Paul faced similar problems with believers at
One of the most critical issues that will affect and shape our society in the immediate future is marriage. The current debate not only has implications on what marriage means and how it is defined, but on society and the Church. Intrinsic to this debate, the problem of priority arises. Potentially, the Church’s ability to carry out its mission and ministry will be crippled by focusing solely on marriage. In assessing its priorities, the Church needs to address whether it is the church’s mission to save society and culture. If so, the Church needs to weigh the importance of the marriage conflict against its available resources. Additionally, the Church needs to decide whether its resources would be better spent addressing the broader erosion of Biblical traditions in the
THE PROBLEMS AND PARALLELS
There are many parallels between first-century
Thus, it is not hard to imagine what some in the church at
The testimony the Church should have had in the city of
Paul’s injunction against fornication is not limited to the individual guilty of incest or to this one sin. He condemns other forms of wickedness as well, citing covetousness, idolatry, railing, drunkenness, and extortion. The specific problem that surfaced in the body of believers might have been incest, but this was just the visible part.
The other problem that infected the church was pride. Pride, according to Daniel Defoe, is “the first peer and president of hell.” Paul warned against pride, arrogance, and general apathy towards sin. Unfortunately, this is where a substantial portion of main-line denominations and independent churches are today. In our multi-cultural society, there is a tendency for the Church to display acceptance of others no matter how extreme their positions. This is, as Francis Schaeffer points out, an example of how humanism has crept into the thinking of not just Western society, but also the
Although Roman rule supplanted Grecian sovereignty, Grecian culture remained. The Greeks, similar to Romans, were polytheistic in belief. Their gods and goddesses possessed the same, if not worse, moral attributes than their creators. Thus, when an individual in the church had his father’s wife, to some it was of no consequence. To Paul it was of great consequence. Paul was not bashful when it came to naming sin and the sinner. He withstood Peter to his face when Peter had been inconsistent in his walk (Gal 2: 11-14), and had even separated from Barnabas over John Mark (Acts 15:36-39). Paul did not limit himself to only rebuking the believers. Paul also preached to the lost, both Jew and Gentile, anywhere they were found, including a synagogue or market place and told them God requires repentance. This was the message brought home to the Church at
After pointing out the problem with incestuous individuals, Paul turned his attention to the Church and told them they had in effect, colluded with this man by not dealing with sin. Paul judged those culpable of incest and his recommendation was harsh: They were to “deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor 5:5). In other words, church discipline in the form of excommunication was necessary to purge immorality. Various views have been put forth on the meaning of the phrase, “to deliver to Satan.” One author suggests that its roots are in the Old Testament Day of Atonement where a scapegoat was released into the wilderness. This goat, he says, is delivered to Satan for destruction and thus removes the sin of
DARING TO DISCIPLINE?
The situation churches face today concerning discipline is not the same as first-century
In one such case in the South, a Christian school has been sued for asking two female students to withdraw after they admitted to having an inappropriate sexual relationship. Claiming “emotional distress” and “invasion of privacy,” one of the former students has filed a lawsuit seeking one million dollars from this ministry that did nothing but uphold the Biblical values consistently adhered to by the administration. As mainstream American society and the media continue to drift farther away from Biblical values, ministries that commit to stand firm on the Word of God can expect the challenges to intensify in the days that come.
One can see that even when the Church exercises its Biblical mandate of discipline in order to maintain integrity and purity, opposition arises from within.
Conversely, Paul does not limit discipline to just the individual guilty of incest. In fact, he implies with the phrase “such an one” that not only this individual, but also anyone practicing immorality is to be sanctioned as well. Infractions would include adultery, fornication on the part of the members of the church in a heterosexual relationship, as well as the others areas of misconduct mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11. Essentially, what Paul does in this passage is refuse to allow a redefinition of marriage. Any arrangement that deviated from one man and woman was outside of the realm of marriage. In fact, Paul re-gives the definition of marriage in chapter 6:15-17, where he states that two shall be one flesh and a heterosexual union is implied.
In a society where culture is changing as quickly as the next fad, absolute truth seemingly does not exist. Modern Americans, similar to first-century Paul, live in a multi-cultural society.
There were restrictions placed on marriage.
The definition of marriage, according to The
One is constantly being deluged by a stream of news and information lamenting the plight of same-sex couples that claim social inequality. These groups claim their struggle for equality is no different from the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In order for this segment to be treated equally and fairly and with dignity, marriage has to be re-defined to include same-sex couples. After all, society is evolving, and constantly progressing; so society needs to keep up with the changes that humankind is going through. To this group there is nothing odd or unusual in this practice, it is perfectly normal and has been practiced as long as man has been around. There is, they claim, a touching example in the Scriptures of one mourning over the death of his same-sex lover where David laments over the death of Jonathan (2 Sam 1:26).
