What does the Bible say?

Reprinted from Moody Magazine, May 1994.

By Bob Davies


Religious trends during the past few decades have made today's debate over homosexuality almost inevitable. In a growing number of denominations, the Bible's moral statements are increasingly seen as irrelevant to our culture. The latest findings of science and an individual's personal experiences are treated as higher authorities than the Scriptures.

Discussions about homosexuality frequently center around a few isolated Bible passages. Often overlooked is the foundational teaching on human sexuality found in Genesis 1: "So God created man in his own image...male and female he created them" (v. 27).

Jesus based His teachings against divorce on this passage (Matt. 19:4-6). God created man and woman for each other, and ordained sex only in the context of a lifetime commitment. The opening chapter of Genesis explains why fornication, adultery, and prostitution - as well as "homosexual marriage" --are all distortions of God's original plan for sex.

Some scholars have offered new interpretations for specific biblical passages that prohibit homosexual acts. In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19), Lot's visitors demand to "know" the angelic visitors (v. 5, KJV). The explanation that they wanted merely "to get acquainted with" the strangers makes Lot's response most puzzling: "Don't do this wicked thing" (v.7). The context supports the traditional interpretation of homosexuality, and other biblical passages link Sodom with sexual immorality and perversion (2 Peter 2:7; Jude 7).

In Leviticus 18:22, God clearly commands, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." Pro-homosexual scholars argue that Christians are no longer under the Mosaic law. But we must carefully distinguish the dietary or ceremonial laws (abolished in the New Testament - Mark 7:19; Heb. 10:8-10) from the moral laws (reinforced in the New Testament and still applicable today --Mark 7:20-23; Matt. 5:27, 28).

Differentiating the two types of laws answers the question, "Why do Christians quote the Old Testament on homosexuality, then ignore the commands that prohibit eating shellfish or wearing clothing of mixed fibers?"

The important distinction between these laws is reflected in the Old Testament penalties for breaking them: Disobedience to the ceremonial laws resulted in uncleanness (Lev. 11:24, etc.), while breaching the moral law meant death (Lev. 20).

The first chapter of Romans is usually considered the most thorough and clear condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible. It also contains the only specific reference to lesbianism. But some people claim that Paul's statements are "culturally bound," addressed to first-century believers and therefore not applicable today. But God declares that His moral laws do no change and that His Word "stands forever" (Isa. 40:8).

What did Paul mean when he stated that homosexual acts are "unnatural" (Rom. 1:26, 27)? Contrary to what a person feels is natural? Not necessarily. Many homosexuals say that they have always felt attracted to others of their own gender. But we live in a fallen world; sin has distorted our perception of truth (Rom. 1:18). So what someone feels is "natural" can still be wrong. Paul was referring to the natural order as God originally created it.

Those who practice homosexual acts receive "in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Rom. 1:27). Homosexuals reap a bitter harvest of emotional and physical suffering. Though AIDS is not necessarily a direct judgment from God, it certainly is a devastating consequence of sin.

First Corinthians 6:9 mentions "homosexual offenders" in a long list of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. This passage seems clear --until the discussions begin about the exact meaning of the original Greek word.

Does "arsenokoitai" refer to lustful, uncommitted male prostitution or to a loving, permanent relationship? The literal meaning is "a male who lies with a male." There are no qualifications. All homosexual behavior is forbidden, no matter what degree of love or lust is involved.

What about Jesus' silence on this issue? There are many sexual behaviors that He did not address (incest, rape, bestiality). That doesn't mean they are permissible. Jesus always upheld the Old Testament law (Matt. 5:17-19), which strictly condemned homosexual acts. And He affirmed celibacy as the only legitimate alternative to heterosexual marriage (Matt. 19:12).

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