Previously, in part 1 of this study, we examined what the Bible had to say about the world, and how the Jews felt about homosexuality through the Talmud and Antiquities of the Jews. In this second half, we will examine what the Greek has to say about homosexuality, and knock down some other misconceptions of the Bible's stance against homosexuality.
From the Apostle Paul’s application of the Law we know that the Moral Law was still intact even in the New Covenant. The sexual purity laws of the Old Testament, as part of the Moral Law, were still in place. Paul, as an educated Jew, spoke about homosexuality in many places, but to those who doubt we read in Acts that sexual immorality was still forbidden, even as Jewish purity laws were not.
“The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:23-29)
Sexual Immorality, would bring to mind the whole set of laws against Sexual Immorality in Leviticus 18.
Jesus also brought to mind the laws against sexual immorality…
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. (Mark 7:21-22)
The Apostle Paul reinforced the idea that homosexuality was a part of the moral law in 1 Timothy 1:8-11:
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
As the salt of the earth, the church must continue to address homosexuality, as we should pornography and abortion because it is prevalent in our culture. The early church fathers addressed homosexuality, in the context in which it was being practiced in their culture, including pederasty. Singling out pederasty does not make every other place homosexuality is mentioned in scripture and extra Biblical text exempt. The early church fathers spoke against homosexuality in the manner it was being practiced in their culture (we rarely speak of homosexuality in terms of pederasty today because same sex marriage is much more prevalent). In similar manner, we address the sexual immorality of pornography while not exempting every other manner in which looking at a woman lustfully is forbidden.
Regarding same sex desire from an early age:
In expanding on Romans 1, and its relation to homosexuality, we see that “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts”. The sinful desire was already there, but as they rejected God, he gave them over to the desire that already existed in their heart. But we know by the power of Jesus we can overcome sin.
In Psalms 51:5, it is written:
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
And other places:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12)
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Ephesians 2:3)
The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. (Genesis 8:21)
"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
A Word About Paul’s Words
In the Greek the Leviticus passages (18:22 and 20:13) condemns a man (Greek: arseno) lying with (Greek: koitai) another man (arseno); these words are one after another in these passages in Leviticus. Paul joins these two words together into a "neologism”, a new word, and thus he condemns in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy what was condemned in Leviticus.
Expanding the word arsenokoitai to include exploitative heterosexual intercourse appears unlikely in view of the unqualified nature of the Levitical prohibitions. Also, every time the grouping word arsenokoit occurs in a context that offers clues as to its meaning (beyond a part of a vice list), it denotes homosexual intercourse. The term arsenokoitai itself indicates the inclusive sense: all men who play the active role in homosexual intercourse. If Paul wanted to single out pederasts he could have used the technical term paiderastïs. The meaning that Paul gave to arsenokoitai has to be dissected in light of Romans 1:24–27. When Paul speaks of the sexual intercourse of “males with males” (arsenes en arsenes) in Romans 1:27, he obviously has in mind arsenokoitai.
The translations of Greek word malakoi from 1 Corinthians 6:9 are one of three categories:
1. One category focuses on “softness” of males (they are wimps) or speak of “effeminacy.”
2. Another category specifies the softness of males as the passivity (i.e., softness) of a male in a same-sex relation, whether with or without pay: “catamite”, “Sodomites”, “male prostitutes.”
3. The third category focuses on a condition: “homosexual perverts,” “pervert.”
Calling homosexuality sinful cannot be equated to the church’s struggle with racism in the past.
Similar to the development of new theologies following in the footsteps of cultural developments, justification for the enslavement of the African race followed in the footsteps of the practice. The development of the Curse of Ham Theology became the Biblical justification for the African slave trade in the 18th and 19th century. This practiced was rooted in enslaving Pagans, as was done by the Catholics at the time; the African slave trade provided an opportunity to continue this practice. Nevertheless, because this theology was contrary to the Bible, it did not take long for anti-slavery sentiment to arise in the majority of churches. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul broke down race and nationality differences:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
He also equated slave traders with murders:
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:9-11)
Finally, Paul spoke about gaining your freedom, and not becoming slaves of men:
Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you–although if you can gain your freedom, do so. (1 Corinthians 7:21)
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. (1 Corinthians 7:23)
The Apostle Paul’s focus was the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he did plant the seed to bring this practice to an end. In contrast, forbidding homosexuality was a part of the eternal Moral Law, it was spoken of in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Punishment was given for its offense, punishment was also given to societies practicing it as we observe by the destruction of Sodom. It by nature is contrary to God’s design.
Jesus came to save sinners from themselves, but if we reject the Great Doctor and say we are without sin, then we reject the power he has given us to overcome the sinful desires of our heart.
Christ gives us power to overcome sin by his blood. His Spirit turns us away from gratifying the desires of the flesh. But if we go on sinning, we deny the very power Jesus promised to give us, thus we remain in bondage to our sin, and a prisoner of Satan. If we don’t allow Jesus to have power over all our life, we don’t allow Jesus to have power over any of our life. No matter the sin, there is hope, but this hope comes from repentance and allow Jesus to heal us. Even in 1 Corinthians 6:11, after being spoken of in verse 9, we see that homosexual desire can be overcome by the power of Christ:
And that is what some of you were. 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 sinful desire of homosexuality is not immune from the power of Christ, but it does not come from endorsing sin, and cowardly to appeal culture and blend in with society instead of standing out in holiness. For those, it is reserved the wrath of God. But for those would listen Jesus preaches:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)