Accordingly, anyone who would deny this segment of society the same rights and privileges everyone else enjoys must surely be bigoted and homophobic. If the Creator made them this way, society should recognize their life style as valid and legitimate. The times have changed, so attitudes must change as well. If, in fact man is born with certain genetic pre-dispositions, then why legislate against any lifestyle choice? Taken to its logical conclusion, the serial rapist or serial murderer can argue their genetic predisposition contributed to their crimes and so they should not be held accountable for their choice. The opposite is true.
In addition, there are those who say the Bible should be made to fit current culture. One is not to impose their interpretation of the Scriptures on cultures and societies that differ, but are to make the message fit the culture. After all, the argument goes, the Bible came from languages and cultures far removed from ours, and however currently interpreted it is just a man’s interpretation. In other words, there is no absolute truth. There is no final authority to which to appeal except one’s own reasoning or feelings. Everything is relative, and therefore, truth is constantly changing. If evidence can be presented there is a final authority to which all humankind must answer, the previous argument falls. There must be, therefore, a cross-cultural perspective of interpretation of Scripture bridging the gap from not just original languages and cultures to existing society, but to other contemporary languages and cultures as well, making the message of Scripture authoritative. 
THE CHANGE IN CULTURE
Enormous changes have taken place in society over the last sixty years. Where once churches dotted the landscape, filled with the faithful worshippers that were converted because of great revivals, there are only empty meetinghouses. There is no true spirituality for the community in which many of these churches are located. The social scientists of Kinsey, Masters, and Johnson, and Dr. Benjamin Spock taught that what we had believed and practiced for generations was wrong. For the most part, society believed these teachings. According to these social scientists, society was wrong to restrain its natural passions and desires. The embracing of this information led to the belief that passion and desires were given to individuals by the process of evolution to enjoy and to ease the stress of life. The result of which leads one to conclude what consenting adults do is of no concern to anyone else. The old idea of adultery and fornication were out-dated, and were at the worst, victimless crimes. After all,
Dr. Timothy Leary expounded the virtues of mind-expanding drugs as harmless entertainment and that society ought to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Leary, a hero and pioneer of the drug counter-culture, also said that: “People use the word “natural”…What is natural to me is these botanical species which interact directly with the nervous system. What I consider artificial is four years at Harvard, and the Bible, and Saint Patrick’s cathedral, and the sunday school [sic] teachings.”
Here was the “new gospel” popularized by Marx and preached to the masses by the apostles of higher education with the choir of popular music providing the anthems for the new counter-culture that was coming into puberty, and validated by the highest moral authority of the land. Now we had proof that
Fortunately, current society is not under the same form of government that the Apostle Paul and the first-century church was. Modern individuals have the privilege of having their voice heard through the ballot box. When elected leaders do not perform as promised, one has the privilege of voting them gone. If enough popular support can be raised for or against an issue, society can be manipulated by whichever faction controls the election results. During the eighties, the pendulum of cultural consciousness returned to the conservative side of its ever increasingly shortened arc when evangelicals of diverse backgrounds came together on major issues. The nineties continued the trend with the election of conservative majorities to both houses. Thus, some would argue, the Church had influenced the political process to the point of establishing what some termed derisively a theocracy, even though the president was of the opposing party.
Still, others take a view the direction culture is taking society is controlled by the media. The media is one of the most influential forces affecting public opinion today. The media has the ability to mold and shape the attitude of the masses with its continuous stream of information. If those in charge of media favor a particular issue, then all the positive influence it can wield will go behind that cause. This is what abortion proponents did to get abortions legalized. In fact, it is such a powerful tool there has even been action in Congress to control explicit content. Liberal bias, or humanism has long controlled the content consumers get from mainstream media. Conservative evangelicals are seldom presented as positive role models and believers are most often portrayed as hypocrites and bigots leading to a false idea of what the Church stands for. This is a subtle form of persecution, the result of which leads to a denial of first amendment rights.
