The subject of sexual sin has been a large part of Christian dialogue from the 1960's onward. Free love, sexually transmitted diseases, hooking up, friends with benefits, and subsequently homosexuality, has all become part of the public landscape and in need of a clear Biblical answer. Unfortunately, out of embarrassment, fear, or ignorance, all too often the church has failed to openly and clearly discuss these things and provide the unwavering direction that God has given us for our own good (Isaiah 48:17). While aspects of this article certainly pertain to other sins, this article was specifically created to try and comprehensively address the specific subject of homosexuality.
I felt it necessary to write a second and much expanded version of this article in an attempt to be even more exhaustive on this subject. Numerous comments, questions, and inquiries, both from Christians and non-Christians, have given cause to revisit and expand upon my original article. It is my hope that theses clarifications and expansions will make even clearer the message of the original.
While I have retained section headings providing answers to common questions, numerous secondary questions are included throughout. Further, I have attempted to directly address some of the public and private opposition I have received in regards to the original, excerpts of which I have included throughout. As always, I welcome further comment and questions. May God bless you as you seek to understand His revealed will!
- Brent MacDonald, November 24, 2012
Throughout the years many names have been used for and by the homosexual community. Some are derogatory; some were once derogatory and now proudly claimed by some of the community (i.e. "Queer"). Throughout this article I have primarily chosen to use homosexual, lesbian, and gay to represent the subject, mostly as these are longstanding terms having widespread usage (since at least the 1960's and 70's).
A recent (since the 1990s) and growing trend has reduced or condensed a number of names into a single acronym: LGBT, short for Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgendered. Another variant, sometimes used by young people, is: LGBTQ, adding Queer or Questioning to the previous list. Both of these came into use as a self-designation by the community, intended to be used as a common and inclusive non-derogatory term for non-heterosexuals. LGBT is perceived as being a "positive symbol of inclusion" and has now been widely adopted by the western media and politicians.
I have chosen to not use this acronym in this article for the very reason that has given it popularity and easier acceptance. By reducing the specific sins represented into an unspoken collection of letters, it functionally reduces the community and issues into a special interest group, on par with a host of other non-sexual groups and causes represented by similar acronyms (e.g. PETA, NAMA, etc.). In fact, I've often wondered what people who have no idea what the letters represent think is being referenced. A quick survey of adults shows many still don't know what is being referenced, sometimes only vaguely believing that they are an organization encouraging non-discrimination.
Proverbs 29:9 When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest. (NASU)
If you are reading this article and don't acknowledge the Bible to be God's infallible word, know in advance that God may choose to open your eyes to his truth and you will be convicted by its message (and I pray He does). If God doesn't (at this time) you will likely get mad at this article (and the messenger) or perhaps you'll choose to try and laugh it off as being irrelevant. Regardless, this is not about human wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:18-20) but about true wisdom that comes only from God (James 1:5).
These are common statements made in opposition to anyone, including myself, who writes Bible-based articles on the topic of homosexuality. Many of the detractors are then quick to elevate themselves, or their own preferred theologians, as being the ones who can say what the Bible means, and their own interpretation as being the only correct one. Others obfuscate the whole issue by throwing out a host of varied interpretations then claiming that the mere existence of excessive potential variations is proof that no absolute understanding really exists and all are somewhat equally valid (or invalid).
2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
Many critics also profess to be Christians, as if their mere use of the word holds great weight and their casual use of the title indeed makes it so. This remains to be seen and will be addressed both in this and later sections.
2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (NIV, also see Titus 1:9, 2:1)
Sound doctrine has always been the focus of the true church. The church's quest to arrive at such is hinged to the belief that there is sound doctrine. In other words; there is an absolute and unchanging meaning and intent to all of God's Word. Understanding the entirety of the Bible to be God's word and knowing that God does not lie or change His mind, believers also know that the His message spans the entirety of this Book with perfect harmony. This means that Jesus did not contradict the prophets of the Old Testament, nor did the apostles casually add to or alter what Jesus taught. In God's progressive revelation, He gave his word as it was needed, with some parts purposely for a specific people or for a limited time. Portions of it are clearly said to pertain now, but even that which was specific to someone earlier or in the past fulfilled, is all given for us to learn from (Romans 15:4). Additionally, the concept of "sound doctrine" presupposes the accuracy and preserving transmission of God's word, across languages, so that we can understand and apply God's expressed and unchanging message (with its original meaning and intent). We do not have to know the exact original wording to know meaning and intent, even as any concept can be expressed reliably in alternate phraseology by people of many languages or even regional dialects.
As for using the name Christian, the burden rests on all who claim this title to show that they hold to the unchanging historic and Biblical truths that define Christianity. Numerous warnings throughout the Bible remind true believers that false teachers will arise inside the church, bearing the name Christian, but they are to be recognized, exposed, and rejected.
2 Peter 2:1-2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (NIV)
2 Corinthians 11:13-15a For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. (NIV)
Jude 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (NIV)
Jesus, himself, warned that merely calling Him Lord or blending in with the church doesn't make a person truly a believer. Consider His words which follow immediately after His warning that a true definition of Christianity (and the only way to life) is very narrow and few find it (Matthew 7:13-14)...
Matthew 7:15, 21-23 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. ... 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (NIV)
Christian identity is not found in having a veneer of Christian appearance or in casually appropriating and employing the title "Lord" for Jesus. Nor does failure to be a Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu, make a person a Christian - a common threshold embraced by much of the world these days. All this shows that it is of paramount importance to know what it biblically means to be a believer in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18), a people who believes and does what he commands.
John 14:23-25 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (NIV)
It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly nominal Christians and even non-believers will quote a Bible passage in their speeches and letters. Their preferred passage to berate anyone opposing homosexuality (or virtually anything else they don't want to hear) is "Judge not, lest ye be judged (a paraphrase of Matthew 7:1 typically in good King James English of course)." For the record, this verse should be read in context:
Matthew 7:1-6 "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. 3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (NIV)
"Judge" is the Greek word "krino" meaning "to distinguish" or "to separate." Biblical judging is all about being able to discriminate or distinguish between that which is good and evil or right and wrong.
Jesus, in Matthew 7, is not banning judging (or distinguishing), He is setting a high bar for how we are to judge. Verse two makes it clear that we are only to be judging by a standard that is applied to all (including ourselves) and verses three to five remind us that we are to be dealing with our own sin before we are quick to deal with that of others. Verse six subsequently establishes two things. Number 1; we are to be judging. How else are we to establish who is a "dog" or not? And, secondly, the command to be doing this presupposes that we don't have to be perfect or sinless ourselves before so doing (it means that we must be, by God's power, repenting of our own sin and submitting to Him). In fact, a number of other passages, completely in harmony with this one in Mathew 7, all specifically command people to "judge for yourselves (Luke 12:57; Acts 4:19; 1 Corinthians 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Corinthians 11:13)." Quite specifically, those who profess to be believers must be judged or differentiated for the sake of church purity...
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." (NIV)
There is only one standard by which we are to be doing this judging: God's unchangeable word! This alone becomes the measure that does not and cannot change.
Some who get beyond the verse "judge not" - at least nominally affirming that the Bible authorizes righteous judgment - subsequently make this an irrelevant requirement by diminishing the standard. They claim that there is no absolute measure or meaning, reducing Scriptures to nothing but arbitrary or consensual opinion. Judging by popular opinion or majority vote, let alone personal opinion or a mantra of a sub-group, leaves the biblical text as irrelevant and subject to continual change.
It has been, and always will be, the goal of every true follower of Jesus Christ to work to understand and share the unchangeable message of God, complete with His original meaning and intent. This is not about new understandings or modern interpretations; it is about using longstanding principles of Biblical interpretation which have guided Christ's church throughout history to the same conclusions. It's when the church disregards or abandons these principles, or augments Scriptures with other texts or professed revelations, that so-called "new" interpretations and understandings have infected the church. Not surprisingly, hosts of these new teachings have the appearance of old heresies, lies wrapped in new clothes that the church has resoundingly dealt with in previous generations.
Understanding that all judgment (or distinguishing) must be through rightly using God's word; a specific answer to the question posed in heading of this section is warranted. As for who I am to judge; I am a...
Beyond the Bible's call for all believers to determine what God has said to be right and true, those who teach the church are warned to be that much more careful.
James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (NIV)
This should never be misconstrued into saying that no one should be teaching, or that what they are teaching should be reduced to a plethora of "maybe" or "could be statements." Rather it drives us back to "preach the word" and to use that word to "correct, rebuke and encourage" (2 Timothy 4:2) and to teach with an authority that comes from Christ (Hebrews 13:17).
Elders, likewise, are said to be those that are "able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2)," while continuously reminded of the admonition previously considered in James 3:1. Furthermore elders are entrusted specifically with the care of Jesus' church (1 Peter 5:1-2).
Acts 20:28-31 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (NIV)
Clearly this is a warning to judge and discern who is following and teaching God's word - especially of those who profess to be part of the Christian church. Immediately following these words of warning, Paul again states what we must cling too:
Acts 20:32 "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (NIV)
Many detractors claim to be following or using God's word. Their charge against those who would rebuke them for sin tends to be the same, "He makes absolute statements as if his is the only interpretation that is true." While it is true that any believer, teacher, or elder, can fall short in their interpretation of Scriptures, needing to have a better understanding of what Scriptures teaches, the burden on any disputing what is taught is on them to show where it falls short. This is not an exercise rooted in opinion, the latest scientific outlook, or the whim of an individual or theological school of thought. It must remain a practice firmly rooted in the totality and unity of Scriptures. [More on Biblical judging is here.]
When any professed Christian theologian, group, or individual claims a new interpretation or teaching of Scriptures, this should automatically raise concerns and extra scrutiny from all believers. Regardless of sensationalistic "TV preacher" style theology, as commonly found on American television, the church is not about new doctrine. Our faith is anchored in God's unchanging word (Psalms 119:89) combined with the ability of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and teach the fixed meaning of His truth to all generations (John 16:13).
Is it possible for the church to fall into error and hold wrong beliefs? Most certainly! The very need of the Protestant reformation provides example of this. But, again, the Reformation was not about establishing new doctrine; its purpose was to sweep aside manmade traditions and extra-biblical ideas that had obscured the clear teaching of the Bible alone. The reformer's focus was on returning to old (original) doctrine, not in creating new.
