Even when there is succinct clarity and laser-like accuracy, questions should be expected, not rejected. And so we address a few pertaining to marriage issues in this follow-up post to Sunday’s message, “It Takes Two.” (Click here to listen to the message.)
Q: How can we explain how kings and patriarchs in the Bible had more than one wife — How is this ‘one man and one women?’ Didn’t David, Abraham and other men have multiple wives? Why did God allow polygamy in the Bible? It doesn’t match up with the definition of marriage. Were the instances of polygamy in the OT always a result of sexual immorality?
A: Questions about polygamy always arise when any pastor addresses the biblical parameters of marriage, namely because, though other violations seem condemned in the Bible, this one appears to get a pass. I’ve asked one of my fellow pastors here at FFC, Carlos Jerez, who does especially well with both OT and NT culture and language, to weigh in and provide some insight.
“God’s definition of and design for marriage was established in Genesis 2:24. However, the human race fell into sin (Gen 3:1-19; Rom 5:12-14). One of the results of humanity’s fall into sin was that God’s design for marriage was perverted as seen in Genesis 4:19, which records the first instance of polygamy. Polygamy has been and always will be sin.
“By the time God began to redeem a people for Himself through Abraham (Gen 12:1-3), humanity had been so corrupted by sin, that it would have torn existing families apart if God demanded a return to His design of marriage (i.e., monogamy). In fact, God even gave laws concerning the implications of polygamy in the Law of Moses (Lev 18:18, Deut 21:15). In these passages, God is not commanding or even condoning polygamy, but rather giving laws to govern polygamous marriages that were already in place when He led Israel out of Egypt. These relationships existed because the people, in this case Israel, had not been given any written Scripture that clearly defined God’s design for marriage (Genesis was not given until after Israel was delivered out of Egypt). So in the process of redeeming a people, God permitted polygamy for a time. It is also helpful to keep in mind that the Law of Moses was never meant to be permanent. It was a temporary covenant that was meant to govern the people of God during a specific time period and ultimately lead them to God’s solution for sin in the person of Christ (Gal 3:23-29).
“Furthermore, every instance of polygamy in the Bible is saturated with problems and sin. Abraham—led to bitterness between Sarah and her maid, Hagar, and the eventual dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael; Jacob—led to Rachel’s jealousy of Leah and to Joseph being betrayed and sold by his half-brothers; David—led to the rape of one of his daughters (Tamar) by one of his sons (Tamar’s half-brother Amnon) and Amnon’s subsequent murder by Tamar’s brother Absalom; Solomon—his many wives “turned away his heart” from the Lord and to the worship of false gods (1 Kings 11:1–8). Polygamy always has devastating consequences. So, just because the Bible records polygamy does not mean that God approved of it.”
Q: Is gender defined outwardly by the body or inwardly by what the person “feels” they are? For example, what about a person who says they 100% believe they are a female but were born with a male body?
A: Though there are a number of ways to respond to this, let’s examine this question from the medical perspective. To help us do that, I’ve asked Erin Zea, a medical professional in our community and a member at FFC, to address this from that angle.
“Our gender (i.e., male and female) is determined at conception. Female is defined as having XX chromosomes at the 23rd paired spot; male is defined as having XY chromosomes at the 23rd paired spot. When the egg is developed from the mother, it contains 1 of the 2 X chromosomes. When the sperm is developed from the father, it contains either a X or a Y chromosome. At conception, each baby is given 1 X from the mother and either X or Y from the father. The baby with XX is female and the baby with XY is male. (Yes, fathers determine the gender!)
“There are syndromes when extra X chromosomes or only partial X chromosomes are given to the baby. Even in these cases, the presence or absence of the Y chromosome determines the main gender of the individual. In cases of ‘genital ambiguity’ (i.e., not being able to tell if the external genitals are male or female at birth), the chromosomes will still be XX or XY when tested, and thus the gender determined.”
We know, then, that gender is internally decided and externally evidenced. So medically and technically, people can’t change their gender because we can’t change our chromosome pattern. Rather, a gender-change is only a masking of how their chromosomes are evidenced.
Q: Do the words “among all” in Hebrews 13:4 mean all believers or all people, non-believers and believers? Is this command meant only for the church?
A: I tend to think he is calling for all people everywhere – those in the body of Christ as well as those who are not – to honor marriage. Why? Because the book of Hebrews, though written to a Jewish audience, was aimed at a Jewish audience that included both those who were actually “in” and those who simply thought they were in.
Furthermore, the other commands contained in Hebrews 13:4, such as no adultery and/or no immorality, aren’t considered “church only” commands. Sure, we are the first expected to obey, but those purity parameters extend to all. In fact, this is exactly the point of the last phrase, which warns of coming judgment to those who are adulterers and immoral. If judgment comes to all who disobey God’s commands, it seems the commands apply to all as well.
Q: How can we expect unsaved folks to hold to this truth? They reject truth, and live like it. Are we, as the real church, called to try to change the worldly government? Should we reject what the government says if it is not forcing us to break commands?
A: We don’t expect unsaved people to hold to this truth without the power of the Holy Spirit. Which is exactly why we preach the Gospel first and foremost. It is not our goal to moralize people; it is our aim to evangelize/disciple people, then call them to obedience to all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
Perhaps some insight from a Christian more deeply involved in politics would be helpful here. So I asked Zach Lahn, a campaign manager who has recently moved to Iowa and is getting plugged in at FFC, provides further explanation.
“As Christians, we can be faced at times with what may seem to be ‘competing authorities.’ That is, the authority of God vs. the authority of man. Whom do we obey? The fundamental answer here is that our final authority is God, not man – as God is the ultimate authority, even over government. Daniel 2:21 states that God “deposes kings, and raises others up.”
“This does not mean that our civil government lacks authority; in fact, it is the opposite. Romans 13 very clearly states that we are to submit to our governing authorities as they are ordained by God. We as Christians are to obey civil government, and need to abide by the laws even if at times we do not agree with them.
“Obedience to our government though is not a blind obedience, and it does not mean that we are to simply submit to all commands of government regardless of morality. In Acts 5:29 Peter and the apostles faced an order from civil authorities contradictory to God’s commands. Their response? ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ More recently, we see the life of pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer who saw the German government acting in direct contradiction to the commandments of God and, following Acts 5:29, refused to take part.
“In part, to prevent situations like these from ever arising, we as Christians are to actively participate in and work to influence government. 1st Timothy 2 calls for ‘petitions, prayers, and intercession’ for ‘kings, and all those in authority’ so that we can live in ‘godliness and holiness.’ However, we must understand that it is not the changing of government that is our primary duty. Rather, the changing of hearts to the glory of God.”
Q: For those who use the bible to defend homosexual marriage, what is the primary verse they lean on and how do we counter it?
A: I admit I’m not completely sure what they use as proof texts, nor do I know a lot about their reasoning in general. My limited experience has been that they often argue from this perspective:
1) Jesus never explicitly condemned it. In other words, there are no “red letters” about the issue.
2) The word that refers to homosexuality in the New Testament actually refers to the cultural practice of men and young boys. So they argue that what is prohibited isn’t adult, consensual “love” between the same sexes but rather pederasty.
These are both textually and intellectually flawed arguments.
The best counter to the issue? Romans 1, where Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, lays out a logical and spiritual understanding of what and why “unnatural” relationships occur.