Hot Potatoes

Is Homosexuality a sin?

The morality of homosexuality has become very controversial, and any book on Sodom and Gomorrah cannot duck this issue. Until fairly recently, society had condemned this practice as unnatural and sinful, but now the tables have fully turned. Not only is it fully accepted, but anyone who dares to publicly question its morality is condemned as homophobic, and is potentially at risk from the Law. The problem for Bible Believing Christians (as well as Muslims) is that, according to their Scriptures, homosexuality is a sin, and to pretend otherwise is to deny their faith (at least in part).

Not only has Society changed its viewpoint, but the denominational church-world has increasingly conformed to the world in accepting homosexuality as valid. To justify this, some say that the Bible is out of date and the Church must change its views to stay relevant to the modern world. However, others claim that the Bible does not actually condemn homosexuality as sinful. They say that the traditional interpretation of the Bible on this is misguided. This Chapter is written to consider this claim. Does God’s Word really say homosexuality is sinful, or is it an acceptable lifestyle choice?

The first passage to consider is Genesis 2, when God creates Eve (not Steve!) to be Adam’s wife (v18-23). As the first mention this is the definitive and foundation passage on sexual relationships.

Genesis 2:24,25: “Therefore a MAN shall leave his father and mother and be JOINED to his WIFE, and they shall become ONE FLESH.” And they were both naked, the MAN and his WIFE, and were not ashamed.”

Although homosexuality is not mentioned here, it clearly teaches that God’s created order for sexual relations is that one man and one woman be joined together as one flesh, as husband and wife. That is, sex is to take place within the context of a heterosexual marriage. In His teaching on marriage and divorce, the Lord Jesus confirmed this by using it as his foundational passage.

Matthew 19:4-6: “Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them MALE and FEMALE’ and said, ‘For this reason a MAN shall leave his father and mother and be JOINED to his WIFE, and the two shall become ONE FLESH?” So then, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

This revelation of how God created things to be is confirmed by a observation of nature, namely the design of the human body and how the male and female sexual organs fit and complement each other, working together to bring about new life. Thus heterosexual activity is ‘natural’ while homosexual activity is ‘unnatural’, or even ‘against nature’ (Romans 1:26), and is described as ‘going after strange flesh’ (Jude 7), which implies unnatural intercourse.

Genesis 18,19 records the Destruction by God of Sodom and Gomorrah. The traditional understanding is that the sin (among others) which provoked this judgement was that they were a society given over to homosexuality. Homosexuality is always present in every society, but often it was practised secretly, because society condemned it. However, in Sodom and Gomorrah, it became open and fully accepted by society, which practised it without restraint.

However, those who defend homosexuality rightly point out that the sin that demonstrated Sodom’s ripeness for judgement, was not consensual sex between two men, but the attempted forced rape of the 2 visiting men (who were actually angels) by all the men of Sodom. It was this that was criminal and deserving of judgement.

Now although this final sin of Sodom was the last straw and proved it was ready for judgement, this was certainly not the full extent of their sin. In fact Sodom’s sin had building up to this crescendo, and God sent the angels to Sodom as a final check-up before judgement:

Genesis 18:20,21: “The Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

At the very least, the implication of this final sin involving most if not ALL the men of Sodom trying to have an homosexual sex with the two strangers, was that the whole society was already given over to sexual immorality and homosexuality, and that this was sinful in the eyes of God. The final sin was not the single cause of the judgement, but just a tip of the iceberg, revealing how immoral Sodom had become. The Bible’s Commentary on the sin of Sodom in other scriptures confirms that it was known for its general immorality and homosexuality, bringing down Judgement.

Jude 7: “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh (unnatural sexual intercourse), are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude clearly relates the Judgement of these Cities to their general lifestyle of being given over to ‘sexual immorality’, which included ‘going after strange flesh’ (homosexual activity).

2Peter 2:6-10 gives a similar message: “Turning the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the Day of Judgement, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.”

The Law of Moses contains clear denunciations of homosexuality as a sin and an abomination (something that usurps God’s Created Order and Revealed Will, and that is therefore ‘detestable’ to God).

Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an ABOMINATION. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be on them.”

Leviticus 18:22-23: “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.”

Now those who would defend homosexuality rightly point out that many of the laws in Leviticus do not apply today, for they are a mixture of eternal MORAL LAWS (applying to all people at all times) and CEREMONIAL LAWS (which were temporary and only applied to Israel before the Cross, such as the sacrificial system). They suggest that these laws against homosexuality saw it as simply being a ceremonial uncleanness, and so they no longer apply today. However, the context of these commands, combined with the fact the Bible in the New Testament continues to judge homosexuality as sin, confirms these are abiding MORAL (not Ceremonial) Laws.

