By Peter Amsterdam
June 30, 2020
(Points for this article were taken from Christian Ethics by Wayne Grudem1 and Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options by Norman Geisler.2)
In the course of exploring the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,”3 the topics which we have covered thus far in this series are marriage, sex, divorce and remarriage, birth control, infertility, adoption, and pornography. The final topic, which will be covered here, is homosexuality.
As explained in previous articles,4 God’s design regarding human sexual conduct was that sexual relations were to be between a man and a woman who were married to one another. In marriage, the husband and wife become one flesh.5 Jesus made reference to these verses:
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 the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh.6
The union of a man and a woman in marriage constitutes the “one flesh” union referred to in Genesis.
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, sexual intercourse outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is prohibited, based on the commandment You shall not commit adultery.7 Throughout Scripture, other forms of sexual interaction are also forbidden, including the following:
Prostitution. While some forms of prostitution were not condemned in the Old Testament, the New Testament speaks specifically against using the services of a prostitute.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”8
Incest (sexual intercourse between persons who are so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry).
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.9 (See also Leviticus 20:11–21.)
You shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.10 (See also Leviticus 20:15–16.)
Another prohibited sexual activity is homosexual intercourse, which is the focus here. What is presented here is the standard Christian understanding of what the Bible teaches regarding homosexuality. There are some Christian authors who take the view that Scripture doesn’t condemn homosexuality outright, but only condemns it when it is promiscuous; they take the view that monogamous homosexual marriages are in alignment with biblical teaching.11 However, the majority of Christian denominations consider homosexuality, either male with male or female with female, as sin, in accordance with what Scripture teaches.
The first biblical text that addresses homosexuality is Genesis 19. This passage describes two angels visiting the town of Sodom. Lot, the nephew of Abraham, lived there, and since it was evening, he invited the two visitors to spend the night in his house. They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly.12 The visitors accepted Lot’s invitation. Later in the evening, all the men of the city, both young and old, surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that he bring them out to us, that we may know them.13 Other Bible versions translate this as that we may have relations with them (NAU), that we may know them carnally (NKJV), or so that we can have sex with them (NIV). Lot and his immediate family left the town, after which we are told that 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.14
Some authors state that God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was not due to homosexuality, but rather because the people of the towns were inhospitable. However, in the book of Ezekiel we find the following reference to the sins of Sodom:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.15
The word translated as abomination is the same Hebrew word used to say that it is an “abomination” before God if a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination in Leviticus 20:13.16 Thus it is generally understood in this passage that Sodom was judged not only for homosexuality, but also because of pride, haughtiness, and not helping the poor.
The Mosaic law addressed homosexuality.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.17
Other Bible translations state it is detestable or it is a detestable sin.
The book of Deuteronomy addresses the issue of cult prostitution. (Sacred prostitution, temple prostitution, cult prostitution, and religious prostitution are terms for a sexual rite consisting of sexual intercourse or other sexual activity performed in the context of religious worship. Such prostitution was practiced by the Canaanites who inhabited the land before the Israelites.)
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.18
Commentators state that male cult prostitutes participated in homosexual acts. In the book of 1 Kings, male cult prostitution in Israel is mentioned and likened to the abominations of the people who were driven out of Israel.
Judah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.19
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote about homosexual conduct when he listed a long catalog of sins:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable 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.20
The phrase “contrary to nature” makes the point that homosexual conduct runs contrary to God’s intent for sexuality in creating men and women with physical bodies that have a “natural” way of interacting sexually with one another.
In this same verse, the apostle Paul regards homosexual passions, meaning desires, as dishonorable passions. He sees them as clashing with God’s stated purpose and intention that sexual intercourse should be restricted to marriage, and only between a man and a woman. Paul further includes all forms of homosexuality, whether between men or between women, as running contrary to God’s intent for human sexuality, when he states: Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.
The apostle Paul also included homosexual conduct in a list of sins found in 1 Corinthians.
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.21
The Greek words that Paul used to express nor men who practice homosexuality included the words malokoi and arsenokoites. Malokoi means “soft” or “effeminate,” and was used in the Greco-Roman worlds to refer to the “passive” partner in homosexual acts. Arsenokoites is a combination of the words arsen (“man”) and koite (“sexual intercourse”). Paul used these words to express “men who have intercourse with men.”
In the book of 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul uses the Greek word arsenokoites in a list of vices which are derived from the Ten Commandments.
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.22
Paul makes the point that forbidding homosexuality is in alignment with the Old Testament “law” regarding homosexuality.
In the book of Jude, we find comments on the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.
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.23
The phrase indulged in sexual immorality refers to heterosexual immorality, meaning intercourse between men and women who are not married to one another. The phrase pursued unnatural desire referred to the men of Sodom’s desire to have sexual relations with Lot’s visitors.
Both the Old and New Testaments view all types of homosexual conduct as contrary to God’s moral will, and therefore as sinful. As such, homosexual activity is a form of sexual expression that falls outside of God’s will. This doesn’t mean that homosexual individuals cannot be Christians nor that they should be looked down upon, shunned, persecuted, or discriminated against. Rather, as Christians we are to both recognize and remember that all humans are made in God’s image and are loved by Him.
As the authors of Kingdom Ethics wrote:
Homosexual persons are precious, made in the image of God and bearers of all the dignity that God affords to all humanity. Christ-followers are never permitted to treat homosexuals as less than what God has declared all people to be. Spending one’s life crusading against homosexuals, as some Christians do, hardly fits with the virtues of love, kindness, humility, peace and patience that are to characterize the follower of Christ. … We must love homosexual persons while remaining clear in our convictions about God’s intentions for human sexuality—and equally clear that all of us stand guilty and in need of redemption.24 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.25
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018).
2 Norman L. Geisler, Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options (Baker Academic, 2010).
3 Exodus 20:14.
5 Genesis 2:24.
6 Mark 10:6–8.
7 Exodus 20:14.
8 1 Corinthians 6:15–16.
9 1 Corinthians 5:1–2.
10 Leviticus 18:23.
11 Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian (New York: Convergent Books, 2014).
12 Genesis 19:2–3.
13 Genesis 19:5.
14 Genesis 19:24–25.
15 Ezekiel 16:49–50.
16 Leviticus 20:13. See also 18:22.
17 Leviticus 18:22.
18 Deuteronomy 23:17–18.
19 1 Kings 14:22–24.
20 Romans 1:26–27.
21 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.
22 1 Timothy 1:8–10.
23 Jude 1:7.
24 Glen H. Stassen & David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 311.
25 Romans 3:23.