Pastoral Notes for Sunday, October 14, 2018

The text before us today is one of the most scandalous in all of Scripture. Two angelic visitors arrive in Sodom to warn Lot and his family of the coming judgment. While staying with Lot, the men of Sodom show up at the door and demand that Lot hand over the visitors that they might have sex with them. It’s clear from the text that homosexual activity is in view, and, horrifically, that of a forcible kind (see Genesis 19:1-29). 

In recent years, the public opinion in America on homosexuality has shifted. It’s now widely believed that as long as two people love each other, even if they are of the same sex/gender, it’s acceptable for them to “marry” and to engage in homosexual behavior. In some cases, this popular line of thinking has found inroads into the church, especially among a younger generation of professing Christian that are growing up in a time where homosexuality is treated culturally as an acceptable norm.

Can we with certainty say that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin? In short, the answer is an unequivocal, “Yes.” There are several key passages we could turn to show this, but none more detailed or significant than Romans 1:18-27.

In Romans 1:18-25, Paul argues that every person has access to the general revelation of God through creation, and that the law of God is written on our hearts. He goes onto to say that though we know God, we don’t honor Him as God; that in unrighteousness we suppress the truth and become foolish and futile in our thinking and worship the creature rather than the Creator (i.e. idolatry).

Then, in verse 24, Paul says, “Therefore.” Meaning, the suppression of the truth, foolishness, and futile thinking expressed idolatry leads to this: “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…” The word “impurity” can refer to ritual uncleanness, but it’s very often used in the New Testament to describe sexual immorality (see Rom. 6:19, 2 Cor. 12:21, and Gal.5:19). In context, it’s clear that Paul intends the language of impurity to be understood in that way, for he immediately qualifies the term impurity with the phrase “dishonoring of their bodies” (v.25). 

Further, Paul continues in vs. 26-27, “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.” Notice the parallel Paul is making. The Gentiles exchanged the worship of God for the worship of man, and so God gave them over to what Paul calls “dishonorable passions” which he defines as exchanging “natural relations” (heterosexuality) for those that are “contrary to nature” (homosexuality).

We could quibble here and there about how to understand certain terms Paul chooses, but it’s impossible to read Paul’s main point in any other way—that a consequence of “exchanging” the worship of God for the worshipping of a creature is we are more and more given over to dishonorable passions leading to the “exchanging” of natural relations  (heterosexuality) for those that are contrary to nature (homosexuality).

Lest we fall prey into thinking that Paul is singling out homosexuality alone as some particularly egregious affront to God, he goes on in vs. 28-31 to give a laundry list of other sins spawning from our idolatry—“…envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” All our sins—not just the sexual ones—require the reconciling work of the gospel. Whether disobedient to parents or murders, our only hope is Jesus Christ.

Well, this brief walk through Romans 1 doesn’t come close to answering all our questions about homosexuality, especially the many pastoral questions related to someone who experiences same-sex attraction. I wish space would afford for me to take up those matters presently, but that will have to wait for now. I’ll return to this subject over the next few weeks in order to grow in our understanding of the Scripture’s teaching and the wonderful grace of the gospel.