Homosexuality: What does the Bible teach?

Intro: What are the great moral challenges ahead? Ironically, I believe they are the same ones that the Christians of the first century faced. False teaching, spiritual apathy, idolatry, and sexual immorality. During our study of Romans 1 we viewed Paul’s vivid description of the ungodly society of his day. It was not unlike our own. Although American society had not been punctuated with the worship of graven images and false gods, the humanistic influence that rejects the true God in favor of man and his interests has taken us down a similar path, both socially and spiritually. The increasing approval of homosexual behavior is one indicator. I want to study homosexual behavior in light of God’s word.

Note: My goal is to teach the truth on this subject. In that pursuit, I will appeal to the Bible, as God’s word, as the source of what I teach. AS our creator, God knows what is best for us, and He has revealed what is right and wrong. That has not changed, and will not change, no matter how our society reacts to it.

        • But I also want to “speak the truth in love“. I fear that many Christians give credence to the charge that those who oppose homosexual behavior are hate-mongers, because they use the Bible to berate and malign those who are engaging in homosexuality, or approving of it. The same Paul who openly condemned the practice of homosexuality also told us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and said, “… a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2Tim. 2:24-26)
        • There is no place for a self-righteousness or arrogance. I too am a forgiven sinner, bought with the blood of Jesus. Let’s be careful not to sin, as we attempt to lead others out of it.

2) Homosexual activity is as modern as today’s newspaper and as old as ancient history. Many ancient Greek leaders, including Socrates and Plato, were apparently homosexuals, as were many Roman emperors. It has been especially common in certain societies. What about our own society?

        • Some popular studies claim ten percent of Americans are homosexual. However, this figure was inflated. A brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by 31 pro-homosexual activist groups in the case of Lawrence v. Texas states: “2.8 percent of the male, and 1.4% of the female, population identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.” (Culture Facts, April 4, 2003)
        • Homosexual advocacy groups present homosexuals as a valid minority group deserving “civil rights”. They demand the right to work with children, join the military forces, form “civil unions,” and adopt children. The ultimate goal is legalized homosexual marriage.
        • Some denominations now accept homosexuals as members and even as preachers and officers.
        • Public school “sex education” generally preaches “tolerance,” urging students to view homosexuality as normal or acceptable. Several states, many school districts, and many university courses mandate such teaching.
        • Television, movies, and entertainment portray homosexuals favorably with increasing explicitness. Ultimately homosexuals seek full social and religious acceptance
        • They also seek to silence opposition. They seek “hate crime” legislation that could be interpreted to prohibit all speaking against homosexuality. Massachusetts state guidelines say public schools should adopt policies that “prohibit anti-gay language” by faculty or students. (New American, 1/24/94, p30)
        • Marriage is redefined to include homosexuals. 

How is the Christian to view such cultural change? Again I want to consider what the Bible teaches. .

I. God Defined Human Sexuality: God has always regulated sexual behavior, both heterosexual and homosexual. In fact, the Bible indicates that God defined proper human sexual behavior from the beginning. The creation account of Genesis 1-2 establishes us as people of specific sexual identity.

Gen 1:27-28 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Gen 2:18-25 18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

A. Any understanding of what God wants can be traced back to His creation. To be created in the image of God includes being in relationship as male and female. It is a part of being human. In creation man and woman were one person because the woman was taken from the man. God’s purpose is seen in the natural order.

B. What immediately follows in Gen. 3 is the fall of man and the introduction of sin. Sin distorts the image of man and Satan attacks God’s design for the family. Homosexuality is one result of this distortion. It is not the only one… we see adultery, incest, rape, and prostitution all arise from the desires of men, but homosexuality is certainly a distortion and perversion of God’s design for human sexuality. Thus Paul says in Romans 1:26 that it is “against nature”.

II. Homosexuality and the Old Testament: There are specific O.T. texts that shed Biblical light on the issue of homosexuality.

A. Gen. 19 describes the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the NT Peter utilizes the destruction of these cities as an example… “and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked. (2Pet. 2:6-7) Why was Sodom and Gomorrah chosen to be an example of God’s ultimate judgment upon the ungodly? What were they doing that made them so different from other ungodly cities at that time? Here is what Abraham was told:

        • “And the LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous,” (Gen 18:20) What was their “sin” that was “very grievous?” I have heard homosexual theologians try to explain that the sin was their lack of hospitality. Is such the case? Well, consider the text…
        • v. 4 -“…the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house.” (Gen 19:4) Note first of all that “all the people” from the city are seeking to participate in whatever the “sin” is…
        • v. 5 “And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.'” (Gen 19:5) The word “carnally” is not in the actual Hebrew text, but is supplied by the translators because the word “know” as used here is often a euphemism for sexual relations (e.g., Gen 4:1,17).
        • v. 6 -Lot’s reaction to this crowd certainly suggests that is how he understood the crowd’s request… “So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly!” (Gen 19:6-7) It is apparent that Lot understood their intentions were not honorable.
        • Lot refused to allow the homosexual activity (even to the point of offering his own daughters to the men of Sodom. “See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” (Gen 19:8) Lot’s amazing offer of his two daughters at least confirms that he understood the crowd’s intentions were sexual in nature. But notice also that Lot explains that his original hospitality to these two strangers (cf. Gen 19:1-3) was precisely to protect from the sort of homosexual rape the crowd was intent on inflicting.
        • The crowd’s response to Lot’s pleas is also insightful… “And they said, ‘Stand back!’ Then they said, ‘This one came in to sojourn, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ So they pressed hard against Lot, and came near to break down the door.” (Gen 19:9). Their reaction is somewhat similar to many today who say to those who would dare point out sinful conduct, “Who are you to judge?” People haven’t really changed much, have they? What such people fail to realize, is that when you point out what the Word of God says about certain conduct, YOU are not judging them, it is the WORD OF GOD that is judging them. In return, they themselves are trying to avoid the condemnation of the MESSAGE of God by condemning the MESSENGER!
        • That homosexuality was the “grievous sin” to which the Lord referred to in Gen 18:20 becomes even more apparent when we consider what is said in the New Testament about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. For example, Jude wrote:as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 7) Jude describes the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as “sexual immorality” and “going after strange flesh“, (The Pulpit Commentary says the phrase means “the indulgence of passion contrary to nature.”) Not a lack of hospitality! For over 20 centuries the unanimous interpretation of this event has focused on the sin of homosexual conduct. It has only been since 1955 that any revision of the text has been attempted. No prominent scholar restricts the sin of Sodom to violence or even rape.

B. The law of Moses was very clear about what was and was not proper sexual behavior. Among those things which were restricted were: premarital relations (Deuteronomy 22:23-29), adultery (Deuteronomy 22:22), incest (Leviticus 18:6-18), bestiality (Leviticus 18:23) and homosexuality. Here is how the law read with regard to homosexuality – “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). The punishment for disobedience to this law was clear – “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13).

1. If we look carefully at these passages we will conclude that God’s purpose was to preserve the sanctity of the marriage relationship and the home. This is obvious from the severe death penalty imposed upon the violators.

2. Homosexual theology places emphasis on the phrase “as with a woman” in Lev. 18, and says the sin is not in the same gender sexual relationship, but in the manner in which a man lies with a man; he cannot do as men do with women, as an inferior. As long as it is done with mutual consent and respect! Does this interpretation also hold true for the next verse where God condemns bestiality. In Lev. 20, the punishment is the same for both. The punishment is related to class distinction, but to the act itself.

III. Did Jesus Condemn Homosexuality? Many homosexual advocates make the point that Jesus did not teach against homosexuality, and conclude that He sanctioned it. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Although Jesus never specially mentioned homosexuality, in every instance where Jesus addresses human sexuality, He presupposes heterosexual activity.

A. Jesus’ teaching on human sexuality: Jesus answers questions on divorce and remarriage in Matt 19:3-6 3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Jesus does not appeal to the law. But He goes back the teaching in Genesis on human sexuality as God created it. Jesus’ only alternative to heterosexual marriage is celibacy. Matt 19:10-12 10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

B. Jesus’ use of “porneia” (fornication): The most inclusive word that is translated “fornication” in the N.T. is porneia. According to Thayer it means “Illicit sexual intercourse in general” Matt 15:18-20 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” The same word is used in Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32 in which Jesus grants (as the sole cause for divorce) that “fornication” is a justifiable reason to put away one’s mate.

1. The Bible makes it clear that while Jesus was on earth he was in full compliance with the teachings of the Law of Moses. Thus when Jesus echoed the Law of Moses in condemning “fornication” he was condemning all that fornication involved (i.e. pre-marital, extra-marital, incest, beastiality and homosexuality.)

II. Did the Apostles Condemn Homosexuality?

A. The book of Romans may be the pinnacle of Paul’s teaching on the reality of man’s sin an God’s righteousness. It speaks to God’s wrath at the sin and disobedience of men. In this context we find Rom 1:26-27 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

1. This is the most devastating passage in the Bible for practicing homosexuals. Paul gives a theological rationale for condemning homosexual behavior. God’s allows people to make their own choice, and then allows them to face the consequences of their choices. “God gives them up” to do what they want. Homosexual relations is against nature – a perversion of what God created.

a. The Greek phrase which is translated “natural relations,” is a direct reference to God’s created order, with nature (Greek, fusis) being used here and in other places in Romans to describe what God intends to be the way male and female should relate sexually.

B. The apostle took the same approach in 1 Corinthians 6:9. 9 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 homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. The 2 terms used here point directly and specifically to homosexual conduct.

1. The emphasis is upon the act, not the intention. John M. Batteau points out that these words were used consistently by Greek authors to apply to the full spectrum of homosexuality, both promiscuous and monogamous, Only the wildest of religious speculation can avoid the conclusion that Paul knew exactly what he meant and how he would be understood

2. Paul went on to say, “And such were some of you but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (6: 11). There was a change that took place among them.

C. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine”, Paul presents a list of sinful activity (in the person of the sinners) that is contrary to sound doctrine. The active homosexual partner is included in the list.

III. Can homosexuals Change? It is a popular view that homosexuals have no choice. Their homosexuality is in their genes or hormones (like race or gender). If God made me this way He will not punish or condemn me for it. This is the heart of the civil rights issue.

A. The Scientific Evidence: The genetic argument became popular following 2 unrelated studies back in 1991.

        • The most well known was released by Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California He put forward his findings that a specific area of the brain is smaller in homosexual males than in other males. LeVay admitted that his research was far from conclusive. Fellow Salk researcher Kenneth Klivington raises the inevitable chicken-and-egg question regarding the hypothalamus: Does its size determine homosexuality, or does homosexuality determine its size? “You could postulate,” he says, “that brain change occurs throughout life, as a consequence of experience.”
        • In the Archives of General Psychiatry, Northwestern’s J. Michael Bailey and psychiatrist Richard C. Pillard of the Boston University School of Medicine had just reported new evidence that genetics plays a more important role than environment in the development of homosexuality. The evidence? Among 56 homosexual men who were twins, 52 percent of their identical-twin brothers were also homosexuals (29) By contrast, only 22 percent of non-twin brothers (12) and only 11 percent of adoptive brothers were found to be gay.

a. These findings were reported by Thomas H. Maugh II, science writer for the Los Angeles Times: “Identical twins have identical genetic makeups and, if homosexuality has a genetic basis, many of the second twins should also be gay. That is what they found: 52 % of the identical twin brothers were gay.” If identical twins have identical genetic makeups, then why was the percentage of the second twins not 100 percent? Far from proving the existence of a genetic factor, the study is the best evidence yet of its nonexistence! Consider the Bible evidence.

b. Masters & Johnson, well-known researchers in human sexuality, reported in their book Homosexuality In Perspective a 67% success rate in their helping homosexuals revert to heterosexual behavior. I doubt anyone could accuse Masters & Johnson of being motivated by religious prejudices in their reporting!

c. Also, in an article published in the American Journal Of Psychiatry (December, 1980), E. Mansell Pattison, M.D., and Myrna Loy Pattison, from the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, Medical College of Georgia, documented eleven cases of men who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from exclusively homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality through involvement in a church fellowship.

B. The Biblical Evidence: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – The Bible states that many homosexuals have changed. Such were some of you. Whole organizations exist today among those who have done so.

1. But it is not easy, just as it is not easy to overcome alcoholism, drug addiction, or other enslaving sins.

2. God made people with heterosexual orientation but condemns some heterosexual activity as sin. God does not require active heterosexual conduct. One option is to simply abstain from sexual activity altogether, as all unmarried people must do. But homosexual acts and lusts must cease.

C. How Can Homosexuals Change? This is the same process as for other enslaving sins. It is a matter of self-control through a total surrender to God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit to renew the person.

1. Totally devote your life to God’s service. Romans 12:1, 2 – Present your body as a living sacrifice to God.

2. Study the Bible diligently to find strength and guidance– Meditate on God’s word day and night. Then rely on it in time of temptation as Jesus did (Matt. 4:1-11).

3. Trust Jesus Christ to forgive you and free you from your habit. In particular, we must believe that He can strengthen us to overcome our sinful habits (Phil. 4:13; 1 Cor. 10:13).

4. Repent of sin, including homosexuality, and determine to live faithfully. Conduct changes only after we change the purposes of our hearts.

5. Confess Christ and be baptized to receive forgiveness by Jesus’ blood. Mark 16:16 – He who believes and is baptized will be saved. Acts 22:16 – Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. You will then have fellowship with Christ and have a new life. (Rom. 6:3, 4)

6. Pray to God regularly for strength to overcome temptation.

7. Control your thoughts. Satan will tempt you by putting evil thoughts in your mind. The coming of the thought is temptation, but to resist you must not dwell on or take pleasure in the thought (cf. Matt. 5:27, 28; 15:19, 20; 2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Think pure thoughts instead (Phil. 4:8).

8. Avoid people and places that tempt you. Evil companions corrupt good morals. To avoid sin we must avoid the people and circumstances that drag us back toward sin