Finding one or two obscure people in history, who have perhaps held to a particular idea, does not count as proof that theirs is a historic and Biblical viewpoint. As with the present, anyone can find someone who ascribes to just about anything. This absolute question still remains; is it a proper interpretation of Scriptures utilizing standard rules of grammatical and contextual Biblical interpretation? Is this a historic understanding as understood, taught, and embraced by God's Holy Spirit led church? For a generation and people that have a fascination with the newest latest things, Christianity is different. The burden of proving any teaching that newly appears remains on the one promulgating it, and the church as a whole (and especially its elders) are commanded to test it by God's word.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. (NIV)
One widespread modern tactic of those wishing to readily dismiss any teaching of Scriptures is to claim that every understanding of what is written is merely an "interpretation." If every teaching in the Bible is reduced to being merely an interpretation or opinion, then no one's understanding can be held to be truth or absolute. One such critic lambasted an earlier version of this article by saying:
Adopting such a view is to claim that God had a book written that merely espouses possibilities rather than absolutes and, at best, a person can read it to confirm their own presuppositions. This is contrary to what God has actually said within it, that a person is to live by it (e.g. John 17:17, cf. Psalms 119:105) and that it isn't about private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Bible is God's absolute truth that has been entrusted to his people (Romans 3:2; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15). It is not personal interpretation or opinion that matters here, it is using Scriptures to interpret Scriptures - for this is the truth that the Holy Spirit has guided the church into recognizing all along.
The word "offensive" is bantered about as if the mere fact that anyone is offended by a Bible teacher, writer, or preacher, it automatically means that what is being taught has to be wrong. However, biblically, there is good reason for some people to be offended or frustrated.
1 Corinthians 1:18-19 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." (NIV, e.g. Acts 17:18, 32)
1 Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)
2 Corinthians 2:15-17 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. (NIV)
Matthew 15:12 Then the disciples came to him [Jesus] and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?" (NIV)
Matthew 13:57 And they took offense at him [Jesus]. (NIV, also Mark 6:3)
The truth offends those who oppose it. While believers do not go out of their way to offend, as they unashamedly proclaim the truth of Scriptures, the one who is upset must examine why they are offended. This is an examination not rooted in feelings, personal opinion, today's scholarly thought, or some majority vote. Instead this asks "do you accept what God has said in His word, or are you rejecting it?" The one who rejects God's word will remain offended; the one who accepts it will repent and no longer have cause for offense.
One idea that is being offered, of late, goes to the very definition of sin within mankind. This viewpoint typically denies original sin and quite often relegates Adam and Eve to mythology or irrelevancy. In other words, proponents of this thought deny that sin is anything more than a personal choice.
This is a clear rejection of what the Bible teaches, that sin came into the world through Adam, and that by nature we are objects of wrath because we are born sinful (regardless of what sin or sins that may be).
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. (NIV)
Romans 5:19a For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners... (NIV)
Ephesians 2:3 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)
Romans 7:5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. (NIV)
Psalms 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (NIV)
While we do all subsequently choose to sin, we personally do so because our wills are bent towards sinning (see also Genesis 8:21) - an inherited condition since the fall of Adam and Eve. No one has to teach a child how to lie, or cheat or steal, even as it is quite possible that some are born predisposed towards homosexuality. It's all still sin, a hereditary curse from our first parents.
While the writer, above, acknowledged that sin is choosing to do what is contrary to God's will, much of her remaining argument rests on a belief that God did a horrible job of revealing what is right and wrong, functionally leaving it a subjective matter open to personal, public, or scholarly opinion. In this view, almost any prohibition or command of Scriptures can be explained away, depending on individual inclination, since she believes that no one can really know what sin is.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
The Bible teaches, quite clearly, what God's perfect will is. When we fall short of it, we have no one to blame but ourselves. For those who continually and willfully reject it, it is a sign of spiritual blindness (1 Corinthians 2:14). And yet, regardless of how clear Scriptures are in message, real understanding and acceptance of God's truth only comes through His revelation and by His Spirit (John 16:13).
Right and wrong is revealed throughout the Bible in multiple ways, including by:
1. Positive example
The entire concept of marriage is first and foremost given by positive example. In the beginning book of the Bible the first marriage is described as something ordained by God and it is expressly said to be good. That essential account was designed to show us God's original intent for marriage.
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)
In this preeminent example, we are shown:
A. Marriage is between a man and woman (Adam & Eve)
An earlier verse also provides a positive command that impacts and expands upon this positive example:
Genesis 1:28a God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number... (NIV)
While some put an inordinate emphasis on this command, a few things should be legitimately noted:
A. Only a man and a woman can be "fruitful" and have biological children (the concept in view here).
B. This is a command was given in the perfection of the garden as something that all couples could potentially experience in perfect circumstances. Yet, with the corruption that follows sin, mankind's ability to procreate is hereafter affected by diseases and physical degenerations, all consequences of evil.
C. There is no guarantee of children in a marriage relationship, nor is there a requirement to have children to make a marriage valid. In post-garden history, it is ultimately God who makes fertile or not - something shown in numerous Scriptural examples. In fact, Abraham got himself in trouble trying to fix the problem instead of waiting for God to make it happen in His own promised timing (Genesis 16).
It is to this positive example of marriage in Genesis that all later speakers and writers in Scriptures innately appeal, whether implicitly or explicitly. Perhaps foremost, Jesus directly quotes it in Matthew 19:4-12 (and also Mark 10:2-12), on his comments regarding marriage. There is no indication whatsoever in His words that He is altering this foundational passage. The text shows that He was reemphasizing it and reasserting its original meaning. Nothing in Jesus' words state or allude to Him advocating or accepting same-sex unions as marriage, nor would they be understood by his listeners in such a manner. His words directly use wife as meaning a female married to a man (in a lifelong monogamous union) and Jesus clearly restated that God made a married couple to be male and female. No honest expositor can come to any other conclusion solely on the basis of this text.
The apostle Paul, likewise, in his classic passage on marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33) also presupposes wives married to husbands and husbands married to wives. And, so that all would know his basis for this, he also (in verse 31) points people to Genesis chapter two which emphasizes God's original and unchanging intent that marriage be between a male and female.
While some put inordinate emphasis Paul as being one who opposes marriage, his opposition was limited and very clearly because he felt it would spare people from extra grief during the time of persecution and trouble then at hand (1 Corinthians 7:25-28). Yet, in the midst of this, he clearly stated it was not sin to marry (verse 28), and emphasizes that sexual relations are to be between a man and woman, as husband and wife, to prevent immorality (1 Corinthians 7:1-16). Again, there is absolutely no suggestion that any other type of sexual relationship is acceptable. All sexual relations outside of this God-prescribed marriage would be the very "immorality" that Paul was expressing concern over (1 Corinthians 7:2).
It is not necessary whatsoever to appeal to the Mosaic Law to establish what God has said to be sin for our day and age. The New Testament alone unquestionably identifies and fully asserts many actions and thoughts to still be sin. While the New Testament is built on the Old Testament, this New Testament emphasis is important to understand because so many try and invalidate sins solely because they are part of the old Mosaic Law. They typically try and create an artificial disparity between the Old and New Testaments in regards to anything they presently don't like. So, for a moment, we will examine the issue of sin solely from a New Testament perspective, quite specifically highlighting sexual sin.
In a passage that contextually contrasts the life of a believer to a life of godlessness and wickedness (Romans 1:17), Paul provides a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, inventory of sinful acts.
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)
Paul's handling of this passage in the book of Romans readily lends to some notable observations:
#1. Though some try and elevate one sin over another in regards to being a just cause for God's punishment; idolatry, sexual impurity, homosexuality, greed, envy, etc., are all held equally to be sinful.
#2. The believer, who by faith has been freed from God's just penalty for doing these things, will not continue in them. While they may struggle with such things, their desire is to now please their Lord. (See Romans 7:21-25)
#3. Any who willfully choose to remain in these things have shown that they are in opposition to God and justly deserving His wrath.
Only two verses later, in the book of Romans, we are warned that God's right to judge people for these sins is based in absolute (objective) truth:
Romans 2:2 Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. (NIV)
Perhaps recognizing that the Gentiles would find it easier to ignore the positive example of sexuality given and emphasized throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God has the apostle Paul getting specific with negatives. So how does the self-justifying sinner try and deal with these specifically identified negatives? A common approach, at least nowadays, is to redefine or explain away even that which is painfully clear. In other words, obscure the truth by a plethora of what ifs or supposedly plausible alternate meanings. In this manner, clear truth can be dismissed as "a hard to understand passage," not in reality but primarily because the statement opposes their chosen viewpoint. Justifying sin is not new - even when wrapped in pseudo spiritual and Christian terminology. We were warned a couple millennia ago that many willfully sinful individuals will have a form or appearance of godliness.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (NIV)
This warning to be on guard against willful sinners garbed in external spirituality is extended to church leadership as well, notably by Jesus directly:
Matthew 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (NIV)
So, how do willful sinners attempt to explain away such clear passages as Romans chapter one? To better enable my commentary, I've provided a long excerpt from one document which reveals a common tactic. Here the course of action entails citing some Greek and then superimposing a view and interpretation on it that doesn't meet critical examination when tested for validity. This scheme thrives because most who don't know original Bible languages immediately defer to such a writer by thinking "they must know more than I do."
While true that this is the longest passage which directly includes reference to male-male sex in the New Testament, this passage is not "on" male to male sex. It is a passage that is detailing widespread reason for God's wrath. This is the overriding context that cannot be forgotten and must not be pushed aside. Further, in the realm of sexuality, the passage is not restricted to male homosexuality as it also addresses lesbianism.
It's easy for someone to say that a word or phrase could or should have an alternate meaning; the burden is on them to prove why, or that it truly does. Raising how "Stoic philosophers" may or may not have used such a phrasing is a complete red-herring. It doesn't matter how another school of religious thought utilizes terminology, it matters how ancient Judaism and Christianity utilize it. Using alternate religious definition would be like trying to understand what is being taught in a Baptist church by using definitions provided by Mormons. (In fact, because the writer even acknowledges that the Stoics actually used it in keeping with the common Biblical understanding, I believe the reference is actually thrown in to try and casually assert that the Biblical message may have been perceptively contaminated by non-Christian thought).
"Para physin" is legitimately translated into English as "unnatural", "against nature (as in NKJV) or "contrary to nature (as in ESV)." A look at 37 English translations, most current, but a few dating back to 1599, show that all the translators have uniformly expressed these words in such a manner. This is not accidental but the product of hundreds, if not thousands, of linguistic scholars making diligent determination. But this doesn't stop the writer from unilaterally adopting an alternate view, claiming this professed alternative to be the "widespread popular meaning" - all without presenting any supporting evidence - and then informing us that Paul's usage would have been informed by this hypothetical understanding. The final statement, "It carries no ethical condemnation," is nothing but the writer's forced conclusion resting on a non-existent foundation. This writer is not displaying Biblical scholarship, or exegesis, rather it is eisegesis resting solely in the author's bias.
Even if we could grant this writer that the wording could be interpreted in such an alternate way, the immediate and primary context of the subject is defined in verse 18 - these are reasons for God's wrath. This carries extreme ethical condemnation!
In a weak attempt to further obscure Paul's usage of this phrase in Romans 1, the writer then makes this claim:
Taking time to read Romans 11:24 is beneficial, for then we can reflect on what is actually being articulated in that passage...
Romans 11:24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (NIV)
The words translated "contrary to nature" were used, not because this was something "atypical" or merely unlikely or rare, it was because Paul was emphasizing that it never happened naturally. Simply put, this was unnatural - even as homosexuality was earlier portrayed as something unnatural too. And again, the earlier passage in Romans chapter one clearly makes a moral and ethical assessment by combining the fact that homosexuality is against nature AND emphasizing that it is therefore a reason for God's wrath. This writer's conclusion that "the anti-gay 'unnatural' hullabaloo rests on a mistranslation" is blatantly false.
The writer continues to play the same word games regarding other negative terms and examples also employed by Paul in chapter 1.
These words are also translated into English as "degrading" and "indecent (as in NIV)". The same word is NOT used in 2 Corinthians 6:8 and 11:21. The Corinthian passages utilize "atimia [NT:819]" while the Romans segment used "atimazo [NT:818]." Though sharing a common root word, this does not make the words synonyms. The focus remains on the specific word chosen for use in Romans 1 by Paul. All five additional New Testament uses of that word, "atimazo," are always used of unethical behavior. For example:
Luke 20:11 "Shamefully," paired with beating someone.
John 8:49 "Dishonor," paired with accusing Jesus of being demon possessed.
Acts 5:41 "Suffering," in the context of having been unjustly flogged.
Romans 2:23 "Dishonor," in the context of breaking God's law and blasphemy.
James 2:26 "Despised" or "Insulted," in the context of wrong poor people.
This must be stated again: Even if this word could somehow be construed to not have an ethical connotation (impossible without ignoring all additional uses), the mere fact it was prefaced by saying that these things were reason for God's wrath would provide an immediate ethical context regardless. In Romans, we even have a multiplied emphasis of ethical weight. Paul does not rely merely on the context; a reexamination of the passage shows that his later wording choices also add further weight.
Romans 1:32 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)
Willfully ignoring this, in an interesting twist, the writer now changes tactic. While another pro-homosexual letter I received tried to claim that the New Testament never cites or uses Mosaic Law in regards to homosexuality, this writer acknowledges a potential link in this extract from Romans.
So where is the writer going with this assertion? Not to consider that both the Law and the New Testament have a unified message against homosexuality, rather it is to deny that Jesus and Paul have a unified message!
This is blatantly untrue. Nothing Paul taught opposed or contradicted Jesus' words. Paul was Jesus' apostle and messenger (see Romans 1:1 & Galatians 1:1). As for Jesus, He personally upheld the entirety of the Law (Hebrew 7:26-27), told other Jews to obey it (Matthew 5:17-20; Luke 16:17), and - as we saw earlier - was quick to specifically point people to God's original plan for marriage as found in Genesis. Jesus never rejected valid purity requirements of the Law; He spoke against traditions that voided or added to them (Mark 7:8-13, especially verse 9). In fact it can be argued that Jesus, in explaining the intent of the Law, actually expanded some points, by showing the people that they had a too limited understanding of what God intended.
Matthew 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' [Citing Exodus 20:14 in the Law] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NIV)
While in this passage of Matthew, take note that Jesus, in using the word "adultery," held this to be sex outside of marriage - the same marriage He elsewhere defined by referring people to God's original intent of male and female (husband and wife).
The final summary or conclusion of this pro-homosexual author is based in fallacy and has absolutely no merit.
Consider this contrived claim in light of all that we have examined so far. Paul bookended and tied together his words regarding sexuality with "condemnatory terms." Romans 1:18 prefaced the unnatural sexuality by saying that these were the very reasons that God's wrath is being poured out. Even the final list of terms that the author agrees are condemnatory, as found immediately following in Romans 1:28-31, are bound to the words prior. Verse 28 begins with "Furthermore (NIV)", or "And (NASU)" - both translated from the Greek word "kai" - which directly joins all that follows to the words regarding sexuality that preceded it.
Romans 1:28-32 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (NASU)
How much more condemning does it need to be? Those who have chosen to live and act in this manner are grouped together with a host of additional habitual wickedness. Perhaps the most serious thing being proclaimed here is that the people are said to be not acknowledging God (regardless of what they may individually profess). This has great ethical connotation and condemnation! Any who says otherwise has shown themselves to part of those who "give hearty approval to those who practice" these sins (verse 32).
Court rulings in Canada and the United States have brought the issue of "gay rights" into the foreground. Often these cases are at least cursorily wrapped in the guise of having to do with human rights. Politicians and public personalities often echo this type of wording.
Is the issue of homosexuality no different than race-based civil rights? What are human rights and who gets to set them? Using a term from the United States Declaration of Independence, human rights are something that we recognize as being universal, established by a higher authority - unalienable (a variant of inalienable, meaning "not capable of being repudiated").
It was not some anachronism or for some casually religious reason that the founders appealed to a Creator as establishing these basic human rights, it's a necessity. If human rights are merely established or abolished by a king or government, or worse still by the majority whims of the populace, there can be no unalienable rights, merely established rights. If the government changes or the whim of the people moves on, these rights must necessarily transform to. Rights which evolve cannot be unalienable human rights; they are merely a notion or fad for a time.
The only universal highest authority who can establish human rights is God himself. He does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrew 13:8) and He is the one who created us. In contrast, proposing macro Evolution as the source of human rights makes a very poor substitute. If human rights evolved, they can continue to evolve; perhaps changing into something completely antithetical. In the every-varying world of evolution there can be inalienable rights.
Some have felt that my wording "so-called" is derogatory. One writer understood it to be "as though [I am saying] there is no such thing as a gay person's rights." My phrase is not intended to be derogatory of gay persons but it is intended to be belittle the idea that there are, or needs to be, "gay rights." When the idea of "rights" is framed with group labels of any kind there historically have been problems and it certainly provides a framework for future troubles too.
This no need of black rights, white rights, Latino rights, gay rights, heterosexual rights, woman's rights, men's rights, or people predisposed to eat at Olive Garden's rights. The only true and necessary rights are human rights - what should be common for all people regardless of any subset label. These are the inalienable rights referenced in the previous section.
Human rights do not mean that there can be no limits on the whole or on any subset within, merely that there are some absolute rights that should be recognized without limit for all people. For example, no one has the right to physically beat up or abuse anyone for what they believe. This doesn't change no matter what. But, using the inalienable rights enshrined in the USA as an example, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, these universal rights all come with limitations. Hypothetically, if you believe that you have liberty to walk into a theater with a loaded gun and your idea of happiness includes shooting random people, you can be sure that you will, in the least, loose your liberty and your right to purse happiness as you have defined it, and quite probably even your life.
Properly framed, human rights are universal to all people, not merely to a specific subset. It is normative that they are limited wherein they may negatively impact (or harm) others.
Homosexual advocates often appeal to their self-professed human right that they should be able to love anyone they want: "Why shouldn't I have a right to love the person I choose?"
This is a dubious claim at best, especially in regards to sexual love. You'd be hard pressed to find few who believe in any open-ended fantasy that anyone has the right to love someone else's wife.
Since the word love is at best vague in meaning for many who casually use the term, certainly not always sexual, let's consider this subject by applying a more general usage of the word. From a Christian perspective, I have to say that there is no human right to "love who we want." God's standard is higher than this. Rather than a human right, we have a God-given demand that we love everyone.
Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (NIV)
Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:27-37 helps to clarify that even your perceived enemies are your neighbors. And, for those who don't get the message from the story, His direct words emphasize the same.
Matthew 5:44-45 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... (NIV)
Luke 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you... (NIV, also Luke 6:35)
So, if we are to love everyone, what's the big deal with gays and lesbians loving their partners? The problem stems from an abuse and misuse of the word love. God's command that we love one another (see also John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 4:12) nowhere condones or encourages non-heterosexual and non-monogamous sexual relations.
What's at issue here is a popular misuse and redefinition of what the word love means. It's a casual association of any feeling of caring for someone into justification for sexual intimacy or accepting all physical cravings and sensations of lust as if they represent some form of true love.
If love means merely acting on any perceptively good physical or mental impulse we have, whether based in lust or sensations of caring, then any act can be justified under what becomes a meaningless term called love. In this mindset there is little - and certainly nothing absolute - that limits anything from homosexuality to pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, and more.
God is love (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16) and all true love is defined by God. It becomes easier for those who deny or ignore this self-revealed God to also disregard His definition of love at every level. The Bible is filled with hosts of examples of people, believers and non-believers, who have suffered consequences or God's rebuke for straying beyond the love and relationships God has defined.
One of the problems we have in the English language is that there is primarily only one word for love, with one dictionary having 27 separate definitions for this word. Our societal blurring of the lines between all forms of the word renders the term almost meaningless apart from further clarification. For example: Should I love my neighbor? Biblically yes. But this does not mean that I should have sex with my neighbor, even though this is another possible use of the English word love.
It's time we start clarifying our words and making our detractors also clarify theirs. So often statements about homosexual relations are casually reduced in intensity by vague wording, making that relationship as innocuous as someone loving (or caring about) their grandmother. This makes the idea more palatable, and socially defendable, than viewing it as a man having sex with another man. Our choice of words and definition of them are at the heart of this discussion.
A study on Biblical love and all the words used to represent it is a great exercise, one that was worthy of an article of its own: Love is... or isn't.
No longer content with coming out of the closet, homosexuals are seeking more than mainstream acceptance. Many are openly desiring and advocating declarations, laws, and media portrayal that their lifestyle is to be perceived as normal - what some have called "the new normal."
The church is to be on guard against embracing all that the world calls normal, whether new or old. If Christians were to embrace every popular sentiment of their day, God's repeated warnings would be of no purpose.
John 15:19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (NIV)
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (NIV)
James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (NIV)
Make no mistake, Christians who hold firmly to what God has said to be right and true will be persecuted by the world. The beginnings of this already exist in the western world regarding the subject of homosexuality. Public calls for anti-discrimination penalties for any who would say the homosexuality is abnormal are only a start. Making such speech a punishable hate crime is the next step and one that has been pursued on a limited basis in Canada already...