First of all, let us consider the context. Reading on in Leviticus 18, it becomes clear that the forbidden homosexuality and bestiality of v22,23 were commonly committed by the Canaanites (the previous inhabitants of the land) causing them to defile the land and ultimately to come under judgement and be ejected from the land:

Leviticus 18:24-29: “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. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgements and shall not commit any of these ABOMINATIONS either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these ABOMINATIONS the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these ABOMINATIONS, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.”

Therefore the command against homosexuality cannot be just a localised ceremonial law for Israel alone, but rather it must be part of God’s Moral Law applying to all people at all times. So, although we are not under the Law of Moses, we are under God’s Moral Law (much of which was incorporated into the Law of Moses), which includes the command against homosexuality. Thus, homosexuality (as a form of immorality) is against God’s Moral Law.

Next, let us consider the New Testament attitude to homosexuality. If it still regards it as sinful, then this confirms it is permanent Moral Law rather than temporary Ceremonial Law. As well as the passages in Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2 already quoted above, there are three more clear passages in the New Testament naming it as a sin.

1Timothy 1:9,10: “Knowing that the Law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate,
for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane,
for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers,
for manslayers, for fornicators (pornoi), for sodomites (arsenokoitai), for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”

The Greek word in the New Testament for those who engage in homosexual intercourse ‘arsenokoitai’ (used also in 1Corinthians 6:9) is variously translated as: ‘them that defile themselves with mankind’ (KJV), ‘homosexuals’, and as in the NKJV translation above: ‘sodomites’. So famous is Sodom for its homosexuality, that its name became incorporated into our language to describe the act of homosexual (anal) intercourse. This is called SODOMY, and those who commit these acts are SODOMITES. The word ‘arsenokoitai’ is a compound noun formed from ‘arsen’ (male) and ‘koite’ (bed). Thus it is a man who lies with another man. Such behaviour is condemned by the Law as well as being against the sound doctrine (teaching) of the New Testament (1Timothy 1:9,10).

1Corinthians 6:9,10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
or homosexuals (malakoi), nor sodomites (arsenokoitai),
nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers,
nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

There are two relevant words here. The first (malakoi) is also translated ‘effeminate’ (KJV). This is the word for ‘soft’ or ‘soft to the touch.’ As well as being used for things, such as clothes (Matthew 11:8, Luke 7:25), it is also used for people who are ‘soft’ (as in 1Corinthians 6:9), specifically for those who allow themselves passively to be used homosexually. This is why the KJV renders ‘malakos’ as ‘effeminate’. Thus ‘malakos’ denotes the PASSIVE partner of a homosexual relationship. In contrast, the 2nd word (arsenokoitai - also used in 1Timothy 1:10), translated ‘sodomites’ (NKJV) and ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’ (KJV), denotes the ACTIVE partner of a homosexual relationship. Greek, along with a number of languages, had 2 different words to distinguish between the active and passive (effeminate) roles in a homosexual relationship. Here the two words are used together describe both kinds of homosexual role. This Scripture warns that those who habitually sin in the ways listed above (which clearly include homosexuality) will have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

The final proof from the New Testament is in Romans 1:20-32,
which provides a vivid analysis and description of what happens when a human society rejects God as Sodom and Gomorrah did. He describes a downward spiral where first they exchange their centre and worship from God to the creation (the sin of idolatry). As a result they lose the foundations for their morality, not thinking of themselves as being accountable to God and His Absolute Laws. Set free in this way to do what they like and make up their own rules, their lifestyle becomes increasingly controlled by the sin-nature in the flesh, so that they descend into increasing immorality and all kinds of sin. Thus their outward sins and what they approve are a symptom of what’s already happened inwardly in their hearts.

Romans 1:20-23 describes the first Stage where they exchange God with created things as the centre and source of their lives:

“Since the Creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal Power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and 4-footed animals, and creeping things.”

When God created man He gave us an inner (consciousness) of Himself, that there is a God who made us. Thus is abundantly confirmed by the outward evidence in the design of the Universe that there is a All-Powerful and Wise Creator. However, in his rebellion, man often chooses to reject this truth and refuses to acknowledge or worship or thank his Creator, because he does not want to be under God’s authority and have God at the Centre of His life. But you have got to have a Centre to your life. If your Centre is not God, and if your values are not the absolutes of God’s Word, then you must substitute the Creator for the created things of this natural order. When man turns from God, he turns to the things around him, making them the centre and meaning of his life (this is idolatry) or to himself, making himself to be his own god. He looks for ultimate reality in the natural world or in himself (his flesh), and so that is where he must get his values from.

