Marriage a Divine Institution
Modern attitudes towards marriage differ considerably from God’s view outlined in the Bible. In England and Wales, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, was passed on 17 July 2013, and the first marriages of same sex couples took place on Saturday 29 March 2014.1 Do the changing attitudes of society impact on the way the Bible is interpreted? Are ecclesias obliged to accept this new definition of marriage?
In previous generations United Kingdom law reflected Biblical principles relating to marriage. Clear proof of this can be found by referring to the wording of a notice which was displayed at Register Offices: ‘Marriage according to the law of this country, is the union of one man with one woman, voluntarily entered into for life, to the exclusion of all others.’ Whilst this law was current, there was no conflict at all with Bible teaching but now there is a marked difference in the view of the law and the Bible.
Irrespective of the view of man, God’s principles, standards and laws must be upheld by believers. The following points must be taken into account:
- During the creation week after having formed man from the dust of the ground, God made woman to be a help suitable for him (Genesis 2:18, 20-22).
- God told Adam, ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.’ 2
- Marriage is therefore an institution designed by God and can only be between ‘a man’ and ‘a woman’.
- As marriage was designed and instituted by God, it would be his prerogative and his only, to change it in any way. 3
- Implied in the words relating to marriage is the requirement for a change of abode which would be necessary when a man (or a woman) leaves his (her) parents. Through this act of leaving one house to be joined unto his wife the process automatically becomes a very public act. The intention of this open and public departure from one place to another, legitimises the two becoming one. 4
- The process of marriage is endorsed by Jesus when questioned by the Pharisees on divorce (Matthew 19).
- There are numerous marriages referred to throughout Scripture and there is never any indication, suggestion or hint of two people of the same sex coming together.
- Later notes show how God views any form of sexual union outside of his definition of marriage.
Acceptable Standards of Sexual Activity
Attitudes within many countries no longer consider sexual activity outside of marriage to be sin. A number of governments have made certain provisions for a man and woman who were not married but living together, such as pension entitlements. Should believers therefore be more willing to embrace some of this culture given the current worldview?
Throughout history God has considered it necessary to execute judgments upon nations on account of their sin. He is of course long-suffering, takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and it is only because of a heightened prevalence of sin that God finally acts. With the expectation of the return of Christ to bring about the final judgments on the earth before the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, it is not surprising to witness such widespread flagrant disregard for his laws.
It will be seen from the following points that there is no room for any form of deviation from the Divine pronouncement given at Eden.
- Scriptural marriage, as defined by God, is considered previously.
- The writer to the Hebrews shows, very plainly, that God-defined marriage is the only acceptable situation where a man and a woman may come together. ‘Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge’ (Hebrews 13:4) 5.
- Paul in his first letter to the ecclesia at Corinth shows that ‘fornication’ (porneia, porneia = sexual immorality) can be avoided by every man having their own wife and every wife her own husband (7:2).
- The Scriptures referred to above are uncompromising. The only form of sexual activity that God considers acceptable to Him rests within the strict confines of marriage.
Same sex relationships
It is now the law in the United Kingdom and many other western countries that two people of the same sex can form a ‘Civil Partnership’ or a ‘marriage’. As this arrangement is part of modern society, and as Christadelphians are law-abiding citizens, are we now obliged to accept such relationships within our community?
As the appointed day for the return of the Lord Jesus becomes closer and closer it is a reasonable assumption to expect that more and more Biblical principles will be discarded in favour of human thinking. Believers will need to be alert to these unwelcome developments and ensure that robust Scriptural teaching is adhered to.
The issue strikes at the heart of whether the dictates by man override anything that God has already given guidance upon. The principle is set out in Acts 5:29 ‘We ought to obey God rather than man’
- Scriptural marriage, as defined by God, is considered previously.
- It is correct that as Christadelphians we must obey the laws of man. In fact we acknowledge that the laws are generally good as they afford protection against evil behaviour. Paul, in writing to the believers in Rome tells us that the law is to punish the evildoer (Romans 13:1-3). However, some laws of recent times fly in the face of direct, clear Scripture principles and consequently being at variance with God’s will, make it impossible for believers to comply with every aspect of these new directives.
