirit of God.
God’s purposes for marriage must not be thwarted by bad theology. We must not withhold this gift from an entire class of people based on how we were raised, or what our preachers told us from behind their pulpits. The rightly-divided word of truth forbids neither same-sex marriage, nor same-sex sexual activity within marriage. How, then, can we, seeing that such a forbiddance is in stark opposition to God’s intentions for human sexuality?
“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled…”
Think about it…