Have you ever been involved in a discussion about homosexuality and the Bible? If you have, you’ve probably heard the claim that Jesus never said anything about the issue. What’s implied by this claim is that unless Jesus specifically mentions a topic, we can’t really know what his position on that topic was. Who can say, with any degree of certainty, that Jesus considered homosexual practices sinful if he never said so himself?
There are a number of things wrong with this argument. The most obvious is the fact there are many issues Jesus did not specifically mention, like rape and incest. Are we really left in doubt as to whether or not Jesus considered these things sinful? Search the gospels and take note of how many times Jesus uses the term idolatry. You won’t find a single instance, and yet the sinfulness of idolatry was a major aspect of Jesus’ teaching.
Similarly, Paul makes no specific mention of the virgin birth. Should we then conclude that Paul’s silence is an indication of doubt or disbelief? Of course not. Just because Jesus, or Paul, never directly mentioned an issue, does not mean they were either apathetic towards or approving of that issue. As Voddie Baucham has suggested, “If our new Christian ethic is, ‘only if Jesus talked about it specifically,’ then homosexuality is the least of our problems.”
But was Jesus really silent on the issue? Is it true that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality? Although Jesus did not specifically use the word “homosexuality,” we must understand that failure to use a term does not indicate a failure to teach on a topic. Here are four reasons why.
1. Jesus is the God of the Old Testament
We cannot divide the Bible or divorce Jesus from the rest of the Scriptures. Modern Bibles often place Jesus’ words in red letters and this can sometimes lead people to incorrectly assume that Jesus words are more important than the rest. This is not the case. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). All the red letters and all the black letters.
The Bible is God’s Word and we can’t divorce Jesus from that Word, this includes the Old Testament. Why? Because Jesus is a member of the Godhead. As Baucham has put it, “He existed eternally in perfect union with the Father and the Spirit, which means, when rocks and fire and brimstone were coming down on Sodom and Gomorrah, he was not absent, nor was he in disagreement.” What the God of the Old Testament believes is what the God of the New Testament believes, because they are the same God.
2. Jesus affirms the authority of the Old Testament
Every time that Jesus appealed to the divine origin and authority of the Old Testament, he was affirming the divine origin and authority of what the Old Testament said. In other words, when Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the unbreakable word and commandments of God, he was attesting to the truthfulness of everything the Old Testament contains (Jn. 10:35; Matt. 5:18; 15:3; Mk. 7:13). That includes everything the Old Testament has to say about homosexuality. As Bill Muehlenberg points out, “Jesus certainly was not unaware of the great sin of homosexuality. For example, Jesus did refer to the Sodom episode at various times (see Matt. 10:14-16; 11:23-25; Lk. 10:11-13 and 17:28-32), and he knew full well what that was all about.”
3. Jesus said the only appropriate context for sex is marriage
As pointed out in another article, Jesus was not silent on the issue of sexual immorality. He explicitly rejected all forms of it by using the categorical term porneia. At the time, the word porneia, and the concept of sexual immorality, did not exist in a vacuum, devoid of meaning, with no attachment to any sexual practices in particular. For Jesus and his listeners, the word had a clear definition and that definition came from the Old Testament, especially the porneia code in Leviticus 18. To put it simply, porneia is “every kind of extramarital, unlawful, unnatural sexual intercourse.”1
“If Christ explicitly prohibited porneia, and if porneia includes homosexuality, then we have a strong statement by Jesus on the issue. Any sexual expression outside of the one flesh marital relationship between one man and one woman is prohibited by the Scriptures in general and Jesus in particular.”2
According to Jesus, sex has a context. Every expression of sex outside of that context falls into the category of “sexual immorality” or porneia. For Jesus, the only appropriate context for sex was marriage.
4. Jesus’ definition of marriage is limited to man and woman
In Matthew 19:5 Jesus grounds his definition of marriage in the creation. Quoting from Genesis 2, Jesus states God’s original intention in marriage, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” According to Jesus, marriage is the union of man and woman. This means unless there is both a man and a woman, there is no marriage. Jesus’ own words won’t allow for it.
If marriage is the only appropriate context for sex, and according to Jesus’ own definition, same-sex couples do not qualify for marriage, then every other form of sex falls under the prohibited category of porneia.
So, Jesus is the God of the Old Testament; Jesus affirmed all of the Old Testament as God’s Word; Jesus rejects sexual immorality as defined by the law; and Jesus defines marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman. Did Jesus ever say anything about homosexuality? You decide.
- Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament
- The Village Church: Jesus and Homosexuality