Gay Rights, Biblically Speaking
(Biblical answers to questions about homosexuality)

A new and expanded article on this subject is here

Court rulings in Canada and the United States have brought the issue of so-called "gay rights" into the foreground. No longer content with coming out of the closet, homosexuals are seeking more than mainstream acceptance. Desiring declarations that their lifestyle is normal, with anti-discrimination penalties for any who would say otherwise, was just a start. Today the issue has moved on to include the institutions of marriage and the church. With elected officials and governments yielding to organized pressure, it's no surprise that they would begin to weigh-in, in favor of homosexuality, on the civil issues. What should be a surprise is that religious, and more specifically professed Christian, leaders are now doing the same.

To effectively cover this topic, we need to examine some questions (or statements) that have become common - at least as reported in the news media of late. In question and answer format, here goes...

Isn't Homosexuality only banned in the Old Testament? Doesn't that mean that the scriptural ban should be relegated to other outdated regulations like those of putting to death witches and dietary law?

While the Old Testament Law specifically banned homosexual acts, it did so based on the standard of morality God established prior to the law. For example, in the law:

Leviticus 18:22 "'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (NIV)

This law was not something new as such; it merely made clearer, and provided a specific civil punishment for acts that God had previously established as wrong. The very reason the law was given was to establish clearly what sin was...

Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)

Romans 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. (NIV)

It's true that the civil and ceremonial law of the Old Testament no longer pertain to us (as it was given only to Israel as a nation). Specifically all of the Old Testament law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But that didn't leave us without law... under the new Law of Love the eternal moral standards of God are still upheld.

Romans 3:31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (NIV)

This is why lying, murder, etc., were a sin before the giving of the Old Testament law, during it, and still are after it. While the Old Testament law, for a time, had increased (or provided more immediate) penalties, it did serve to show how God viewed certain acts. For example, the law required capital punishment for witchcraft. Witchcraft, which acknowledges other gods or powers than the one true God, or outright denies the existence of the one true God, was wrong before the giving of the law, and still is even now (in New Testament times). The only difference was that during the time of the law God defined specific penalties (civil law) that were to be administered by the specific authorities that He defined in the nation of Israel. The issue of Dietary law (since it was raised as an example) was slightly different, being part of the ceremonial law, in that they were practices that God defined with symbolism that pointed to a spiritual truth. It was God's way of visibly illustrating that His people were to be different, set apart for Him.

2 Corinthians 6:16b-18 For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." 18 "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (NIV)

While some think a believer in God (a Christian) can look like the world and carry on every practice of the world, this is something that God has always warned against - before, during, and after the Old Testament Law.

Knowing that God's people are to be set apart - different from the world - the logical question is "in what way?" Simply put, God's people are by definition followers of Him, literally imitators of Him!

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children (NIV)

To follow Him is to hate sin, to hate the things that God has said to be wrong, and to cling to everything that God has said to be good.

Psalms 36:1-2 An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. 2 For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. (NIV)

Getting back to our specific topic, homosexuality, God established from the very beginning what was good. Remember, by definition, anything that falls outside of good is evil (or sin). Consider what God called "good" - before being tainted by sin...

Genesis 1:27-28b, 31 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number... 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the sixth day. (NIV)

Genesis 2:20b-25 But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (NIV)

The Good (In Summary):

  • The man completes the woman and the woman completes the man ("suitable helper") - each a different part. (If both were the same, one would not be needed).

  • A man and woman in a permanent relationship (one flesh)

  • A relationship designed to be fruitful and increase in number

On this basis, even before the Old Testament law, God considered anything that deviated from this defined "good" to be wickedness.

Genesis 18:20, 19:4-7 Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous... 19:4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom - both young and old - surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. (NIV)

The basis by which God called this "grievous sin" and Lot knew it to be "wickedness," was that it was outside the revealed "good" of God. Prior to the giving of the law, God was the one entrusted with punishing sin (ultimately and temporally): the temporal judgment coming relatively swift and severe in the case of Sodom (Genesis 19:24). During the time of the law, the immediate specific penalty (temporal) was committed to the authorities God established in Israel...

Leviticus 20:13 "'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (NIV)

Though the same standard of what is good and evil still applies following the time of the Old Testament law, the execution of penalties for sin (and lawlessness) has now been divided between God and the civil authorities that God has ordained in all nations (Romans 13:1-4). Even if civil authorities take no action on wrongdoing, ultimately wickedness will be judged by God. Even if civil action is taken, it still doesn't satisfy the justice of God.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (NIV)

Every one of us has fallen short of God's standard of good (Romans 3:23). A single lie is enough for us to deserve His justice. The only freedom from the penalty of God's justice can be found in Jesus Christ. God has graciously given eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16). This enables us to be saved through His righteousness - and none of our own (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 4:18-25).

