What’s wrong with same-sex marriage?

What’s wrong with same-sex marriage is simple: It does not fit in with God’s plan for human beings. It was God’s plan from the beginning of human history that humans “rule over all the earth,” Genesis 1:26, and he specifically created humans as  “male and female” for that purpose, verse 27.

God then told his male and female human creations to “Be fruitful and increase in number,” verse 28, because he’d also designed humans as  male and female to produce children. In just three verses in the first chapter of Genesis, therefore – at the very start of the human journey – God made it clear that his plan for creation would be fulfilled through male and female, and through the “one flesh” sexual union of a husband and his wife, Genesis 2:24.

There is no mention in verse 24 of a man “leaving father and mother” to be “united” in sexual union to a husband. It is clearly stated that a man will “be united to his wife,” and in the context of both these opening chapters there is no definition of “wife” other than a woman. And nowhere in scripture after this does God encourage same-sex marriage or approve of it. Jesus also makes it clear that God’s instructions in Genesis haven’t changed (Mark 10:6-9): Marriage is still man and woman, husband and wife.

But right after God gave these clear instructions in Genesis, the serpent arrives on the scene. He totally ignores God’s purpose for creating humans, male and female, to rule creation, and he totally ignores God’s means of fulfilling that purpose, through human male and female uniting in sexual union and producing children. He concentrates instead on God not making sense. Surely, the serpent reasons, humans need to know good and evil. How can anyone develop the wisdom they need to survive and grow without knowing right from wrong? And didn’t God himself agree with that, when it was he who’d created a a tree with that knowledge in the first place?

Clearly, then, Eve needed to do the sensible thing, which was take what God had created to “gain wisdom,” Genesis 2:6. It made much more sense to expand her ability to think for herself, especially when God’s instructions were so limited by comparison.

So instead of waiting on God for further instructions, she ventured out on her own, driven purely by her own desires. And isn’t that what same-sex marriage is driven by too? It certainly isn’t about following God’s instructions for male and female in the fulfillment of his purpose. It’s about what humans want, driven by and defined by their own idea of what’s right and wrong, And clearly it still is.

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Have the reasons for marriage changed?

The reasons given in Genesis for marriage were: To govern God’s creation (1:28), be a team (2:18), and create a home and family (2:24).

Marriage, in other words, was God’s starting point for his creation. Marriage would create a powerful husband and (one) wife team that could look after his creation perfectly, and produce children like themselves who would spread out further and further into God’s creation fulfilling his plan. Marriage was the key to the plan’s success.

Cain’s descendant Lamech, however, broke the pattern by marrying two wives (Genesis 4:23). The families of the great patriarchs, like Abraham and Jacob, weren’t exactly great examples of marriage either (Genesis 16:3-4 and 29:16-30). Sticking to God’s original reasons for marriage, therefore, wasn’t top priority in the Old Testament, even for the likes of King David, who had many wives and serious marriage problems. God also gave what sound like very odd instructions on marriage to Israel (like Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and 25:5-10), and divorce was easy. It’s interesting to note, then, that God’s plan for creation was going nowhere at the same time that marriage was a mess. The two went hand-in-hand.

Centuries later, however, at the end of the Old Testament, God had clearly had enough of the loosey-goosey attitude to marriage: “The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth,” Malachi 2:14, “because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”

Oh, so the marriage covenant between a husband and his wife WAS important after all. But centuries of treating wives and marriage as an afterthought had shown why: There was a clear connection between how husbands treated their wives and the success of God’s plan for Israel (verse 13). A husband’s faithfulness to his marriage covenant was directly connected to God’s blessing on the nation. Or, put another way: If husbands had loved their wives like God had loved Israel, the nation’s success was guaranteed.

No wonder Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” because if husbands in the new Israel, the church, can love their wives like Christ loves the church, the new creation is guaranteed success too. That’s how important marriage is.

Have the reasons for marriage changed, then? Not at all, because as God shows in Genesis, the success of his plans for all creation were directly connected to Adam and Eve as a married couple working as a team. Their love for each other was the starting point, and the blueprint, for all marriages. And if Adam had really loved his wife, God’s plan would have turned out very differently.

Christianity has nothing to offer if….

Christianity has nothing new, unique, or even helpful to offer if Jesus wasn’t transformed from a flesh and blood human being into a life-giving spirit ( 1 Corinthians 14: 14, 45).

There are four clear reasons why that transformation is so important. The first one is the simple fact that, like Jesus, we are flesh and blood humans too. We are subject to ageing, death and disappearing all together, and if that’s all there is to this life of ours, what is the point of it? We live, we die, and nothing we lived for or accomplished in this life lives on in our lives after we die. It all seems like an empty, hopeless waste of time.

It would be jolly nice to know, then, that life continues on after we die, and religion tries very hard to tell us that it does, but where is the evidence? Where is the proof that flesh and blood can be transformed into a substance that doesn’t die, decay or disappear? Christianity’s proof is Jesus, because in Jesus that transformation has already happened.

The second reason why Jesus’ transformation is so important is his bold statement while he was here that human beings can live forever. He said it many times too, but hardly anyone believed him until he died and came back to life himself. And that’s when Christianity took off, when what Jesus promised us actually happened to him. Everything he said about us living forever as well, therefore, was true.

The third reason why Jesus’ transformation into a life-giving spirit is the best news we could hear, is that he is now alive to make our eternal life happen. It was all well and good having him promise us eternal life, but how could he make it happen as a physical human being? He couldn’t. But he can as a life-giving spirit. He has the power within him now in his transformed state to produce the same life in us that he has.

And the fourth reason why Jesus’ transformation is so important is that a Being now exists with the power to change our world. Life as we’ve known it on this planet will not stay this way. All the misery and suffering we hear about and experience is only temporary. So, yes, it’s great news hearing that life continues after we die, but even better news that life as we know it doesn’t continue after we die.

And that’s the unique message Christianity offers, that Jesus has been transformed, and in his transformed state he has all the power he needs to transform our lives into the same life-giving spirit existence that he now experiences.

The day Christianity hit the wall

One fateful day decided the future of Christianity, not long after Jesus died too. If it hadn’t happened we would have a very different Christianity today – if it could be called “Christianity” at all.

It happened in Galatians 2. Things had been going rather well to begin with; the apostles at Jerusalem had been visited by Paul, heard what he’d been up to, and in Paul’s words, verse 7, “they saw that I had been given the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been given the the task of preaching the gospel to the Jews.”

The apostles accepted that God was just as much at work in Paul’s ministry as he was in Peter’s ministry (verse 8), and in verse 9 they gave both Paul and Barnabas “the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.”

So far so good; everyone was in agreement, so back Paul went to Antioch to continue his ministry to the Gentiles.

Peter then came to visit Paul in Antioch, and he happily sat with Gentiles at meal times (verse 12). Peter had no trouble accepting that Jews and Gentiles were equals as Christians, and most important of all, that Christianity did not require Jews or Gentiles to follow any Jewish customs to be Christians. Again, so far so good.

But then one fateful day during Peter’s visit, a group of Jews from Jerusalem arrived, and that’s when Christianity hit the wall, because Peter immediately separated himself from the Gentile Christians, possibly right there at meal time, and left the table where he was sitting with Gentiles to sit with the visiting Jews instead.

It was a highly symbolic act, especially when the reason for Peter’s action was his fear of “those who belonged to the circumcision group,” verse 12. These were Jews stuck in Judaism, who believed Gentiles could only be Christians if they were circumcised in the custom of the Jews. And Peter by his action clearly agreed, that Gentiles must be Jews first before they could become Christians, and all Jewish and Gentile Christians must observe Jewish customs. And everyone present, including Barnabas, agreed with Peter, so Christianity would have continued on that road if Paul hadn’t stepped in.

Paul made it clear, right to Peter’s face in front of everyone, that Christianity was purely about faith in Christ, and never about observing Jewish custom or belief, verse 16. And that was the moment the future of Christianity was decided, that it would not be an offshoot of Judaism. Christianity stood on its own for the first time.

The tale of two Christianities

After Jesus died two quite different versions of Christianity developed. For the first seven years after his death a very Jewish version of Christianity ruled the roost. It began on Pentecost the year that Jesus died, the main purpose of it being to convince the Jews that Jesus really was the Messiah. Just the use of Jesus’ name caused amazing miracles, the purpose of which was to prove to the Jews that “God has glorified his servant Jesus,” Acts 3:6, 13.

But then, seven years after Jesus’ death, a very different Christianity was started by Jesus, with a very different purpose, through Paul. For the next three years Paul received direct revelations from Jesus, totally independent of the other apostles. “I did not consult any man,” Paul wrote in Galatians 1:16, “nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus,” verse 17.

When the three years were up, now ten years after Jesus’ death, “I (Paul) went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother,”verses 18-19. This was the first time Paul had met with any of the original apostles (or James), and he didn’t meet with them again for another fourteen years (2:1), so for at least that amount of time there were two Christianities in operation that had little contact with, or influence on, each other.

Paul wasn’t impressed with the hierarchy at Jerusalem either: “As for those who seemed to be important – whatever they were makes no difference to me – those men added nothing to my message,” Galatians 2:6. To Paul the reputation of “James, Peter and John” as “pillars” of the church (verse 9) meant nothing. What the heavenly Jesus had taught him, Paul, by revelation (1:12) was far superior to anything the earthly Jesus had taught them. Jesus had given him an entirely new revelation, and to him alone, that totally separated Christianity from Judaism, and from the Jewish version of Christianity that Peter and the other apostles were preaching – witness the clash between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2:11.

The clash highlighted the fact that twenty four years after Jesus’ death it was a tale of two Christianities. But as far as Paul was concerned, the apostles’ version of Christianity was at best “hypocrisy” (2:13), and at worst heresy, because they “were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (verse 14). Paul, therefore, “opposed Peter to his face, because he (Peter) was in the wrong” (verse 11).

It’s not surprising, then, that most of our present Christianity came from Paul.

Who was the first man to teach and explain Christianity?

If I was seeking an understanding of Christianity, who would I turn to first of all? The simple answer to that would be to list the basic doctrines of Christianity and see who was the first person to teach and explain them. So, who would that be?

Was it Jesus? But how could it be, when no Christians existed while he was alive? He wasn’t explaining the doctrines of Christianity to Christians anyway, he was fulfilling his role of Messiah to the Jews, which included teaching and obeying all that they had never managed to obey from the Old Testament. But is that the role of a Christian, to obey every command given to Israel? If so, then Christians had better be keeping the Sabbath on Saturday, which most Christians don’t.

Was it Peter, then? To multiple millions of Christians the answer to that is Yes, because in Matthew 16:18 Jesus told Peter, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” So, surely Peter was the first to teach and explain the doctrines of Christianity – and wasn’t it Peter who did the first teaching sermon in Acts 2, resulting in thousands of people being baptized (verse 41)?

But was Peter talking to Christians? No, verse 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: that God has made this Jesus, whom you (Jews) crucified, both Lord and Christ.” That was Peter’s message: It was confirming Jesus as the Messiah to his fellow Jews, not laying out the doctrines of Christianity to Christians.

So if it wasn’t Jesus and it wasn’t Peter who laid out the doctrines of Christianity, who was it instead? It was the person to whom Jesus said in Acts 26:16-18, “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

It was Paul whom Jesus revealed Christianity to, and through Paul’s teaching that many would become “sanctified,” or set apart, as Christians (those with faith in Jesus). Paul himself then backed that up in Galatians 1:12, when he wrote, “I did not receive it (the gospel I preached, verse 11) from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Paul, therefore, was the first man to teach and explain Christianity.

Did Christianity come from Christ?

Can Christianity be traced back to the doctrines and teachings of Christ? The answer is No, because Jesus didn’t come as a Christian to set up Christianity, he came as a Jew in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies to Israel and his fellow Jews.

Jesus came as their Messiah and Lord. He came to forgive their sins, heal their diseases, cast out their demons, and establish the kingdom of God in their nation, just as predicted in Matthew 2:6 (quoting Micah 5:2), “for out of you (Judah) will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”

All through Jesus’ life there is no evidence of Jesus teaching – or celebrating – any Christian tradition like Christmas, Easter or meeting on Sundays. He didn’t even celebrate communion. Instead, he kept the Passover like all his fellow Jews. He also attended the synagogue on Saturdays, he respected the laws given to Israel, went to the temple on Jewish high days, and accepted the official requirements of the Jewish priesthood.

No one celebrated his birthday at any time during his earthly life, and none of his disciples accepted his predictions about his death either. They totally missed Jesus’ references to his resurrection back from the dead too, so as Christians the disciples were a total washout. We certainly can’t look to them for the source of our Christian traditions either.

So where did our Christian doctrines and teachings come from? Where, for instance, did the understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection come from, the two most basic doctrines of Christianity? From Jesus? No. Jesus only gave a brief explanation of his death at his last Passover meal with his disciples in Matthew 26:26-28, and he focused only on the forgiveness of sins. There was no mention of the basic Christian doctrine of us being crucified with him.

And then after Jesus was resurrected from the dead, when he met with his disciples in Luke 24, he only explains his death and resurrection as confirmation that he truly was the Anointed One, the Messiah, or Christ of the Old Testament (verses 27, 45-47). He gave no explanation about humans joining him in his resurrection, or what joining him in both his death and resurrection meant. Left with just Jesus’ teaching, we’d be none the wiser as to what baptism means, or that we’re members of Christ’s body, or that we’re now the temple.

There was no further explanation at Pentecost in Acts 2, either. It was mainly focused on assuring “Israel” that Jesus really was the Messiah (verse 36).

But the book of Acts soon makes clear after that where our Christian doctrines came from. They came from the apostle Paul.