The House of Commons have been discussing the Church of England's decision to release prayers of blessing for those in same-sex relationships. Liberals in the Church of England have managed to conjure up outrage in the media for the Bishops' decision allegedly not to change the doctrine of marriage. (Of course they actually have and to claim otherwise is absurd).
One speech that jumped out was Chris Bryant MP, a former Church of England minister, who is a homosexual and "married" to his partner.
In the Commons yesterday, he said: "Is there any Biblical teaching that says this is wrong? Any? Really? Did Jesus say a single word about same-sex relationships or marriage? I don't think he did. He said a great deal about love. The God of Love and St Paul said in Christ there was neither male or female, nor Jew or Greek, and I think he probably would have also said neither gay or straight."
Let's look briefly at those claims - and don't forget, this is a former Anglican minister.
1. "Did Jesus say a single word about same-sex relationships or marriage? I don't think he did. He said a great deal about love."
Jesus in response to a question about divorce says:
"Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV)
Here, Jesus clearly roots the nature and institution of marriage in creation. Marriage is marriage because it is the complementarity of a man and a woman. Jesus clearly reaffirms this here.
He goes on in John's Gospel to say
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15 ESV)
Or how about Jesus' words to Peter:
"But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander." (Matthew 15:18-19 ESV)
The word translated as 'sexual immorality' in this passage is the Greek word 'porneia', (also used by Jesus in Matthew 5:32; 19:9, Mark 7:21) - from which we get the word 'pornography'. This may sound vague to 21st century ears, but to his hearers - and the Jewish recipients of Matthew's gospel - it is clear what Jesus meant. The people hearing Jesus' words, would have recalled Leviticus 18, where numerous sinful sexual relations are listed.
For example various forms of incest (Leviticus 18:6-17), adultery (v20), bestiality (v23), and homosexual sex: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (v22)
Many try to get away from these verses by saying that they don't say what they actually say. But, as Ian Paul notes, even liberal scholars acknowledge that this is what the Bible says but therefore simply argue that the Bible is wrong. For example, Diarmaid MacCulloch writes, "Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity."
Or more strikingly, are Jesus' words to the church in Thyatira:
"I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality... Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead." (Revelation 2:20-23a ESV)
Clearly then, those who persist in unrepentant sexual immorality are those who do not, in fact, love Jesus. Chris Bryant MP, with his persistent sexual immorality in his "marriage" to another man, should be called to repentance and, God willing, in repentance, be met with the love and grace of God and the words of forgiveness many hear on a Sunday in Anglican churches:
Hear the words of comfort our Saviour Christ says to all who truly turn to him:
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
2. "St Paul said in Christ there was neither male or female, nor Jew or Greek, and I think he probably would have also said neither gay or straight."
This is just absurd. Paul here is speaking about the unity and oneness that we have in Christ. Just looking at the preceding and following verses this is clear:
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:27-29 ESV)
Paul here is saying that those who have received the sign of union with Christ, baptism, are united to each other in unity (cf. Ephesians 2:11ff). He is saying that those in Christ are the fulfilment to the promise to Abraham.
Paul elsewhere is very clear about homosexual sex:
"For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." (Romans 1:26-27 ESV)
Here Paul describes homosexual sex as "dishonourable", "contrary to nature" and "shameless."
Now of course Paul goes on to affirm that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 ESV), but the reality, as affirmed above, is that grace is extended in repentance. Perpetual unrepentant sin should not be tolerated.
As Paul writes:
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)
"Men who practice homosexuality... will not inherit the kingdom of God." I think it is fair to say that Paul would not have included "gay or straight" in Galatians 3 if he were writing it today.
In fact, in just the previous chapter he informs the church in Corinth "not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one." (1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV)
Is Paul being unloving here? Is he being unkind? Maybe he ought to welcome in and tolerate and offer services of blessing and celebration to the man who is having sex with his father's wife? (1 Corinthians 5:1)
But again, there is hope in the gospel. Immediately after the passage in 1 Corinthians 6 where Paul says that those practicing homosexual will not inherit the kingdom of God he goes on to say:
"And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)
The hope is that as we turn to Christ we turn away from our sin. No longer do we hold onto sinful identities and practices but we celebrate that that is no longer who we are: we are washed, sanctified and justified. What a glorious hope. Of course this is the kind of hope that the government are trying to criminalise and make illegal because of so-called "conversion therapy." We are already seeing an example in Malta of a former homosexual, transformed by the love of God, being charged with "conversion therapy" simply for sharing his testimony.
Therefore we can say categorically: Jesus and Paul spoke about homosexuality. Homosexual practice is a sin that should be met with the call to repentance and the offer of grace.
Perhaps it is because the Church of England has been ordaining people like Bryant, who appear to know nothing of the teaching of Jesus, that we are in the state that we are in.
Bishops' only engagement with the Bible seems to be at a shallow level – instead they promote sin, leading people away from Christ and towards destruction.
In many ways, Bryant is a red herring on this issue. No longer in the Church of England, in many ways we should not be worried about what he says; although the words have been quoted and repeated in the media, the reality is that we should expect opposition and criticism from the world for our views.
What is most concerning is the faithlessness in the Church. The proposals by the Bishops, to celebrate and bless homosexual couples is wicked. It is leading people astray and it is a picture of a leadership who have chosen friendship with the world. They have forgotten that "whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4 ESV) They have been seduced by Jezebel and unless they repent, and return to the wonderful gospel that we freely offer to all, they will see destruction and the destruction of those who follow them.
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20 ESV)
Benjamin John is the Wilberforce Academy Development Officer at Christian Concern.