Ask the Pastor: Is Homosexuality a Sin?
Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – email@example.com or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)
We had a good question from a church member this week:
Are all the questions submitted by real congregation members?
Great question! Yes, they are. Each question comes to us through the above means.
The question submitted this week from a congregation member is:
Is homosexuality a sin?
This is a hot-button issue in our society in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling. I have tried to answer this with all humility, love, and boldness. My prayer is that this basic overview of the Bible’s teaching points all to the Gospel. That is the foundation of all we do to God’s glory and for His kingdom.
First, as always, here are some recommended resources:
- A sampler of Rev. Kevin DeYoung’s new book. You can buy the book HERE.
- Matt Slick’s biblical overview and article HERE.
- John Piper’s reflection on the recent Supreme Court decision –
To understand this question, we have to start at the beginning—Genesis 1-2—and the creation account. It sets the framework for the entire biblical answer.
ORDINANCE OF MARRIAGE
In the beginning, God created one man, Adam (Genesis 1:26-27), and one woman, Eve (Genesis 2:20-25). God’s creation of one literal man (Adam) and one literal woman (Eve) to be husband and wife is the design for God-approved, moral, normal, and truly-blessed sexual relations.
Interestingly, in the New Testament, the God-man, Jesus Christ, quoted Genesis 2:24 as unambiguous evidence that divorce (except in the circumstance of adultery) and polygamy (having more than one wife) are both condemned by God (Matthew 19:1-12 with focus on 19:5).
Further, Paul, in his writing to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, noted there was only one legitimate and moral place for everyone’s God-given sex drive—marriage (1 Cor. 7:2).
The writer of Hebrews (13:4) put it this way:
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (All scriptures are from the ESV)
Simply put, according to the Bible, anything opposite to the ordinance of marriage instituted at creation by God to Adam and Eve is not acceptable before God and is sinful. Practically, this excludes all sexual activity outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Premarital sex, homosexuality, polygamy, pornography, bestiality, adultery, etc.
WHAT DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT SAY?
The Old Testament (OT) consistently forbids homosexual behavior. Here’s a sampling (not every possible reference).
Sodom and Gomorrah
See Genesis 18:16-19:38. Some critics of this section argue that these two wicked towns weren’t destroyed because of homosexual behaviors because the visitors were angels. However, the angels appeared, according to Scripture, on earth as men (Gen. 18:2, 16, 22; 19:5, 8, 10, 12, 16).
Another argument I have heard over the years is this refers to homosexual rape and that it doesn’t prohibit loving, monogamous homosexual relationships. Granted, this text isn’t a comprehensive indictment against homosexuality. Yet, the OT as a whole is very clear that this is a sin in the eyes of the Lord.
Jude writes in verse 7 of his short book:
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.
Literally, the Greek means “strange flesh” for what the ESV translates “unnatural desire.” It is also interesting that Jude doesn’t focus on supposed homosexual rape but on the sexual acts themselves toward the same sex.
18:22 and 20:13 clearly show that same-sex relations are barred in general. Those against such a view argue that this is merely temple or religious prostitution in ancient times. Yet, the text is clear—there’s no hint only certain kinds of homosexuality are prohibited. Other verses (Deut. 23:17-18; 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 2 Kings 23:7; Job 36:14) reference that cultic prostitution was, in some sense, homosexual in general. However, there’s no indication these were okay or acceptable in God’s eyes.
WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT (NT) SAY?
It has been long-argued that the NT rarely forbids homosexuality and that Jesus never actually addressed the issue specifically. Every book of the Bible, and especially books of the Old Testament, points to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus and the apostles accepted the divine authorship, infallibility, and absolute authority of the OT (Mat. 22:39-40; John 10:35; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). If someone rejects God’s law by saying it is only the purely human ideas of ancient Jews, then he/she can’t claim Christ as Lord and Savior. One must believe either that Jesus was mistaken in His view of God’s law or that He was a liar. Be forewarned: Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1, 8:58-59); He can’t be mistaken or lie (Num. 23:19).
Remember: Context is everything when studying the Bible. All of the writers of the NT are beneficiaries of the Old Testament Jewish law and traditions. As such, the Jewish teachings and interpretations unashamedly and frequently without allowance look at homosexuality as a sin. Jesus, being God Himself, affirmed that marriage is between one and one woman (Matthew 19:1-12).
The question, then, is whether or not the NT writers followed this? Did they go in the same way the OT writers did? The simple answer: Yes, they are following in the same thought and teachings of the Old Testament.
Could any biblical passage be clearer on this issue? See 1:24-32 below:
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
According to Paul, all sin, including homosexuality, is a result of human-filled idolatry. The base sin, then, is not homosexuality or any other sinful behavior. Rather, the sin that incites God’s just wrath and leads to a host of other sins is the worship of the creature / flesh rather than Creator (Romans 1:25 above). It is a failure to give thanks to the one living and true God of the universe. See Romans 1:21 below:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
It has been well-noted that homosexuality isn’t highlighted by Paul because homosexuals are the only sinners out there. Scripture is clear that sin is a democratic and equal-opportunity establishment (Romans 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1-10, etc.)! All humans at all times have extremely flunked the test of thanking, worshipping, and glorifying God as we ought.
It seems that Paul is pointing out that idolatry and same sex relations have the same effect—they both distort what humans were made to do. Idolatry is mankind worshipping self rather than God and homosexuality inverts what God intended sexually.