Romans 1:24,25 describes the next Stage. Since they chose to reject God and go their own way, He respects their free-will and gives them up to the consequences of their decision to be godless:

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who

exchanged THE TRUTH of God (that we are created by God, and are thus responsible to God) for THE LIE (that we are our own gods, just part of an evolving universe, with no Creator to call us to account), and worshipped and served the creature (creation), rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

Romans 1:26,27 describes the immorality that will increasing take over in a society that rejects God as its Centre of Morality, as God respects their choice and gives them up to their sin-nature (flesh):

“For this reason God gave them up to vile (dishonourable) passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use (of their bodies) for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman (in sexual relations), burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

It is these verses that contain the clearest and most detailed Biblical condemnation of lesbian and homosexual activity as being sinful. It is plainly something that displeases God. In these verses: ‘Nature’ represents ‘God’s created order’ - the way God made things to be. Sex was God’s idea and he made it to be between male and female, therefore sex between those of the same gender is ‘unnatural.’ As sin, there is an unspecified penalty (consequence) for indulging in it. The implication is that it will cause harm to body and soul.

Thus the open and rampant immorality (including homosexuality) in Sodom was a symptom of something deeper which had happened in that society. It was an outward sign that the society has turned away from God and has forgotten God and rejected His standards. In fact, the open acceptance and promotion of homosexuality in a society is one sign that it is in the last stages before judgement.

Finally, Romans 1:28-32 points out that homosexuality is by no means the only sign of a society that has rejected God, for man, unrestrained and separated from God, is capable of all kinds of sin:

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, and unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous Judgement of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.”

Thus the rejection of the Living, Righteous and Holy God always opens the door to all kinds of evil and depravity. When nature becomes man’s god, whatever feels natural to him must be right.

He now has no absolute values, which then opens the door to all kinds of sin, for as people give in to the flesh (to what seems
natural), they are actually giving in to the sin-nature in the flesh (which we all inherited from Adam, the first man, when he fell into sin), and as a result they go into deeper sin and sexual perversion.

The first mention of this sin-nature (called ‘sin’ in the Bible) is in Genesis 4:7: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, SIN (the sin-nature) lies at the door. And its desire is for you (to control you), but you should rule over it.”

God, seeing the jealous anger rising up in Cain’s flesh against his brother Abel, warns him against yielding to the sin-nature in his flesh. He counselled him to submit to God and rule over his flesh. Sadly, Cain did not listen to God, and in a fit of rage he murdered his brother. In one sense, he did what felt ‘natural’ to him, he was just freely expressing what was in his flesh. Unfortunately, man is a fallen being, and often what comes naturally is sinful. He needs God’s Word and Grace to help him overcome sin and rule his flesh. But when he rejects God and His Word, he will increasingly harden his heart and yield to the sin nature in his flesh, justifying all that he does as ‘self-expression’ and doing what feels right to him.

The passage in Romans ends with a warning that God will have the last word. He will surely bring into judgement all who have given themselves over to sin (and those who approve of their behaviour).

Just as God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, He will surely judge all those who have rejected God in order to go their own way.

Those who justify homosexuality claim that they are simply expressing their true nature, that God has made them that way, so it can’t be wrong. However, there is no good scientific evidence that homosexuality is programmed into our genes, so that we have no choice. What we have all inherited is a sin-nature that’s capable of all kinds of sin if unrestrained, and in this sense immorality, lying, gossip etc is ‘natural’ to us. It is the natural disposition of the nature of our flesh, and it will rule us, unless we overcome and rule it. To do this, we need an absolute morality derived from a genuine faith in the living God, and the power of His Holy-Spirit within us.

Although the potential for homosexuality (along with all other kinds of sin) is in our fallen flesh, it is not how God created us to be. It starts in someone’s life as a learned (chosen) behaviour, and by habit it becomes established as a lifestyle. Certain environments and influences can help it to develop, even from an early age. In a society that accepts, approves and even promotes it as natural and right, then of course this is more likely to happen on a wider scale.

When people start to experiment in this area and find some enjoyment in it, if they are encouraged and told that it is only natural, then they are more likely to continue, until it becomes their lifestyle (‘2nd nature’). Many unquestioningly receive the accepted dogma that homosexuality is simply an ‘inherited nature’ by birth, because it provides a ready justification to counter feelings of guilt. However, this also takes away from them the power to change.

Another unfortunate result of the dominance of the idea that: “I was born this way” is that any judgement of this behaviour as being wrong is considered intolerant and homophobic, since this is interpreted it as condemning the very person, rather than just the act.

However, this is not the intention of Christians, who are commanded to love all people, as God does. We regard all people as made equally in the image of God, and despite our sinfulness, we are still loved by God and are precious to Him, so much so that Christ died for all of us. We are ALL sinners by birth, so we ALL need salvation. We are simply upholding the Biblical revelation that God is a righteous, holy God who has absolute standards, and if we are believers, we must accept and submit to God’s verdict that certain attitudes and behaviours are sinful and displeasing to Him. We should hate sin (especially in ourselves), but love the sinner. The Christian Gospel provides hope for change, for God’s grace is available through Christ for our forgiveness and transformation.

Conclusion: Homosexuality is consistently condemned by the Bible as sin. It goes against nature (the created order of God). Of course, to those who don’t believe in God, it is natural. The Christian approach is God’s own attitude: to love the sinner, but hate the sin.

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