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#82 - Biblical perspectives on premarital sex and homosexuality
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Where does the Bible mention about the prohibition of the premarital sex and homosexuality?
These are two separate questions, but both questions involve some of the same issues.
Sexual immorality is explicitly discouraged in the Bible passages below. The full texts of a few representative verses from Paul's genuine writings are included.
You know that your bodies are parts of the body of Christ. Shall I take a part of Christ’s body and make it part of the body of a prostitute? Impossible! Or perhaps you don’t know that the man who joins his body to a prostitute becomes physically one with her? The scripture says quite plainly, “The two will become one body.” But he who joins himself to the Lord becomes spiritually one with him. Avoid immorality. Any other sin a man commits does not affect his body; but the man who is guilty of sexual immorality sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. A man does well not to marry. But because there is so much immorality [from the Greek word porneia, Strongs #4202], every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. (TEV)
In the last passage listed above, Paul commends marriage as a means to avoid "fornication" (KJV), "immorality" (NAB, NIV, REB, TEV), "sexual immorality" (NRSV), which is a translation of the Greek word porneia (Strong's # 4202). That Greek word and its related Greek words porneuo (Strong's # 4203), pornos (Strong's # 4205), and ekporneuo (Strong's #1608) are discouraged throughout the New Testament, as in the following verses:
Homosexual acts are explicitly discouraged in the Bible passages below. The full texts of a few representative verses from Paul's genuine writings are included.
24 God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts desire, and they do shameful things with each other. 25 They exchange the truth about God for a lie; they worship and serve what God has created instead of the Creator himself... 26 Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. 27 In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their wrongdoing.
9 Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts [from the Greek word apsenokoites, Strong's #733] 10 or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves—none of these will possess God’s Kingdom.
Correcting but not judging others: The New Testament Gospel (the "Good News") is the basis for Christian correction (see http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/christiancorrection.htm), but Jesus' teachings and example were in sharp contrast with the Old Testament's harsh judgments, sentencings, and punishments. Following Christ the intent of our ministry (including Christian correction) is to save, not to judge or to condemn others. Judging or condemning others is contrary to Jesus' teachings and example. (See Mat 7:1-5; Joh 12:47.). The Gospel and its teachings should only be used to edify (to build) others and to enable us ourselves to follow Christ, who provided us with the example of saying to the adulterous woman, "I do not condemn you... Go, but do not sin again." (Joh 8:11)
Paul similarly taught:
My brothers, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too. (Gal 6:1, TEV)
You should forgive him and encourage him, in order to keep him from becoming so sad as to give up completely. And so I beg you to let him know that you really do love him. (2Co 2:7, TEV)
God-inspired qualities to be nurtured in marriage: Since there is so much public debate and confusion as to the relationship of marriage to pre-marital sex and homosexuality, it is appropriate here to take a look at some of the God-inspired qualities that should be nurtured in marriage. These include unconditional love (Greek: agape), faithfulness, selflessness, mercy, respect, purity, courage, honesty, strength, and consistently enduring commitment (undiminished by time or circumstance). These qualities should be cherished and appreciated not only in marriages but wherever found.
It is certainly fair to say that not all marriage partners maintain these edifying qualities, nor do all "straight" (heterosexual) singles maintain these qualities in their dating relationships. Keeping in mind the story of Jesus' handling of the adulterous woman (see John 8:1-11), many married people and many single straight people should be especially careful not to cast stones at homosexuals. The fact is that some gays/lebians may exemplify greater commitment to many of the above-mentioned good qualities in their relationships than do some heterosexuals, both married and unmarried. This is simply an edifying reminder to straight people about the sins of self-righteousness and hypocrisy.
Additional lessons from Jesus' references to Samaritans: Jesus himself used a parable about a good Samaritan to the teach valuable lessons to some of the self-righteous fellow-Jews that he addressed, even though he did not advocate being a Samaritan. It may be that gays have somewhat the same standing among some groups today as did the Samaritans in the Jewish culture of Jesus' day. Yet some of today's gays may be appropropriate candidates for the Samaritan role in Jesus' parable.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has six different sayings that include the formula, "You have heard.., but I say to you." These sayings probe deeper than surface morality and ethics. They get to the heart of Jesus' teachings. He is impressing upon us our 24x7 responsibility to glorify God in all of our thoughts, in all of our words, and all of our actions. Jesus' teachings in Matthew are:
But now I tell you: whoever is angry with his brother will be brought to trial... (See Mat 5:21-26.)
But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart. (See Mat 5:27-30.)
But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife, for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also. (See Mat 5:31-32.)
[NOTE: The earliest recorded and most authentic version of Jesus' saying regarding marriage and divorce, as first recorded by Paul and corroborated by Mark, applied equally to men and women. (Both Paul's letters and Mark's gospel were written before Matthew. For more details see http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/divorce.htm.)]
A wife must not leave her husband; but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband; and a husband must not divorce his wife. (1Co 7:10,11)
A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery. (Mar 10:11,12)
But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. (See Mat 5:33-37.)
But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you... (See Mat 5:38-42.)
Regarding love for enemies:
We all need to honestly examine ourselves and see how well we ourselves measure up to what Jesus expected of his followers.
Need for understanding and compassion: In our current discussion there is a need to address an issue of which relatively very few people even are aware. Though maybe uncomfortable for some, we should compassionately understand and recognize that there are many who are legally identified as male or female, who at birth physically had both male and female genitals, or who at birth physically had genitals so abnormally configured as to be indeterminable. In many of these cases surgeons performed operations soon after birth, operations that determined the legal sex of the child, but even the kindest and most skilled surgeons could not foretell how the child would become naturally inclined. Especially in those cases, the surgically designed genitals did not always properly identify or determine the natural sex of the child. Taking this conclusion a step further, we may need to acknowledge the possibility that some people who arrived as newborns with genitals of one sex may have built-in "human natures" that are naturally inclined to a sexual preference that is the contrary to the norm for their type of genitals. As difficult as this may be to accept, basically this would mean that rather than arriving at birth having both genitals or having indeterminable genitals, some babies also may have arrived with what is commonly considered to be the "wrong" set of genitals for the "human nature" with which they also arrived.
The above information is not intended to encourage or condone sexual promiscuity or any type of sexual immorality on anyone's part, straight or gay. It is only intended to elicit compassion and discourage any of us from pronouncing judgment on anyone other than ourselves. As Jesus also says, "Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others." (Mat 7:1-3, TEV) We can, however, lovingly teach and edify each other without being judgmental.
These issues show the tremendous value of Paul's words to the Romans (Rom 7:14-25; 8:1-15, TEV):
We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do; for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate. Since what I do is what I don't want to do, this shows that I agree that the Law is right. So I am not really the one who does this thing; rather it is the sin that lives in me. I know that good does not live in me -- that is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. I don't do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do. If I do what I don't want to do, this means that I am no longer the one who does it; instead, it is the sin that lives in me.
So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. My inner being delights in the law of God. But I see a different law at work in my body -- a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God's law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin.
There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death. What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like sinful human nature, to do away with sin. God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to human nature. Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants. To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace. And so people become enemies of God when they are controlled by their human nature; for they do not obey God's law, and in fact they cannot obey it. Those who obey their human nature cannot please God.
But you do not live as your human nature tells you to; instead, you live as the Spirit tells you to -- if, in fact, God's Spirit lives in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ lives in you, the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God, even though your bodies are going to die because of sin. If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of his Spirit in you. So then, my brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it is not to live as our human nature wants us to. For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. Those who are led by God's Spirit are God's children. For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God's children, and by the Spirit's power we cry out to God, "Father! my Father!" God's Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God's children. Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him; for if we share Christ's suffering, we will also share his glory.
Marriage, sacred and unique: So what makes a marriage relationship sacred and unique? According to the Gospel of Mark (Mar 10:8,9), Jesus said that God joins a husband and wife together to be one. And Paul documented for us Jesus' teaching regarding the mutual commitment of spouses (1Co 7:10,11, TEV):
For married people I have a command which is not my own but the Lord's [the Lord Jesus Christ's]: a wife must not leave her husband; but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband; and a husband must not divorce his wife.
Paul also provided us with his own early Christian description of what is expected of husband and wife, with equal responsibilities to care for each other, when he wrote (1Co 7:3-5, TEV):
A man should fulfil his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfil her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other’s needs. A wife is not the master of her own body, but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body, but his wife is. Do not deny yourselves to each other, unless you first agree to do so for a while in order to spend your time in prayer; but then resume normal marital relations.
Paul even includes non-Christian spouses in his teaching, when he goes on to say (1Co 7:12-14, TEV):
If a Christian man has a wife who is an unbeliever and she agrees to go on living with him, he must not divorce her. And if a Christian woman is married to a man who is an unbeliever and he agrees to go on living with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made acceptable to God by being united to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made acceptable to God by being united to her Christian husband. If this were not so, their children would be like pagan children; but as it is, they are acceptable to God.
In her very instructive chapter on "Marriage" (S&H, pages 56-69), Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (pages S&H 56:7-20):
Marriage is the legal and moral provision for generation among human kind. Until the spiritual creation is discerned intact, is apprehended and understood, and His kingdom is come as in the vision of the Apocalypse,--where the corporeal sense of creation was cast out, and its spiritual sense was revealed from heaven,--marriage will continue, subject to such moral regulations as will secure increasing virtue.
Infidelity to the marriage covenant is the social scourge of all races, "the pestilence that walketh in darkness, . . . the destruction that wasteth at noonday." The commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," is no less imperative than the one, "Thou shalt not kill."
From this it is to be concluded that either heterosexual or homosexual promiscuity that interferes with the marriage covenant is as grave a moral issue as is murder.
Mrs. Eddy goes on to say (ibid., page 57:1-14):
Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society, and without it one cannot attain the Science of Life.
Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness. The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities. These different elements conjoin naturally with each other, and their true harmony is in spiritual oneness. Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong. The attraction between native qualities will be perpetual only as it is pure and true, bringing sweet seasons of renewal like the returning spring.
Natures: It may be instructive here to note something else that Mrs. Eddy writes in a completely different context. While she herself repeatedly warns readers of the ungodliness and valuelessness of theosophy, spiritualism, and hypnotism, she states (S&H, page 99:18-29):
Those individuals, who adopt theosophy, spiritualism, or hypnotism, may possess natures above some others who eschew their false beliefs. Therefore my contest is not with the individual, but with the false system. I love mankind, and shall continue to labor and to endure.
The calm, strong currents of true spirituality, the manifestations of which are health, purity, and self-immolation, must deepen human experience, until the beliefs of material existence are seen to be a bald imposition, and sin, disease, and death give everlasting place to the scientific demonstration of divine Spirit and to God's spiritual, perfect man.
Paul writes (Phi 4:8,9):
In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.
May we all grow to be worthy of uttering Paul's words as our words, "Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions." May each of us be fit to to impart such words to fellow Christians and to others who are touched not only by the words that we speak or write but by the edifying lives we live for the glory of God and for the love of humanity.
(In light of the subjects discussed above, it seems especially appropriate to include the following excerpt from another BibleTexts.com Web page.)
Does anyone have a complete grasp of what Jesus' original teachings and practices were and how he expects us to apply them today? I don't, and I don't know of anyone, anywhere, of any time that has had that complete grasp. (See also Phi 3:12-15.) It is the role of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (Comforter, Counsellor, Advocate) to remind us and further teach each of us what Jesus taught. (See Joh 14:26; Joh 16:12-15.) Many of us have earnestly sought such a grasp, and if we are honest with each other, we can help each other along the way. It is ultimately God who reveals Himself to each one of his beloved children through Christ and the Holy Spirit, but we lovingly and faithfully can help prepare each other for that revealing.
At the end of another BibleTexts.com Web page, I articulate a very longtime commitment to intellectual honesty, to which I continue to be very much committed:
If you have information or insights that shed further light, either in agreement with or contrary to what I have stated, please email me. My desire is to arrive at honest conclusions that are consistent with all available facts. I deeply respect all who honestly arrive at genuine conclusions, even if those conclusions differ from my own conclusions. It is not my intent to prop up any opinions, which are often the result of one's selectively using only those facts that support such opinions - and conveniently disregarding facts that undermine such opinions. I do not want to have any personal opinions. I only want to develop faith-inspiring, honest conclusions that lead to being "filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." (Col 1:9, NRSV) So please feel free to share with me any facts that may help lead to even better or further refined conclusions.
(excerpted from the last paragraph of http://www.bibletexts.com/bl-ver.htm)
To explore other relevant questions and responses, see:
To explore a discussion regarding early Christian views of sexual relations in marriage, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa099.htm.
To explore other online articles and resources on early Christian teachings and practices regarding marriage, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/topics/marriage.htm.
To explore Paul's genuine teachings advocating the active participation of women in the early Christian church, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/women01.htm. (This and other online articles on this website provide correction a common misrepresentation of Paul as limiting the equality and participation of women in the church.)
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer