By any reckoning, homosexuality has become the defining and dividing issue of the current generation. It is widely taken for granted that any area of influence within society, such as politics, public sector bodies, the media and corporate business, should not only accept homosexuality, but actively promote and celebrate it.
This movement seems to be driven by a false zeal to appear “virtuous” according to the new values in which biblical morality is turned upside down. Indeed it seems that the only thing many might call “sin” today is the conviction that homosexuality is sinful. Such is the wholesale subversion of biblical morality in our culture.
This revolution has had a very destructive impact on society’s understanding of morality, love, liberty, marriage, the family and much more that is critical to God-honouring living. God has appointed the marriage union between one man and one woman and protected it with the Seventh Commandment. As The Westminster Larger Catechism makes clear, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” includes the prohibition of “sodomy and unnatural lusts” (Ans 139).
Cultural pressure is also being exerted on the professing Christian Church; thus a believing submission to, and willingness to comply with, the clear teaching of Scripture is often lacking. In doing so they manifest an enmity to God, truth, righteousness and the spiritual and eternal good of their fellow men. They may sincerely intend the love and compassion of which they speak, but they come under the judgement of those that “have pleasure in them that do” such things (Rom 1:32).
Faithfulness to God and His unchanging standards of righteousness, as well as love to souls, require us to give the clearest possible testimony in this matter. Silence in such a matter would be sinful both in relation to God and our fellow men. Those who defend homosexuality dismiss the moral principles maintained in this paper as hateful prejudice, or accuse us of having malicious motives in criticising their lifestyle. Our purpose, however, is solely to speak the truth in love.
Another emotive way to attack those who politely but firmly maintain that homosexuality is sinful is to accuse them of homophobic bullying and causing depression and low self-esteem. It goes without saying that harsh and rash bullying is condemned by the Ninth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”. Yet the same commandment also requires us to stand for the truth.
In part, the problem is that those who make such claims do not have a true notion of sin and repentance. They equate guilt with shame. Scripture shows that it is essential that sinners feel their sin and are burdened by it in order to seek the only remedy of forgiveness in Christ.
This paper does not present personal opinion, nor does it deal with changeable scientific and social analysis. What the individual believes is of no ultimate consequence, unless he rests in the unchanging Word of God alone. The Church’s role is to be the pillar and ground of truth by declaring only what God has made known in the Scriptures, not with an uncertain sound and not yielding one hairsbreadth of God’s truth, for it does not belong to us but to God.
Section 1: Direct Scripture Testimony Against the Sin of Homosexuality.
A. Old Testament References.
1. Sodom and Gomorrah Genesis 13:13; 18:20; 19:1-11.
It is remarkable how early on in the Scriptures we find the sin of Sodom mentioned. First we read that Sodom was ripe for judgement because of this sin. “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (Gen 13:13). “And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know” (Gen 18:19,20). Other nations had these sins too, but the men of Sodom also “committed abomination before” God as described in Ezekiel 16:50.
Comparing scripture with scripture we discover that the particular sin which singled Sodom out from other wicked cities or nations was homosexuality. In Genesis 19:5-8 we read of their homosexual tendencies when the “men of Sodom, old and young, all the people from every quarter” came to Lot’s house seeking “to know” two men who had come to stay in Lot’s house. They said, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them”. Lot well knew what they meant by “know them” when he replied, “I pray you, brethren do not so wickedly. Behold now I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.” The heinousness of the sin of homosexuality is brought out by the contrast made with uncleanness with Lot’s daughters which, though great sin in itself, was not so aggravated as that of uncleanness between men.
The awful judgement which subsequently came to Sodom further shows the heinousness of the sin. The angels said to Lot, “For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it” (Gen 19:13). We read, “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and He overthrew these cities, and that which grew upon the ground” (Gen 19:24,25). Their punishment became proverbial for awful judgement upon a people as we see, for example, from Deuteronomy 29:22,23, where it is said of the curse that would come on Israel for their sins “that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger, and in His wrath”.
Their sin became proverbial for great sin. In Ezekiel 16:49,50, Israel’s departure from the Lord is compared to the sin of Sodom, which is described in the following way: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Here the abomination before the Lord, their crowning sin, was homosexuality. This particular sin has often been called after their city. In the list of sins which Judah committed above all that their fathers had done in the sight of the Lord, we read, “And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel” (1 Ki 14:24). Then in 1 Kings 15, where we read of King Asa doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, it is added, “And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his father had made” (1 Ki 15:12). This shows, incidentally, that the civil magistrate has a duty to forbid and prevent this sin.
2. Homosexuality forbidden by the law of God Leviticus 18:22.
Leviticus 18 forbids numerous sins of uncleanness such as incest and bestiality, and also the practice of slaying children by causing them to pass through the fire. In this context we read at verse 22, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”. Here is an express command forbidding homosexuality, and again the aggravated nature of this sin, even compared to other sins of uncleanness, is brought out in the statement, “It is abomination”.
