These are notes for a talk I gave recently at a Logos School assembly.
We have been inundated with PRIDE parades and flags and now television shows and commercials, and maybe you have even met people in your family or in the community who say they are homosexual or maybe you have even experienced homosexual temptation or sin. What does the Bible teach about this?
Summary of the Text: Paul begins by summarizing the gospel he preaches, which is for both Jews and Gentiles, and which is the announcement of the righteousness of God from faith to faith (Rom. 1:16-17). This gospel is entirely necessary for all men because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (1:18). Everyone has some sense of this since God has revealed Himself in creation, so that no one is without excuse (1:19-20). The heart of all ungodliness and unrighteousness is refusing to glorify God as God or be thankful (1:21). This fundamental folly leads to the folly of idolatry, which is a slippery slope of uncleanness and lust and dishonor, all grounded in a failure to worship the Creator (1:22-25). When men persist in this folly, God often gives them over to far worse sins, including sins of massive sexual confusion, sins contrary to the nature, like homosexuality (1:26-27).
The Gospel is For All Sinners & All Sin
Paul begins his letter celebrating the gospel of righteousness by faith precisely because there is no man who is righteous. As he will say explicitly a couple of chapters later, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). All men have failed to acknowledge God in everything, and all men have refused to worship the Creator in some respects. Therefore, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all men in our sin (1:18). The only way out of this mess will be from outside of ourselves, by faith. The wages of sin is death, and therefore, all sin is sufficiently repugnant to God to require the shedding of blood. Paul goes on in the following verses from our text to list sins like boasting and gossip and disobeying parents, and Paul says, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death…” (Rom. 1:32). Therefore, Christ died in the place of sinners, so that those who place their faith in Him might have His righteousness: “For He made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
While all sins deserve death, and all sins are completely paid for in the cross, the Bible also teaches that there are sins/crimes that do greater damage and harm than others. The biblical standard of criminal justice is eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and that standard implies varying degrees of harm. Common sense teaches us this: striking someone is not as heinous as taking their life, even if the root sin of anger is the same in both. Stealing five dollars is not as harmful as stealing five million dollars. So too, sins against nature are more damaging. In Psalm 19, David prays that God would forgive his secret faults, keep him back from presumptuous sins, so that he might be innocent of “great transgressions.” The Bible also teaches that some sins are themselves the judgment/wrath of God, as Paul indicates here: “Therefore God gave them up…” (cf. Prov. 22:14).
The Bible also indicates greater degrees of harm with the word “abomination,” for the kind of sins that defile an entire land. Think of abominations like pollution: it gets into the air and water and effects everything. The Bible calls certain forms of sexual perversion abominations: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:22-25).
Elsewhere, the Bible calls sexual perversion a degrading passion, shameful, and vile, and the point of that is not to mock sinners but rather to name their sin honestly in order to drive them to their Savior. This is what we might call the “grace of shame.” Shame for our sin teaches us to hate our sin and love our Savior. Paul lists these sins and says, “And such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
What About Shellfish & Mixed Fabrics?
It is a common objection to point out that the Old Testament law also called eating certain foods an “abomination,” but the answer is actually simple. Yes, some of the Old Testament laws were ceremonial laws that were tied specifically to the Old Covenant and the land of Canaan. When Peter saw the vision of the unclean animals coming down, God told us specifically that those ordinances had passed away, along with the distinction between Jew and Gentile, but when the Council of Jerusalem met, they insisted that the laws pertaining to idolatry and sexuality were still in force (Acts 15:20, 29). And of course, we have Paul’s own words in Romans 1 as well as two other references to the sin of homosexuality in the New Testament (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10).
Homosexual Sin vs. Orientation?
One of the other common claims is that the sin the Bible is condemning is lustful, greedy, or violent homosexuality, but not committed homosexual relationships among people who have a “homosexual orientation.” One apologist writes: “In the ancient world, homosexuality was widely considered, not to be a different sexual orientation or something inherent in a small minority of people, but to be an excess of lust or passion that anyone could be prone to if they let themselves go too much… The concept of sexual orientation, and of same-sex orientation in particular, didn’t exist in the ancient world. The English term “homosexual” was not even coined until the end of the 19th century. And so translations of these words that suggest that Paul was using these distinctly modern concepts and categories are highly suspect…The Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships. There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation, nor is there any call to lifelong celibacy for gay people…” But this logic falls apart. Would we do the same with idolatry or adultery or murder? The Bible was only talking about the bad kind of murder? Being created male and female is God’s way of addressing our “sexual orientation,” and when it comes to sin, the Bible recognizes that all people have a natural “sinful orientation.” We were all born that way. And that is why Christ was born.
