Today is June 24, 2014. As everyone knows federal judges all over the country are declaring state bans on gay marriage unconstitutional. It happened here in Indiana this week and I believe also in the state of Utah. One other thing happened this week related to this issue that should cause embarrassment and concern to all who believe the scriptures.
The Presbyterian Church U.S.A., which was in 2011 the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country, voted to redefine marriage and allow its pastors to perform same sex marriage ceremonies in votes, each being a separate vote, that were not even close but overwhelming. It now joins the United Church of Christ in its support of same sex marriage.
In doing some follow up reading on this event I ran across an article by a pastor of the denomination, a man by the name of Sheldon Steen. Let me quote a little of what Mr. Steen had to say about the changes that were made. He said, "My deepest prayer is that this moment will become for us like Peter’s rooftop experience in Acts 10. That we will all be able to affirm together the words of God to Peter, 'What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'”
This brings up an issue more troubling than gay marriage—how does one exegete (interpret) scripture correctly? Listen to what the New Testament says about homosexuality:
"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." (Rom. 1:24-27 NKJV)
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10 NKJV)
"Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine." (1 Tim. 1:9-10 NKJV)
"And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude v. 6-7 NKJV)
(Underlining for emphasis—DS)
Jude speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah saying they were an example. The "strange flesh" Jude speaks of that the people of those cities went after was without doubt that of a homosexual nature. When two angels who appeared as men came to Lot in the city of Sodom the men of the city surrounded Lot's house, "And they called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.'" (Gen. 19:5 NKJV) Go back to the OT account in Genesis 18:16-19:29 and read it, then read again also Rom. 1:24-27.
When you read the words of Jesus in the New Testament you will hear him speak of Sodom and Gomorrah. Why? They were as Jude, speaking by the Holy Spirit, says—examples of wrong doing and God's punishment. One will note in reading what Jesus had to say that no one questions him about it. It was a well known fact among all the Jews of what had happened to both Sodom and Gomorrah and why. They became a sort of standard for evil and God's judgment against it. No explanation was needed. All knew about it. For passages where Jesus mentions either or both Sodom and Gomorrah see Matt. 10:15, 11:23, 11:24, Mark 6:11, Luke 10:12, and Luke 17:29.
Now how can Mr. Steen in view of these passages say God has made clean homosexual relationships? How does one exegete scripture to come up with that conclusion? This is the more troubling side issue of the gay marriage controversy.
I know the emphasis today in religious circles is on grace and God's love, not on obedience. Jesus said, however, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 15:10 NKJV) What if one does not keep Jesus' commandments? What if one willfully and knowingly breaks his commandments and that is his/her practice throughout life? I am not speaking of occasional lapses into sin for all sin in one form or another from time to time (no man is perfect) but rather I am speaking of living a life of sin such as is the case in gay marriage.
I know sometimes people want to claim the only words in the New Testament that are Jesus' words are those printed red in a red letter edition of the Bible. Sometimes a person will hear someone say Paul said this or that, not Jesus, with the idea being that what Paul says was only his own ideas and do not matter as Paul had his own agenda. If you believe that read John 16:12-15. Jesus says, "I still have many things to say to you." (John 16:12 NKJV) Well, is he never ever going to reveal those things? Read the text carefully. I think you can figure it out without any problem. The Holy Spirit spoke the words of Jesus and Paul was an inspired apostle (Acts 9:17). The attempt to diminish Paul's authority to speak for Christ fails.
If it is possible for a person to read plain unambiguous texts from scripture and yet reject them and declare God has changed his mind (is this not what pastor Steen has done?) then what good at all is a Bible as a guide? I am as serious as can be. In such a scenario we cannot know what it is telling us. It does not mean what it clearly states. Where does that leave us?
I suspect the answer to those who would respond would run something like this, "the Spirit leads us." Leads us to what is my question? Does it lead us to reject the scripture the Spirit gave us? If that is the case we have the Spirit in conflict with himself. Seems to me we need to try the Spirits and see which come from God. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1 NKJV) The only way I know how to do that is by the word of God. What does it say?
One ought to read again 1 Cor. 6:9-10 which I quoted above. I have a question to ask about it and you might want to give it a shot and try and answer it. That passage gives a list of those who cannot inherit the kingdom of God. If homosexuals can now inherit the kingdom of God, I am talking practicing homosexuals, then why not fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, etc., also mentioned in that passage?
Some think a legal (according to the law of the land) marriage ceremony would make a homosexual relationship holy. If a homosexual marriage is acceptable to God so is an adulterous one. "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (Matt. 19:9 NKJV)
God never condemned a sexual union between a man and a woman but he did regulate it and make it dependent upon being married with both parties to the marriage being scripturally eligible for such a marriage. Such cannot be said of a sexual union of two people of the same sex. In fact, God declared such a union as an abomination (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13). We no longer live under the Law of Moses and no one is advocating putting to death practicing homosexuals but the Leviticus passages do show us how God has felt about homosexual unions in the past. Combine that with the passages I have quoted from the New Testament above and one sees, who is willing to see, God's view of the matter.
Those who desire to please God are going to have to make a choice. Are they going to be guided by the word of God or by the opinions of men? I would say to Mr. Steen who implies that God has cleansed the homosexual marriage (?) relationship to prove it from the scriptures. Tell me why the scriptures I have quoted are of no account. Every day it is becoming harder for men to stand up for the written word of God. People no longer hold it in the high esteem they once did. It is not uncommon to hear not just the word of God but God himself being attacked and Christians are being accused of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance. We live in a word where the goal seems to be no boundaries of behavior, no moral judgments. On judgment day we will not be judged on the basis of society's standards or on the basis of what a federal judge has decided. The real judge will set on the bench that day.