Most of the passages directly pertaining to homosexual practices, in the Old Testament, do pertain to the law. For the record some others are:

Judges 19:22-23 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him." 23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, "No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this disgraceful thing. (NIV)

1 Kings 14:22-24 Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. 23 They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24 There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. (NIV)

Note that God considered the male prostitutes (homosexual) to be a detestable practice, even for those nations not having the law. Why? Because it still was opposed to the "good" that God established in the beginning. This is why, in the Ten Commandments, God simply said...

Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery. (NIV)

Adultery encompassed any sexual act outside of the original "good" that God establish. In other words, sex that is not between a lifelong committed union of a man and woman. This includes pre-marital or extra marital sex. Trying to change a cultural definition of marriage to include homosexual unions still doesn't alter the unchangeable standard of "good" that God established, regardless of what it's called.

This brings us to the next question...

Why does God create homosexuals if it's supposed to be wrong? This is also commonly stated in the fashion of "God made me this way" or "I was born this way."

The answer to this question comes in two parts, as two different things are in view here. Firstly, as we have already seen, with regards to primary creation (in the beginning), God did not create people to be homosexuals. The text very clearly explains that God created male and female for each other, for a permanent relationship, and one that would be fruitful providing for procreation. It also spelled out that Adam (the man) needed a wife, someone to be a fitting helper for him.

Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (NIV)

Making a suitable helper was actually the primary reason given by God for creating the woman. Rather than a sexual or procreative reason, it was because of the need to have the right partner in life. Who could better make this determination (and for that matter, literally 'make' the right answer) than God. His created answer from the beginning was not multiple choice; it was a woman for the man and a man for a woman.

Secondly, regarding creation in the womb...

Psalms 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (NIV)

Is anyone born a homosexual? Maybe rephrasing the question a little broader will help find an answer... Is anyone born a sinner? Overwhelmingly the answer is, "yes!" Since our original parents rebelled against God in the garden, people have been born with an inclination to sin. No one has to teach a baby how to lie or a young child how to steal. The fact that one individual has a greater inclination to a particular sin still illustrates the greater problem... it's all still sin. Our natural born tendency (sinful nature) gravitates to sin regardless of type.

Ephesians 2:1-3 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (NIV)

The sinful nature that we have from birth was not God's original intent in the beginning. Nor can it be attributed to God (as in, "God made me this way") anymore than we would say that God made liars and murderers. The results, as we now have them, are clearly attributable to mankind ourselves. Maybe we should say "Mankind made me this way." The need is to be recreated, born again...

1 John 5:18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. (NIV)

Another question: Don't you understand? I've prayed about this issue and God has revealed to me that this isn't sin. [This is a claim has been made by more than one "Christian" clergy member as reported in the news.]

This is a common misconception regarding prayer. Prayer is not a feeling or based on anyone's emotions. God's answer to prayer is a revelation of His will and it will never contradict His written word. In fact, God most often uses His written word to answer prayer.

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (NIV)

Psalms 119:89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (NIV)

God put everything in His word for a reason, because He alone knows what's best for us...

Isaiah 48:17 This is what the LORD says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. (NIV)

When anyone, using any excuse (including prayer), says that a person should do something other than what God has revealed in His word, they are in effect saying that they know better than God what is good for us. Consider how absurd that sounds, the creation telling the creator they know more than Him.

Isaiah 29:16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me"? Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"? (NIV)

But, some ask, "How can you condemn people for what they can't control?"

People are condemned all the time for what they can't control... lying, stealing, cheating, murder, and sexual immorality. As we have already seen from God's word, people are predisposed to sin (having a sinful nature). Left to ourselves, apart from the common grace of God, mankind would be wicked beyond belief all the time. God uses His created order of things, including governments and authorities (even parents!) to restrain wickedness - foremost His people to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) slowing down the decay of society. If we could control sin ourselves, we wouldn't need a Savior. The very fact that we can't stop sinning shows us that we need to look to One beyond ourselves. In regards to being condemned, it's not people that condemn (though some may use harsh words), it's God's word that condemns (Hebrews 4:12) - as it is the standard by which we will all be judged. Again, without the righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ, we would all be condemned.

God calls his people to judge between right and wrong... something all of us have to do each and every day. The only time judging is said to be wrong is when it is done for self-serving purposes or by an arbitrary standard.

Matthew 7:1-2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)

John 7:24 Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (NIV)

The only way a person can make right judgment is to base it on the perfect, absolute, and unchanging word of God. This is the measure that we are all accountable to.

Another misconception is that somehow Jesus had a different message than God in the Old Testament or even the apostles that followed Him. One way this is often phrased...

Isn't it true that Jesus never spoke against homosexuality, only Paul did?