This is not an isolated case. An Alberta pastor was convicted in 2007 by a provincial human rights tribunal for "hate speech," for "writing a letter to the editor expressing his views on homosexuality." His brief text had "criticized homosexuality as immoral and dangerous, and called into question new homosexual rights curricula permeating the province's educational system." Though overturned years later on appeal, how long before such a charge sticks? (The Aquila Report, "Pastor's 'Hate Speech' conviction overturned in Canadian Appeals Court", October 25, 2012)
What is "normal?" The word is popularly used to represent what is commonly practiced by a majority and by what has been historically been held to by a majority of people. While some gay people are proud of their minority status, their words show that they want the majority to accept their minority position as being equivalent and equally valid to the majority. They also claim a simple majority of a national people accepting concepts such as gay marriage (which the polls say the US has reached in 2012) is proof of what should be normal and accepted by all worldwide. This ignores the conjunction and second half of the two-part definition that began this paragraph. Homosexuality lacks any majority historical acceptance, even as it still lacks majority modern acceptance on a worldwide scale.
Though there may be some homosexual advocates who truly believe in free speech, in actuality their claims work to extinguish this. Their widespread association of "gay rights" with "human" or "race rights" makes an automatic call for penalties against those who would promote or act on their bible-based or innate beliefs that homosexuality is wrong. Pervasive calls to enshrine sexual orientation into laws that protect against racial or gender discrimination, as if these are all equal issues, would bring down corresponding penalties on any who disagrees.
For a Bible-believing Christian, "normal" must be what God has said to be right and proper - nothing more and nothing less. On many issues this may remain a minority view relative to the world populace. Yet, on other matters, God has provided natural knowledge of what He has defined as true - enabling even worldly people to still hold to some God ordained truths unless their consciences are suppressed and seared.
Romans 2:14-15 So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences testify in support of this, and their competing thoughts either accuse or excuse them... (Holman Christian Standard Bible®)
Whether a majority or minority view, a believer's "normal" our normal is God revealed and defined - absolutes rooted in the one who created us and the only One who has an unqualified right to define normal. Sadly, it's not merely popularity driven politicians that are willing to embrace the world's "normal" or any "normal" espoused by special interest groups. In the name of worldly admiration and acceptance, far too many professed Christian leaders have now become willing to do the same.
The Bible clearly instructs us to be speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Nowhere in the Bible is truth held as being something subjective, rather it is objective and unchanging - rooted in God's absolute authority. Our love for God must be the transcendent motivator in our lives. If we truly love Him, and what He has commanded, then we must be willing to speak that truth out of love for everyone else. If we conceal, misrepresent, or lie about this truth we demonstrate a lack of love for the one needing to hear God's truth. Loving our neighbor is an extension of first loving God...
Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (NIV)
Jesus, who certainly displayed his love for multitudes, did not shy away from condemning sin.
John 5:14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (NIV)
Even the oft quoted account of the woman condemned for adultery doesn't merely end with Jesus not condemning her - it ends with Jesus telling her to stop sinning, in effect condemning sin!
John 8:10-11 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (NIV)
There's the standard; we condemn sin while showing love the sinner. Love does not mean setting aside God's standard of sin. How would the woman Jesus told to stop sinning know what sin is? The answer always returns us to God's word. She was to know that adultery was wrong because God had established forever what true sexuality is - something found in God's original "good" union between Adam and Eve. This does not leave argument for "but it was a consensual liaison" or "but it wasn't hurting anyone" or "what's done in the privacy of my house is none of your business." God has said that it is sin, that makes it sin, so stop doing it!
Nowhere is there a requirement that we must agree with someone to love them or have compassion on them. Every believer can thank God for that! We were all once enemies of God and hostile to Him in our thinking (Colossians 1:21) and He demonstrated His love and compassion for us, all while opposing the sin that enslaved us.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)
Anyone who would disagree with homosexuality (amongst other subjects) is often nowadays automatically labeled a "hater" or a "homophobe." In this view, to disagree with or speak against something is automatically equated to hating the one you disagree with or being in fear of them.
Believers have no reason to fear sin or sinners, no matter how rampant or overt their wickedness becomes. With the psalmist David we ask the same rhetorical question:
Psalms 49:5 Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me - (NIV)
We have nothing to fear because God is with us and we know that He is ultimately in charge. As with the psalmist, in verse 7 below, in the face of bad news we trust in the Lord.
Psalms 112:1-8a Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. 2 His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. 5 Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. 6 Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. 7 He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. 8 His heart is secure, he will have no fear... (NIV)
God, himself, told his people to not fear because He is with us.
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (NIV)
Biblically a Christian can never be a "homophobe" because we don't fear sinners. Or we shouldn't. To be honest, there are believers who fear sinners of all stripes, who would rather live in protected seclusion rather than shine in a world of wickedness. Jesus never intended for his followers to live in monasteries or willful seclusion, we are to be in the world, protected by God, trusting in God, and being a witness to the truth by God's power (John 17:15).
In the face of rabid opposition to the truth of Scriptures that we embrace and propagate, we know the worst anyone can do to us is only what God allows. Any suffering (or, western "discomfort") for doing good and speaking right cannot touch the blessing that is ours in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 3:13-14 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." (NIV, quoting Isaiah 8:12)
By affirming that we do not fear homosexuals or homosexuality, that we are not homophobes, where does this leave us? There is only one Biblical response, no matter how virulent the opposition:
Matthew 5:44-45 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (NIV, also Luke 6:35)
Loving our enemies does not mean loving, accepting, or tolerating sin. Indeed, if we truly love our enemy, each of whom is enslaved to sin, our desire should be to see them freed from the evil that has enslaved and will destroy them. Biblically, we are called to be haters, not of the individuals who opposed, persecute, or mock us, but always of the sin itself.
Proverbs 8:13a To fear the Lord is to hate evil (NIV)
Proverb 13:5a The righteous hate what is false (NIV)
Amos 5:15a Hate evil, love good (NIV)
Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (NIV)
To not hate and oppose sin is to show our lack of love, clearly for those caught in it but also for our God who has called us to be like Him (1 Peter 1:15-16; Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:40; 1 John 3:2). Don't forget, God repeatedly describes Himself as being one who hates sin (Malachi 2:16; Zechariah 8:17; Jeremiah 44:4; Amos 5:21). God's kingdom is all about seeing people come to Him in faith, then seeing His transforming grace bring them to the point of turning from wickedness.
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." (NIV)
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus clearly revealed that there was a summary essence to all of the Law, namely it was to point people to loving God with all their heart, soul, and mind and to live it out through loving others. The fullness of God's love is wrapped up in this twin Royal Law.
Matthew 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (NIV)
While the Mosaic Law was clearly given only for a time and a specific national people, it - to a degree - incorporated a shadow of what it meant to love God and your neighbor. Jesus was clear; the essence of the Mosaic Law and all the Old Testament prophets looked forward to the One who would make this twin crux of the Law the only standard.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (NIV)
Many pro-homosexual letters, articles, and comments I have received quickly mock and disparage the Old Testament Law. They are quick to dismiss it all, as if it is irrelevant, an anachronism from ancient times. Their easiest way to do this is to find a few obscure legal rulings and then say that since these obviously don't apply today, then everything in that old law is equally invalid.
Admittedly, some within the Christian church have tried to divide up the Law, breaking it into civil, ceremonial, and moral laws. They do this for a means of justifying why they uphold some aspects (typically moral laws, though some also claim the civil should still apply), while rejecting the others as no longer having application. This is misguided and highly arbitrary as few can agree on what laws fit into each category. The Jews never considered the Mosaic Law to be divisible; it was a complete body of Laws that governed their national and personal lives.
What the New Testament makes clear is that this Mosaic Law was only for a time. Those living in the New Covenant, having absolute fulfillment of the Law in the person of Jesus Christ, have all been set free from it - as a complete body of Laws. The Christian church of the New Covenant is no longer a civil body, it's no longer a temple bound people, and it is filled with diverse individuals who are all directly bound to God as a heavenly nation.
The New Covenant is still legitimately about moral obligations, but no longer about Israeli civil and ceremonial obligations. So the question remains, if the Mosaic Law has been set aside, where do we get our knowledge of God's moral standards for us? Is it possible that many, or perhaps all, of the moral aspects of the Law have been carried into the new?
1 Timothy 1:8-11 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (NIV)
1 Timothy 1:8-11 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 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 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. (NASU)
The same Paul who warned people against being again enslaved to the Law (i.e. Galatians, especially 5:1-3), also wrote that "the law is good if one uses it properly." This statement presupposes that at least some of the law is still useful to the NT church. He then gives example of what things it still has continuing application for:
1) Lawbreakers, rebels, ungodly, sinful, unholy, and irreligious
(versus the righteous)
The first category sets the stage for all that follows. The law still has application for unbelievers! It must still be used to show what moral sin is - especially in regards to such things listed above including murder, sexual perversion, kidnapping, and lying. This is how Paul could also clearly assert...
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)
The very reason the law was given was to establish clearly what sin was! Sin, for those under the fullness of Mosaic Law, would be to ignore or transgress against any aspect of it. So, when the entirety of the Mosaic Law ceased to pertain in the New Covenant, how can it still illustrate sin? Speculation as to an answer is not necessary, it's clearly found in the New Testament. Without trying to arbitrarily pick through Old Testament rules, the New Testament explicitly and implicitly makes clear which elements are enduring. For example, the New Testament restates as being still valid nine of the Ten Commandments (excluding only the Sabbath regulations).
Within a host of restated moral statues from the Law, not surprisingly we find the issue of adultery. True biblical sexuality was defined prior to the Law (in the beginning) and this foundational concept was carried through the Mosaic Law (with further clarifications) and it is subsequently restated in the New Testament. Nowhere in the New Testament is any aspect of the marriage and sexuality redefined, added to, or overturned from that which was established in the very beginning. In fact, New Testament statements concerning proper sexuality and marriage all presuppose and are predicated upon what is established in the Old Testament.
This puts to rest a commonly proffered idea, often proclaimed in various fashions, by pro-homosexual proponents...
A related question sometimes appears in this form: Doesn't this mean that any Old Testament scriptural ban should be relegated to obscurity along with other outdated regulations such as putting to death witches and dietary laws?
We've already seen, in Romans chapter 1 and 1st Timothy chapter 1, that the New Testament does speak about homosexuality and in no way approvingly. In fact, a very specific Greek word is used in 1st Timothy 1:10...
Some are quick to point out that homosexuality was quite common in Roman times, often those of high social status with those of lower (including slaves, young boys, etc.).
