What Jesus Affirms About Marriage

I've heard it said a lot lately that in the Scriptures we do not have a clear statement from Jesus regarding homosexuality. "Jesus never even mentioned homosexuality," it is argued. And in all honesty, the "red letters" of Scripture do not contain the word "homosexuality" or the word "homosexual." Some who profess to follow Christ but also affirm homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle have made an argument in favor of the legitimacy of gay marriage from the fact that neither of those words are recorded on the lips of Jesus.

Does the absence of the word "homosexual" coming from the mouth of Jesus mean that he affirms homosexuality, or that he said nothing that would reveal his position on homosexuality and gay marriage? Below I'd like to offer some thoughts in response to this line of thinking. Just what does Jesus affirm about marriage? 

Jesus affirms the Bible's authority, and therefore its consistent definition of marriage.

When someone says, "Jesus never condemned homosexuality" they are simultaneously saying something else: namely, that the rest of the Bible's teaching about homosexuality doesn't matter. Since Jesus said nothing explicitly against homosexuality should we then dismiss the rest of the what the scriptures say regarding it?  I think it's a huge mistake to drive a wedge between what Jesus is recorded as saying vs. what the rest of the Bible says.

For one, Jesus consistently affirmed the scriptures. He said that not one iota would pass away from the law until all has been fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). He constantly challenged the Pharisees and Scribes by retorting, "Have you not read..." (Matt. 12:3, 5, 19:4, 22:31; Mark 12:10, 26; Luke 6:3) or, "Is it not written..." (Mark 11:17). By repeatedly referencing the scriptures, he clearly believed that they were authoritative.*

Jesus told his disciples that when he departed he would send them the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things and bring to remembrance all that he taught them (John 14:26). These are the very teachings recorded for us in the New Testament. The apostle Peter explains, "no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Pet. 20-21).  To pit Jesus's words against, say, Paul's is to fail to listen to Jesus's own words. Jesus explicitly said that the apostles had been given the "keys of the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19) based upon their confession that Jesus is the Christ. To possess the "keys of the kingdom" was to have authority to "loose" and to "bind." This means they had gospel authority to declare truth and exercise discipline concerning right and wrong conduct. To disregard the apostles' teaching regarding marriage, then, is to simultaneously disregard Jesus's explicit affirmation of their authority to do so. 

To disregard the apostles' teaching

regarding marriage

 is to simultaneously disregard

Jesus's explicit affirmation

of their authority to do so. 

_______________________

For the moment, though, let's concede the argument. If we disregard the Apostle Paul's teaching about marriage and only look at what Jesus himself said, what can we know? 

In the 19th chapter of Matthew, we encounter a discussion Jesus had with some Pharisees. The religious leaders approached Jesus to ask him a question about divorce. In Jesus’ response to these men, he offers several significant beliefs he held regarding marriage. (For the full context, read Matthew 19:1-12)

Jesus believes humanity and marriage are the creation of Almighty God.

HE ANSWERED,“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife."

Notice that Jesus immediately points to the Old Testament and affirms its authority regarding marriage and sexuality by asking, "Have you not read...?" He expects the Pharisees to know and trust the Scriptures regarding this topic (see the first point above).  By going back to the creation account Jesus teaches that marriage is not first and foremost a social construct; it is a divine creation. God made man and woman in his image and he made them for one another. Marriage was not something invented by homo-sapiens. Marriage is the conception of God. Genesis 2 teaches that God created Eve for Adam as a helpmate and friend. Jesus says in this passage, "therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife." quoting Genesis 2:24. He's saying that God intended for the marriage relationship to happen: for two people to come of age, leave the hedging of their parents, and be joined together to start their own family. Marriage is a God-invented gift given to humanity. And if it is the case that God instituted marriage, then he also has authority to define the parameters and intentions of marriage. If God conceived marriage he gets to dictate its purpose. 

Marriage is a God-invented gift 

given to humanity.

And if it is the case

that God instituted marriage,

then he also has authority

to define the parameters

and intentions of marriage.

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Jesus believes marriage is A complimentary covenant relationship of male and female.

he who created them from the beginning made them male and female...and the two shall become one flesh’. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”(Matthew 19:4-6 ESV)

When Jesus says that "He who created them from the beginning made them male and female" he's referencing Genesis 1:27. Again, the point is to hearken the Pharisees back to the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 to establish the idea that since the very beginning of time there has always been a paradigm and an intended design for marriage. The Pharisees are specifically wanting to know grounds for divorcing one's wife. Jesus rebuts their question with the truth that God's design for marriage is one man and one woman united together for life. In other words, divorce doesn't fit the paradigm of God's design for the marriage relationship. Jesus says, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."  Divorce is a violation of marriage because it cuts the relationship short. Divorce brings separation of what is intended to be a life-long union.  Marriage is a binding covenant. I love Sally Lloyd Jones’ definition of covenantal love from the Jesus Storybook Bible. She describes it as “a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Un-breaking, Always and Forever Love.” 

