By Denny Burk, Crosswalk.com
A lot of times people have an objection to the way Christians read the Bible. And their objection is basically that we read selectively. And when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, we think about verses in Leviticus 18:22, which clearly says, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a woman, for it is an abomination”. And Christians are careful to listen to that and heed that as a moral norm for their lives.
So, the critiques come to us saying, “If you are obeying that why aren’t you obeying all these other laws of the Old Testament? Like you don’t wear mixed-fabric, or why don’t you keep the Jewish food laws? How come you are picking and choosing from the Bible it seems inconsistently? The answer to that is that it’s really not a new objection at all. It’s not a new issue for Christianity, it’s as old as Christianity. As Christians have always been thinking of how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament. And in particular how the Old Testament law relates to the New Testament, to the new covenant.
So if you look, for instance, in 1 Corinthians or Romans, Paul’s letters he’s talking about this all the time and he wills ay things like, “Do you not know that we have died to the law so that we are no longer bound by it.” What he means by that is that we are not bound or under the condemnation of the law, that was due to lawbreakers based on what you see in the Old Testament. There were curses for law-breakers. He was saying we are no longer bound by this any longer.
He was not saying by this that the Law’s moral demands have no relevance to the new covenant Christian. He had an assortment of commands in the Old Covenant. Some of them were ceremonial, some of them were ritual, some of them were civil laws that governed the theocracy of Israel at the time, and then you had some of the laws that were moral laws which would have been best summed up in the 10 Commandments. Jesus came and fulfilled the ceremonial law and the civil law was no longer in effect when the theocracy of Israel went away.
But that moral law, in the New Testament, is still enduring. So that you see for instance in the 10 Commandments all of them except for one—the Sabbath command—are reiterated in the New Testament. Jesus took all the norms of marriage, and human sexuality and reiterated them. He said in Matthew, “you have heard that it was said do not commit adultery but I say to you whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.” So, he confirms the adultery command and then intensifies it.
So, those moral commands come over into the New Testament. So when you look at the apostle Paul and his reflection on the issue of homosexuality he is bringing over the Old Testament norm for human sexuality, and that norm is very simply one man and one woman in a covenanted union for life. That is the only normative expression for human sexuality. Everything outside of that in the Scripture is considered to be a sin.
So, Paul and Jesus, both of them, whenever they wanted to establish the deepest meaning of our human sexuality, the deepest meaning of marriage is, neither of them would refer back to the polygamist kings or patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) they would skip right over those guys and go back directly to Genesis 2. “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and the two become one flesh”. That was the norm before there was any sin in the world, any fall, there was one man and one woman in a permanent covenanted union before God.
Jesus and Paul, the rest of the New Testament, confirmed that as the norm and everything outside of that is considered to be sin. So, there is a moral core from the Old Testament that carries over into the New Testament and you see that confirmed over and over again.
Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock