Bible Mike Wonders

BIBLICAL HOMOSEXUALITY | January 27, 2010

Leviticus 18:22 “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Do you not know that the wicked will to inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy or drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Romans 1:24-27 “Therefore God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised, Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts, Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for each other. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

1 Corinthians 3:19a “For the wisdom of men is foolishness in God’s sight.”

There is a term being used by those who propose that homosexuality is not a sin in the eyes of God that I personally find offensive. The term is “queer theologian”. Supposedly, anyone who tries to support the acceptance of homosexual activity among Christians is a “queer theologian” These so-called “queer theologians do not view any New Testament references to homosexuality as condemning “natural, committed” gay relationships. Rather they view any negativity as being attached to the use of homosexuality in pagan idolatry. In their view, only pagan worship practices were being condemned not homosexuality itself.

Before going any further with my scriptural examination, let me make my position on the matter clear. I find the behavior of many Christians toward homosexual people to be hateful and out of sorts with how Jesus would handle the issue. All men are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. My sins of fornication with women in the past were no different than of those same activities had been performed with men. A sin is a sin is a sin. Any sexual behavior outside of marriage is sin. An individual involved in a homosexual relationship is no different than a person involved in a sexual relationship with someone to whom they are not wed. If professing homosexuals are not allowed to attend church services, then sexually active heterosexuals should not be allowed to attend either, nor should any known adulterer. Too many pastors and other leaders are addressing homosexual people as if they are the sin instead of the sinner. Homosexuals deserve the same compassion and understanding we give to anyone captured in repetitive sinful behavior.
Having said that, let us look to scripture for answers to how God views the matter. The scriptures already quoted seem clear, but since the Romans passage stands as the most lengthy and significant New Testament reference dealing with homosexuality, we’ll analyze these verses at some length first.
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Romans 1:18-32

This passage forms the “pagan” section of a sustained argument by the Apostle Paul written to prove that (1) Godless pagans and idolaters, (2) virtuous pagans, and (3) Jews under the Mosaic law all (a) are fundamentally sinful and corrupt by nature and by choice; (b) fall short behaviorally of God’s nature and standards revealed in creation and in Scripture; (c) are incapable even by “good works” of pleasing and making peace with God; and (d) in need of his grace through faith in Christ to be reconciled to him.

Thus, Paul’s statements regarding homosexuality must be seen in his perspective that not only many different kinds of sin, but all self-willed “good works” as well, thoroughly disqualify all humankind from relationship with a holy God. And, while the passage we’re looking at does discuss idolatry, these verses have as their primary subjects godlessness, wickedness and their effects, such as idolatry. They also deal with a host of other offenses, including homosexual behavior. Note how the passage begins:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20)

Paul’s analysis of factors that bring on God’s wrath begins, not with pagan humankind’s descent into idolatry, but with its outright, willful rejection of God’s clear self-revelation in creation. He explains how the next step to idolatry is taken:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (vs. 21-23).

Early 20th-century author G.K. Chesterton once observed that when men refuse to believe in God (as Scripture reveals him), they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
In Paul’s view (which Chesterton shared) humankind are not atheists by nature, but worshippers. When people en masse become foolish in thought and dark in heart, says Paul, and reject the concept of an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, loving, and sometimes wrathful God, they don’t cease to worship, they cast about for something else to worship. They look for an object of worship that is more pleasing to their selfishness.

Those who reject God, says Paul, exchange” the worship of God for something else with some kind of embodiment of the things he created. In primitive societies, people create and worship material images of animals, celestial bodies or other natural phenomena — or idealized images of human beings themselves. In more sophisticated societies, worship of creation may become more “intellectualized”. People may revere “the cosmos” or “the mind of man” or anything else awe-inspiring, but less threatening, than the omnipotent Deity Paul speaks about.

Inevitably, people trying to find the ungod object most worth of their reverence end their search with the highest natural manifestation of creation, humanity itself. (We might refer to this stage as discovering the essence of what’s known today as secular humanism.)
In Paul’s frame of reference, the highest of all created beings in spirit, intellect and authority is man. Thus, Paul says, when godless human beings seek an ultimate being to worship other than God, they eventually conclude their search revering the most awe inspiring and esthetically beautiful specimen(s) of humanity itself. At this point, Paul states,

“Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen” (vs. 24-26).

In most cultures that have taken this direction, fervent admiration approaching worship of human male and female forms becomes common. Often, sexual preoccupation of this sort manifests itself in ritual, religious prostitution as it did in the Baal worship the Israelites contended with and sometimes indulged in Canaan. At other times it resolves into elevating various sexual obsessions to the status of cultural norms. As they combine admiration for creation with sexual estheticism, males pursue passionate, quasi-worshipful sexual relationships with other males. Reacting to male neglect, yet still pursuing a physical manifestation of similar esthetic ideals, women seek sexual relations with other women. At this juncture, Paul says, God lifts any restraints the Deity might have sovereignty placed on such pursuits:

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (vs. 26-27).

Clearly, if we allow the entirety of Scripture to “comment” on these verses, it is a sheer distortion to try to square their meaning with the “spin” put on their depiction of homosexuality by these “queer theologians.” The text plainly regards both the desires/lusts and physical activities of both males and females who desire and have sexual relationships with partners of the same gender as “shameful” and “indecent,” and as “perversion.”