Not true. Jesus, who came to fulfill the law, taught from it. He called people to repent by the same standard as the prophets of Old and even John the Baptist, namely His written word. How could anyone make a call to repent unless they established what to repent from? In Jesus' case, He came first to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24), these were a people that knew the Old Testament law, that knew God's standard of sin. It was on this foundation that Jesus too preached "repent!"

Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (NIV)

Paul's message was built on the Old Testament and the words of Jesus Christ, a specific message which was given to him by revelation from God...

Galatians 1:11-12 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Paul did not create a new standard of morality, rather he expounded upon the eternally revealed one that had been given from the time of Adam and Eve onward.

Romans 1:18-32 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 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. 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. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 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. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 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. (NIV)

When Paul said that "God gave them over" to these wicked things, he was not saying that somehow God no longer condemned them. He was pointing out that God had refrained from wiping them out (as He has every right to do as punishment for sin), even as wickedness had grown more prevalent. Wickedness breeds more wickedness. This passage in Romans set the stage for Paul's entire message that all people are in need of a Savior because we cannot attain the righteousness of God on our own.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)

It doesn't matter what the sin is in regards to our need of salvation, we need to be set free and made holy through believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians, many believers used to be sinners such as those, but they had found forgiveness and had been given the strength to now live for the Lord. As was said earlier, we can't help ourselves, truly we can't stop. But, all praise to God, He will help us, He will give us the strength to stop sinning - He will make the change!

No sinner will inherit the kingdom of God, but multitudes of saints (repentant sinners that have been set free through faith in Jesus Christ) will!

Before leaving this question, it should be noted that it wasn't just Paul that had this message. For example, the apostle Jude even referenced the Old Testament events of Sodom and Gomorrah as illustrating the final judgment that awaits those still in their sin...

Jude 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (NIV)

The beloved apostle John, even quotes these words of Jesus from his end-times vision...

Revelation 22:12-15 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (NIV)

Isn't it true that homosexuality is no worse than any other sin?

Yes and no. As some of the passages we've already considered have shown, in regard to punishment for sin and our eternal state, the answer is "yes!" It doesn't matter if you're a murderer, and idolater, a God-hater, or a slanderer, any (or all) of these sins will condemn you. The only cure is to come to faith in Jesus Christ and experience His righteousness.

The "no" deals more will consequences of sin. Some sins have greater temporal consequences than others and therefore they can be legitimately considered greater sins. Any sin that directly affects someone else fits into this category. For example, murder. While the one committing the sin is responsible, someone else pays for the sin (physically). Sexual sins are the same way when they are acted upon. While still only a dwelled upon thought, it is still a sin (Matthew 5:28) but only affecting yourself; put it into action and you have affected the life of someone else.

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (NIV)

It shouldn't surprise us that people carry long term mental scars from the misuse of sexuality. That's without even considering the host of possible physical consequences.

Though most of the matter has already been examined, this is another common question of late:

Why shouldn't homosexuals be married? It just recognizes the facts. [Besides the only way Christian heterosexuals can show their professed love to homosexuals is to not condemn their lifestyle.]

Marriage was given by God in the Garden of Eden, when everything was still good, to be between a man and woman. Anyone who adds to this - men joining with men or women with women - can call it anything they want, but it will never be marriage. Since God created it, He alone has the right to define it. Jesus even restated what God had established in the beginning (while speaking about divorce)...

Matthew 19:4-5 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? (NIV)

Saying same sex unions are a marriage doesn't make them so, any more than being an unrepentant pew sitter in a church makes a person a Christian. Host of people call themselves Christians, but apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ the title means nothing. This does bring us to a final group of questions...

Why can't homosexuals have their own church? Or be leaders of an existing church?

Homosexuals can start (and have started) their own churches specifically designed to condone their sinful lifestyle. This will not make it a true church. Again, since the church is God's, He alone gets to define it. In Old Testament times alternate temples were created in northern Israel, completely separate from the one God had established in Jerusalem. The people in these false temples professed to be worshipping God (by name), but had created a form of worship that suited themselves and not God [...ignoring God's commands concerning idolatry, place of worship, the priesthood, and more.]. God condemned and ultimately destroyed them.

As for being leaders of any existing church, if that church is God's they will be holding fast to the teachings of Scriptures - to what God has said to be good. God's leaders hold to His word, teach it, and live by it.

Titus 1:6-9 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless - not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (NIV)

Any church, or professed leader, that has forsaken God's standards, and willfully ignored His word is in danger of God's judgment (Revelation 3:14-21) - showing them selves to not be servants of God. Traditions (modern or ancient) don't make something right - but they can, in fact, nullify our worship.

Mark 7:6-8 He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." (NIV)

The bottom line is that the church is called to be speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), the very thing this article is trying to do. The truth may not always be popular but it's still the truth - God's truth!

(c) 2005 Brent MacDonald/LTM. Duplication is permitted as long as the source is cited.