The Act of Marriage
On December 13, 2022 – Bill H.R. 8404 – "The Respect for Marriage Act" became the Law of the United States. It replaces provisions in federal law that defined marriage as a union specifically between a man and a woman/ or a spouse as a person of the opposite sex. It changed this definition of marriage with the provision, "...that recognizes any marriage between two individuals that is valid under State law." This law trumps all State laws on the matter which means that States cannot enact laws that bar same-sex marriages and States that have such laws are now invalid, confirming a 2015 ruling by the Supreme Court (Obergefell vs. Hodges). There is a provision that allows the Department of Justice to bring civil action against those who violate (disagree, interfere, fight against) this law. For example, gay groups could bring legal action against those who do not cooperate with this legislation. There is also protection for religious groups' rights under conscience of religion which include the right not to participate, recognize or celebrate such marriages.
This sermon will articulate why, as a Bible believing Christian teacher and preacher, I refuse to recognize, participate, or celebrate such marriages. In other words, the law that gives gay people the right to have legal same-sex marriages in all fifty states – that same law gives ministers the right to refuse to accept or perform these types of marriages and by extension, explain why they refuse to do so if they so choose.
To this end, it would be helpful if we examined what happens when the Act of Marriage takes place.
The Act of Marriage – Between a Man and a Woman
1. Biblical marriage is a symbol of the highest commitment of love that can be expressed: monogamy for life expressed in law.
Some say, "I don't need a piece of paper to be married or to express my love and commitment." Usually said by those who simply choose to live together or as they say, cohabitate.
However, without a marriage license you are just living together (like married people) except you are not married – because married people are er... married!
Living together, having babies together, even cohabitating for a lifetime is a version of marriage but it is not the original, not the real thing. Cohabitation has been "normalized" in our secular society because our moral levels have been in decline in this area for several decades.
- In 1970, ½ of 1% lived together without marriage.
- Today, 15% of the 18-34 year bracket do so.
This percentage is growing (Gurrents – 2018).
I understand that there may be reasons for this choice to simply "live together" instead of marrying, things like lack of money, inconvenience, family pressure, uncertainty, lack of commitment, etc. – but I am only addressing the larger issue of marriage vs. cohabitation as acceptable choices for people of faith.
My first point here is not to confuse "normalization" with "legitimization" which is the sanctioning of some situation or status through law. Cohabitation has been normalized in the U.S., even given a form of legitimacy, to protect children and guard against abuse, and also regulate the division of assets in the case of a break-up. However, even with these legal provisions, cohabitation is not marriage and not even referred to as marriage by the couple living together! They refer to each other as partner, lover, boyfriend/girlfriend, or fiancé(e), but never as husband or wife because they know this is not true. The union of a man and a woman confirmed and recognized by law or social convention has been the will of God and the standard throughout history both biblical and secular.
In an article about the history of marriage in The Week, a digital news publication, researchers found evidence that marriage laws, rights, and practices date back at least 4,350 years. The Bible teaches that marriage was practiced during the time of Adam and Eve – 6,000 years – Genesis 2:25. That this norm (one man + one woman for life – Genesis 2:18-25) is breaking down is not a symbol of progress as some purveyors of the newest ideas spread through digital media, government and education would have you believe, but rather a common symptom of a society in decline seen in every fallen empire or society of the past.
This pattern was confirmed by a social anthropologist from Oxford, Dr. J.D. Unwin, in his research on 86 different societies contained in his book entitled, "Sex and Culture". This was a massive project only "summarized" in his 600-page book! His basic conclusion, however, was that societies flourished socially and economically when they followed the traditional approach to sex and marriage. This was true in every case (i.e., sex practiced only within marriage, marriage between a man and a woman, monogamous and a lifetime commitment)! Experiments with different models like polygamy, open marriage, sex without marriage or same-sex activity normalized, all led to the eventual demise of that society within three generations of the break with traditional values. We, in the U.S., are one generation into the break with traditional values.
2. The Act of Marriage between a man and a woman creates the union that most resembles the nature of God.
There are several reasons why this is so:
A. Both God and a married couple have a dynamic nature.
- God is a triune deity: Father/Son/Holy Spirit.
- A married couple are two that become one through a lifetime of sexual monogamous intimacy blessed by God. Those in mere cohabitation, even if monogamous, do not have God's blessing because they are in disobedience for refusing to formalize their unions legally. It is as if I just flew in from Canada and decided to stay in the U.S. (but took no citizenship or legalized my stay). I root for OU, celebrate the 4th of July, buy a house and a truck, fly a flag outside my house, visit Washington DC and do what Americans do. Am I a citizen even if I have lived here for 25 years? No. Why? I did not formalize my stay legally.
When you do not formalize your union legally, even if you have been together 20 years and have children, it is still not marriage. And same-sex marriages, are they spiritually dynamic? No, why? Because one man and another man make two, not one like a male and female do.
B. Another way that marrieds resemble God is that they both have creative ability.
- God creates the world (what is seen) from what is unseen – Hebrews 11:3.
- Married couples procreate humanity – Genesis 1:28. Cohabitants are in disobedience. Same sex couples cannot procreate.
C. Both are the epitome of the highest spiritual quality, Holiness.
Holiness is defined as a state which is transcendent, immeasurable, pure, and separate.
- God is holy by nature – He is divine.
- Marrieds cultivate holiness through various practices which please God:
- Intimacy blessed by God – holy sex.
- Lifetime fidelity.
- Self-sacrifice for spouse.
- Accepting and fulfilling one's role within marriage.
- For cohabitating couples:
- Intimacy is sinful.
- Fidelity has no cost (no legal commitment – no cost).
- Self-sacrifice is to please partner, not God.
- Roles are without context if you are not married.
- For same-sex couples:
- Intimacy is sinful (Leviticus 18:22)
- Fidelity and self-sacrifice to please partner.
- Roles are illegitimate (Genesis 2:18-25) – Men cannot be wives and women cannot be husbands.
The Defense of Marriage Act legalizes a same-sex union at a higher level of man-made law which nevertheless remains illegitimate according to God's given Law:
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
- Leviticus 18:22
9Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
- I Corinthians 6:9-10
What to do?
Most of us are familiar with the information I have given you so far, but what are we supposed to do with it? Here are some suggestions especially for Christians:
1. Understand a reality that you, as a believer, may not like or want to admit about cohabitants or same-sex unions.
A. Co-Habs may simply not want to marry.
There may be any number of reasons:
- They are already married to someone else and cannot afford a divorce.
- No money for a wedding.
- Do not see the need (Don't rock the boat).
- Do not care what others think.
- Have no religious convictions.
The only way to make them want to marry is when they want to please God – and this is less about marriage and more about the gospel.
Things we need to understand about...
B. Same-Sex Unions.
- Their love is sincere.
- Their sex satisfies them.
- They want what marriage offers: stability, emotional balance, home, family and a sense of belonging.
- What they do not have is legitimacy with God, despite the things they strive for in their union.
- I could say the same for a heterosexual man who falls in love with his friend's wife and she with him:
- They desire each other; it is as if they were meant to be together.
- The sex is satisfying.
- They want to be together, start a new life; they finally feel at home and this is so right that it cannot be wrong!
- Only one thing missing here: legitimacy with God. What they call lovemaking, He calls fornication; what they feel is so right, He calls adultery. (Exodus 20:14).
Without God's approval from the Bible (not some ultra-liberal denomination), no union can succeed on a spiritual level, if it is not legitimate in God's eyes, it is just not legitimate no matter how many laws human beings pass. In the end God will judge, not man.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
- II Corinthians 5:10
Another reality about same-sex unions:
What they cannot have is by design. They cannot change or obtain what is naturally built into a marriage between a woman and a man.
- They cannot have a dynamic unity where two become one physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- Without procreative ability, a world with only same-sex unions would become extinct.
- There is no holiness possible because, as we have read, God forbids homosexual practice and without holiness we can never:
- Become like God
- Have unity with God at His right hand.
- Be crowned with eternal life.
Both heterosexuals and those with same-sex attraction issues are instructed to be chaste before marriage and this is quite a challenge regardless of your orientation. However, God gives us only one option that leads to holiness, satisfaction and eternal blessings and that is a monogamous lifetime marriage to an opposite sex marriage partner where both spouses are faithful to Jesus Christ to the end.
I am not talking about what is easy or what seems natural (for homosexuals, sexual purity is a step of faith and trust in Christ) and for some heterosexuals the thought of having only one partner for life is just as daunting and requires the same step of faith and trust in Christ.
... so, what to do #1 – understand reality from God's perspective.
2. Take Romans 6:23a seriously!
For the wages of sin is death,
- Romans 6:23a
You see, if Eve could have seen the damage done by her disobedience, maybe things would have been different. Sometimes both young and old, or male and female, or gay and straight do not fully realize that Romans 6:23a is literal! Experimenting with drugs, alcohol, various types of sex or other forms of sin like witchcraft, lying, stealing, violence or deceptive business practices – all these types of sin and more, can change you or ruin you for life!
- The lonely college student who tries gay sex just to see what that is like.
- The bored housewife who decides to have a fling with her neighbor's college age son.
- These people bring down more destruction and unwanted change than they bargained for. Why? The wages of sin is death, and a spiritual death spiral from which most cannot break free.
My late uncle, Paul, was one of these. Artistically talented in commercial design (he created the window displays for department stores). Married my mom's youngest sister, the lovely Madeleine, had two great kids – one problem, he was a lifelong alcoholic. He once told me that he had his first drink at 15, a glass of wine at a wedding, what could be the harm? Well, no harm for the others but he said that the light "buzz" he felt from the wine turned on a "switch of desire for alcohol" inside of him that never left him after that. Many years later when he was in his fifties, I went to see him in the hospital where he was in hospice care dying of bone cancer, but you could see the ravages of his alcohol abuse in his face and eyes. I was a new Christian back then, not quite sure of what to say so I asked him, "If I prayed for God to heal you today, what is the first thing you would do? He answered that if healed that day, he would leave the hospital in search of a drink! I did not realize it then, but God was showing me a person hopelessly imprisoned by sin awaiting its consequence which was death, both physical and spiritual death.
God is serious about sin and its power. He has given us evidence of its destructive power in the history of the Jewish nation plagued by war and other calamities and reduced to a tiny remnant by the time of Jesus' appearance. And who here does not have an Uncle Paul or a sister or other family member past or present who underestimated sin's deadly sting and like an animal caught in a hunter's deadly trap, spent a lifetime either trying to free themselves or simply accepted their fallen state as normal.
God never lies, never! If He says that sin leads to death in all of its manifestations while we are alive and then separation from Him in the world to come – then this is the way things will go – any opinion to the contrary, any brave denials or smug dismissals of this truth by famous people or supposed intellectuals are lies from hell to divert you there in the future.
To summarize concerning what we need to do in a world where men marry men and women claim to be men or vice versa.
- Accept the reality that this represents a decline in our society and will lead to ruin for us in the not-too-distant future just like other nations who permitted this degradation of moral standard in their societies.
- Believe God when He says that personal sin leads to personal, physical and long-term spiritual death. Romans 6:23a – "For the wages of sin is death,"
And finally on a note of hope...
3. Cling to the Cross of Christ for salvation and the preservation of that salvation.
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
- Ephesians 1:4
In creating mankind with the privilege of free will, God knew ahead of time that despite the warning, man would choose to disobey and fall victim to sin's consequence: death. But there is a second part of that verse which is equally true:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 6:23
Our task as Christians in a world that continually finds ways of disobeying God and calling down His judgement upon itself, is to faithfully preach the gospel to it since, as Paul says,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- Romans 1:16
Therefore, our first task is to invite, call and encourage sinners to come to the cross for salvation. Whether the world is up or way down, this is always the task of the Church, to raise up the cross of Christ to a dying world. Secondly, we as Christians need to cling to Jesus and His cross in order to find our way to the holiness of God, intimacy with God, productivity for God and wholeness before God. While others seek gratification of their flesh by sowing to the flesh in this world which will ultimately perish as all flesh does. Christians sow to the Spirit which leads to glory and exaltation to the right hand of God with Jesus – an eternity of existence grafted into the Godhead made possible through Christ.
And all of this promised to those who come to the cross for forgiveness, proclaim the power of the cross for salvation and cling to the cross faithfully for life. Those who do will be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and then when Jesus returns, will be transferred into the eternal kingdom in heaven with all those who waited faithfully and loved the coming of His appearance.