- The Bible is very clear about how God views same sex relationships. The Greek word ‘pornos – pornos’, often translated as ‘fornication’ and, which is an all-embracing term describing unlawful sexual activity, is to be understood as relating to same-sex acts in the following two examples from the New Testament:
- When writing to the Romans, the Spirit through Paul identifies some of Israel’s past sins and specific mention is made of ‘men with men committing what is shameful’ (1v27). The chapter ends with a list of 22 specific sins under the heading of ‘all unrighteousness’ (v29). In this list the only sin that can be applied to verse 27 is sexual immorality (Grk pornos – pornos, translated ‘fornication’ in the KJV). So men with men and women with women are unrighteous acts.
- Jude uses ‘ekporneuw – ek porneuo’ when speaking of the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah (v7). The record in Genesis makes it clear that homosexuality was the primary reason for the outpouring of God’s wrath in destroying the four cities of the plain. A mob surrounded the house of Lot and this large group came from every quarter of the city and the age range was wide (young and old). The use of the prefix ‘ek’ heightens the seriousness of this sin (Strong’s ‘utterly unchaste’) over and above others owing to that fact that it is ‘against nature’ (Romans 1:26). There are those who contend that this was not the problem in Sodom, but rather their inhospitality and violence (using Ezekiel 16). They also contend that the reference to homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 refers to the abuse of young boys. These concepts and verses are addressed later in this article.
At Creation, everything God made was “very good”, including man and woman. However before this point, during the sixth day, there was one thing that was not good: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God resolved this problem by providing the man with a help meet for him, in the form of a woman. Once this was done God declared His Creation to be very good. The creation of a male and a female was what made God’s Creation “very good” in His eyes.
Procreation and the symbology of Christ and His Bride only arise from the union of male and female.
The first commandment Adam and Eve were given as a couple was to “be fruitful and multiply”. God’s purpose in creating them male and female is made plain in this commandment: it was so that they could procreate. How wonderful that the keeping of this commandment was to be a pleasurable experience, through the love they would have for one another. This love between husband and wife pervades the whole of scripture and becomes an allegory for the love between Christ and the Ecclesia. Paul quotes Genesis: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. He then continues to explain the importance of this as the basis upon which we can understand our relationship with Christ: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31, 32). To undermine the divinely ordained relationship of the man and the woman is to undermine our relationship with Christ as our bridegroom. As we shall see, the heterosexual relationship is the only sexual relationship which the scriptures speak of in positive terms, and then only within marriage.
Of course, some brethren and sisters do experience attraction to those of the same sex. However, this “lust” should not be treated differently to any other. What is a temptation to one may be of no interest to another, but all fleshly lust must be controlled. If left unchecked, it leads only to sin and death (Jas 1:15). Whatever the lust, the temptation is real for the individual involved. Thus, if they are willing to accept it, anyone resisting such temptation
With this in mind, let us consider God’s viewpoint of the issue. We will see that the Old and New Testaments convey consistently His thoughts on the matter.
When the angels visited Lot in Sodom, his house was surrounded by the men of the city who demanded: “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out to us that we might know them” (Genesis 19:5). That the men wished to have sexual relations with the angels is clear from Lot’s reaction in offering them his daughters “which have not known man”. There can therefore be no doubt that these men were practising homosexuals, and that this was the sin of Sodom – God had already pronounced “their sin is very grievous” (Genesis 18:20) before the angels arrived.
Some have suggested that the sin of Sodom was their inhospitality and violence. But that would not have caused Lot to say, “I pray, do not so wickedly” and then to send his daughters out in an attempt to appease them. Sending out his daughters would not have resolved their inhospitality or their violent tendencies, but it might have prevented their insistence on having sexual relations with the angels. The wickedness Lot was referring to was what they wanted to do to the angels.
There is much evidence that many of the principles of the Law of Moses already existed prior to it being given at Sinai, and this seems to be such an example. In the Law, this grievous sin was outlined in plainly:
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abominationLeviticus 18:22 (emphasis added)
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to deathLeviticus 20:13 (emphasis added)
The scriptures are consistent on God’s view of this sin. The word abomination in these verses is also used of Sodom in Ezekiel’s prophecy when describing the iniquity of Jerusalem:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy, And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw goodEzekiel 16:49-50 (emphasis added)
The reason for God “taking them away” was the abomination they committed, irrespective of any other problem that existed in Sodom. This Hebrew word for abomination is used throughout the Law of Moses almost exclusively of either sexual impropriety or idolatry, but never of inhospitality or violence.
This is further confirmed in the New Testament:
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”Jude 7 (emphasis added)
The Spirit through Jude makes it clear that the reason for their destruction was the going after strange (or different) flesh in acts of fornication. He is differentiating between normal, acceptable sexual practices and those that were unacceptable, as practiced in Sodom and Gomorrha. Consequently, this can only refer to the homosexual practices in these cities which led to their destruction.
The New Testament reinforces the condemnation of homosexual practices:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.Romans 1:27 (emphasis added)
The Spirit through Paul is addressing members of the ecclesia and giving them clear instructions on what is not acceptable in God’s eyes. The teaching is that any sexual relationship other than man’s “natural use of the woman” is unacceptable – it is “unseemly” and an “error”.
Some have suggested that Paul is referring to such practices taking place as part of idolatrous worship, quoting, Romans:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever”.Romans 1:25
Their argument is that it is the practice of idolatry that is being condemned, rather than the homosexual relationships. However, the verses that follow describe how abhorrent these sexual practices were in God’s eyes, irrespective of whether it was in idolatrous worship or not. The Spirit through Paul continues to argue that because of their idolatrous practices in which “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge” He “gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:28). So, because they had completely abandoned God, He had abandoned them. Nevertheless, these practices in their idolatrous worship were still not “convenient” or fit in God’s eyes.
Others have argued that Paul is addressing a specific Roman practice of high-ranking officials abusing young boys and slaves, based upon a quotation in Corinthians:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (emphasis added)
The word effeminate here is translated elsewhere as “soft” and in most modern translations is translated here as “homosexual”. According to Strong’s concordance this word ‘malakos’ can refer to a number of circumstances:
- Of a catamite (a boy kept for homosexual practices)
- Of a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man
- Of a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness
- Of a male prostitute
Even if we are to accept that Paul may be referring to the Roman culture of the day (a point which cannot be proven), the verse then lists “abusers of themselves with mankind”, which is one Greek word ‘senokoites’. According to Strong’s, this word has no relationship with this Roman practice, but is rather defined as:
- One who lies with a male as with a female, sodomite, homosexual
Thus, by following the Strong’s definitions both the abuse of boys and general homosexual acts are unacceptable in the ecclesia.
However, we must take care that we do not base our interpretation of scripture on human writings (as useful as they might be as a guide and help), we must let scripture define itself, for it is the only inspired writing. So where else are these words used? The Spirit through Paul uses the same Greek word ‘senokoites’ when writing to Timothy where there is no use of the Greek ‘malakos’:
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind (senokoites), for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.1 Timothy 1:9-10 (emphasis added)
So, Paul through inspiration is confirming the Old Testament teaching that those who practice non-heterosexual relationships are considered by God as being lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinners, unholy and profane. These are strong words penned through the spirit. Words we must heed.
Care and support
It cannot and should not be denied that some brothers and sisters experience these feelings. But as we saw in 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1, we are taught that such feelings must not be acted upon if we are striving to please God.
We all face temptations that are contrary to God’s word. The call of scripture is to resist the temptation that is personal to us, knowing that to give in to the temptation and allow lust to conceive will only bring forth sin. We cannot remove the matter of sexuality from this arena, regardless of whether it is accepted or even encouraged in the age in which we live. We have the encouragement that God does not “suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Corinthians 10:13) and that “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Brothers and sisters facing the trials we’ve been considering need the right spiritual support and encouragement, and the situation must be handled with care both as an ecclesia and on a personal basis. We must also acknowledge that resisting temptation will at times leave a void that needs filling. We can all help to prevent this by providing opportunities for fellowship. Sometimes something as simple as a phone call could be a lifeline. No-one needs to feel isolated or alienated as a consequence of the feelings they have. We all face different temptations, and we should all seek to help one another overcome them.
Let’s remember that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. (Romans 8:18). And we each have a responsibility to help preserve one another’s path to eternal life in whatever way we can.
Polygamy – a difficulty?
In the Old testament, there are a number of instances of men with more than one wife, such as men of faith like Abraham, Jacob and David. How does this impact on the teaching previously considered in relation to marriage being between one man and one woman?
One of the key principles in understanding God’s dealings with man, is to rightly discern the context in which his laws are given. For example, the Sabbath law was a sign between God and His people Israel (Exodus 31:13,17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20) and therefore God did not expect other nations to keep this specifically targeted commandment. Any ‘strangers’ that joined themselves to the covenant people were nevertheless required to observe the Sabbath day. In a similar way God allowed the situation of more than one wife to persist.
- The Mosaic Law was specific to the children of Israel, formed into a nation on leaving Egypt. It was a national law for a people who were required to be an example to the nations around them.
- Provision was made for men to have more than one wife (God gave wives to David, II Samuel 12:8) although the law for kings specifically cautioned against multiplying wives (Deuteronomy 17:17) it was not considered sin to have more than one wife, in both patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations.
- The Levirate law, part of the overall Mosaic Law, placed an obligation on a man to raise up seed to his deceased brother where no children had been previously born (Deuteronomy 25:5). This law was outworked in the case of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 4:9-13).
- However, as Genesis records, the ideal is one man, one wife.
- Christians are encouraged to go beyond the law of Moses, and to aspire to the ideal established from the beginning (Matthew 19:8, 1 Timothy 3:2)
- That there are examples of faithful men who had more than one wife, does not give us license to ignore the principles of scripture. We should always strive for the ideals established by God.
Witnessing in the world
In many Western democracies and particularly so in the United Kingdom, it is now regarded as a criminal offence to break equality legislation. With laws wholly out of step with Bible teaching, disciples of the Lord Jesus may sometimes find themselves in compromising situations where a snap decision has to be made to either uphold Biblical teaching or be seen to conform with laws which set aside Scriptural principles. How can believers remain loyal to their Creator and yet keep within the laws of the land?
God’s principles, standards and laws must be upheld by believers and this would apply even in situations which may come close to transgressing human law.
- It is vital to know what the law says in this regard. Whilst it is illegal to discriminate against anyone in respect of a number of criteria6 it is not illegal to say what the Bible says about relationships and lifestyles.
- The disciple of the Lord Jesus should be familiar with the arguments which support God’s view that only heterosexual relationships within marriage, as Scripturally defined, are acceptable.
- Sometimes those who profess Christianity are accused of hate crime when they simply preach the message of the Bible. The teaching of Jesus nowhere calls on us to ‘hate’ anyone in the sense suggested by those who are in opposition to Bible teaching. The message of Jesus extends way beyond the capacity of many as he calls on us to, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44).
- It may be prudent to point out that whilst homosexual acts are regarded as sinful by God, the matter of same sex attraction is part of the make up of certain human beings and is therefore something that has to be controlled otherwise it would lead to sin. This is no different in principle to heterosexual attraction running wild and embracing sexual activity outside of marriage. It seems likely however, that God sees homosexual acts as more abhorrent in His eyes, as these are ‘against nature’ (Romans 1:26) and violate the typology of Christ and his bride.
Can same-sex relationships be justified?
Eunuchs – ‘he that is able to receive it, let him receive it’ (Matthew 19:11-12). The argument from this passage is that not all can be ‘eunuchs’ and so those who cannot may be allowed to continue in or even start a relationship.
By understanding this passage as allowing freedom for disciples to engage in homosexual practices is once again blatantly flying in the face of God’s commandments.
It is prudent here to repeat two key quotations in relation to marriage and sexual behaviour.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers, and adulterers God will judge.Hebrews 13:4
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.I Corinthians 7:2
Referring to these clear passages provides incontrovertible proof that there is no other type of sexual contact outside of marriage that God permits.
Imposing too great a burden. It is argued that as strong homosexual tendencies are so entrenched in some individuals, to request that, as disciples, they should refrain from homosexual activity, is imposing a burden too great for them to bear.
This is extremely dangerous reasoning because it opens the door for the justification or acceptance of almost any type of sin, examples of which are equally entrenched within us!
There is no doubt whatsoever that homosexual activity is abhorrent in the eyes of our God.
There is also no doubt whatsoever that God knows the end from the beginning and that He foresaw the state of the world in our day.
Consequently, it is not right to suggest that in giving absolute commandments about our moral conduct God was imposing on individuals a restriction that was an impossibility to keep for anyone with such an inclination. He will not suffer any to be tempted above that they are able.