If the paradigm, though, is one man and one woman united together for life, then Jesus's response, although speaking directly about divorce, transcends that particular subject and establishes a foundational paradigm for all marriages. By pointing back to creation, Jesus offers a timeless commentary on God's intention for matrimony.

By pointing back to creation,

Jesus offers a timeless commentary

on God's intention for matrimony.

Without getting too graphic, God's design is clearly seen in the anatomical compatibility and sexual functionality of male and female. The physical design of human beings reveals the purpose and intention of the Inventor. A man and a women are naturally made to come together and become one flesh. The physical act of sex consummates the covenantal act of leaving father and mother and being joined together in a life-long relationship. In every sense, Jesus says that God intends marriage to be a union: a physical, emotional, and spiritual joining together for life. 

God told the first humans, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Adam and Eve were to procreate. They were to multiply more images of God and do their best to fill the earth with the knowledge that God is King. The most natural way to do that was to have children who also bore God’s image and to raise them up to know and love the Lord before sending them out to live for God in all of life.  

The complementary nature of man and woman, though, isn't simply about anatomy and procreation. Genesis 2 teaches that Eve was uniquely made as a helper and friend for Adam. When God created the world, Adam was created first as the governor of creation. He was made in God’s very own image, under God's authority, to rule as God's vice regent. Everything about God's creation was good except one thing: Adam needed a suitable helpmate. He lacked an equal. Adam lacked a life partner. He needed a companion to come alongside of him, to support him and fully enable his calling and human flourishing. So God created woman specifically for man, to be a perfect compliment to him. Though equal in dignity, Adam and Eve were distinct in functionality. Together they were collaborative partners aimed at taking dominion over the creation and bringing everything in submission to God. They were royal ambassadors of the King commissioned to live all of life together for His glory. For this to work the way God designed, it had to be male and female fulfilling their complimentary roles as husband and wife. 

_______________________

Jesus believes marriage is a calling for some, not a requirement for all.

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. (Matthew 19:10-11 ESV)

The disciples and Pharisees apparently lived in a culture with a low view of marriage, one that allowed for men to divorce their wives for any number of reasons (which unfortunately sounds very familiar). In this conversation Jesus corrects this view. He says that the only legitimate grounds for divorce is sexual immorality. When the disciples hear this, their response is to say that if that is the case then it’s better to stay single. Surprisingly, Jesus doesn't completely disagree with them. He responds by saying, "Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given." In other words, marriage is a calling. It is a gift for only some people. Everyone should not enter into the marriage relationship. Some people should, in fact, remain single. And if this is the case, then to remain single does not diminish one's identity or usefulness in the Kingdom of God; it simply means that his or her calling is different than those called to marriage. (Before objecting, remember, Jesus never married). However, if one misunderstands, misuses, or violates marriage, its sacredness as a divine institution is diminished. Therefore, if one cannot abide within God's parameters for marriage–monogamy, heterosexuality, and permanency–Jesus says they shouldn't enter in.

 If one cannot abide within

God's parameters for marriage–

monogamy, heterosexuality, and permanency 

–Jesus says they shouldn't enter in. 

_______________________

Now some might read this blog and think to themselves, “That's not fair! Why is marriage limited to only some people? Why does Jesus issue such a high calling and extreme level of commitment for marriage?  Why does it have to be a monogamous heterosexual relationship for life? Why can’t any two people who love each other get married?" The answer lies in the fact that by God’s design the marriage relationship has a greater significance than itself. In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul says that there is profound mystery to marriage. The mystery is that marriage is not an end in itself. Marriage is not ultimate, Christ and the church is. By God’s design, from the very beginning of time going all the way back to the original marriage in the Garden of Eden, the institution of marriage was created to picture the gospel. 

The institution of marriage

was created to picture the gospel...

That picture must be preserved.

As Jesus taught these Pharisees and his disciples about the significance of marriage, he undoubtedly had in mind the reality that marriage is a picture of himself and his bride, the church. That picture must be preserved. It mustn’t be distorted or blurred. It should be vividly, accurately portrayed. And this is why marriage is a big deal! This, ultimately, is why God designed it the way he did, and why His design matters and should be followed. 

 

by Pastor Andy 

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*To be clear, Christians are not bound to the law the way a Jew under the Old Covenant was. Believers in Jesus do not have to keep the civil and ceremonial aspects of the Law because those have been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus. Those realms of the Mosaic Covenant served their purpose and came to an end in the coming of Christ and the dawn of the New Covenant. On the other hand, homosexuality belongs in the moral realm of the law. The moral aspects of the Old Covenant continue to abide in the New Covenant because morality is tied to the character of God, which never changes. From a moral perspective, right is always right and wrong is always wrong. Even if the punishments for violating the moral aspects of the law do not remain because New Covenant believers are no longer living under the Mosaic Law, the violation itself endures.