PROTECTION OR PERSECUTION
Even though the first-century church was persecuted by Jew and Gentile alike, Paul could appeal to protection of Roman law because of his Roman citizenship. It did not matter that he had converted from religion to a relationship with Christ, at this time Paul was free to worship as he chose. This freedom is the same privilege certain sects in society would deprive evangelicals. The Constitution guarantees an individual the right to the free exercise of his or her faith, even in the public arena, without the fear of government intervention. Yet, the government, though it does not bestow this God-given right, has a duty to protect that right. Sadly, this is being construed today to mean not freedom of religion, but to mean freedom from religion. Therefore, laws are being considered and passed today to limit the free exercise of religious expression.
To what authority does the church subject itself today? Romans thirteen tells Christians to be subject to civil authorities and Peter admonishes the same in his epistle (1 Pet 2:13, 14). If civil authority hostile to the church imposes onerous restrictions and condemns the worship of Christ as many nations have done, are Christians to obey these prohibitions? Does the body of Christ submit to the authority of the state and not to the headship of Christ when the state is in conflict with the Word of God? Peter and the other apostles made an important statement in Acts 5:29 when they said, “we ought to obey God rather than men.” It is very important that evangelicals know where these lines of civil authority and sacred authority are drawn. As Schaeffer points out, for the Christian there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular; all areas of life are to be brought under the headship of Christ. Every Christian is to be subject to the Lordship of Christ in all realms of life.
In modern society there are many trying to shape culture and society by the legislative process. When this fails, the judicial process is employed to circumvent the legislature. Ultimately, the courts have the final say in what becomes law, and laws are designed to prohibit certain behaviors. Accordingly, this is why so much emphasis is placed on who is appointed to judicial benches. The problem, however, is that law becomes something pliable and changeable in the hands of a powerful few and not the will of the governed via democratic process. Conversely, in Paul’s day this was not a problem. The emperor dictated law and his magistrates and army enforced it. Thus, that which the state allowed had serious consequences for its citizens. The primary question of importance to the early Church was the state’s role in determining how, when, and whom believers worshiped. That same question faces the Church today.
EQUALITY OR ENDORSEMENT
In order for the segment of society who desire their relationships legitimized and sanctioned by not just society, but by the state, the traditional view of marriage, has to be changed. This segment of society argues they are asking for no more than what the larger percentage of society already possesses. This includes “full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and the transgendered.” Further, this segment advocates recognition of their unions, the right to adopt and raise children, freedom from discrimination and harassment in the workplace and schools, and “to fashion a society that is truly diverse and tolerant.” In order to achieve these goals, a massive human rights campaign has been underway for two decades, including very high-profile court cases and mainstreaming in the electronic media in an effort to portray their lifestyle in a positive light. Their gains have been substantial. In order to better inform society about their goals and change public opinion, a lesson plan for public schools was developed. If one can educate the youth, one can eliminate prejudice and bigotry. This program, entitled: Making Schools Safe: Anti- Harassment Training Program, ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, was developed by Nancy Otto. The program has been successful in opening doors for Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs and pushing their agenda in public schools. Part of the program reads:
The program’s goals are: To alert school districts that they have a duty- backed up by legal liability- to change a school culture that ignores or promotes harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation. To provide those districts with the skill and resources they need to promote an environment that does not tolerate harassment and discrimination.
Homosexuals are just one segment of society that advocates redefining marriage. Another large and growing population of sub-culture who want the definition of marriage changed is those that are living in this country in polygamous relationships. The Mormons have long held the belief it was God’s will for them to have more than one wife. In fact it was one of the primary concerns of Prophet Joseph Smith, but “this ‘strong meat’ was not to be fed to the ‘Gentiles,’ who were to receive only the ‘first principles.’” In fact, they were driven from
What doesn’t make sense to many opponents of the legalization of same-sex marriages is that their challengers are seemingly unconcerned that the national acceptance of gay and lesbian marriages would not be the final test of the vibrancy of traditional marriage. Instead, proponents of plural marriages would be next in line, and their goal, according to the Traditional Values Coalition is to introduce ‘polygamy and polyamory’ as families.
In addition to the Mormons, another like-minded sub-cultural group is pushing for a change in current marriage laws. As Majeed observes, the rapidly growing number of African American Muslims practicing in secret and openly what she terms “polygyny” are “most prevalent in the
There are several reasons stated for the increase in polgyny. One, is after the men get over the idea of living with and supporting more than one spouse, they see it as a return to true Islam as practiced in the seventh century. Another reason for “man sharing” is the lack of available and eligible men. With the high divorce rate and increase of single mothers, latchkey kids and the stigma associated with unwed couples living together, polygynous arrangements seem to meet several needs at once. Majeed concludes that same-sex and polygynous arrangements have existed alongside of monogamous, heterosexual marriages and both are worthy of further study and consideration.