It is likely that sections of the brotherhood who are tending towards toleration over a matter where God has been absolutely transparent, are being influenced more by the world’s thinking and in particular the media’s clever manipulative presentations, than by the word of God.
Refraining from tendencies towards same sex attraction is not an impossibility for those who seek ‘first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). The following illustration from the infant ecclesia in Corinth is sufficient to demonstrate this point.
I Corinthians 6:11 – ‘And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’ By examining the list of sins which precede the verse, it is obvious that prior to their baptisms into Christ, some believers had previously been engaged in homosexual activity. So to move away from that way of life was possible for them. ‘such were some of you’. It should be no different for saints in the twenty-first century.
The Apostle John writes ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous’ (I John 5:3).
There is a tendency to think that as the Law of Moses contained ordinances and commandments that no one could keep, apart from the Lord Jesus, the extension of ‘grace’ towards believers in Jesus does not contain a list of do’s and dont’s. The teaching of Jesus, though, is perfectly transparent: ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).
The example of the ‘love-affair’ between Jonathan and David is put forward as an example to justify homosexual behaviour in the brotherhood today. After all it is said that this love was passing the love of women.
The argument rests on verses which speak of their mutual love for one another and more intently on David’s lament at the death of Jonathan,
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.II Samuel 1:26
To examine the comment above it is necessary to build up a complete picture of the friendship between these two very spiritually minded characters.
It is certain that Jonathan saw a kindred spirit in David, in the attitude he had shown towards Goliath, the uncircumcised Philistine. Jonathan himself had the same view of the enemies of Israel (I Samuel 14:6). They were therefore united in attitude and action towards those who were oppressing Israel.
This love was a brotherly love (‘my brother Jonathan’ – II Samuel 1:26) and was fostered on the loyalty that Jonathan showed towards David. This was despite his father Saul’s jealousy and determination to kill David and in the process slay his own son!
It was Jonathan that was most disadvantaged when Saul’s foolishness cost him the kingdom. But this did not negatively impact on Jonathan’s love for his friend and he rather sought to protect him so that God’s will would be realised in making David the next king.
The ‘love’ between these two faithful men was not in any way a physical attraction but a shared love of Yahweh and his principles.
It may well be the case that David’s reference to ‘passing the love of women’ is based on his experience of the attitudes of Jonathan and Michal towards him. Jonathan was immensely protective of David. David’s wife, Michal also sought to protect him but only to the extent that she later lied to her father about what happened in her house. Her comment which suggested she had no option but to let David escape because he had threatened her, was a fabrication and would have intensified Saul’s determination to slay David (I Samuel 19:11-17). One might be able to understand her own reasoning for doing this as she was no doubt terrified of her father’s mood swings but it falls short of the loyalty and love for David that her brother Jonathan demonstrated in his own dealings with Saul (I Samuel 19:4-5 / 20:27-34).
There is nothing in the BASF about homosexual relationships and so it is argued that we are wrong to forbid relationships of this kind.
It is sad to hear this type of reasoning which exposes an immature and superficial understanding of Scripture.
The BASF has 30 clauses, and a Foundation Clause. These positively set out the doctrines that form the essential truth to be believed for salvation.
In addition there are 35 statements setting out doctrines to be rejected. These do not militate against or contradict the positive clauses but work in harmony with them.
With regard to the Commandments of Christ, the original copy of ‘A Guide to the formation and conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias’ (1883) contained 53 commandments divided into two sections. The list was not exhaustive7 and consequently any omission from this list does not give automatic licence to ignore or disobey anything that is contained in the Word of God. Futhermore, the LGBT issues have only recently invaded society.
In the preamble to the section on the commandments, bro Roberts wrote, ‘A community in which the commandments of Christ are not obeyed is not the house of Christ, but the Synagogue of Satan, however correctly the truth may be discerned as a theory.’
It is therefore incumbent on all believers to ensure that we know what God requires from us and that we strive to obey those commandments.
The clear and unmistakable reference quoted above and repeated here – Hebrews 13:4 ‘Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.’ – is sufficient to rule out any form of sexual activity outside of Scripturally defined marriage.
It is very sad to hear of those whose lifestyle is unacceptable to the Almighty seeking to justify their behaviour by reference to documents whose purpose was designed to help believers keep the commandments not provide freedom to engage in unScriptural behaviour.
