“The Sexual Ethics of Genesis 1”

Posted on September 4, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

“The Sexual Ethics of Genesis 1”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bryan E. Walker * Note: the following are merely lesson notes with extensive quotes from authors read. It is not yet in a written sermon form nor an article form; these are simply my notes.

Read: Gen. 1:26-31; 2:18-25




Introduction: Normally speaking I would begin this semester with either a quick overview of everything we have covered in Genesis so far, or I would begin where I left off in ch.21, but sometimes the news of the week, or in this case the news of the month, is so disturbing that I will depart from my teaching schedule and attempt to deal with the news item from Scripture. Last November 5th, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, and Army psychiatrist, went on a personal jihad and killed 14 people at Ft. Hood, TX.


We were close to a point in our study of Genesis that was introducing Ishmael anyway, so I diverted from my teaching schedule to examine the 4000 yrs struggle of the physical and spiritual descendents of Ishmael against the physical and spiritual descendents of Isaac. In other words, I wanted to put the current situation into a proper biblical perspective. I do not do this very often, we don’t want Sunday School to be a current events class or a politics class. I want us to focus on the text of Genesis and how it relates to the rest of Scripture, but it also needs to be practical. The name of this class is: Genesis, Finding Answers To  Life’s Crucial Questions.

On Aug. 4, 2010, Federal Judge Vaughn Walker, an open homosexual, ruled against the state of California’s Proposition 8 which would have amended the State’s Constitution to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. Prop. 8 passed in Nov. 2008 by a 4.6% margin with 79% of the electorate turning out to vote. Consequently, I feel a heavy burden to speak God’s Word to this issue which affects my family directly as Dawn and I have family members who are homosexual. There may be others in this class whom this issue is very relevant as well.


The ruling will be appealed and then reviewed by the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Whichever way that court rules, it will be appealed to the Supreme Court which currently (2010) has 4 conservative justices, 4 liberal justices, and 1 swing vote justice. President Obama just recently appointed Elena Kagan, herself a liberal and a lesbian, to the Supreme Court and the Senate just last week (the same week as Judge Walker ruled on Prop.8) confirmed her to the Supreme Court with a vote of 63-37. One Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against her and five Republicans voted for her confirmation (Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham of S.C., Judd Gregg of N.H. and Richard Lugar of Indiana).


With California, now there are six states that allow for same sex marriage: California through Judicial fiat in 2009 by the state court but defeated by a constitutional referendum, now legalized by a federal court; Massachusetts in 2003 by a court ruling; Connecticut in 2008 by a court ruling; Iowa by a court ruling; Vermont’s legislature passed it into law in 2009; New Hampshire’s legislature legalized gay marriage in 2009. In all 31 states where the issue was put to a vote before the people, gay marriage has been defeated. Considering that the vast majority of liberal Hollywood and the liberal Main Stream Media support same sex marriage, and it has only been passed by the courts and legislatures while being defeated by the people, it is fair to say that the Elites in America are forcing same sex marriage to become mainstream against the will of the people.

I am beginning with this news to show you that the sexual ethic of America has changed drastically, recently, and that same-sex marriage is very close to becoming the law of the land. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage the only other political recourse will be a constitutional amendment or rebellion by the states. Neither is very likely. I believe that the spiritual consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage will be devastating and may very well bring on the judgment of God upon America. If same-sex marriage is legalized, there will be no logical reason why other perversions will not follow. The Mormons and Muslims will want polygamy, some of the bi-sexuals of the GLBT crowd may want threesomes, and the polyamory crowd might want group marriages. And what about the age of marriage? NAMBLA will undoubtedly want the age lowered as well as others. Muslims in other lands frequently marry girls as young as 13 and some even younger. Anything goes will become the marriage credo of America if the Church does not take action.  If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land there will be persecution against the conservative, Bible believing churches. You cannot have gay rights and freedom of religion and speech both. There will be a clash and in this environment I would give the advantage to gay rights. And what I just said is a paraphrase of an article that Elena Kagan, the newest justice on the SCOTUS, wrote a few years ago. But what can we do?

We need to be praying about these spiritual and political problems in America and take political action. We need to evangelize the lost and seek to engage the homosexual community in dialogue. And in this class we should study God’s Word to know what the Bible says about marriage, sex and homosexuality.

This is the Genesis class and we have been studying the book of Genesis for almost 3 years. I have called our study of Genesis “Finding Answers To Life’s Crucial Questions” because I believe that Genesis is not just another book in the Bible, but is the seedbed for all of Bible doctrine. Genesis is very artistic and beautiful, and it is historical, not legend or myth; it is theological in that it has God as both its author and subject, and it proclaims the gospel; it is very practical and has answers we need for the crucial questions we are facing today in America, in the church, and in our personal lives. The question of same-sex marriage is a crucial question for America and I believe that Genesis has much to tell us about this subject.

In this lesson we are going to look at Genesis 1 to see what is said about sex, marriage and homosexuality. We will then seek to see how it relates to the rest of Scripture and how it relates to the issue of same sex marriage in the United States today. I will also attempt to give you some pointers for discussing this material with those who support the homosexual agenda.

  1. I.                   God’s Standard for Human Sexuality and Marriage Gen. 1
    1. A.     Created in the Image of God, Male and Female
      1. 1.        God created man in his own image, vss.26-27 Any discussion of human sexuality must begin with human origins. Man was uniquely created by God, he is not an accident of evolution. God created man in a different way than he created the animals. While the animals came from the earth at God’s command in vs.24-25, God creates man alone in His image. Ch. 2 gives us the details and shows that God “formed” the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life while for the woman, he removed a rib from the man and made the woman and she is given a specific purpose as man’s helper in 2:18. There are several distinctions from the animals: 1) We are made in God’s image; 2) formed deliberately and singly; 3) we were brought to life by God’s breath, his Spirit; 4) the woman is made from man and for man; 5) Man is made to rule over, have dominion over, the animals and the world; 6) man alone is the object of redemption. 7) Man has an intellectual ability the animals do not; 8) Man has an ethical, aesthetic, moral element; 9) Man is a relational creature designed particularly for a relationship with God that includes worship, love, and obedience.  In what ways does man reflect the image of God? How are we like God? Man is created to live and act according to reason, with a will that dominates over instinct, and within a close relationship with his Creator. Man is given a job to rule over the rest of creation in God’s stead. Man has the capacity to obey or disobey God and has a moral sense. Man alone has the Spirit of God in him, animating him. Man, as male and female, has a unity yet diversity as does the Trinity. Men and women are both Man, human, yet we have differences in our bodies and psychological makeup so that we perfectly complement each other. It is notable that God did in fact create Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, or Adam, Sally and Eve. They were the First Couple and therefore set the pattern, the ideal. The God given ability and intention for the man and woman to join together physically and produce offspring who are in our image (5:3) also clearly reflects the image of God and his creative abilities. Homosexual relationships fail in this aspect and thus cannot adequately reflect the image of God and are thus sinful and go against the created order and the intent of the Creator.
      2. 2.        Image- selem- is used 16X in the OT and means a representation or image. In 4 of the 16 uses it refers to man being made in the image of God (3X in 1:26-27; 9:6) but in other uses it refers to idols created by man to be worshipped as a representation of a false god. Notably in Isaiah 40:19 “An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains.” The context is a discussion of the greatness of God who has marked off the heavens and weighed the mountains and who considers the nations as nothing. Yet wicked men disregard their Creator and worship an IMAGE they have made with their own hands. Other words are used in the OT for idols, but THIS word refers to its being a representation of the false god. In Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol.II, p.767-768, “Man was made in God’s image (selem) and likeness (demut) which is then explained as his having dominion over God’s creation as vice-regent. Ps. 8:5-8 (see below) is similar, citing man’s God-given glory, honor and rule. God’s image obviously does not consist in man’s body which was formed from earthly matter, but in his spiritual, intellectual, moral likeness to God from whom his animating breath came. The emphasis of the prohibition of idols is that they are all material created things. God is non-material, the creator (Deut. 4:15-19).”
      3. 3.        In the Ancient Near East “image” is frequently related to idols, which represent their gods. Man being created in the image of God means that the Spirit of God indwells man, as the spirit of the false gods was to indwell the graven images. The ancient kings of the Near East were also considered to have the spirit of their god indwelling them so that the king represented the god. Man is created in the image of God and is to exercise dominion over the earth, representing God before the earth. (Waltke, p.66) “Finally, in the context of Genesis, the image refers to the plurality of male and female within the unity of humanity.”
      4. 4.        Perhaps the best way to discern what the image of God in man means is to study the only perfect man who ever lived- Jesus. Erickson writes (Systematic Theology, Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI 1983, p.515), “We should pattern ourselves after Jesus, who is the complete revelation of what the image of God is. He is the full image of God, and he is the one person whose humanity was never spoiled by sinning (Heb.4:15). If we wish to know the outworking of the image of God, we can see it in Jesus.”
      5. 5.        In Mark 10:1-12 Jesus answers a question about divorce, but in the process refers back to Gen.1-2 “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and 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.” While I will deal with this passage in detail in a later study, I want to say for now that Jesus himself does refer back to Gen. 1-2 and the first couple as the ideal, specifically in regards to the issue of divorce and adultery but also, in regards to homosexuality though it is not mentioned. How can it touch on the issue of homosexuality? Jesus points to the ideal couple, in the garden prior to there being any sin, and makes it applicable to his day, and thus to ours. God’s intentions are clearly for one man and one woman to be in the one flesh relationship, for life. This is God’s intention and this is God’s standard today. Anything less than this is sin. Adultery, divorce, polygamy, polyamory, homosexuality, serial monogamy, sex prior to marriage, are all less than the ideal and are, therefore, sinful. Again, I intend to do a thorough study of this text later.
      6. 6.        Let us make man… (ACCS, vol.1, p.28) Gregory of Nyssa, “This same language was not used for the creation of other things. The command was simple when light was created; God said, ‘Let there be light.’ Heaven was also made without deliberation….These, though, were before the creation of humans. For humans, there was deliberation. He did not say, as he did when creating other things, ‘Let there be a human.’ See how worthy you are! Your origins are not in an imperative. Instead, God deliberated about the best way to bring to life a creation worthy of honor.”  Chrysostom writes, “To begin, it is worthwhile to ask why God did not say, when the heavens were created, ‘Let us make the heavens’ but instead, ‘Let there be a heaven…Let there be light,’ and similarly for each other aspect of creation. ‘Let us make’ suggests deliberation, collaboration and conference with another person. So what is it whose pending creation is granted so great an honor? It is humanity, the greatest and most marvelous of living beings, and the creation most worthy of honor before God…there is here this deliberation, collaboration and communion not because God needs advice- God forbid saying such a thing!-but so that the very impact of the language of our creation would show us honor.”
      7. 7.        Psalm 8 captures this honor that exists in man as the highest of God’s creations:

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

  1. 8.        Hebrews 2:7 quotes from Psalm 8 but applies it to Jesus. Jesus was born of woman, born under the law, taking upon himself human flesh, which again, points to how God regards humanity. He condescended to become man himself, in the Son.
  2. 9.        Isaiah 43:7 “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” This verse gives us a clue about God’s purposes for Israel, for our own salvation, and for the creation of man. The context of the verse is in a passage of prophecy discussing the future return of Israel from exile. Larger than that however, it speaks of God’s saving all of his people- us, today, are included. By using language from Gen.1 the text also speaks of God’s ultimate goal in creating man- God’s own glory. We exist for God’s glory. We are redeemed for the glory of God. After the first man sinned, God’s purposes were not thwarted. Although we are now natural born sinners, we still enter life for one major purpose: to bring glory to God. In this post Fall world, we are all born with certain sin tendencies passed down through our genes. If homosexuality is in fact genetic and inherited (and as of 2010 it has not been proven) then that sinful tendency, like any other, can be used to glorify God in one way or another through redemption and self denial as we seek to obey God in faith out of love and gratitude. God will be glorified either through the homosexual’s redemption where the sin is overcome, repented of and abstained from, or in judgment. To fully carry out our creative purpose of being created in the image of God and living for his glory includes doing everything for the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) and conforming to the image of the Son (Rom.8:29).
  3. 10.    C.F.Keil, (vol.1 p.39) “Man is the image of God by virtue of his spiritual nature, of the breath of God by which the being, formed from the dust of the earth, became a living soul. The image of God consists, therefore, in the spiritual personality of man, though not merely in unity of self-consciousness and self-determination, or in the fact that man was created a consciously free Ego; for personality is merely the basis and form of the divine likeness, not its real essence. This consists rather in the fact, that the man endowed with free self-conscious personality possesses, in his spiritual as well as corporeal nature, a creaturely copy of the holiness and blessedness of the divine life. This concrete essence of the divine likeness was shattered by sin; and it is only through Christ, the brightness of the glory of God and the expression of His essence (Heb.1:3), that our nature is transformed into the image of God again (Col.3:10; Eph.4:24).”
  4. 11.    Because we are created in the image of God, we are responsible, moral beings with the ability to decide and make decisions. One of the common excuses given by the homosexual for their conduct is that “God made them this way”. Some say that there is a homosexual gene, although that remains unproven. http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/07/16/then-again-maybe-not-the-gay-gene-theory-takes-a-hit/

James Montgomery Boice writes, (Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, vol.1. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI 1982 p.81 “Today in the western world there is a tendency to deny man’s moral responsibility on the basis of some kind of determinism. It usually takes one of two forms. It may be a physical, mechanical determinism (man is the product of his genes and body chemistry) or it may be a psychological determinism (man is the product of his environment and of the earlier things that have happened to him). In either case the individual is excused from responsibility for what he or she does.” This view rejects the idea that man is created in the image of God and is responsible to God for his actions and intentions.  

  1. 12.    John Calvin writes, (p.91) “’Let us make man.’ Although the tense here used is the future, all must acknowledge that this is the language of one apparently deliberating. Hitherto God has been introduced simply as commanding; now, when he approaches the most excellent of all his works, he enters into consultation. God certainly might here command by his bare word what he wished to be done; but he chose to give this tribute to the excellency of man, that he would, in a manner, enter into consultation concerning his creation. This is the highest honour with which he has dignified us; to a due regard for which, Moses, by this mode of speaking, would excite our minds. For God is not now first beginning to consider what form he will give to man, and with what endowments it would be fitting to adorn him, nor is he pausing as over a work of difficulty…so now, for the purpose of commending  to our attention the dignity of our nature, he, in taking counsel concerning the creation of man, testifies that he is about to undertake something great and wonderful.”
  2. 13.    Sailhamer writes, (Compact Bible Commentary, p.13), “Many attempts have been made to explain the plural forms: ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’: e.g. (1) the plural is a reference to a plurality in God, hence a hint of the Trinity…the first one is by far the best. God created humankind through an expression of his own plurality. That divine plurality anticipates the human plurality of the man and the woman, thus casting the human relationship between man and woman as a reflection of God’s own personal relationship within himself.” The homosexual relationship does not, therefore, adequately reflect the plurality of our Creator and is less than what God intended and is, consequently, sinful.
  3. 14.    While certainly it would be wrong to adhere to some old stereotypes and roles for women (for example, polygamy was allowed in Israel), and it would also be wrong to follow everything our culture says today about equality of the sexes that denies any inherent, God-given differences in our psyches, we should celebrate the differences between the sexes and the different roles, as God-given and that they reflect His glory. Both misogyny and androgyny would be sinful. The situations of the transsexuals in today’s society or of the hermaphrodites, though not addressed directly in scripture could be placed in the category of unfortunate birth defects that are a result of the fall in general. Sex change operations are complex not only medically, but psychologically, ethically, and spiritually as well. Jesus says in Matt. 19:12 “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” While I will have to deal with this verse later, for now we can say that Jesus acknowledges those who have been born eunuchs, some kind of a birth defect, have a place in the kingdom of heaven along with those who have been made eunuchs and who choose to be eunuchs, i.e., who live a life of celibacy and singleness. Might this not include those today who are born with same-sex desires? Who are born with a female psyche but a male body, etc.? The man and woman were created in the Garden by God with no defects and with natural affection for one another. It is certainly conceivable that had the couple not sinned, all of their offspring and all the generations following would have been not only sin free, but birth defect free. It seems reasonable to believe that if in fact homosexuality is genetic, it would be a result of the Fall.
  4. 15.    For the evolutionist who does not believe in God, a hard question remains about sexuality. In order for the two sexes to develop in the plant and animal kingdoms, in each and every species that has sexual reproduction, a male and female would both have to evolve at the same time and in close proximity to each other. Using Dr. Behe’s mousetrap principle, it is hard to see how an almost developed sexual reproduction system could be useful. Sexual differentiation in sea life, the birds of the air, plant life, and all animals and insects, and most especially in Man, is a further proof of special creation by an all-wise and all-powerful Creator God.
  5. 16.    What about the single person who never marries? It is certainly possible that, had man not sinned, every person descended from Adam and Eve would have found a perfect spouse and no one would ever suffer loneliness. Given the sin of Gen. 3 however, one of the things we must deal with is the possibility of remaining single for our lifetime. First, let me re-assure you that nowhere does Scripture say or imply that remaining single is sinful or second class spiritually. One only has to look at Jesus, the greatest man to ever live, in fact, the unique Son of God, never married, thus redeeming singlness and celibacy. Jesus is however, considered to the Bridegroom and the Church his Bride (Eph.5:23-32; Rev.21:9). Paul was single, and even urges people to remain single because of the dangers of the time in which he lived (1Cor.7:1-9, 25-40). The important thing in remaining single is to “be anxious about the things of the Lord” and to avoid giving in to sexual immorality. This is excellent and necessary advice for singles today, whether straight or gay- avoid the temptations and serve the Lord by serving the Church.
  6. 17.    “…in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The passage speaks of the innate equality of the sexes, especially when you consider that their unity and diversity reflects the Trinity. This does not mean that differences in physiology, psychology and role are non-existent or not important. They are part of God’s design for each sex to complement the other. The woman was created to be the helper fit for the man (2:18), not the man created to be the helper of the woman. But helper in this context means one who complements. The man names the woman in 2:23, thus assuming lordship over her. But each is of equal value and standing before God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer. Just as within the Trinity there are differences in role and it is the Son who obeys the Father and it is both the Father and the Son who send forth the Spirit, so too the man and woman will have different roles. Sadly, because of the sin in ch.3, we will see in history the woman seeking to supplant her husband and the husband oppressing the wife. Paul reminds us however, in Gal. 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And there is Jesus’ example of talking theology with the adulterous woman at the well in John 4 and allowing Mary to sit at his feet and learn in Luke 10, thus showing that women should be included in the discipleship process. The Christian view of the equality of the sexes goes back to Jesus and Paul, and before them to Genesis 1-2. This does not mean role differences and physical differences should be ignored. Some elements of Patriarchy are inherently part of creation and the Church; God is our heavenly Father, the man was created first, woman was taken out of man, the woman sinned first, Christ came as a man; therefore woman pastors/elders are nowhere found in the NT. When you contrast the Christian view of the sexes with what is seen in Islam or Hinduism you realize that your beginning point makes a huge difference in the ending point.
  7. 18.    James Leo Garrett writes, (Systematic Theology, vol.1 p.419) “American Protestant theologians during the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries almost without exception did not include in their systematic theologies any section concerning man and woman, presumably because the topic was not deemed to be germane to or essential for systematic theology.” I would add that there is a lack of material in systematic theologies about homosexuality, but Dr. Garrett does deal with it some. “The actualization of the ideal of monogamy has become increasingly difficult in Western societies, wherein divorce, cohabitation apart from marriage, and homosexual practice abound. Consequently there are serious difficulties in the parental upbringing of children.”
  8. 19.    Summary- Man alone is created in God’s image and likeness, and being created male and female, and having the command and blessing to multiply and fill the earth (notice this is prior to the fall) is part of being in the image of God. The homosexual lifestyle seems to go against the original purposes of God in creating humanity.

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