BACK TO BASICS
Looking at the directives that Paul gave the church at
The Scriptural definition of marriage is important for current society. There would not be an assault on it by Satan if it were not. In Mark chapter ten, where the Pharisees approached the Lord, and asked about divorce, He referred them back to “the beginning” (Gen 2:21-24). Christ was not asked about the sex of the first couple, nor was He asked about the number of wives a man could have, but only about putting her away or divorcing her. He answered all of these when He replied “for the hardness of your heart.” Adam and Eve, he told them, were made male and female. Regarding gender, Biblical marriage is between a man and a woman. This is, obviously, for procreation. Noah did not put all male animals or all female animals on the ark. A man was to have only one wife. The Scriptural injunction is plain: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife. And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.” As to the question of how long marriage is to last: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Death is the only reason for separation from a spouse (Rom 7: 2, 3).
It is important to note that Christ, when asked about marriage, goes back to “the beginning” not the Law of Moses. Likewise, Paul, when discussing marriage goes back to “the beginning.” In 1 Corinthians 6:16-18 Paul uses the same formula as Christ, “for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” Just as the ancient Jew understood
There is modern research to validate the Biblical wisdom of monogamous heterosexual unions. In an article entitled The Emotional Antecedent and Sequelae of Adolescent Sexual Activity, Dr. W. David Hager gives insight into emotional consequences accompanying pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Relying on studies documenting the chemical and hormonal reactions in men and women intimately engaged, Hager concludes couples “emotionally ‘super glue’ themselves to each other,” and as a result, “there is an addictive effect of being unified.” “Thus,” he says, “there is a biochemical basis for bonding and imprinting.” This bonding, when broken, has a devastating effect on the individual and society, resulting in escalating numbers of sexually transmitted infections and non-marital pregnancies.
CONCLUSION AND CHALLENGE
The church and the evangelical community can learn three things from the situation in first century
Secondly, the church has lost its purity. Like the man in
Lastly, the church has lost its power. The church needs to decide whether it will fight spiritual battles in the political arena, or in the prayer closet. Political freedom is one thing; spiritual power is another. Evangelicals have no influence in society and on culture, because there is no power with God, or with men. Change in society and culture is brought about by changing people. A change in people occurs when there is a change in their heart. A change in the heart occurs when the Spirit of God and the Word of God is presented in the power of God through the life of an obedient child of God. If this sounds simplistic, it is. It is His plan.
The battle over marriage is not the only challenge facing the Church today but its importance cannot be over emphasized. This fight should not take priority of the primary mission of the Church, but Evangelicals must be proactive in preserving the Biblical tradition of marriage. This is not just important for the Church, but for society and culture as well. The home was the first institution the Creator bestowed to His children and is the foundation of society. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3).
Byne, W., Parsons, B. “Human Sexual Orientation: The Biological Theories Reappraised,”
Archives of General Psychiatry. 50 (n.d.): 228-39
Cicero, M. T. “Pro Cluent” 5.11-14. Quoted in Simon J. Kistemaker, Deliver This Man to Satan
(1 Cor 5:5): A Case Study in Church Discipline, The Master’s Seminary Journal 3/1 (Spring
Christian Law Association. www. Christianlaw.org/newsletter/articles/2006.html.
Cover, Charlotte. Internet correspondence, Gibbs Law Firm, (Oct. 2006).
Durant, Will. The Age of Faith.
Gibbs Law Firm, P.A. Informing the Faithful: One-Day Legal Seminar. Seminole, FL: Christian
Law Association Publishers, 2004.
Hager, W. David. “The Emotional Antecedent and Sequelae of Adolescent Sexual Activity,” rev.
2004. Available from www. cmdahome.org
Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Vol. 6.
Kraft, Charles H. “Interpreting in the Cultural Context.” In Rightly Divided:
Hermeneutics, ed. Roy B. Zuck, 245-257.
Kupelian, David. “Innocent Blood: How Lying Marketers Sold Roe v. Wade to
Available on line at www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=42462, Jan. 20,
Laney, J. Carl. “Paul and the Permanence of Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.” Journal of the Evangelical Society 25/3 (September 1982): 283-94.
Leary, Timothy, Dr. “Methods in Control.” n.d. Database online. Available from
Majeed, Debra Mubashshir. “The
Out of the Closet and In Search of Legitimacy.” Cross Currents 54 (Summer 2004): 73-81.
Manson, Pamela. “
January, 13, 2004.
Gay Rights Project, for the Howard A. Friedman Foundation. By Jennifer Middleton, rev.
Joshua Freker. 2005, database on-line. Available from
Pomfret, John. “Polygamists Fight to be Seen as Part of Mainstream Society.” The
Post, 21 November 2006, A01.
Roe v. Wade, 410
Schaeffer, Francis A. A Christian Manifesto. Rev. ed.
Shillington, V. George. “Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5:5.” Journal for the Study of the
New Testament 71 (1998): 29-50.
Van Baalen, Jan Karel. The Chaos of the Cults: A Study in Present-Day Isms.
 Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. Old and New Testaments. Rev. ed. (1996) 386.
 This should answer those that teach that the church, since the death of Christ, is not under the moral Law of Moses any longer.
 M. T. Cicero Pro Cluent 5.11-14, quoted in Simon J. Kistemaker, “Deliver This Man to Satan” (1Cor5: 5): A Case Study in Church Discipline, The Master’s Seminary Journal 3/1 (Spring 1992): 33-45.
 The New Dictionary of Thoughts, (1957) s. v. “pride.”
 Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, rev. ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books and Good News Publishers, 1982), 18.
 V. George Shillington, “Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5:5,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71 (1998): 29-50
 Ibid. 38. This, he says is the correct understanding of this phrase to which the reading as found in the NIV agrees quoting Adela Yarbro Collins, “The Function of “Excommunication” in Paul,” HTR 73 (1980) 257.
 Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6 (
 See, Matt 18:15-20; Luke 17:3; 2 Cor 2:1-11; Gal 6:1; 1 Thess 5:14; 2 Thess 3:6, 10-15; 1Tim 5:19-20; and Titus 3: 10-11.
 Internet correspondence with Charlotte Cover, Gibbs Law Firm, P.A., Oct. 2006. (Gibbs Law Firm is otherwise known as Christian Law Association).
 This is happening in spite of Paul’s instruction in chapter 6 for believers not to go to the civil courts (the unjust) to settle their differences.
 Will Durant, The Age of Faith (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1950), 380
 The New American Handy College Dictionary, 3d. ed. (1995) s. v. marriage.
 There have been scores of studies conducted over several decades in search of genetic or biological origins for homosexuality, including studies of identical and fraternal twins. (See: Byne, W., Parsons, B. (1993, March). Human Sexual Orientation: The Biologic Theories Reappraised. Archives of General Psychiatry. 50: 228-39 (228). for just one of many such studies.) The conclusion is that while there may be many factors involved in determining a person’s sexual orientation, genetics is not one of them.
 Charles H. Kraft, “Interpreting in Cultural Context.” In Rightly Divided:
 Alfred Kinsey published two works in the mid 1900s about male and female human sexuality. William Masters and Virginia Johnson based their research on the work of Kinsey. The difference in the methods was that Kinsey used surveys to gather data; Masters and Johnson used direct observation of men and women in a laboratory setting. These studies were instrumental in legitimizing sex out side of marriage. Dr. Spock also published his book on child rearing entitled: Baby and Child Care in the mid 1900s. His famous maxim “trust yourself; you know more than you think you do” led many to label him the “Father of Permissiveness” where child rearing was concerned.
David Kupelian, Innocent blood: How lying marketers sold Roe v. Wade to
 See Acts 16:37; 22:25-28; 25:10 where Paul asserted his civil rights as a Roman citizen.
 Shaeffer, 19.
 It is not the intent to go into detail about ancient Roman government. The republic was effectually done away with when Octavian declared himself Augustus Caesar (Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus). http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/lecture12b.html
 Informing the Faithful :One-Day Legal Seminar, Gibbs Law Firm (2005) 45.
 Nancy Otto, Making Schools Safe: Anti-Harassment training Program, ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, for the Howard A. Friedman Foundation, by Jennifer Middleton, rev. Joshua Freker. www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_fileG81_24003.pdf2005. “italics mine”
 Jan Karel Van Baalen, The Chaos of the Cults: A Study in Present-Day Isms (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 199.
 In January 2004, J. Bronson, G. Lee Cook, and D. Cook filed suit in U.S. District court against
 John Pomfret, Polygamists Fight to Be Seen As Part of Mainstream Society. (The
 Debra Mubashshir Majeed, “The
 This is the ideal. Christ in Matthew nineteen gives what some have labeled “an exception clause” clause. There is still much debate on the meaning of this passage. J. Carl Laney’s opinion is that to remarry after divorce is to be guilty of adultery.
 See Numbers 22-25. When
 Cf. 1 Cor 3:16,17; 6:15; 7: 1-40; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5: 30-32
 Shaeffer, p 55.