They raise this as if its prevalence somehow legitimatized it in Judaism or first century Christianity. This is no so. Within Judaism, clear prohibitions of the Mosaic Law made all such practices contemptible.
Leviticus 18:22 "'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (NIV)
Paul, who spent most of his time writing to a mostly gentile audience, had greater need to specifically define moral sin. He did so without trying to impose the totality of Mosaic Law on a people for whom it was not given, rather he specifically (and divinely) pointed out what aspects of the Law had a more transcendent application - morally applicable to all people. As we've already seen, since regulations regarding marriage, adultery, extra-marital sex, and homosexuality are all rooted in creation (prior to the Mosaic Law), these are some of the things clearly reemphasized by all the apostles who were speaking to the Gentile world (and quite specifically the Christian church called out of it).
It was in this setting that the first council of the church, held in Jerusalem, having rejected the need for Gentile believers to adopt the law and circumcision, explicitly instructed (in writing) those believers to avoid "sexual immorality (Acts 15:29)." For those who condemn Christians for making a "big deal" out of extra-marital sex, let alone homosexuality, consider that there is a significant precedent here in the biblical early church. They felt that this was a necessary emphasis as this sin was so widespread in the Greco-Roman culture. And, obviously, such a warning would be irrelevant if the church was to be merely accepting of all of it. Their giving of this instruction also presupposed that the apostles and teachers (especially Paul) would then clarify and define what sexual immorality was. And Paul did!
Romans 3:31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (NIV)
When Paul penned these words, he was not demanding that the church adhere to the minutiae of the Mosaic Law, as this would have him contradicting himself elsewhere, rather he was saying that the unchanging moral essence of the law is upheld by believers living by faith. Again, the specifics of what this means are clearly repeated in the New Testament.
Even as the New Testament defines what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, so too it provides both positive and negative example of what it means to love our neighbor (everyone!). Within this instruction, the emphasis on proper sexuality and creation based marriage, combined with clear admonitions against extra-marital sex and homosexuality, clearly reveal that loving our neighbor (by God's standard) cannot include those latter things.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals (NT:733), 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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. (NASU)
By God's Word it's very clear that fornicators and adulterers, drunkards, swindlers, and coveters, as well as homosexuals, are not believers (Christians) regardless of what they call themselves. So what hope is there for any of us? Simply put, it's the saving grace of God that provides us forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. And then He sets us on a new track, one that takes us away from these former sins. Heaven is going to be filled with a multitude of former thieves, adulterers, liars, drunkards, and homosexuals. All of these "formers" are now redeemed saints being transformed by God (sanctified) and by His power struggle to no longer sin - longing for the day when we will no longer be able to sin!
Before leaving this passage in 1 Corinthians, a brief look at sins specifically condemned within this New Testament passage is warranted. This becomes necessary because of widespread misconceptions being spread, such as:
While she may not want to "subscribe" to a specific interpretation, adopting an unwarranted new meaning is no more useful than merely saying she rejects the normal sense of these words. It is not an honest exposition of the term or the text, rather it is a willful rejection concealed behind a veneer of modern scholarship.
Consider the specific words that Paul employed, along with the historic meaning of each word:
1) Fornicators ("Pornoi") - A whoremonger or male prostitute - forceful homosexuals. Anyone who prostituted himself for gain. Compared and contrasted with #4 below.
2) Idolaters ("Eidololatrai") - A worshipper of idols (which, in ancient times, sometimes included sexual elements or ritual sex)
3) Adulterers ("Moichoi") - A general synonym of Pornoi, though much broader in possible application. Can be used of homosexuality or in regards to any type of sexual immorality or unfaithfulness.
4) Effeminate ("Malakoi") - Effeminate ones - passive homosexuals. Those who prostitute themselves with males without charge.
5) Homosexuals ("Arsenokoitai") - Homosexuals. Those who engage in sexual activity with men or boys.
6) Thieves ("Kleptai") - Thieves. Those who steal or take what does not belong to them. (This would also have application with rape).
7) Covetous ("Pleonektai") - A person who is eager to have more, especially of things that belong to others. Someone who is greedy for wrongful gain.
8) Drunkards ("Methusoi") - A male or female drunkard. One who habitually drinks too much of anything that intoxicates.
9) Revilers ("Loidoroi") - One who slanders, blasphemes, or rails against what is right.
10) Swindlers ("Harpages") - Those who extort (Theft through deliberate and often secret action). Includes the idea of carrying off by force.
Anyone who says that the New Testament doesn't have much to say about homosexuality is telling an outright lie. Sexual sin is sin, whether extramarital or homosexual. These issues must not be separated from the litany of sins that God uses to illustrate mankind's depravity.
Prior to moving on in our study, some further observations are warranted regarding the term "Arsenokoitai". Some have asserted that this is a "mysterious" or obscure word, making its meaning uncertain.
It is true that the term only appears twice in the New Testament, both usages by the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Polycarp, one generation after the apostles, quotes Paul's passage in 1 Corinthians 6:9 showing that the word still had useful meaning for his readers (Epistles of Polycarp 5:3). It is a lack of usage outside of Scriptures and in texts not derived directly from Paul's usage that seem to be the heart of their assertions. While it may be true that the Greek language didn't have a specific broad term meaning homosexual, it is quite probable that the apostle Paul (or perhaps another early Christian associated with him) coined such a word for the purposes of addressing this subject. Even today, we sometimes force two words together, to make a new word, wherein the newly coined word can briefly illustrate the idea being referenced. Doing such is called a neologism. Many of our modern attempts never gain popular acceptance and fall away, yet a few are adopted by the public as a whole and enter the language with the newly intended meaning.
This new word utilized by Paul certainly entered the language and found a continued usage at least in church related settings. This means the only question is what did he intend by this newly constructed word? Remember that Paul was a highly educated Jew who was now writing primarily for a Gentile audience. While he would have known and understood the Old Testament Scriptures in their original Hebrew and Aramaic, most recipients of his letters would not. For this reason, Paul often utilized the Septuagint (LXX), a widely circulated Greek translation of the Old Testament, when he was making Scripture quotations.
As is further examined in another section, Paul clearly drew on Old Testament passages in regards to teaching morality, especially in regards to sexual sin. A key passage on this subject was Leviticus chapter 18 and, in regards to homosexuality, specifically verse 22 (also 20:13).
Leviticus 18:22 "'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (NIV)
The Greek translation of this verse in Leviticus utilizes "arseno (for the euphemistic term 'lie')" and "koitai" for "a man." The close proximity of these words in a key passage defining homosexuality then becomes the basis for Paul coining a new word by joining them together - a permanent easy means of encompassing the sense of the original verse in every usage of this word from that time forward.
Paul's new word can legitimately be called obscure, meaning "little-known", but it cannot be called obscure, meaning "ambiguous" or "unclear." The clear meaning and intent is established by its context, not only in the text of the New Testament but also in the context of Paul's life, knowledge and training.
It was as if Paul was anticipating some scholars and skeptics saying "there's no general word for homosexual in the Greek language," and Paul responding "there is now!" In effect, he was saying; remember what Leviticus taught regarding homosexuality? Don't do that! Rather than dismissing the relevance of this Old Testament passage, Paul uses a literary means to invoke it again, the totality of his usage then declaring its enduring application.
Simply put, no! The Mosaic Law was given as a law that governed the entirety of Israel's national life. It was to that government that administration of these punishments was given. The church is no longer tied to any one nation or government. And to the government of each nation alone is entrusted the administration of laws to encourage their people to do right (c.f. Romans 13:1-5). Governments are responsible to God for their individual administration of this great trust.
Can or should a government make laws concern things such as sexuality? Even most of the immoral non-believing world offers a qualified yes to this. For the public good, some private acts have always been restricted. Pedophilia is one such common example. The punishments determined suitable for such actions again are the purview of the governing authority.
Historically, branches of the church have usurped the power given to governments and it always led to predictable wrong. And yet, there are still some Christian theologians that call for government controlled by the church or even a form of Old Testament laws.
So what about New Testament sins, restated from the Old Testament? Should the Old Testament punishments apply for them? Take, for example, witchcraft. Is it still a sin? Both the Old Testament and the New Testament say yes (Deuteronomy 18:10-14; 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; 1 Samuel 15:23; and Galatians 5:20). While the Mosaic Law calls for governmentally administered capital punishment (Exodus 22:18) for witchcraft, in common with adultery (Leviticus 20:10), the church seeks not their death but rather to see them come to repentance and salvation. Believers can and should make it clear that those who remain in such sin will suffer judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14), and that their actions are sin (Galatians 5:19-21), but also that this reckoning will be before God himself (2 Corinthians 5:10) and not temporally before us. This does not preclude the church's very specific requirement that it is not to tolerate unrepentant practice of these sins within her number. God clearly says that the church must expel such a person from among them (1 Corinthians 5:11).
As for the governments of the world, wherein they recognize these sinful actions as wrongdoing, they may still set punishments as a means of encouraging people to do what is right.
Genesis 18:20, 19:4-7 Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous&ldots; 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 positive example God had given regarding human actions. A derisive writer, commenting on an earlier version of this article, mocked this statement saying "The author is assuming he knows what the 'grievous sin' is." Actually a multitude of commentators spanning a few millennia have landed on the same "supposition" as to what this grievous sin is. In actuality it is not a mere supposition, it's a derived conclusion supported by the immediate text and its context prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law. For those who mock the conclusion, especially those of our most recent generations who have a specific agenda of trying to support homosexuality, the burden is on them to show why their conclusion is correct or superior to the long held understanding. One such proffered lens of interpretation reads as follows:
Let me summarize this detractor's assessment:
#1. Homosexuality has nothing to do with God calling their sin grievous.
Some things that the Bible made very clear about Sodom...
A. They were wicked and sinning greatly against the Lord. Genesis 13:13.
This was stated prior to any portrayed or perceived lack of hospitality or, for that matter, sexual sin. As this was prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law, the sin would have to be doing something God had already revealed as being wrong or intentionally doing something contrary to what God had revealed as being right. Hospitality is not a commanded action in the Old Testament (though it is in the New Testament for believer and elders. Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2, 5:10; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 5:8; 3 John 8). If given a choice between sexual sin and lack of hospitality, the text prior to this in Genesis shows that sexuality had previously been defined by God, so any transgression of that standard would be a sin against Him. Sexual sin was this issue; homosexuality was the side issue or specific form of the sexual sin.