3. Homosexuality was a punishable offence in the Old Testament Leviticus 20:13.
The punishment under the law for those guilty of various forms of uncleanness is dealt with in this chapter. We read at verse 13, “If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”. In common with sins such as adultery and bestiality, sodomites were counted worthy of the death penalty under the Mosaic law. Once again the description of sodomy as abomination is given. Under the New Testament dispensation, of course, the death penalty no longer applies to sins such as homosexuality.
4. The incident at Gibeah Judges 19:22-24.
As an example of how degenerate the Israelites had become after inheriting the land of Canaan, we read of another attempt at forced homosexuality. A man and his concubine were given hospitality in the house of a man of Gibeah and we read that the men of the city “beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.” Here the sin of homosexuality is described as “doing wickedly”, “folly” and “so vile a thing”.
Summary The Old Testament shows that homosexuality is a sin and a particularly aggravated sin. It is classified alongside adultery, incest and bestiality.
B. New Testament References to the Sin of Homosexuality.
1. Romans 1:20-32.
In describing the sins of the heathen world in Romans 1, the Apostle Paul describes the sin of homosexuality as a “vile affection”. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom 1:26-28). Here the sin of homosexuality is also described as being “against nature”, a “burning in lust”, “unseemly”, “error” and “things which are not convenient” – that is, things which are improper. It is also seen that this sin, as was the case in Sodom, is itself a judgement which results from an accumulation of prior sins and rejection of God. It is also clear that the orientation towards this sin as well as the behaviour itself is sin, because the root of this sin is said to be a reprobate mind.
2. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9 we read of those who “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” and in this verse we find the terms, “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind”. These two terms in the original Greek language describe those who participate in acts of homosexuality, and they are listed alongside other sins such as fornication and drunkenness. All such people are described as being among the “unrighteous” who “shall not inherit the kingdom of God”.
3. 1 Timothy 1:10.
In this chapter we have a list of those who are lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinners, unholy and profane. The law is made for such transgressors as “murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons”. The term “them that defile themselves with mankind” is a translation of the same Greek word translated “abusers of themselves with mankind” in 1 Corinthians 6:9. So here is another reference to the sin of homosexuality and it is found alongside the sins of murder and stealing.
4. 2 Peter 2:6.
In 2 Peter 2:6 we read that, along with old world which was destroyed by the flood, God also destroyed Sodom. The sin of the Sodomites is here described as the “filthy conversation [that is, way of life] of the wicked” and “unlawful deeds”. “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Pet 2:6-8).
Summary Thus the New Testament witness is that the sin of homosexuality is among the most heinous sins which men and woman are capable of. It is evident that it is a sin which is forbidden by the Seventh Commandment and it is made clear that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven and they are worthy of God’s wrath.
Section 2: Some Common Arguments in Favour of Homosexuality Discussed.
1. To be opposed to homosexuality is the same as being racist.
Pro-homosexual lobby groups and the media portray those who condemn homosexuality as being similar to racists who discriminate against people on the basis of their ethnicity or colour of skin.
But the obvious difference is that racism is discrimination against “who” a person is, whereas being opposed to homosexuality relates to “what” a person is. Racism is wrong because it discriminates against a person because of their ethnic origin or skin colour which is amoral. But to be opposed to homosexuality is to condemn a person for their immoral behaviour regardless of their ethnicity or skin colour.
The homosexual chooses to be a homosexual, whereas one cannot choose one’s ethnic origin or one’s skin colour. You cannot therefore equate racism with being opposed to the sin of homosexuality.
2. People are genetically homosexual and therefore cannot help this tendency.
This kind of reasoning proceeds from evolutionary thinking which denies that man has a soul and that there is such a thing as sin. But if we allow that man is a spiritual being, capable of sin, then we can understand how homosexuality, along with all other sins such as adultery, fornication and theft, ultimately proceeds from the sinful nature of man.
It is true that some may be more prone to this sin than others, just as some men are more prone to anger or dishonesty than others. But this does not make their anger or dishonesty to be any less sin. And as already mentioned, often the sin of homosexuality leads on from a life of prior sin and rejection of God.
Romans 1:26 informed us that the sin of homosexuality was “against nature”: “for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature”. Reason itself shows that homosexuality is sin. Even irreligious men, who have not fallen into this sin themselves, often have an aversion to it, and are repulsed by it as that which is against nature.
3. Homosexuals love one another, so this legitimises their relationship.
The churches which support homosexuality often use the argument of love, as do the sodomites themselves. This makes a new morality where human love supersedes the commandments of God. The moral standard which God has given to man is based on His nature and the declaration of His will; so it is unchangeable. Whatever affection exists between homosexuals does not change the fact that homosexuality is sin in the eyes of God.
The argument based on love can be seen to be fallacious. Suppose a brother says he loves his sister and wants to marry her – would this love make that relationship proper? Or if one who was inclined to another sin such as bestiality or paedophilia claimed love as their warrant, would this make the act lawful?
Love to God is the first part of the moral law, and that duty embraces obedience to His commandments including those which forbid homosexuality.
4. Only the act is sin not the orientation.
It has become increasingly common in some Christian circles to agree with the biblical testimony that homosexual behaviour is wrong, but argue that homosexual orientation is not sinful. This dangerous argument is flatly opposed to the scriptural principle that holiness is required in nature and thought, as well as in practice. We have seen that often homosexuality is placed alongside adultery as a sin in Scripture. The Saviour said of adultery: “I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt 5:28). This rule on the spirituality of the law applies surely to homosexuality as well, and therefore the very disposition or orientation toward homosexuality is sin. As mentioned above, Paul in dealing with the sin in Romans 1:26 describes it as a “vile affection” pointing to the inner desires of the soul, not merely the outward behaviour. And in verse 28 of the same chapter, the root of the sin is said to be a reprobate mind: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient”.
Similarly, in James 1:14 we read that “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed”. So lust, flowing from the sinful orientation of the heart and mind, is what leads men to commit actual sins. The following verse reads, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”. Romans 1:27, “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another,” again makes clear that “orientation” is lust and therefore sinful. From this sinful fountain within flows the act of homosexuality, as the same verse goes on to describe: “men with men working that which is unseemly”.
To suggest therefore as some do that someone may be a born-again Christian and yet cherish a homosexual tendency is the same as to say that one may have grace and yet still cherish a murderous or adulterous disposition. Those who have a tendency toward this sin are to seek grace not only to refrain from outward practice of it, but to be delivered from the very tendency itself. And this very grace is promised in Scripture. Romans 6:14 declares, “Sin shall not have dominion over you”, and in 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it”. Grace is able to subdue and conquer the sinful orientation toward homosexuality.
5. Homosexuals should be allowed to marry.
Those who contend for homosexual marriage are faced with the Saviour’s positive and clear description of marriage as being only between one man and one woman. In Matthew 19:4,5 we read, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”
Legalising same-sex marriage not only further promotes the sin of homosexuality itself but it serves to undermine the whole scriptural doctrine of marriage as being between one man and one woman. It is therefore yet another attack on the institution of marriage, one of the foundation pillars of society at large.
The propagation of the human race is hindered and reduced in proportion as this sin prevails.
Research carried out in Denmark has shown that, even apart from aids, the life expectancy of a homosexual male is approximately 51 years of age, compared with more than 70 years of age for men in general. Other research by the Family Research Institute, Colorado, USA, came to a similar conclusion.
6. All sin is an infinite evil; therefore why single out homosexuality?
Some, even within the Church, try to tone down the heinousness of the sin of homosexuality by diverting attention to the fact that all sin is abhorrent. Of course this is true, and every sin is an infinite evil in the eyes of God. Nevertheless, as The Larger Catechism states, “All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others” (Ans 150). The example of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the express declaration of Scripture that this sin is an “abomination”, even compared to other sins, are sufficient evidences that this sin is especially heinous in the eyes of God.
It is also true that the homosexual agenda has become so prominent and aggressive in our day that it is necessary to respond with a robust defence of the Scriptural grounds for opposing this sin in particular.
This emphasis does not alter the fact that Scripture shows that the sin of unbelief and Christ-rejection is even greater. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of Judgement than for those who had the gospel but who did not receive it, as numerous parts of Scripture show, including Matthew 10:14,15: “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement than for that city”.
Conclusion A careful look at the passages of Scripture discussed in this paper shows that homosexuality is a sin that destroys individuals in their bodies and souls as long as it is not repented of.
From the above attempts to claim that homosexuality is not morally evil, it naturally follows that its supporters abhor any call to homosexuals to repent, because such a call of repentance of course infers that homosexuality is sin. It has been shown previously that Scripture calls homosexuality a sin and therefore the duty of all homosexuals is to repent of this and all their sins, turning to God in Christ for pardon and cleansing.
The same love for the truth and for souls, that compels us to draw attention to the biblical view of homosexuality, also prompts us to speak of grace and the gospel. Homosexuality is not an unpardonable sin. It is clear from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, referred to already, that those who were “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” may repent and be saved: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). Their former identity was not so much homosexual as sinner; now they had a new and true identity: they had been given a new nature.
This is what we desire for everyone. Salvation is freely offered in the gospel of Christ to sinners, whatever their sins may have been. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Is 55:6-7). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
[Paper prepared by the Religion and Morals Committee of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and first published in the February and March 2018 editions of The Free Presbyterian Magazine.]