What Does the Bible Say about Marriage?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 28, 2003


If there is one issue which will define the summer of 2003 for Canadians, I believe it will be the issue of same-sex marriage. Yes, we’ve had to deal with SARS, we’ve had a mad-cow scare, the West Nile virus is a concern, and the blackout was something to remember. But if there’s one thing that will have long lasting effects and which will in no small way determine the course of our society, it’s the issue of same-sex marriage. And the debate is still raging. And I don’t expect it to end anytime soon.

In case you’ve been stranded on an island with no contact with the outside world for the past few months, on June 10 the Ontario Court of Appeal stated that Canada’s marriage laws are unconstitutionally heterosexual, and redefined it from:
“The voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”
“The voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”

Is this a step in the right direction? Does it make it more acceptable or less, or is it simply irrelevant to the conversation? This is what I want to talk about this morning. We’re going to talk about what the Bible has to say abut this whole issue of marriage, and we’ll discuss if the Bible actually has anything to say about same-sex marriage.

There are some notes provided for you in your Sunrise Update this morning which you can use to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.

We’re going to start by talking about a traditional, Biblical view of marriage. What is marriage?


What Is Marriage?


We’ve already mentioned the legal definition according to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Here are some other definitions from some other sources:

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
mar•riage (măr’ĭj) noun
The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.

Collins English Dictionary:
mar•riage (măr’ĭj) noun
The state of being married: relation between husband and wife.

Encarta Encyclopaedia:
Marriage – social institution uniting men and women in special forms of mutual dependence, often for the purpose of founding and maintaining families.

Those are some official definitions of what Marriage is, but let’s take a broader look at it.


1. Marriage is a basic social institution.

You can look throughout history and through every culture, and you will see that there have always been procedures and celebrations set in place to unite a man and a woman in marriage and allow them to start a family. Regardless of religion, this has been the case. Social science has shown that the marriage relationship is foundational to the fabric of society. When marriages are strong, families are strong, and when families are strong, society is strong. But when marriages break apart or are abused or are neglected, our society is weakened and we are left with the walking wounded… people who have been hurt emotionally and spiritually and sometimes physically and who need a lot of time and care and compassion to regain their stability.

Marriage is a basic social institution. Always has been, always will be.


2. Marriage is the foundation for family.

Yes, I am aware that there are a lot of single parent families, and I’m also aware that there are marriages where the partners either can’t have children or choose not to. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

By and large, children are best off when they are raised in a two parent household with a mother and father who have publicly expressed their love and commitment to each other and have a healthy marriage relationship. There are some parents in difficult circumstances who do a terrific job of compensating, but statistically children are better off in stable two-parent home environments.

“All things being equal, children with married parents consistently do better in every measure of well-being than their peers who have single, cohabiting, divorced or step-parents, and this is a stronger indicator than parental race, economic or educational status, or neighborhood.”
~ Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family, author of Why Marriage Matters

Pitirim Sorokin, founder and first chair of the Sociology Department at Harvard, said…

From remotest past, married parents have been the most effective teachers of their children.
~ Pitirim Sorokin, founder and first chair of the Sociology Department at Harvard,

Sara McLanahan of Princeton University finds that…
“Regardless of which survey we looked at, children from one-parent families are about twice as likely to drop out of school as children from two-parent families.”
~ Sara McLanahan

Children in a healthy home with loving, married parents are better off than other children when it comes to education, crime, sexuality, employment, poverty, substance abuse, and general
health and well-being. It’s not impossible to raise children from broken homes and have them overcome this disadvantage, but it’s definitely harder. There used to be a time when parents whose marriage had fallen apart would stay together for the kids. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing from the kids’ perspective.


3. Marriage is part of God’s design.

“It’s interesting to note that in a society that is as non-church going and pagan as ours, church weddings are still the way to go for the majority of Canadians. They are looking for the scripture reading, the prayers and the God-talk. I’m not sure if it’s seeking to reclaim a little bit of religious heritage, if it’s just considered the right thing to do, or if they are just covering all their bases: Something borrowed something new something religious something blue.”
~ Denn Guptill

Those of us who believe that the Bible is the Word of God and take it seriously discover that marriage did not come about by accident. It is a relationship created and ordained by God Himself.

Mark 10:6-9 (NLT)
But God's plan was seen from the beginning of creation, for ‘He made them male and female.’ ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together.”