B. In repeating that Sodom's sin was "greatly against the Lord" and "so great" and "grievous" (Genesis 13:13; 18:20), the text infers that the reader should be able to readily deduce the sinful actions. (And nowhere in the Old Testament before or after, much less the New Testament - which does speak of hospitality, is a lack of hospitality portrayed Biblically as being a grievous or great sin).
C. The sin of Sodom is later tied directly to wanton and overt sexual sin by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:14, cf. Jeremiah 13:27), the explicitness and openness of this sin also emphasized by Isaiah (Isaiah 3:9). Even when Ezekiel equates Israel with Sodom and her "detestable practices," along with specifically spelling out her complacency, arrogance and lack of care for the poor, he uses further terms such as "more vile" and ends using a sexual term "You will bear the consequences of your lewdness and your detestable practices, declares the Lord. (Ezekiel 16:46-58)." Perhaps greatest of all, showing that the New Testament apostles of the first century continued to hold Sodom's great sin to be sexual, Jude makes this inspired statement: "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. (Jude 7)"
It is unsubstantiated conjecture for anyone to claim that sexual sin (in opposition to God's creation established standard) and specifically homosexuality had nothing to do with the grievous nature of the sin of Sodom. Further, for some to try and limit it to only being wrong because it was forced, or non-consensual sex, is an artificial constraint on the text. Yes, forced sex is sin. But so too is all sex outside of a monogamous marriage between a man and woman, and this includes homosexuality.
This needs to be emphasized. The foundational textual basis of this passage, by which we understand all non-marital sex to be sin, shows all perverted sexuality as equally being sin. That means that the homosexuality, forced sex, and any sex outside of marriage, are all sinful and each remain so apart from the other. Combine them and it certainly becomes egregious, or what the text call "grievous." Even under the Mosaic Law for Israel, both rape and homosexual acts are under a death sentence (Deuteronomy 22:25-27 and Leviticus 20:13) - how much more would a person deserve the same punishment if guilty of both? Though the punishment would be the same, the transgression can legitimately be called grievous. While the Old Testament punishment is no longer applicable in the church, that parity of punishment does show the equivalency given to rape and homosexual acts as both being major sexual sins.
Before leaving this section, take note that all that was said here, in regards to the serious nature of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, also applies to this later passage in the Book of Judges.
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)
A claim is sometimes made by defenders of homosexuality that the only reason male shrine prostitutes are singled out in any condemnation in the Old Testament is solely because the Bible is against prostitution and not homosexuality itself. Some relevant passages referencing this practice include:
1 Kings 14:24 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)
1 Kings 15:11-12 Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. 12 He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. (NIV)
1 Kings 22:45-46 As for the other events of Jehoshaphat's reign, the things he achieved and his military exploits, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 46 He rid the land of the rest of the male shrine prostitutes who remained there even after the reign of his father Asa. (NIV)
2 Kings 23:7 He [King Josiah] also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the Lord and where women did weaving for Asherah. (NIV)
Even, pre-law, such actions were considered a mark of the godless by Elihu...
Job 36:13-14 [Elihu speaking] "The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help. 14 They die in their youth, among male prostitutes of the shrines. (NIV)
The Hebrew word translated as "male shrine prostitutes" or "male prostitutes of the shrines" is "qades." The King James translation typically translated the word as "sodomites" (though strangely turns Job 36:14 into "... their life is among the unclean"). In doing a word-for-word translation, the King James is not incorrect in its primary rendering; the individuals were sodomites or homosexuals (including possibly bisexuals). Yet the term is more specifically one that pertains to male homosexuals who were "sacred," meaning that they part of a formalized cult or shrine of worship. Throughout history this was not uncommon, with various temples and sects utilizing sexual aspects in their worship, both heterosexual and homosexual. The term here is focused on the homosexual.
While these passages are certainly singling out homosexuality, especially because it was overtly in the guise of worship, the very reason it is sexual sin reverts back to the creation ordinance where God establishes what proper sexual relations are to be. Sex is God-designed only to be between a man and woman who are married. This is the foundation for all sexual regulations that followed. It is also why parity is given for the sin of a shrine prostitute regardless whether they were female (heterosexual, yet outside of marriage) or male (homosexual).
Deuteronomy 23:17-18 No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. 18 You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute ["zanah", an adulteress for pay] or of a male prostitute ["keleb", literally "a dog," a euphemism for a homosexual] into the house of the Lord your God to pay any vow, because the Lord your God detests them both. (NIV) [This same euphemism appears to be in view in John's reference to sins listed in Revelation 22:15]
Every passage that refers to male shrine prostitutes as being detestable (whether in the Book of Kings or Deuteronomy) are doing so based on established an established legal precept (which, we've already seen, is based on God's pre-law direction for proper marriage and sexuality). While some, nowadays, try and force the detestability of this as being only that it was part of worship, or because it was prostitution, those were merely contributing factors. The act of homosexuality had clearly been established earlier, as the detestable act in view, a sin that had led to God judging the pagan nations that had preceded Israel. It is spelled out in Leviticus 18:22-30.
Leviticus 18:22-30 "'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. 23 "'Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion. 24 "'Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. 29 "'Everyone who does any of these detestable things - such persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.'" (NIV)
This key passage of the Law, in regards to sexual sin, appears again in New Testament allusion...
When the early church was being established in the Gentile world questions naturally arose as to the continued use of the Mosaic Law, if any. There were those who tried to have all the Mosaic Law, with its minutiae of rules and regulations, to also apply to the Gentile church (Acts 15:5). The early church, Jew and Gentile, considered this and soundly rejected such thoughts as being contrary to sound doctrine. This council did not restate all the moral commands that accompany obedience to Jesus Christ, such as the nine of the Ten Commandments restated by Jesus and the apostles - as these were already being practiced. Rather this council was addressing issues that would be necessary for Jews and Gentiles to peacefully worship together. Consider, in specific, some had felt that Jews and Gentiles shouldn't even meet together if the Gentiles weren't circumcised. Now the early church was clearly saying, for the sake of peace and unity, the Gentile church should abstain from anything that smacked of idolatry, or mocking life (the essence of blood regulations), or sexual immorality.
Acts 15:19-21 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." (NIV, also Acts 15:29)
It is no accident that these three things were brought forward together. This triad directly pointed to a specific excerpt from the Mosaic Law (specifically in Leviticus chapters 17 & 18), covering idolatry and pagan sacrifices (Leviticus 17:8-9), blood (Leviticus 17:10-14), and sexual immorality (Leviticus 18:6-23).
If refraining from sexual immorality was already a moral obligation for believers (as being taught by Paul, for example); why would this council, by allusion, point the Gentiles back to the Mosaic Law in defense or clarification of this subject? Simply put, it was to reemphasize the totality of what was still offensive to God in regards to sexual sin. It was to make sure that no one in the Gentile church could say, "This is what we hold to be okay in our culture and not to be sexual sin," or to try and say these things are not applicable in the New Covenant. It's amazing how relevant this is in regards to pro-homosexual attacks on the church today. This clarification clearly was intended to put to rest everything from having sex with your mother (Leviticus 18:7), or sister (Leviticus 18:9), or homosexual acts (Leviticus 18:22) and even bestiality (Leviticus 18:23).
While some falsely think that Christians can look like the world and carry on every practice of the world (as if culture defines belief), this is something that God has always warned His people against - before, during, and after the Old Testament Mosaic Law.
2 Corinthians 6:16b-18 For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said [referencing three Old Testament prophets]: "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, square parenthesis clarification mine)
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 (Psalms 97:10), to hate the things that God has said to be wrong, and to cling to everything that God has said to be good (Romans 12:9).
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)
Only through accepting the clear message of God's word, by God's grace, can a person know and acknowledge what is sin and what is right. Mankind's ultimate flattery of self is in believing that we could know better than our creator. Something often asserted as people claim that Christians need to be willing to ignore Biblical teaching to embrace popular teaching and tendencies.
Biblically, government exists to maintain public order - to punish wrong and reward right. Most people, Christian or not, at least nominally agree with that idea. Where rapid difference occurs is in people's definition of what is right and wrong. Two prominent New Testament passages on government include:
Romans 13:1-4 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (NIV)
1 Peter 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (NIV)
A few diametrically opposing views of right and wrong have become commonplace. Four familiar ideas are as follows:
#1. There is no right and wrong
The first view is self-defeating... especially when they tell you that you are wrong for believing otherwise. Besides, most recognize this view would lead to anarchy and societal chaos.
The second view is sometimes combined with the fourth but not always. Herein lays the belief that laws and all ideas of right and wrong are merely evolving and perhaps the product of eons of evolutionary change. No certainty can ever exist except for the here and now because everything may change tomorrow. As popular opinion deviates so too right and wrong changes - the more depraved the populace, the more debauched become the laws.
Only in the third view is there an absolute and unchanging standard by which to judge and interpret all laws. Due to this standard, absolute can be proclaimed and laws can be revised and reformed to hold them closer to the original conclusive standard. Here, unlawful killing can always been seen to be murder and wrong, so too lying, fraud, cheating, stealing, adultery, and more. While it is not necessary for a government to be comprised of believers for this to work, it certainly presupposes a government and society that has been informed and influenced by God's word.
The fourth view, that right and wrong doesn't really matter, and should not be under the inspection of government so long as it's private, is a logical fallacy. Government regular passes laws that govern what is done in the privacy or secrecy of one's home. And they should. This is particularly true when the results of the private acts could have possible negative ramifications to the individual or others. For example, if I am privately plotting suicide and this is discovered, government will intervene. Likewise, if I was intentionally infecting myself with a disease that could later be transmitted to the public, they would also intervene. The government is tasked with protecting its people. And yet, even in a nation where states or cities are taxing tobacco to death and banning sugary drinks because of their perceived negative health effects on the populace as a whole, the homosexual community is adamant that government should not restrict their "private" actions regardless of the plethora of studies and reports that show their lifestyle to be a substantial health risk and potential danger to society as a whole (See http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=Is01B1, even http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/STD.htm and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15963874).
In fact, pro-homsosexual advocacy has assured that Hollywood disproportionately and inaccurately portrays homosexuals as fit, happy, healthy, better educated or financial well-off, and well-adjusted - a caricature that is not supported by the facts, yet is ultimately a marketing tactic in support of their chosen lifestyle (See http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/10/3_of_population_is_homosexual.html).
While a democracy should hold its government responsible for upholding what is good, punishing wrong, and protecting its citizens, ultimately the Bible teaches (e.g. Romans 13:4) that each government is a servant of God and - as such - is accountable to God for its actions or inaction. All government has been and will be judged by God for its failure to uphold justly laws which punish wrong and reward (or encourage) good. The church doesn't mete out this punishment, but every believer in a democracy has a right and responsibility to voice their beliefs to the government that represents them.