Again, some critics have said that Paul is only condemning homosexual lust and not homosexual sex within a same-sex marriage. The problem is, an honest reading of the text leaves no room for this. It has to be read into the text. I mean, think about it: If Paul thought homosexuality was allowable in some circumstance, then is murder, lying, slander, etc. also allowed under certain conditions? Why didn’t he list out this specifically? The text clearly a sweeping condemnation of any and all form of homosexual practice, behavior, and engagement.
1 Timothy 1:10 & 1 Corinthians 6:9
Here are the verses:
1 Corinthians 6:9 Or 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,
1 Timothy 1:10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
Paul uses the Greek word arsenokoitai to assign homosexuality as a sin. The word is a compound word that Paul made from the Greek translations of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. The word isn’t used in any other Greek literature. Paul, basically, invented his own word.
So, what does it mean? The BDAG–a standard Greek lexicon / dictionary–defines this as:
a male who engages in sexual activity with a person of his own sex.
It is clearly and vividly indicates same-sex relations among males.
The other word used is malakoi in 1 Cor. 6:9 refers to “to being passive in a same-sex relationship, effeminate.” In other words, a male who plays the role of a female.
IS HOMOSEXUALITY GENETIC?
Even if some sins can be explained by our genes, biblically, it doesn’t take away the onus of responsibility we have. The Bible teaches we are all:
- By nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3);
- Dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5);
- Have no desire to do good or seek God (Romans 3:10-11);
- Spiritually dead (Romans 5:12-15); and,
- Are all condemned by Adam’s sin (Romans 5:16-18).
Even if a discovery is made that substance abuse or homosexuality, for instance, are genetic, again, it doesn’t take away the responsibility of our sin or suggest these actions are no longer sin in God’s eyes. Romans 6:6 and 6:17 says we are born as slaves of sin, but we are still to blame for serving a wicked master.
WHAT SHOULD BE A CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSE?
There is so much that can be said here. I have selected a few quotes from respected pastors and theologians.
Gays, lesbians, transgender people, heterosexual adulterers, atheists, white-lie tellers, good-churchgoers-without-a-shred-of-grace–any and all people who have issue with the hard words of Scripture–these are not our enemies. We love such people. We have a foundation for human dignity, the imago dei (Gen. 1:26-27). We see beauty in every person. We see potential, infinite potential, in every sinner born evil just like us.
We do not offer them, however, a harmless gospel. This is what the culture demands of us, but we cannot acquiesce. The message of Jesus Christ is not a self-affirming message. It is a call to death. It is a summons to submission. It means that we lose all our sin and gain all of Christ. We open the Bible, and we see a cross on every page. That’s the emblem of Holy Scripture. Crucifixion. Suffering. Death. But then, and only then: Life. Resurrection. Eternity.
What is it the love demands that we do with the homosexual? I’d like to submit to you that, if I understand the Bible correctly, what love demands is this much. That we have a passionate concern for the well-being of the homosexual. That we do everything in our power to bring the means of grace to them. To seek their healing. To seek their redemption. To seek their forgiveness [before God] and full inclusion in the Kingdom of God.
And at the same time, I don’t believe that that means for a minute we can, therefore, in the name of love, say to the homosexual that homosexual behavior is acceptable to God. We cannot say that that which God has called sin, is not a sin. We are not loving them by a kind of indulgence that tells them that they are okay…when they are not okay.
That’s, of course, an allusion to this phenomenon that is sweeping our country. That the proper attitude we have is “I’m okay, you’re okay.” That can be devastatingly destructive in the long-run. Because the Word of God is addressed to people who are not okay. But, who can be received and accepted in the fellowship of God. . .
There’s a myth that surrounds this as Christians often in evangelical circles where the evangelist or the preacher stands up and tells people “Look, God accepts you just where you are, and just as you are.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that is a serious distortion of the New Testament. God does not accept men as they are. There is a condition for inclusion in the Kingdom of God. There is a demand in the New Testament, again and again and again. And that demand is what? Repentance.
We’re not loving people when we’re telling them that God accepts them as they are without repentance because we’re lying to them. . .
I think that the church must maintain the position that ,though the homosexual is a human being, and deserves to be loved, he is a child of creation, and is to be an object of our mercy and our compassion. Nevertheless, homosexual practice is regarded by God as being seriously sinful and we ought to make that clear.
And, finally, Al Mohler wrote:
If we are really a Gospel people; if we really love homosexuals as other sinners; then we must reach out to them with a sincerity that makes that love tangible. We have not even approached that requirement until we are ready to say to homosexuals, “We want you to know the fullness of God’s plan for you, to know the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God, to receive the salvation that comes by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to know the healing God works in sinners saved by grace, and to join us as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, living out our obedience and growing in grace together.”
Such were some of you . . . The church is not a place where sinners are welcomed to remain in their sin. To the contrary, it is the Body of Christ, made up of sinners transformed by grace. Not one of us deserves to be accepted within the beloved. It is all of grace, and each one of us has come out of sin.
We sin if we call homosexuality something other than sin. We also sin if we act as if this sin cannot be forgiven. We cannot settle for truth without love nor love without truth. The Gospel settles the issue once and for all. This great moral crisis is a Gospel crisis.
The genuine Body of Christ will reveal itself by courageous compassion, and compassionate courage. We will see this realized only when men and women freed by God’s grace from bondage to homosexuality feel free to stand up in our churches and declare their testimony–and when we are ready to welcome them as fellow disciples. Millions of hurting people are waiting to see if we mean what we preach.