December 12, 2017

Homosexuality: What the World Promotes, God Condemns

Randolph Shaylor

One of the greatest problems facing contemporary American culture and Biblical Christianity is the pressure to accept homosexuality and same-sex marriage as the moral equivalent of heterosexuality and Biblical marriage. Today’s Christians face misinterpretation, twisting, and perversions of Scripture: God created homosexuals; they are born that way and cannot change; the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality but inhospitality; Old Testament condemnations refer only to cultic worship and male prostitution; Jesus did not condemn homosexuality; the most important teaching in the New Testament is love; Biblical prohibitions do not refer to homosexuals in committed monogamous relationships; attempts to change will ultimately fail. Liberal theologians and clergy join homosexuals in demanding that society and churches accept them and their behavior as normal. The ultimate pressure is to have any negative statements about homosexuality, even the reading of Bible passages, branded as hate crimes.

Such pressure demands a clarification of Scriptural terms that have become clouded. Reliance on condemnation of “sodomy” to warn about God’s condemnation of homosexual sin faces two problems. First, modern legal definitions of sodomy include acts between men and women and between humans and animals. This adds confusion to something about which Scripture is clear. Second, the use of the term in the Bible is limited. “Sodomy” does not occur in the KJV or other widely used English versions, though “sodomite(s)” does appear five times in the Old Testament (Deut 23:17; 1 King 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7). These passages express God’s strong condemnation but do not clarify the meaning of the term. However, such passages as Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 make clear what God condemns—you shall not “lie with mankind, as with womankind.” In two key NT passages (1 Tim. 1:8–11 and 1 Cor. 6:9–12), biblical terminology unmistakably states God’s condemnation of homosexual lust and behavior.

Paul reminds Timothy that, properly used, Old Testament law is good (1 Timothy 1:8-11). It is given not for the righteous, but for the lawless, anomois (those devoid of control), and for the rebellious, anhupotaktois (literally, not submissive). Those who engage in the sins listed are disobedient to the law of God and without self-control; moreover, their refusal “to be brought under” is actually rebellion against God. This rebellion includes pornos and arsenokoites.

Pornos is the root of our modern word pornography. Here the masculine plural, pornois, is translated “whoremongers” (KJV). A modern dictionary definition of whoremonger, “a man who associates with whores,” may mislead. Translations such as “fornicators” or “adulterers” may also lead readers to think only of sexual violation of marriage. Even though there is a connection with the root pernemi (to sell) and early Greeks used pornos as a term for male prostitutes, it is obvious from other passages that the NT uses it to identify any who are guilty of illicit sexual relationships (cf. 1 Cor 5:1, 9, 11, 12; 6:9; Eph 5:5; Heb 6:9; 12:16; 13:4).

Arsenokoites especially highlights the New Testament condemnation of homosexuality. Beginning with Tyndale, there has been a tendency to use euphemisms such as “abusers of themselves with mankind.” Contemporary readings are not much clearer. The first element of the compound, arsen, is specifically the male sex. The second element, koites, refers to a bed or couch, a place for lying down, the marriage bed (cf. Heb. 13:4), a place for sexual activity. This word has been brought into English as “coitus,” meaning the sexual union of male and female. The compound arsenokoites refers to males who lie together for sexual activity. Similar activity among females is condemned in Roman 1:26. “Homosexual” is the only modern English word that provides the definition as well as the identification of those who rebel against God in this manner.

Another facet of homosexual sin is added in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Malakoi means yielding, soft to the touch, clothing made of soft materials (Matt. 11:8; Luke 7:25), and refers metaphorically to a male who yields his body to another male for sexual activity. “Effeminate” does convey the idea of submissiveness and feminine appearance, and “transvestite” describes appearance, but this context implies homosexual practice as well.

In contrast to the world’s insistence that “sexual orientation” cannot be changed, 1 Corinthians 6:11 presents not only a possibility but a practical example of what God can and is willing to do for those given to sexual sins. In the midst of a society whose philosophers and rulers glorified and practiced homosexuality, these Corinthian believers had experienced transformation by the new birth. They were washed, apolouasthe (middle voice, to wash away). This is the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), but the middle voice implies a desire to be cleansed. They were sanctified, hegiasthete (passive voice, separated from profane things and dedicated to God). They were justified, edikaiothete (passive voice, pronounced righteous or as one ought to be). The grace of God cleansed, sanctified, and justified them. All three conditions are in the aorist tense—not just a possibility, but a reality. These were works accomplished at salvation. God condemns all forms of homosexuality, like other sins, but provides forgiveness and transformation.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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