The references seem as generic in regard to same-sex behavior as those in Deuteronomy. And there seems no reason from the plain sense of the text to assume that Paul is positing that the offenders are heterosexuals deliberately and perversely engaging in homosexual relations, or that he in any way considers homosexuality “natural.” Nor does he conversely spend any time condemning homosexuals for “unnaturally” engaging in heterosexual behavior, which would seem, if the analysis of this passage by those of the opposing view is correct, to be a parallel and comparable sin.

Lest any reader think that in this passage Paul is implying that homosexuality is the “lowest” form of sin, he finishes this first chapter of Romans by detailing a further decline into what Paul calls “a depraved mind.” We must assume from the context that Paul considers this a stage of even greater evil. As such, it is characterized by a whole cluster of “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.” A kind of sinful mindset, if we accept Paul’s logic, collectively worse than mere homosexual behavior, that includes …

“…envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (vs. 29-32).

Throughout this passage Paul is talking about descending degrees of “wickedness” resulting from a God-rejecting mindset and about individual behavior not directly related to the formal worship of idols. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to assume that every offense he recounts, including homosexuality, is to be directly associated with cultish idolatry.

Furthermore, Paul doesn’t end his “disqualifying” argument with this chapter. He goes on to demonstrate that not only “high-moraled” pagans but Jews, with the advantage of knowing Mosaic law, are also totally incapable of pleasing God. Not only so, but Paul indicates that God regards Jews under the law as most culpable of all Their responsibility is greater in God’s eyes because of they are familiar with the law, yet fail to adhere to the heart of its precepts.

Paul’s attitude in Romans toward sexual sin is no different than that of Jesus Christ, who was far more condemnatory toward hypocritical religious leaders than he was toward sinners given to more fleshly vices. Not that Paul or Jesus condoned fleshly vices; both regarded such sins as contrary to law and sound teaching, as we will see clearly from analysis of two other New Testament passages that deal with homosexuality.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

These verses include only a brief reference to homosexuality, but the context of that reference is significant:

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 1and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
(I Timothy 1:8-11 NASB)

Some conveniently claim that the word translated “homosexuals” above (also used in the 1 Corinthians passage we will examine shortly) does not refer to homosexuality per se, but to “general moral weakness,” ritual prostitution, or some other form of immorality. Their argument is one “from silence.” They would say there is no pre-Pauline use in koine Greek of this term, so Paul must have invented it, so it doesn’t necessarily have to do with homosexuality. This view conceals the simplest translation possible of the word used: “a male who goes to bed with another male.” If Paul invented this term, it’s quite likely that he did so to make his disparagement of homosexuality as generic as the Deuteronomy references, with which, as a Hebrew scholar, he was doubtlessly familiar.

As in Deuteronomy, no age distinction is made here; the reprehensible nature of any male bedding any other male is what Paul wishes to communicate, in as simple terms as possible. In the context of this passage, it is obvious that Paul regards homosexual behavior as a sin, among those offenses listed that it’s the law’s function to proscribe and control, though he doesn’t single out homosexuality as worse than other sins listed.
It’s also clear, from the final passage we’ll examine, that Paul doesn’t consider the offense of homosexuality unforgivable or irremediable.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

In this third New Testament reference dealing directly with homosexuality, Paul introduces a strong note of hope that, while homosexuality is a sin, it can be forgiven, and homosexuals can be “cleansed,” “made whole” and “made right with God”:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-11 NASB)

Here again, the word used for “homosexuals” means “men who bed men.” It sense is active. The preceding word translated as “effeminate” has traditionally been interpreted to connote passive homosexual behavior. Negatively, Paul appears to be saying that neither active nor passive homosexual behavior are acceptable; both are sins. Note the many other offenses he also regards as unacceptable. One should conclude from this passage that Paul does not regard homosexuality as more reprehensible than the other offenses listed — or any less possible to be freed from.

Paul also says that individuals for whom these sins are so dominant as to constitute personal identities will have no place in “the kingdom of God.” One can’t, Paul says, claim to accept God’s rulership and continue to be dominated by these offenses at the same time.

Paul points out that it is possible to be deceived into thinking that you can continue to let your life revolve around these sins and still take part in God’s kingdom. Paul says, “Do not be deceived.” It’s not possible, he says.

In this passage, Paul also strikes three positive notes. And he precedes these with a remarkable observation: “And such were some of you…” In other words, among Paul’s Corinthian readers (Corinth was known to be a “wide open” town sexually in his day) were some who had at one time been active homosexuals but were not any more! What were they? In earlier verses of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes his readers as “saints” (people “set apart,” vs. 1:2), “babes in Christ” (vs. 3:1), “newborn,” new creations saved by God’s power (vs. 1:18).

Because this is true, Paul goes on to say in 6:11, his readers, including former homosexuals, had been washed, cleansed within from their previous sins; sanctified, set apart and made holy, separated from sin and reserved for God; and justified, made morally and legally acceptable to God because of the sacrificial death on Calvary of Jesus Christ. Thus, these offenders, including some who had been homosexuals, were forgiven, restored to right relationship with God, and accepted in his eyes as if they had never sinned, just like every other person who comes to Christ in repentance.

All men are sinners and fall short of the glory of God is a true statement. That Jesus died for all mankind is also a true statement. To repent is to change direction, to reverse course, to regret past behavior and to behave differently in the future. Anyone who is wiling to love God more than themselves through faith in Jesus Christ is welcome in God’s kingdom. That is the Biblical truth about God’s view of homosexuality.

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