Protecting the Ecclesia against changing developments contrary to sound teaching
UK law strongly protects the rights of minority groups. These laws are based on current secular thinking, not Biblical principles, which may lead to difficulties for the ecclesia. And it is not impossible that in seeking to uphold truth, ecclesias will find themselves opposed to the law of the land. To what extent, and how, should ecclesias interact with those who live an ungodly lifestyle?
How should an ecclesia respond to questions such as:
“Would our child be welcome in your church Sunday School? Regards, Dave and Tom”
“We would like to attend your church for spiritual support, would we be welcome? Regards, Diane and Lisa”
The implications for ecclesias in dealing with such requests may be enormous. Legislation is often on the side of those with lifestyles which Christadelphians would consider unacceptable based on their understanding of Bible teaching.
The very first consideration is what does the Scripture teach?
In answer to the request regarding Sunday School, an ecclesia might say that they would be willing to take the child into Sunday School but that the child would be taught what the Bible says and that would include the ‘traditional’ and scriptural view on marriage.
The second example is more problematic and may first be addressed by a private discussion. If the ecclesia is accustomed to holding public talks, then all members of the public should be welcome to attend. However, should any interest in the Truth be genuinely pursued then it would be necessary to set out the position of the ecclesia with regard to alternative lifestyles at the earliest opportunity.
The 2010 Equality Act does provide for religious organisations to refuse membership in certain situations and ecclesias in the United Kingdom have all received advice from the Military Service Committee to add a clause into their constitution as follows:
We will refuse membership to any whose circumstances cause serious offence to the strongly held beliefs of a significant number of the members of the Ecclesia.
This clause is not necessarily the best choice of words from a Biblical perspective but it reflects the wording in the Act and therefore would automatically provide a robust defence should the ecclesia be challenged with discrimination.
Conclusion – A Glorious Type
Creation was for the pleasure of the Almighty whose eyes are too pure to behold sin. But as the whole world lies in wickedness (I John 5:20), what process can be implemented to reconcile the situation?
Thankfully the solution has been provided and its basis rests in the principles set out ‘in the beginning’ by God in His words regarding marriage.
God knows the end from the beginning and therefore He knew that a process would be needed to bring the world into a condition whereby righteousness and peace would prevail.
A special creation was needed and woman was formed out of man. In order for the woman to be formed it necessitated putting Adam to sleep. From his pierced side a woman was formed. When he awoke, the woman was presented to him, ‘bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh’. A woman ‘taken out of man’.
This is a great mystery but thankfully it is revealed for all those who wish to see and hear what God, in His infinite mercy, has disclosed to man.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.Ephesians 5:25-32
1 Similar laws were passed in Scotland (Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2104) and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019).
2 The quotation in the NT makes it clear that the words spoken by Adam in Genesis 2:24 were a repeat of God’s declaration to him when the woman was presented to him.
3 As a result of the change in the law, the dictionary definition of marriage has now had to be changed but in some English speaking countries, or where English is the second language, the traditional (Scriptural) definition remains intact.
4 There is an interesting example of following the need for a marriage to be public in Genesis 24:67. When Abraham’s servant returns home late one evening from his mission to obtain a wife for his son, Isaac puts Rebekah in his mother’s tent, indicating that he did not take her to himself there and then but allowed time for the wedding to take place. This interpretation is in harmony with the requirement for a marriage to be an open arrangement.
5 In item 2 above two terms are used ‘whoremongers’ and ‘adulterers’. The use of the term ‘adultery’ covers situations where, following a marriage, either party has a sexual encounter with someone else. The use of the term ‘whoremonger’ (translated from the Greek porneia porneia) is an umbrella term that covers all types of sexual activity outside the strict confines of marriage by either party with an outsider of either sex. It most certainly covers an activity so common in the world and termed ‘sleeping around’.
6 The Equality Act 2010 outlaws discrimination, direct or indirect, harassment or victimisation in regard to the following Categories, called “protected characteristics”:
- gender reassignment;
- marriage and civil partnership;
- pregnancy and maternity;
- religion or belief;
- sexual orientation.
7There is a booklet available entitled ‘The Commandments of Christ’ which includes the Bible Companion and many more references to commandments including a section on Marriage.