The Sin of Effeminacy (& Butchness)
Some Christians who accept that the Bible does condemn all homosexuality, nevertheless have tried to argue that this “orientation” can still persist even in Christians. They admit that they must not act on it, but they claim that they are still “gay” even though they are committed to celibacy. They liken it to having a physical deformity that will not ordinarily go away or be healed until the resurrection. Some have gone so far as to claim that there is something redemptive about being “gay,” some special gift for same-sex friendship. Not long ago, a conference called Revoice was organized to celebrate this celibate gay Christianity, and one of their workshops was entitled, “What queer treasure will be in the New Jerusalem?” First off, this is a very strange way to talk, since we don’t speak this way about other sins. Just substitute the word “racist” or “thieving.” Sure, a Christian might occasionally reference the sins they have been delivered from when giving their testimony, but we wouldn’t go around calling ourselves a Drug-Addicted Christian or a White-Supremacist Christian. But secondly, we would not claim that these sins have any inherent goodness in them to be salvaged.
Often, these folks seem to be wanting to preserve some small element of that sinful lifestyle, sometimes male effeminacy or female boyishness. But the Bible condemns that as sinful as well. In 1 Cor. 6:9, Paul says that the effeminate will not inherit the Kingdom, and the word there is malakoi, or soft, and it can refer to homosexuality specifically but can also more generally mean cowardly. “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deut. 22:5). Remember, Paul said that the folly of failing to worship God rightly results in turning from the “natural use” of men and women. But while this often culminates in sexual sin, it can also happen in more subtle ways when boys/men do not use their strength for good and for the protection of women. It can also happen, when girls/women do not embrace their gifts of cultivating life and beauty.
What Repentance Means
Repentance begins with confession. And confession means agreeing with God. This begins by agreeing with God that there are only two sexes, male and female, and they are both made in the image of the living God. This confession also includes recognizing that marriage only exists between a man and a woman. Two men or two women may claim to be married, but this is like putting a crown on your poodle and calling him a king. This cannot even be changed by a ruling from the Supreme Court, which is what was attempted in the 2015 Obergefell decision. There is no such thing as homosexual marriage, and so it is better termed, homosexual mirage. Naming the sexes accurately includes agreeing with God that male and female biology is an assignment from God. A male person has been given the assignment to live as a man in this world, and a female person has been given the assignment to live as a woman in this world. This assignment was given to you at conception and is woven into the fabric of your nature and DNA. Worshiping the Creator rightly and giving Him thanks, means thanking Him for making you who you are, beginning with your biological sex.
Agreeing with God also means naming sin accurately and asking God to wash you clean from all your ingratitude, all your unrighteousness, all your sin. This excludes calling yourself by your sin, as some kind of identity badge. It also means forsaking all lusts and sexual sin and putting on the “new man” in Christ. In Christ, we are new creations, the old has passed away. This means that we are born again by the Spirit of God as new men and new women. The old flesh still rises up in us, but salvation means you have been set free from slavery to sin and set free to run toward Christ in obedience. And this ordinarily means planning for and pursuing marriage and children. It is a terrible lie to claim that since someone has been tempted to homosexuality they must not be called to heterosexual marriage and must be called to a life of singleness. No, the Bible says that those who burn with lust should pursue marriage. Yes, God does sometimes call a man or a woman to a life of chaste singleness, but when He does, He blesses that person in unusual ways. And we must not think that children are an optional accessory for marriage. It is true that sometimes God does not give children, but fruitfulness should be our goal, something that homosexuality is not, by definition.
We live in a world that is currently demanding that we go along with homosexuality and celebrate it as a good thing. As Christians we cannot do that. We must be courageous and tell the truth. But the truth also includes the gospel of forgiveness and cleansing for all who believe. And part of living out this gospel means embracing our sexual assignments, learning to live as men and women before God and pursuing marriage and children (fruitfulness) under God’s blessing.