This article was originally published on Advocates for Truth under the title Christian Basics: Gender, Marriage, and Sex. It certainly isn’t meant to cover all the aspects of this conversation, but it will concisely lay out the Bible’s basic teachings on these subjects.
June is declared to be Pride month for the LGBTQ+ community. As such, gender, sex, and marriage are frequent talking points in our culture right now. What do Jesus and the Bible teach about these issues? How should Christians respond?
What Does Jesus Say About This?
Many Christians and non-Christians alike will say that Jesus never addresses issues of gender and sexuality. However, this is not the case. In the context of discussing divorce in Matthew 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12, Jesus cites the foundational texts from Genesis 1 and 2 as the basis for which we should oppose divorce, concluding, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” This even leads to a fascinating comment in Matthew 19:12 about eunuchs, giving us potential insight into other subjects like intersex individuals or those who choose to live in celibacy. Jesus saw the Old Testament as authoritative in being able to address complex issues like these. While not exhaustive, the Genesis texts he cited hold vast implications for the foundations of gender, marriage, and sexuality.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”(Genesis 1:27)
In Genesis 1, we are told that humanity is created in God’s image. While scholars debate the exact definition of what it means to be in God’s image, it is clear that being in God’s image is one of the most fundamental attributes about what it means to be human. No other creature bears this characteristic.
Yet, right alongside being told that we are created in the image of God, we are also told that we are created male and female. The fact that biological sex is so closely connected to the image of God speaks to its importance not only to our identity as humans (who we are) but also to our mission in Genesis: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28a). This mission to be fruitful and multiply cannot be fulfilled in isolation from the other sex but only in conjunction.
One important aspect of this discussion is about how our culture distinguishes between gender and sex. Sex usually refers to biological sex that has already been discussed whereas gender refers to “socially constructed roles, behaviors, and expressions” of being male and female or what it means to be masculine or feminine. Another term along with these is “gender identity,” which speaks to a person’s self-perception of their gender. This may or may not differ from their sex. Gender dysphoria is the psychological distress that can arise from feeling incongruity between your gender identity and your sex. Those who experience gender dysphoria often identify as transgender.
While these various terms can be useful in conversations or describing the various phenomena that we experience, it is also important to affirm the psychosomatic unity of the human person. Psychosomatic comes from two Greek words which mean soul (psuche) and body (soma). It speaks to how there is an essential unity to the human person between the body and the soul, the physical and the spiritual, the material and non-material. While, of course, the Bible does distinguish between these parts, the Old Testament in particular “does not distinguish between material body and immaterial ‘soul’.” This is important for our conversation here about sex and gender because our culture asserts that sex, gender, and gender identity can be disconnected from one another and particularly downplays the body (biological sex) as having meaningful input into what our gender or gender identity ought to be.
The Bible does not make these harsh distinctions between sex, gender, or gender identity. The fact that we are created male and female (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:2) is deeply connected to our physical bodies (our flesh, e.g. Genesis 2:23-24, Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:16). We see this in Genesis 1:27 as well. Old Testament scholar Kenneth Matthews notes that the “Hebrew terms for “male” (zākār) and “female” (nĕqēbâ), as opposed to man and woman, particularly express human sexuality.” What it means to be male and female cannot be separated from our physical bodies.
Marriage & Sex
“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”(Genesis 2:23-24)
In Genesis 2, we are given the foundational texts for marriage and sex. First, we can see from these verses and others that marriage was created to be between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24, Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-8). The gender binary is essential to marriage, and the ties back to our biological sex and our physical bodies are apparent:
- We can see this in the way Adam is overjoyed by the fact that the Woman is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” The fact that she was like him (rather than the animals) and yet also “like his opposite” highlights that it was both the similarity and differences of Eve that were important.
- This can also be seen in the term “one flesh.” While some affirming Christians like Matthew Vines will try and say that one flesh means more than just physical unity (which is true), it’s certainly not less than that either. Paul is quite explicit that he understands the term “one flesh” as a physical, bodily unity. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16).
- In the New Testament, the gender binary in marriage of husband and wife also serves as a physical representation of the greater spiritual reality which exists between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Second, Genesis 2 points us towards the necessity for sex to be expressed within a marital covenant. When we discuss sex and marriage, we often separate the two and talk about their morality independently. However, in Scripture, sex and marriage cannot be rightly divorced from one another. Sex, and the unity that comes with it, is meant to be an expression and outgrowth of the covenantal commitment, love, and unity that is inherent to marriage (Genesis 2:23-24, Proverbs 5:18-19, 1 Corinthians 7:2-4). To have sex outside of these boundaries is called sexual immorality (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:18, 7:2, 7:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Capturing the Heart of Christ on LGBTQ+ Issues
In light of all this, while we must be able to understand and defend these truths with Scripture, we must also be able to communicate them in a way that demonstrates God’s love for every person in the LGBTQ+ community.
First, it is important to remember that all sexual sin starts in the heart (Matthew 5:28, Romans 1:24-27, James 1:14-15). It is not limited to homosexuality, transgenderism, or any other expression of sexuality within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Sexual sin and brokenness are a near-universal experience, and the most often discussed sexual sins in the Bible are heterosexual in nature. Everyone stands guilty before God for that sin and can only find hope and forgiveness through the good news of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23).
Second, we must have compassion for those who experience same-sex desires, gender dysphoria, or identify as LGBTQ+. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), not jumping to conclusions about what any individual person believes. At the end of the day, we are talking about fellow image-bearers of God—those who are worthy of his love and care—not merely an issue to be debated. Our challenge as Christians is to show those in the LGBTQ+ community that the love of God and his Church can far exceed the love that they can find in that community.
Third, we should be aware of not only what the Bible does say about gender and sexuality but what the Bible does not say about these topics. For example, the church can often adopt overly rigid gender stereotypes, which can make people (including many Christians) feel isolated from their sex and less male/female than others of their sex. While cultural distinctions between men and women hold some importance (Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16), we must recognize that many of these specifics are relative to one’s culture and should not be held to the same level as Scriptural commands.
Lastly, we must capture the Bible’s holistic vision of gender, marriage, and sexuality. Quite often, we can present these issues as a mere list of dos and don’ts. This will not capture the hearts of most people. Rather, we should work to frame the discussion in terms of the beauty, goodness, and freedom that comes from our relationship to God and obedience to his commands.
Throughout the Bible, it can be seen that God created us male and female, that marriage is to be between a man and a woman, and that sexual expression is to take place in the context of marriage. This is upheld by Jesus himself and the texts in Genesis 1 and 2 that he cites. Christians must be able to present these biblical truths in love (Ephesians 4:15) while showing the goodness of God and his creation (Genesis 1:31) and showing the compassion of Christ towards those who disagree.
- Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission – Explainer: What you should know about LGBTQ Pride Month
- The Gospel Coalition – 12 Statements on Human Sexuality
- Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood – Nashville Statement
- Christian Missionary Alliance – Statement on Sexuality
- Moody Bible Institute – Human Sexuality
- Christopher Yuan – What is Holy Sexuality?
- Biola University – Statement on Human Sexuality
 P. S. Johnston, “Humanity,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 565.
 K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 173.
 This is a literal translation of the Hebrew word kenegdo in Genesis 2:18, often translated as Eve being a “suitable” helper (NIV) or a helper “fit for him” (ESV). Old Testament scholar John Walton notes that it communicates aspects of Eve being both a “partner” and “counterpart” to Adam. See John H. Walton, Genesis, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 177.
 Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (New York: Convergent Books, 2014), 144-146.