EFCA Theology Conference Session 3 – Robert Gagnon

Jesus and Marriage – Robert Gagnon

Key Jesus Sex Text: Mark 10:2-12 (parallel is Matthew 19:3-9)

Learning from Jesus: A Back-to-Creation Model

  • Jesus declared Gen 1:27 and 2:24 to be the model for marriage
  • For Jesus, marriage isn’t something for humans to tinker with
  • Jesus emphasizes the “twoness” of a sexual bond
  • Prohibits both a revolving door of divorce/remarriage, implicitly polygamy
  • Where does Jesus get this number “two”
  • Gen 1:27, Gen 2:24, what do these 2 verses share in common: the union consists of a man and a women. Two sexes designed by God for a sexual union.
  • Twoness of the sexes is the foundation for the twoness of the sexual bond
  • Confirmation: Qumran’s basis for rejecting polygamy
  • S the twoness of the sexes is the basis for the twoness of the sexual bond

Three Corollaries to Jesus’ Back to Creation Model

  1. OT Law does not always reflect God’s perfect will
  • Many people think Jesus is increasing the permissions of marriage, Jesus is doing the opposite and actually making it more rigid
  • Jesus unilaterally amended the constitution of Israel
  • Moses made a concession to male “hardness of heart”
  • Jesus worked toward a more rigorous sexual ethic, closing off remaining loopholes
  1. Jesus repudiated inequities toward women, but in which direction?
  • In early Judaism, a man could commit adultery only against another woman’s husband
  • What Jesus did not do is give women the same sexual license that men had
  • Instead, he bound men to the same high standard as women
  1. A homosexual relationship is worse than a polygamous one
  • Jesus regarded a male-female prerequisite as foundational for sexual ethics
  • That obviously precludes a homosexual relationship

Further evidence of Jesus’ rejection of Homosexual Practice

  1. Nine other arguments
  • Jesus’ retention of the Law of Moses (Scripture) generally
  • Jesus’ intensification of the Law’s sex ethic (adultery of the heart, divorce)
  • John the Baptist’s strong stance on sex laws
  • Early Judaism united opposition
  • The early church’s united opposition
  • Jesus saying about the defiling effect of desires for porneia (Mark 7:21-23)
  • Jesus on the Decalogue adultery prohibition (Mark 10:17-22)
  • Jesus’ saying about Sodom (Matt 10:14-15; Luke 10:10-12)
  • The “born eunuchs” statement (Matt 19:10-12)
  1. Why then did Jesus not speak directly against homosexual practice?
  • No need to, the Hebrew Scriptures already clearly established man-male intercourse as a grave offense
  • No Jew is known to have engaged in homosexual practice in the period, it wasn’t happening. It would have been a waste of Jesus’ time
  • What then is the meaning of Jesus’ silence on homosexual practice? Same thing as his silence on bestiality

Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage

  1. Prohibiting remarriage after divorce
  • Matt 5:32, Luke 16:18, Mark 10:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
  • If a man divorces his wife on invalid grounds would mean that the marriage is still intact in God’s eyes, so if the man remarries he is committing adultery by having sex with a woman other than his wife
  1. The hardest case: A woman invalidly divorced
  • She’s the victim of a divorce, yet if she remarries she is committing adultery, again the main part is if the marriage is still intact

Learning from Jesus: Other Principles

  1. Sex ethic distinct from love command
  • If these are the same, if we truly loved everyone we should be having sex with everyone. Jesus said to love everyone, but have sex with only 1 person
  1. A strong interior component to sexual ethics
  • He wants not only external but internal obedience
  1. Sexual ethics as a life-and-death matter (Matt 5:29-30, John 8:3-11)
  2. A heightened ethical demand coupled with a loving outreach to violators
  • Jesus is asking us to do both
  • The parallel of tax collectors and sexual sinners – Jesus reached out to both of these groups – outreach to those in greatest danger
  1. Jesus on the love commandment, rebuke and forgiveness, the Good Samaritan
  • Love your neighbor as yourself, a true understanding of love is not about you, it’s about correcting a friend who is straying
  • Rebuking and forgiveness Luke 17:3-4
  1. The ends of marriage
  • Procreation (Gen 1:27-28)
  • Companionship and sexual enjoyment (Gen 2:18_
  • The highest objective of marriage is not even companionship, but Jesus’ insistence on marital indissolubility, based on the 2 becoming 1, is the key
  • Marriage is God’s instrument for reuniting male and female into an integrated sexual whole
  • God designed marriage for shaping two into one
  • Sexual activity sets in motion a reality beyond the individual’s control
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