All many Christians need to hear to conclude they should oppose same-sex marriage is that the Bible commands “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
But is this command—an Old Testament law—binding on us today?
Yes? — Two types of Old Testament laws are not binding today, but this one is a moral law that is still binding on everyone today, just like it was binding on everyone when given originally.
No? — New Testament scripture says none of the Old Testament law is binding today. Jesus fulfilled our obligation regarding those laws and instituted a different approach, one based on grace. Also, as discussed, this command was always only to the Israelites, not us.
Today’s post introduces such differing views by describing some of what many who oppose and affirm same-sex marriage say about a relevant scripture passage, alternating the point of view.
Context: The command quoted above is one of a large group of rules the Old Testament records God gave to the Israelites ~3250 to ~3450 years ago through Moses. These rules are sometimes called “The Law of Moses,” “Old Testament law,” or “the law.”
Around 1230 – 1480 years later, Jesus Christ taught about the Old Testament law and his plans for it.
Main Scripture-Passage (Matthew 5:17-18):
Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”
Some affirming Christians say: The Old Testament law is like a bill owed to God. Jesus did not abolish or destroy the bill. Jesus paid the bill. He fulfilled it, so we are not obligated by it. Like the bill, Jesus fulfilled the law, so we are not obligated by the law. The New Testament clearly says so, including:
- “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
- “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.”
- “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”
Jesus paid this bill, fulfilling the law, with his sacrifice on the cross. Until then, the way to salvation for the Jews was through keeping all the Old Testament laws, which Jesus pointed out that not even the priests do.
We are now under the new covenant, via Christ, not Old Testament law.
Some non-affirming Christians say: There are three categories of Old Testament law: ceremonial, civil, and moral. Many abominations listed in the Old Testament—like eagles, oysters, and shrimp—are in the first two categories. Christ’s sacrifice made the first two categories no longer binding.
The third category, moral laws from the Old Testament, remain binding today. Laws against homosexual sex are moral laws.
This is basic stuff any Christian should know because it is described in the commentary notes of many Bibles.
“Law” in the index of my Bible makes it clear: “When Paul says … non-Jews (Gentiles) are no longer bound by these laws, he is not saying that the Old Testament laws do not apply to us. He is saying certain types of laws may not apply to us. In the [OT] there were three categories of laws …. Moral law … still applies to us today.”
Affirming Christians: What? That is not what the Bible says. Virtually always, when notes or an index say there are three categories of Old Testament law, there is no scripture cited for dividing the law that way or for saying the Old Testament moral law still applies. This is because dividing the law into three categories is an idea made up by men and is not found in the Bible.
Christ did not say he came to fulfill “two categories of the law.” Christ said he came to fulfill “the law ….” All of it.
The song goes “Jesus paid it all …,” not “Jesus paid it partially ….”
This view is not some new, ultra-liberal argument. Many conservatives who are likely non-affirming hold this or a similar view, that Old Testament law is not binding today (e.g., Christian Courier, Truth Magazine, and False Doctrines of Man). Alexander Campbell, a leader in the Churches of Christ, also urged this view.
But a significant percentage of Bible publishers hold a contrary view, urging that there are three types of Old Testament law, and one of them, the moral law, applies today.
They state this contrary view in the notes of their Bibles like it is the only view.
Many of those publishers sell their Bibles at popular outlets.
You are probably using one of them. This contrary view — that the Law of Moses is divided into three areas and one applies to Christians today — is wrong, per the words of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament.
Non-Affirming: It is right. Quoting the Old Testament, Jesus said, “you shall love … God …” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Thus, to love God and our neighbor, we must keep the moral laws of that time, the ones from the Old Testament. How can you say you love God and your neighbor if you act immorally, injuring and offending them?
Also, Jesus said, “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers,'” and evildoers is sometimes translated “you who break God’s laws.” (7:23) So, we should keep the moral law in Old Testament law.
Affirming: Such that “to love God” logic would require us to keep all of the Old Testament law, not just the moral law. It would also mean we should sacrifice animals to show love to God because the Old Testament indicates God really likes animal sacrifice. Insisting that Old Testament laws be kept does not place full faith in what Jesus did and said. And “evildoers” is a better translation than “you who break God’s laws” because the latter, read literally, would contradict the rest of the New Testament, including being saved by belief (John 3:16).
Non-Affirming: We do not need to do animal sacrifice because it is not required by moral law. “The law” in the teachings of Paul and others in the New Testament refer only to ceremonial and civil laws, like sacrifices. So, keeping the Old Testament moral law is how to show love today. Also, Jesus referred to some actions that are such moral laws, which indicates the category survives in the New Testament. Regardless, moral law is part of God’s eternal law and natural law, which apply to us today, too, even if a particular moral law is not stated in the Law of Moses.
Each side says a lot more about these issues.
My aim with this post was to continue introducing differing views among Christians regarding Biblical passages relevant to same-sex marriage. You can find more discussion about this subject in the sources listed in the first and second posts and below.
This is the third in a group of three posts on this topic. Like I said in my last post, I am going to take a break from this topic after three posts and address other topics before returning to it.
You can read the next post (part 4) in this series by clicking here.
Comments and questions are welcome.
(The picture at the top is of the main scripture in one of my hard-copy Bibles.)
See full source list used throughout this series in the first post and:
The quoted command is Leviticus 18:22.
Other quoted scripture–
1. Romans 6:14.
2. Romans 7:6.
3. Galatians 3:25-26.
4. Matthew 5:19-20 (not even the priests).
Life Application Study Bible (New Living Translation), page 1989, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois (2004) (“When Paul …”)
Some refer to the view that all of the OT law has been fulfilled and is no longer binding as New Covenant Theology. Some refer to it as a modified form of antinomianism, sometimes pejoratively and sometimes calling it a misnomer.
The scripture passages quoted in this series of posts are from the New Revised Standard Version, the Tanakh Translation, the New Living Translation, or the King James Version.