Any word can become a useless word unless it has a static and absolute definition for those using it. The same certainly applies for the word "marriage." Without question, certain cultures, cults, and distinct people groups have had their own definitions of marriage throughout history. While monogamy has always been a common norm, some cultures allowed for polygyny (a male having more than one wife at one time) and very rarely polyandry (a female having more than one husband). There are even a few instances of historical polyamory unions (polyamorous union being tantamount to group marriage, where all are considered married to everyone else in the group). These days, there is a widespread push for homosexual unions to be legitimized as marriage (a male with a male or a female with a female), with some nations or states following through with this.
Legal age of marriage varied widely throughout history around the world; for the ancient Romans 12 years old was possible for girls, while by the late middle ages some European regions set age 25 (apart from the consent of all parents).
Also, almost universally, cultures had minimum requirements as to who could recognize or solemnize any union. This could include family, a tribe or community, civic or religious leaders, a captain of a ship, etc.
Marriage normally was seen as a lifelong commitment or union, though many made allowance for the union to be dissolved. Marriage by slaves, within cultures practicing slavery, often was dependent on continued ownership and sometimes initiated solely by the will of only the owner. A few cultures allowed for prearranged fixed-term, or short-term, contractual marriage (including historic Islam, called "Nikah mut'ah" or "sigheh" in modern Iran).
In summary, marriage has always been defined by the culture or society that practiced it. In lands with Judeo-Christian influence, this has typically been based in Biblical teaching. Beyond those it varied widely and, as more lands are becoming post-Christian, more variation is still occurring.
Historically and presently, any Christian entering a land where practices concerning marriage were different than a Biblical concept of marriage had to deal with it on differing levels.
#1. Wherein it differs from a Biblical definition of marriage, any civil, religious, or cultural recognition of a union as marriage must be accepted only on that basis in the public venue. Yet, from a Christian perspective, anyone can call anything marriage but that doesn't make it Biblical marriage. Believers and the church cannot accept it as being anything but sin.
#2. Wherein the laws of that land or culture recognize something other than Biblical marriage as being marriage, this must be tolerated wherein it does not obligate you to personally practice something that is unbiblical. This does not prevent a Christian from exercising their responsibility to teach what is right and Biblical.
Returning to our question; "should government make laws concerning marriage?" To provide for public order, this is an absolute necessary. If anyone can ascribe to their own definition of marriage the word becomes useless and irrelevant. Worse still, if every individual can craft their own definition of marriage and unilaterally declare themselves married, social chaos would result. And yet, if government has no absolute standard on which to base their laws, their definition will potentially change and expand - easily coming into conflict with a Biblical definition of marriage. [More on marriage and divorce is here.]
For example: In the western world most laws concerning marriage were based on Judeo-Christian principles. Redefining marriage from a lifelong union of one man to one woman, both being adults, to allow for man to man or woman to woman completely severs the tie to the Judeo-Christian principles which once influenced the original term. While many homosexuals try and downplay this, the result of leaving the Judeo-Christian foundation is that there is no longer any absolute standard so further revision is easer and likely to occur. This is how Brazil came to add "three way marriage" to their definition and laws in 2012 (http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/08/29/three-way-marriage-ignites-uproar-in-brazil/). In all seriousness, based on these changes now occurring, if public opinion ever became so inclined, marriage could come to include mother with child, adults with children (whether heterosexual or homosexual), or even human to non-human (whether machine or beast). There are even groups calling for marriage of brothers and sisters again, even as there once was in ancient times. [More about sibling marriage is here.]
Regardless of what society accepts or calls it, these "new forms" are not marriage as created by God and subsequently clarified by Jesus and then specifically reaffirmed throughout the New Testament. Every government is accountable to God for their actions, or inactions, on this subject - whether it recognizes Him or not. Irrespective of the world's acceptance of the latest trends, the church itself is accountable to God and must stand firm in living and proclaiming what He has said to be true and right.
Some form of this statement has often been pushed to the foreground in dialogs with Christians, as though these pro-homosexual proponents have found a "gotcha statement." While it is 100% true that Jesus did not use a specific word for homosexuality, it is also fully true that He utilized wording that encompassed homosexuality. This latter fact is something they wish to ignore or dismiss out-of-hand. Wherein I briefly addressed this in an earlier version of this article, one disparaging critic dismissed it all with these words:
So, in order to make this very clear, we will take a more extensive look at this issue. Yet, regardless of how much detail I provide, only God can open a person's eyes to His truth - the same truth that He's taught to all of His church throughout history.
1 Corinthians 2:13-14 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)
First, a few key doctrines must be established. This is important as many pro-homosexual pastors, scholars, and teachers have disparaged some or all of these integral Bible truths concerning Christ.
#1. Jesus is intractably identified with the Word of God. Jesus, the Son of God, did not come in opposition to the word of God but to confirm and clarify it.
John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)
#2. Jesus was and is perfect and sinless.
Hebrews 4:14-15 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. (NIV. Prophesied by Isaiah 53:9. Emphasis ours)
Hebrews 7:26-27a Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. (NIV, emphasis ours)
John 8:46 (Jesus asking the Pharisees and Jews...) Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? (NIV, emphasis and initial clarification ours)
1 Peter 2:21-22 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." (NIV. Verse 22 is a reference to the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9. Emphasis ours.)
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV, emphasis ours)
1 John 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (NIV, emphasis ours)
#3. Jesus' disciples/apostles were sent by Him (the very meaning of the word "apostle") and their message was that given them by God - which God made sure was delivered accurately (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 3:2; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Consider this truth. If a king only generally spoke of a certain subject and yet later sent one of his official ambassadors with a message or note that gave specific clarifications, it would be treated - and legitimately so - as the words of the king himself. The same goes with the remainder of the New Testament beyond the gospels. It is Jesus' expansion and clarifications for the church until the end of time, delivered through His directly selected and divinely protected messengers appointed to make certain that His truth was declared perfectly.
Peter summed this up well when he said this of Paul...
2 Peter 3:15b-16 ...just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (NIV)
Paul's words, John's words, indeed those of every writer in the New Testament, are to be considered as if they were the very words of God and our Lord Jesus Christ - Scriptures! Even if Jesus never specifically addressed a subject, only generally, His expansion upon it - through His apostles - is fully sufficient. Paul confirmed this when he said:
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)
Returning to our three-fold statement of truth concerning Jesus and His message... When any or all of these revealed truths are ignored or denigrated, Jesus is reduced to being at best a relatively good man, who made relatively good statements, which should be relatively followed. It's on this counterfeit concept of Jesus that sin is readily dismissed and the Bible is reduced to a book of suggestions - to be accepted or rejected as one's personal interpretation or feelings allows.
Consider the wording and context of this gospel passage:
Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (NIV, cf. Mark 1:14-15; Luke 13:15; even Jesus sending out his disciples: Mark 6:8-12)
Matthew makes clear, very early in the public ministry of Jesus, that there was a theme that Jesus included from that time onward: repentance! Jesus' primary audience was the "lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24), a people who had been taught the Law of Moses since they were children. His words were not in a vacuum or in isolation, allowing for every hearer to merely guess what they were to repent from; His message of repentance pointed squarely to the Law.
Matthew 5:17-19 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
So, when Jesus spoke about "sexual immorality," apart from any new definition or clarification, his hearers would have automatically understood any definition of that sin to be that which was taught in the Pentateuch. This would have been a twin understanding, based on the positive prescription of what God intended for marriage (as given early in Genesis), combined with the negative prohibitions specifically concerning sexual relations given later as part of the Mosaic Law (such as Leviticus 18:22-30). Contrary to naysayers, this word choice certainly included homosexual acts...
Mark 7:20-23 He (Jesus) went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality (also translated "fornications"), theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'" (NIV, emphasis and clarifications ours)
This passage in Mark further clarified Jesus' use of the term "sexual immorality," which included homosexuality amongst other sexual sins, by separating out (or perhaps emphasizing) adultery through the use of a second Greek word. The former word "porneia" includes adultery but the second word, "moicheia" is directly in regards to sexual acts outside of marriage wherein at least one party was married. (Again, this presupposes a Genesis informed view of what marriage is supposed to be). The exact same dual usage of these words is also recorded by Matthew...
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (NIV)
Even as Jesus used overlapping words, the same was done by His apostles to help further clarify their intent - providentially anticipating those who would try and play word games to sidestep or ignore the original message. Notice how many terms Paul utilized, regarding sexual sin, in this one passage:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, 10 thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom. 11 Some of you were like this; 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. (HCSB)
For Paul, having a combined Jewish and non-Jewish audience, it became even more important to spell out specifics that, only for some, would have been known from the books of the Law.
While on the subject of Jesus' message as given through the apostle Paul, because of some distortions circulating about his classic passage on sin, in Romans chapter 1, additional clarifications are necessary.
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. (NIV)
When Paul said that "God gave them over" to these wicked things, he was not saying that somehow God no longer condemned them for these sins. He was pointing out that God was refraining from immediately wiping them out (as He has every right to do as punishment for sin), allowing them to continue in their sins, yet bringing just and ultimate judgment upon themselves. The very reason Paul listed many sins in this passage, including homosexuality, was to show that mankind apart from a savior would wallow in sin continuously and be without hope. This passage 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.
It doesn't matter what the specific 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, directly or indirectly, in a number of passages (e.g. Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), many believers used to be sinners such as those examples he gave, but they had found forgiveness and had been given the strength to now live for the Lord.
No sinner will inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21), but multitudes of believers will! These saints are all repentant sinners that have been set free from the penalty and power of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. Many former homosexuals, adulterers, liars, thieves, etc., have become Christians and have found eternal life. Their identity was formerly these things, and yet while they live they may still struggle to not fall back into their former sins, their identity and strength is now in Christ. They look only to the One who is able to keep them from falling (Jude 24-25).
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)
Before leaving this question, it should be again noted that it wasn't merely Paul that had this message. Quite consistently, Jesus' other apostles proclaimed the same. For example, the apostle Jude referenced the Old Testament events of Sodom and Gomorrah as illustrating the final judgment that awaits those who are unrepentantly 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)
Jesus' beloved apostle John likewise 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)
Praise God that He saves many and sets them free from their sin! And, as most believers will gladly share, while we are completely free from the penalty of our sin from the moment we believe, we struggle (in the power and teaching of the Holy Spirit) to not actually sin (e.g. Romans 7:21-25). It is a battle against the flesh until the day it too is made new (1 Corinthians 15:42-44) at the resurrection.
