“Haven’t You Read?” Answering a modern-day Pharisee

“Haven’t You Read?” Answering a modern-day Pharisee April 22, 2014

A new book by Matthew Vines claims that Christians ought to affirm same-sex love. The arguments are not new, and have been thoroughly refuted. Still, the youthfulness of the author and his profession of Christian faith are a twist, and at a time when the Church is wrestling with the prevalence of same-sex marriage it is necessary to refute them again and again.

The book illustrates two lies: one general, the other more personal.

The general lie is that there is legitimate debate about the Bible’s teaching on sexuality. There isn’t. Despite the obviousness of the Bible’s claims, a small sector has succeeded in convincing many that it’s debatable-like dancing or card playing-so we had better not divide over it. No doubt Satan is pleased with such ambivalence, though proponents of it may not be pleased with their reward.

Then there is the lie the author tells himself. Like Eve, he wonders “Did God really say?” The temptation to believe that the desires of flesh come from God, and are therefore acceptable, overcomes him. Like Eve, Vines chooses sin, and is trying to cover himself in a dust-jacket. But God is not fooled, and neither are we. We have His Word.

After creating the planets, oceans, plants, birds and animals God saw that it was good. In the grand finale, God created male and female. He made them “in his own image” and gave them authority to steward everything else. Reviewing his work, he declares it very good. (Genesis 1)

Chapter 2 of the story provides some additional details. God made Adam first, and when it became evident that “it is not good for man to be alone” He created a partner. So the Bible begins with a garden wedding: man and the woman he needed. “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

Fast-forward four-thousand years. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time, are not happy with a popular young teacher from Nazareth. In one of their many attempts to trip him up they ask about marriage. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”

Pay close attention to Jesus reply: “Haven’t you read…” he says, and then quotes from the Creation passages from Genesis 1 and 2.

Haven’t you read? The Pharisees devoted their entire lives to the study and enforcement of Jewish tradition! Haven’t you read? Are you kidding Jesus? These men would almost certainly have had all 50 chapters of Genesis memorized, along with the rest of the Torah! This is like asking a professor of Shakespeare if they’ve read Hamlet. It is theology 101. Jesus knows who he is talking to. Despite their supposed expertise, the Pharisees did not get it. So Jesus starts from the Beginning.

A few years later we find Paul explaining God’s design for sex and marriage in a letter to the Church in Ephesus. After exhorting these Christians to avoid all kinds of sin, including sexual immorality, greed, obscenity and drunkenness, Paul describes the perfectly suited complementary natures of man and woman. But he goes further, illuminating a profound mystery that raises the stakes for questions of sexuality, gender identity and marriage to the absolute highest level: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

God designed marriage to be the basic building-block of human civilization, and more. There are many stories and lessons contained within the Bible, but the overarcing story-the one that every other story culminates in-is the story of salvation. Paul says that marriage is an ever-present reminder of Jesus and his unending, selfless, sacrificial love for His Church.

And we see that what began with a wedding in a garden ends with a wedding in a city:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9)

What the Bible says about marriage is this: God designed it for one man and one woman, to serve His creation, and to provide a living portrait of His redemptive love. Forget the so-called “clobber passages.” Rationalize away Paul’s words if you can. There is no way around the theology of sex, marriage and salvation that runs straight through from Genesis to Revelation. But there remains a choice. Like the Pharisees of Jesus day, one may know what the Bible teaches and choose a different path.

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