Those are the words of Jesus, but He was actually quoting form the book of Genesis. God had already created the first man, Adam, and then He took a rib from Adam and used it to create the first woman, Eve.

Genesis 2:23 (NLT)
“At last!” Adam exclaimed. “She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of a man.”

I think a more literal translation of what Adam said would be, “hubba, hubba!” The passage goes on…

Genesis 2:24 (NLT)
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

Just a little over 1100 words into the Bible we find the whole concept of marriage defined: two becoming one. The two become one emotionally, spiritually, socially, legally, and through sex it even happens physically, and even takes place genetically with offspring.. And it’s all part of God’s design. And incidentally, that’s why we advocate that sex should be reserved for marriage. The Bible describes sex as an act that takes place between a husband and a wife… because sex is part of “becoming one.” And how can you become one with this person and that person and another person without giving up a little bit of yourself each time? Sleeping around abuses this beautiful gift God gave us and the results are more times than not pain, heartache, regret, and sometimes even some pretty serious health problems.


4. Marriage is an analogy of God’s love for us.

There are a lot of verses that talk about us as the Church being the bride of Christ. Jesus loves us and delights in us like a groom loves and delights in his wife. Check out these passages…

Isaiah 62:4-5 (NLT)
Your new name will be the City of God’s Delight and the Bride of God, for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his own… Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

Throughout the New Testament the relationship between Christ and His church relies on the analogy of a marriage.

2 Corinthians 11:2 (NLT)
I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. For I promised you as a pure bride to one husband, Christ.

Ephesians 5:25-26, 31-32 (NLT)
And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word…
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.

And several times in the Revelation the church is called the Bride of Christ. The theme of marriage being an analogy of God’s love for us is found throughout Scripture.

Why? How is marriage an analogy of God’s love for us, and how does it describe our relationship with Him? Well, marriage is the most intimate, fulfilling, and loving relationship that we experience on earth. In a healthy marriage, the partners express their love freely and frequently, they’re devoted to each other, they count on each other, they’ll sacrifice for each other, they support and strengthen each other, they’re completely open and honest with each other… and that is only a sampling of what our relationship with God can be.

A marriage relationship can be ever-growing, and our relationship with God can be ever-growing right on into eternity.


There’s more that can be said about marriage in general, but we need to talk about same-sex marriage this morning. It’s all over the news, it’s relevant in our society, and a church that wants to be relevant needs to speak to the issues of the day. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Bible is as relevant today as the day it was written. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on.


What about Same-Sex Marriage?


First of all, it’s true: the term “same-sex marriage” is not found in the Bible. But neither is “Trinity”, “Bible”, “Omnipotent”, “Atheist”, “Internet Porn”, “Suicide Bombers” or “bigot” but the teachings of Scripture on these are quite clear.

The Bible does talk a great deal about marriage, and it also talks about homosexuality and homosexual actions. And from everything I understand about the teaching of Scripture, marriage is part of God’s plan, homosexuality isn’t.

Now, before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear:


A. The truth about “us” and “them” is that there is no “them.”

That truth needs to be central to our thinking. It will help us emotionally, spiritually, and relationally deal with this hot issue.

When it comes to “us” and “them”, there is no “them.” There is only “us.” When it comes to being sinful, when it comes to being messed up, when it comes to living outside of the way God intended for us to live, when it comes to being sexually torn and confused, there is no “them.” We need to do away that the concept that there’s those bad people with their sin, and understand that it’s us.

Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.

We are all sinners… people with temptations, weaknesses, habits, sexual problems regardless of our orientation working together hopefully to become all that God wants us to be.

Now, there are those people who really don’t care about God and what He wants them to be. And that’s not exclusive to the homosexual community. You’ll find people like that throughout the heterosexual community, too, who have no use for God and don’t care what He wants for their lives. And for those people, nothing we are talking about this morning makes any difference. But for those of us who are serious about our relationship with God and who want to become the people God wants us to be and who are committed to allowing Him to mould and shape us to make us that way, we want to please God.

So it’s within this context that we’re talking about same-sex marriage… recognizing that when it comes to sin and living outside of God’s ideals no segment of our population has a corner on the market. We are all born as people who have the sinful inclination to rebel against God. We don’t claim that homosexuals are sinners… we claim that we are all sinners and in desperate need of God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace.

So what about homosexuality? Is homosexuality permissible? What does God’s Word have to say about it? Well, I’ve included in your notes a list of four different areas in which the Bible talks about homosexual practice.


B. The Bible on Homosexual Practice:

Sodom’s sin - Genesis 19:1-13; Jude 7
Levitical Law - Leviticus 18:22; 20:13
Paul’s explanation - Romans 1:18-32
Paul’s sin lists - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-11

The first area is the whole story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two cities in the Old Testament that God destroyed, and from reading the passage and from traditional teaching on this section it appears that at least one of the reasons these cities were destroyed is because of rampant homosexuality.

Secondly, there’s the Levitical Law found in the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus 18:22 (NLT)
“Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin.”

And later on in Leviticus it says that the penalty for homosexuality is death.

But Leviticus also says you can’t wear clothing woven out of more than one material. It also says not to touch a dead pig. Which makes you wonder if it’s okay to play football if you wear gloves.

Leviticus is part of the Old Covenant or the Old Testament and it says some things that were not necessarily renewed in the New Covenant. That’s why you’ll find some things that we’re instructed to do in the Old Testament that we don’t adhere to today.

So a homosexual who has made a decision to follow God may look at these passages and say, “Well, Sodom isn’t all that clear, and the Levitical laws seem to be negotiable…” and they’re raising a good issue. But our understanding of homosexuality doesn’t come just from the Old Testament.

So in the New Testament, In Romans 1 Paul goes into a detailed explanation about how sinful and depraved we are, and homosexuality is used as an example of what it he calls “shameful desires.”

And then in a couple other places in the New Testament Paul lists a number of sins that God is opposed to, and homosexual practice is included in those lists.

So it would appear that God is opposed to homosexual practice. But what about orientation? Is a homosexual orientation different than homosexual practice? In other words, can you be gay and not act on those desires?

Well, let me put it this way. We all have things that we’re tempted to do that we know would be displeasing to God. It’s not in the temptation that we sin… it’s in giving in to the temptation. And that’s basically what a homosexual orientation is. It’s a temptation to act in a way that is against the standard that God has set for us to live by. It’s not the worse temptation in the world… but it is a temptation and needs to be overcome as we strive to live lives that are pleasing to God.


(C) So homosexual sex outside of marriage is wrong, just as much as heterosexual sex outside of marriage is wrong. But what if it is formalized as a life-long committed relationship in the form of marriage or whatever else? What if the government okays it, or if certain churches condone it?

And I’ve got to tell you, this is a sincere honest question for people who have a homosexual orientation who also want to live lives that please God. Is same-sex marriage a step in the right direction?

Let’s look at a passage from Matthew 19. In these verses, some Pharisees (religious leaders) come to Jesus with a question about divorce…

Matthew 19:3-6 (NLT)
Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: "Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for any reason?"
"Haven't you read the Scriptures?" Jesus replied. "They record that from the beginning `God made them male and female.' And he said, `This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together."

Notice, the Pharisees asked about divorce and Jesus turned it around by telling them about marriage. And he explained to them what marriage is and where it came from. God created male and female and He made them to be complimentary sexually to each other. A man unites with a woman and they become one. That’s what God intended marriage to be, that’s how He designed it and that’s what He recognizes as marriage.

C. Marriage is what God, not the state defines it to be.

God created marriage, He holds the copyright on it, and regardless of what the public or the courts or the government calls marriage, it’s what God calls marriage that matters. It’s like the old commercial; “They don’t say Hanes until I say Hanes.” Well, it’s not a marriage unless God calls it a marriage.

So from that standpoint… Homosexual marriage is a biblical oxymoron.

The two words just don’t go together. Like Airline food, Rap music, Pretty ugly or Butt head.

Homosexual marriage is a biblical oxymoron. The two really cannot go together. Because Marriage is part of God’s design and homosexuality is not.


D. The Christian response should be compassionate, not condemning.

In this whole issue with same-sex marriage, we’re dealing with real people with real emotions in a real dilemma. And while we recognize that the Bible speaks out against homosexual practice, we also recognize that it speaks out against being hateful and judgemental and condemning.

Ephesians 4:15 talks about how we need to speak the truth in love. We don’t compromise what we hold to be true, but at the same time we need to be sensitive to the difficulties and the feelings and the frustration that people experience.

Three Reminders:

  • We have all fallen short of God’s standard for living

  • Homosexual sin is no more wrong than any other sin

  • God’s forgiveness and healing are available to all of us, regardless of sexual orientation, political views, social standing or brand of toothpaste.


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