What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

28 Aug 2021 3:10 PM | Josh Hunt (Administrator)

HOMOSEXUALITY Sexual relations between people of the same sex. When discussing homosexuality, the biblical emphasis is on behavior, and the verdict is always that it is sinful.

Homosexuality is a consequence of rejecting the created order. The prima facie case against homosexuality in the Scripture is found in God’s creative plan for human sexuality. God created mankind as male and female, to procreate within the context of marriage (Gen. 1:27–28; 2:18–24). This creation order for human sexuality received the endorsement of both the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 10:6–9; Matt. 19:4–6) and the Apostle Paul (Eph. 5:31). On the surface, homosexual behavior should be recognized as sinful because it violates God’s original plan for heterosexual monogamy.

Against this background of God’s creation scheme for human sexual expression, Paul makes a theological argument in Rom. 1:18–32 that homosexuality is one consequence of rejecting God as Creator and His created order. Paul indicates that both male homosexuality and female lesbianism result from a denial of God. He begins by showing that through rejection of the “creation” (1:20) and “the Creator” (1:25) women “exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural” (1:26 HCSB). He adds also that the men “left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males” (1:27 HCSB). Paul’s argument: Because these people reject God, He gives them over to the desires of their own sinful hearts. In the course of this text, Paul uses several other negative terms to describe homosexuality, such as “uncleanness,” “dishonor,” “vile passions,” “error,” “debased mind,” and “not fitting.” In addition, homosexuality is included here in a serious list of vices that are deserving of death, not only for those who practice but also for those who approve (1:32).

As to modern notions of “homosexual orientation,” a scriptural perspective will view any same sex inclinations at least as harmful as proclivities toward any other sin, as negative consequences of fallen human nature that is inclined towards sin. In light of Rom. 1, homosexual predisposition may also be an indication and outworking of earlier and other sin(s).

Homosexuality is a sin that results in judgment. The first mention of homosexuality in the Bible depicts God’s judgment upon it as sin. It was the outstanding transgression of Sodom and Gomorrah. The severity of the judgment, which came because of homosexuality, indicates the seriousness of this sin (Gen. 19:1–11). Both cities were destroyed as “the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire” (19:24 NASB). The NT commentary on this event is that these two cities were turned to ashes as a matter of God’s holy wrath, specifically because their inhabitants had given themselves to “sexual immorality and practiced perversions” (2 Pet. 2:6–7; Jude 7).

Some pro-homosexual interpreters have claimed that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality per se, but homosexual gang rape. While it is accurate to say that the men of Sodom sought to rape Lot’s guests, the text does not indicate that the sex would have been acceptable if only the angelic visitors had consented. Also, the fact that God’s judgment came upon two entire cities argues that it was not just the one instance of gang rape in Sodom that was an offense to God. Instead, God’s announced plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah before the rape incident occurred indicates that the practice of homosexual behavior in both cities was an affront to the holiness of God. When the homosexuals demanded carnally “to know” Lot’s guests, they were merely attempting again what they had been doing for some time. Lot protested, “Do not act wickedly” (Gen. 19:7 NASB). But long before this, when Lot initially pitched his tent toward the city, we read “the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD” (13:13 NASB). Again, before the attempted gang rape, God said, “Their sin is exceedingly grave” (18:20 NASB), and Abraham also said they were “wicked” (18:23, 25).

Another pro-homosexual interpretation is that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality, not homosexuality or homosexual rape. An appeal is made from Ezek. 16:49 that Sodom was judged for violating the hospitality code. From this passage, the claim is made of Gen. 19 that the men of Sodom wanted “to know” (yadaʿ) Lot’s guests only in the sense of “getting acquainted with them.” However, yadaʿ is used in a sexual way in the OT at least 10 times, and half of these uses occur in Genesis. Added to this, the context of Gen. 19 argues for the sexual meaning of “to know.” It makes no sense to say that yadaʿ means “acquainted with” in verse 8 where Lot says his daughters had not “known” any men. Certainly they were acquainted with men of the city. But they had not sexually “known” any men.

The “inhospitality” interpreters also point to the absence of any mention of homosexuality in other passages that hold up Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of judgment, such as Isa. 1:10; Jer. 23:14; Matt. 10:14–15; and Luke 10:10–12. There are also several problems with this approach. First, these texts do not exclude homosexuality. In the case of Ezek. 16:49, sexual sins should be viewed as a form of selfishness. Besides, the next verse (16:50) shows that the sin was sexual by calling it an “abomination.” In Lev. 18:22 this same word is used to describe homosexual sins. Most of all, the problem with this view is that the 2 Peter and Jude passages do link the judgment of the cities to the sexual sin of homosexuality, and this does not contradict in any way the other judgment passages. For this reason, those who take the authority of Scripture seriously will reject the pro-homosexual/inhospitality view (Judg. 19:16–24).

Violation of Old Testament law The Holiness Code, which conveyed God’s demands for ordering the life of His covenant people, contained two clear prohibitions against homosexual activity. In a large section on sexual morality which should be viewed as an extension of the seventh commandment, “The LORD spoke to Moses saying … ‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female’ ” (Lev. 18:1, 22 NASB). Then later, repeating with 18:22 that homosexuality is an “abomination,” Lev. 20:13 adds, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them … shall surely be put to death.”

Violation of New Testament ethic In 1 Tim. 1:8–10 Paul discusses the value of the OT law in the present era, if used wisely. It is to be used to judge “sinners.” Then he includes “homosexuals” (arsenokoitai) in his vice list, which delineates those who are “the ungodly.” Also in 1 Cor. 6:9–11 “homosexuals” appears in a similar vice list, and Paul comments that anyone who continues in these sins will not inherit the kingdom of God. Arsenokoites refers to the active partner in the homosexual act. However, in addition to “homosexuals” in 1 Cor. 6:9, Paul adds a second word, “effeminate” (malakoi). Malakoi refers to the passive member in the homosexual relationship. The point is that both passive and active kinds of “homosexual” behavior are sinful, ungodly, and disqualify one from entrance into the kingdom of God.

Forgivable and changeable through Jesus Christ However ungodly and undeserving of heaven any homosexual might be, there is the opportunity to be forgiven, changed, and declared righteous through Jesus Christ. Paul continues in 1 Cor. 6:11 (HCSB) to say, “Some of you were like this.” The Corinthian church evidently contained some former homosexuals who had been converted. Furthermore, Paul adds of them, “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.” The homosexual who repents and believes receives the same cleansing, sanctification, and justification as every other believer who turns from sin to Christ.

Jerry A. Johnson

Jerry A. Johnson, “Homosexuality,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 777–779.

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