Homosexuality and the Bible
(Notes from a sermon preached at Grace Fellowship Church, Toronto, on November 7, 2004.)
Every generation faces its own assault against the Truth. For Martin Luther, it was the blatant "works righteousness" of Roman Catholicism. For Jonathon Edwards, the application of Truth to practice, in the Lord's Supper controversy in Northampton. For Charles Spurgeon, the "Down-grade controversy." For Dr. Lloyd-Jones, doctrine-less ecumenicalism. For our immediate forefathers, this assault came in what is broadly described as Modernism. And I would suggest to you today, that the spearhead of our enemy's attack on the Truth is found in what we shall label, the "homosexual movement."
I must be honest and say this is a message I have both wanted to preach and dreaded preaching! I dread it, since I loathe conflict by nature. There is nothing of the fighter in me - searching for a scrap. On the other hand, I have desired to preach this message since I love the Truth - the Word of God - our Bibles.
As the homosexual movement continues to advance their agenda of gaining approval for their "lifestyle," the church has become one of the few lone voices of opposition. Thus, it is no surprise that churches that crumble to the "movement" receive massive media attention... and general societal approval. With these cavings-in, the "other side" continues to notch up the battle - demanding that homosexuals be permitted to church membership, then church clergy and the inevitable church marriage. This is nothing less than a full-scale assault against Truth - and as people of the Truth we must stand our ground and with humble tenacity hold to what is True.
There is no denying (except by the most inventive of scholars) that homosexuality is a condemned activity in the Bible and, in fact, the proof of God's wrath against sin. Homosexual sin is the result of a darkened mind that God has given over to its own sinful desires. The terms of Romans 1 are explicit and undeniable and we must either accept them as Truth or become exegetical contortionists to the amazement of all.
My purpose today, is to continue our ongoing study of Romans by slowing down on chapter one verses 26-27, and using this patent condemnation of homosexual activity as a launching pad to the rest of the Bible to see what it says. But before we launch, let's remind ourselves of what Romans 1:18ff says.
In this passage, Paul describes the cycle of sin as follows:
- Men exchange their knowledge of God for idolatry...
- God gives men what they truly desire.
- Men revel in the sin that further enables them to deny their knowledge of God ("to suppress the Truth in unrighteousness."
Thus, the cycle begins again in earnest - ever downward and further away from the Truth revealed to all people in what God has made. Although feelings of guilt, depression, meaninglessness, etc may accompany all this, the fact is man is doing what feels most natural... his actions (whether homosexual acts, gossip, sexual immorality, etc) are wilful and he is culpable, but he wills it because to him it appears to be the way to happiness.
In this description, Paul identifies three realms of typical (the things he lists are examples.. but not exhaustive!) sinful expression.
1:26-27 - sexual sin with a person of the same GENDER: homosexuality
1:28-31 - relational sin
There is no mistaking that whether it is Oprah or Dr. Phil or the latest best seller, people can at least perceive their two biggest problems are in the realms of sex and relationships. Money is often in that list, too, but money is a relational problem in most cases.
Paul stresses that all these actions are merely the overflow of the heart...
1:24 - lusts of their heart
1:26 - dishonourable passions
1:28 - a debased mind (understanding "mind" is not merely cognitive function, but refers to the whole inner person, especially in the realm of thoughts and will)
Sin has taken root in the heart of every man - that is why the New Covenant is a glorious covenant as it promises a "new heart" to everyone who believes on the LJC.
Jesus Himself said - Mark 7: 14ffAnd he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
We are in need of RADICAL change! For, here is a crucial point:
- Our sin is not an environmental issue.
- Nor is it a genetic issue.
- It is a heart issue.
That means two things:
- We are responsible for our actions (1:20)
- We can be changed in our actions if that change takes place in the heart.
I mention this in particular for any of you who struggle with the sin of homosexuality. This is not a lost battle. Not only can the outward behaviour stop, but your whole set of desires and values can (indeed, must!) be altered. More on this later, but I add it now, because we need to be very direct and say some things that might cause serious distress if this particular sin is something you or someone you love is in the middle of. As serious as it is, there is hope! And we will get there - so don't despair, or give up or let Satan steal your mind away...
May I add, for those of you who find this particular sin reprehensible - something that causes revulsion in you: Be careful! Read Romans 2:1-4!!! You have your own revolting sins, don't you! You must guard your heart closely to ensure you do not begin to think Pharisee-thoughts: that you are somehow inherently better in the judgment of God because you have not had homosexual thoughts not committed homosexual actions. You stand equally condemned by your sin - whatever it is.
I. Homosexuality in the Context of All of Scripture
A. Before the Law: The Case of Sodom
Sodom Introduced and Described
Genesis 13:8ff Then Abram said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left." And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
Note: We are not told yet what made them "great sinners," but this is a unique and intriguing description.
The War of the Kings
After the war of the Kings, Lot was taken captive with the people of Sodom. Being a righteous man and a faithful uncle, Abram comes to the rescue of Lot and through a divine deliverance liberates all of the Sodomites with only 318 men!
Genesis 14:16ff Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself." But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.' I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share."
Abram interceded for Sodom even though the city was full of "great sinners." Besides this, Abram openly worshipped YHWH before the King of Sodom - a testimony to God's Grace (OT evangelization!) and a call for the King and his people to repent and follow the ways of YHWH. There is no indication anything of the kind happened.
The Visit from God and the Angels
In a Christophany, the Lord Jesus came to Abram to promise him a descendant. Once this promise was made, God would teach Abram the necessity of a clean life before Him by His total destruction of Sodom and the cities of the plain.
18:1ff And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, "O Lord, if I have found favour in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said."
Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him." Then the Lord said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know."
Of course God knew their sins. His going to Sodom was not to gain a firsthand knowledge, but to make a final offer of grace. The actions of the Sodomites, however, would only confirm their guilt.
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" And the Lord said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
Abraham answered and said, "Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." Again he spoke to him and said, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." He said, "Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, "My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the town square." But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them." Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof."
Please note, this was an awful and sinful thing for Lot to do. Without the NT confirmation that Lot "was a righteous man," we would be left wondering! Answering sin with sin is never a good choice! Thankfully, God in His grace protected these daughters.
But they said, "Stand back!" And they said, "This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them." Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.
Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it." So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city." But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, "Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away." And Lot said to them, "Oh, no, my lords. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there--is it not a little one?--and my life will be saved!" He said to him, "Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there." Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.
So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
The great sin of Sodom was not a lack of hospitality (as some claim) but that the entire male population was committed to homosexuality. As a result, they were judged by God.
In the history of redemption, Sodom became a term of judgment!
Deut 29:23 the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and wrath
Hosea 11:8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
B. The Law: Moses and the Sin of Homosexuality
When Moses rescued the people out of Egypt and gave them God's Law, homosexuality was one of 35 or so crimes which were to be punished by death.
In fact, in the Law homosexuality is given the unique label "abomination."
Taking both a mother and her daughter as your wives à "depravity"
Adultery, or committing sexual acts with animals à "perversion"
Homosexuality à strongest denunciation "abomination"
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 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 is upon them.
Deuteronomy 23:17-18 "None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.
However, many times we are told - this was the Old Testament and therefore these verses do not apply to today. We are in the age of grace, where God is a god of love and not condemnation.
To which I have two replies...
1. The NT very clearly turns to the judgment against homosexuality in Sodom as an example to us today that such behaviour is an abomination to God.
Jude 5ff Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day--just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
2 Peter 2:4ff For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority...
Both of these texts take the historical events of Sodom and teach that they were ordained by God in order to teach us that God does not approve of homosexual activity. These are New Testament texts and therefore apply directly to our day and age.
2. The NT clearly identifies homosexuality as a sin - not just another lifestyle...
1 Timothy 1:8ff Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
1 Cor 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [Paul use the LXX terms for homosexual behaviour] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Without reference to the past, God makes clear in these texts (as well Romans 1) that homosexual activity is sin. Paul uses specific language to describe both partners in a homosexual act.
Homosexuality is a sinful activity condemned by God.
Why is this sin an abomination to God before the Law, in the Law, after the Law? The answer lies in the nature of the sin.
Genesis 2:18ff Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
"This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man."
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
It is not meant to be funny. God created Adam and Eve - not Adam and Steve. "Male and Female He created them."
This is the real root of the issue and I am convinced this is why Paul uses such specific Greek words in Romans. Our English Bibles would do us a favour if they translated more literally from the Greek, for what Paul says here is "male" and "female," not "man" and "woman."
Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
"contrary to nature" - means "in contradiction of the Creator's intention"
"men committing shameless acts with men" - means this activity of homosexuality is obviously perverse.
I believe this sin is singled out as abomination, because at its root is a denial of God's sovereign design. It is the mountaintop of God-denial, refusing to accept His ordering of the universe and reversing the gender roles we have been assigned. The real offence of homosexuality is not the activity, but the Truth-rejection!
May I add, this is why I am in total opposition to the oxymoron "same-sex marriage?" Marriage is, by definition, the coming together of one man and one woman until separated by death.
Mark 10:6ff But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."
Marriage is an ordinance established in Eden to portray to mankind the intimacy of Christ to His Church (the whole point of Ephesians 5!). It is not a mere cultural invention subject to the whims and desires of the populace. It is sacred!
Two men cannot be one flesh. Two women cannot be one flesh. They may experience some form of self-oriented sexual release, but they cannot be one flesh. Men go with women - women go with men and this is an incontrovertible Truth decreed by God and obvious to a child who can distinguish anatomical distinctions between the sexes.
May I add, that much of our problem begins much further back, with the blurring of gender distinctives. Every church that has succumbed to the error of ordaining homosexuals, began much earlier with ordaining women to the male-alone office of pastor/elder. The real problem in churches is a failure to rejoice in the gender-distinctiveness that we were created with and to promote maleness in men, and femaleness in women. Fuzzying the lines between men and women only opens the door to the sexual confusion that is so prevalent.
What I have endeavoured to show you is that the whole of the Scripture, from Genesis forward, condemns homosexual activity as a sin / abomination. It is not an alternate lifestyle, it is sexual immorality - like sex outside of marriage, adultery, rape, incest, bestiality, or polygamy. [Which is another reason redefining marriage to include same-sex couples must be opposed. It is not a red-herring to suggest that opening the door to same-sex marriage will lead to the eventual acceptance of polygamy and one must think, even pedophilia!]
In fact, homosexuality, according to Paul in Romans, IS God's wrath against sin. Sin in the heart. It is the result of God giving a person over to their own evil desires.
That makes the Annual Gay Pride Parade and the thousands of non-Gay spectators a fulfillment of Romans 1:32 "Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
Just as deserving to die as I am because of MY sin. The difference between the death of Romans 1 and the death of Leviticus 18 is that the former refers to our deserved eternal rejection by God and its resultant eternity of death in hell.
Nature itself teaches us the plain truth that homosexuality is aberrant, deviant, and non-life producing. But we are awash in a culture that has a very specific agenda: to make us accept and approve of this deviancy / sin. I don't need to remind you of all the TV, advertising, movies, and the like that portray a homosexual lifestyle as "normal" or "alternative" or "mainstream." I am all for fighting against these things and keeping what small amount of decency we have left in our society, but we all know that the only solution to this epidemic is Jesus Christ.
Do you recall, 1 Corinthians 6...? "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
Ah, but don't stop at verse 10 - get to verse 11! "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 by the Spirit of our God."
Although homosexuality is an abomination to God - a homosexual can still get saved! Too often we have confused this matter and written off the homosexual to a reprobate and conversion-proof state - what hypocrisy! What anathema! God can save homosexuals! Wondrously and gloriously save them!
Better, God can alter a homosexual person's desires. Remember, the problem is with desire / the inner person longing for what is reprehensible. God can change that. This is the beauty of His new creation! [See agencies like Exodus International http://exodus.to/default.asp for proof!]
The whole point of Romans is that there is this gospel - this Good News - for people who are homosexual, or gossips, or inventors of evil! There is a plan in place for God to save you!
In a church our size, I would be surprised if there were not some who have struggled with homosexual thoughts or actions. Perhaps even as a Christian they still do.
I have the same message for you - God can change that... over time. You may never rid yourself of all the memories, temptations, etc. But God is able to change you and your actions...
We stand firmly against homosexuality, not homosexuals.
Why? Not because we are homophobic. Not because we are outdated prigs. Not because we are out of step with our culture. Not because we deny genetic dispositions. No, we call homosexuality sin and stand against it because the Bible calls homosexuality sin and stands against it. We stand with the Bible and for the Truth.
We do not hate men and women who commit homosexual acts - on the contrary, we love them... enough to tell them the Truth.
We don't want a fight on social issues and agendas, but we will preach to the grave the Truth of God's Word, because "the Truth will set men free!"