Whether or not any civil authority restrains or punishes sin, ultimately all unforgiven wickedness will be judged by God. Even if civil action was taken, and some form of punishment was administered by earthly authorities, it's not enough to 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). It doesn't have to be sexual sin; a single lie is enough for us to deserve His justice. Freedom from the penalty of God's justice and access to the Father is found only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). In Him, God has graciously given forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe (John 3:16). This enables us to be saved through His righteousness - and none of our own (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 4:18-25).
This brings us to the next question...
This question is also commonly phrased in the form of a statement, such as: "God made me this way" or "I was born this way." Whether stated or queried, the answer is the same. Some of which has already been addressed in the earlier section, "We sin by nature."
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 the primary reason given by God for creating the woman. Rather than a sexual or procreative reason, it was because of the mankind's 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 a man and a man for a woman.
Secondly, regarding subsequent 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, or sinful nature, gravitates to sin regardless of type. We all have a sin problem.
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)
Pro-homosexual activists and other unrepentant sinners can appeal all they want to "theologians" who claim that humans are not born sinful, but they willfully ignore the clear message of Scriptures that we all inherited our sinful nature from our forefather Adam (Romans 5:12-14, 19).
The sinful nature that we now have from birth was not God's original design in the beginning. Nor can it be attributed to God (as in, "God made me this way") any more 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." This leaves us with a need to be recreated, born again.
It is this sinful nature that tries to justify and explain away sin. Having alleged that people are not born sinners they also want to claim that there is no real way to know for sure what sin is...
The very reason God gave his word to all, in the fullness of time, was to remove this excuse. The Bible very clearly establishes what is right and what is wrong - a message that will endure for the remainder of time.
Acts 17:30-31 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." (NIV)
God's message still stands, people must repent of their sin (as revealed by God in His word) and all who don't will appear before that Just Judge who accepts no excuses. And yet, for now, the excuses go on and on.
The Bible is not about how we feel about sin; it's about what God has said about sin. All the wishful thinking in the world will not change this.
This claim has been made by more than one pro-homosexual "Christian," including in published news reports. And yet, 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 and always uses it to confirm the direction He gives us in answer to 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 as to 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)
Claiming prayer as verification that God changed his mind becomes proof that the perceived answer did not come from God. God doesn't change!
People are condemned by God 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 about people condemning (which some may do, right or wrong), it's God's word that condemns (Hebrews 4:12). This is the standard by which we all will be judged. Again, without the righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ, we would all be condemned.
People love to try and justify sin, often playing games of situational ethics, as the writer quoted above did. Sin is sin, no matter how major or minor, or whatever reason we contrive to self-justify our actions. [More on lying is here.] Ancient Agur took the right course of action, praying that God who controls circumstances would keep him from having to try and justify a perceived necessity that he knew to be sin.
Proverbs 30:7-9 "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (NIV)
To return to the topic at hand, it's a far cry from trying to justify stealing to prevent starvation than to claim a homosexual to have a God-given (or tolerated) right to act on his/her sinful inclination. Hosts of sinners, from the heterosexual teen wanting sex outside of marriage, to the thief or compulsive liar or cheat, all would claim they couldn't help themselves. This is not an excuse before God, according to His word.
God calls his people to judge between right and wrong... it's something all of us have to do each and every day. Judging becomes wrong when it's 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.
As for controlling oneself, for the believer, God has promised to never leave or forsake His people (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5) - He is the one who stays with us to help us do right and to correct us when we fail and do wrong (John 16:7-13). This is not an easy road and it was never promised to be so. It's merely the only right road (Matthew 7:13-14).
John 14:23-26 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (NIV)
In regards to the eternal consequences of sin, the answer is clearly and biblically yes. Most can recognize this fact from the plethora of passages that clearly place homosexuality in parity with everything from extra-marital affairs to lying and murder. 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 before a Holy God. So the real question is why is anyone raising this seemingly rhetorical or redundant question? The answer lies clearly in the way they proceed from this question.
Their goal is to reduce the perceived severity of homosexuality as a sin by equating it with something like lying. And if it's only like lying, and everyone does that and we readily accept that everyone does so, then it's really no big deal - or so their argument goes. The problem here is not recognizing sin, rather it's trying to grade and justify sin. This is our sinful nature or flesh at work, always trying to minimize sin and turn the focus away from God's perspective. Our grading of sin is irrelevant. Biblically, all believers are to be actively seeking to not sin - any sin!
Romans 6:11-13 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (NIV)
Coming to faith in Jesus Christ provides us forgiveness for sins (past, present, and future) but it does not give us justification to keep on sinning.
Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (NIV)
While sin is all equal from an eternal perspective, where sin is not all equal is in regards to consequences. Unquestionably some sins have greater consequences than others and therefore they can be legitimately considered greater sins from a temporal perspective. Any sin that directly affects someone else fits into this category. For example, murder. While the one committing the sin is directly responsible and accountable for their actions, someone else is also affected by the sin (physically paying for it with their life). Sexual sins are similar when they move from being only in the mind, to being acted upon. For the record, regarding sexual sin, merely having the thought, a temptation, is not a sin - it is something to be controlled by the power of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5b ...and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV, see also Matthew 22:37)
When the thought is not taken captive, but dwelled upon, it becomes sin (Matthew 5:28) but only affecting the one doing the thinking.
Matthew 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NIV)
Progressing (or, should I say, regressing) from the lustful thought or impulse and putting it into action becomes a greater sin in that you have affected the life of someone else, who now shares in your sin. And while this sin includes another person, it is still Biblically considered a greater sin against one's own self.
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 and emotional scars from the misuse of sexuality (whether men or women, heterosexual or homosexual). And, we should not forget the host of possible physical scars and consequences that follow close behind sex outside of marriage (again, whether heterosexual or homosexual).
Herein lies the difference between an ever-changing cultural concept of marriage and Christian (or God defined) marriage.
While it's true that any civil authority can call anything it wants marriage, Biblically it does not make it so. And the Christian cannot divorce their public belief from their private belief - we are Christians in and outside church walls. The danger, for believers who concede that the church should merely allow their government to co-opt and define this institution, is that government rarely allows opposition (religious or otherwise) once they have instituted something. What often begins as a call for pluralism and toleration quickly becomes mandated acceptance. Government run, funded, or licensed, schools soon must teach it as being fact. Children then are taught that religious opposition is merely superstitious opposition to "the facts." Further, current or potential public officials must then bow to the "new reality" or face public ridicule or ostracization. It's only time before Christians are only allowed in the public venue if they can leave their religion inside their church walls. Publically, before long, it becomes hate speech or a hate crime for anyone to teach or speak other than the "new reality."
Christians look upon marriage as more than a civil institution, it is one that pre-dates all civil governments and was established by God. It was part of the absolute good that came before the fall of mankind and, as we saw earlier, it was designed 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. This is an absolute fact and one that the church (meaning all believers) must continue to proclaim. Since God created it, He alone has the right to define it. Jesus reaffirmed this, while speaking about divorce, when He said...
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. Hosts of people call themselves Christians, but apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ the title means nothing. Homosexual marriage, regardless of government acceptance or mandate, likewise means nothing. Any government or person that says otherwise is in opposition to a direct command of God and accountable to the same one who will judge the adulterer or homosexual (included in the word translated sexually immoral, as shown earlier)...
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)
Christians may lose this battle over the redefinition of marriage by our governmental leaders, showing the non-believing state of our lands, but we can never give up speaking the truth even when it becomes painful to do so. Truth is not defined by a majority and a lie is a lie whether spoken by one or trumpeted by millions.
Homosexuals can start (and have started) their own churches specifically designed to condone their sinful lifestyle. This will not make it a church of Jesus Christ. The "ecclesia," the word we translate as being church, means "the called out ones." The word "ecclesia" originally never meant the building. Anyone can call out a group for any reason or purpose. In Roman times there were political, philosophical and religious ecclesia of diverse character. What made Christians different was that they were the ecclesia of Jesus Christ, the "called out ones" by and for Jesus Christ. The standard Jesus set for His gathering is what made you part of it or not. Many have claimed to be a part of it throughout history, but if you aren't there by the power and calling of Jesus Christ, you are not part of that "ecclesia," or church, no matter what you call yourself.
Some visible churches, in an effort to appear more conservative on the issue of homosexuality, while in reality embracing it to one degree or another, have set partial yet irrelevant boundaries.
These ever-changing manmade standards are typically done to nominally try and placate some who legitimately object to what is happening, knowing that homosexuality has no Biblical standing. Regardless of any superficial appearance of moderation or Biblical concern, the fact still remains - these churches have embraced homosexuality in opposition to all that the Bible teaches on this subject. An unrepentant celibate homosexual is no different than a non-celibate homosexual. In accepting either or both, the church has willfully chosen to embrace sin.
God gave us the standard by which to recognize true believers (the "called out ones") in the New Testament and He certainly spelled out those who are outside of it (as we saw in earlier sections). 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 judged them and there is a judgment that still awaits the counterfeit churches of today. [For more about Christians, including how to recognize counterfeits.]
So can unrepentant homosexuals have their own church or ecclesia? Most certainly! But that doesn't make them a church of Jesus Christ nor should they ever be recognized as such by the true church. Conversely the true church needs to clearly and loudly expose these counterfeits for what they actually are (or aren't), for the sake of those being led astray.
Ephesians 5:11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (NIV, see also the call to rebuke in 2 Timothy 4:2 and Titus 2:5)
The need to do this in regards to church leadership is even greater:
1 Timothy 5:20 Those (elders) who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. (NIV)
As for being leaders of any existing church gathering, if that church is a church of Jesus Christ it will be holding fast to the teachings of Scriptures - to what God has said to be good and true. God's leaders hold to His word, teach it, and live by it. This ecclesia of Jesus Christ will reject the unrepentant and unregenerate sinner as being unfit for the servant-leadership that God requires in His true church.
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 ignores His word, is in danger of God's judgment (Revelation 3:14-21). Their actions and words reveal them to not be servants of God or fallen grossly into sin from which they need to repent. Human or cultural 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 of Jesus Christ is called to be speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), the very thing this article is seeking to do as it exposits God's Word. That truth may not ever be popular but it's still the truth - God's truth! Any perceived love apart from the truth is not true love at all. The call remains for all sinners: repent and be converted (Acts 3:19). In believing in Jesus Christ, God forgives sins and gives the power to live for Him.
Colossians 1:13-14, 21-23a For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ... 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. (NIV)
© 2005, 2012, 2013 Brent J. MacDonald / LTM
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