Romans 1 on Homosexuality

A. The text: Rom 1:18-32:

  1. A rather lengthy passage in which Paul seems to use homosexuality as indicative both of man's deep seated rebellion against God and God's proper condemnation of man.
  2. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

    "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

    "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; {they are} gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."

B. Argument to be analyzed:

  1. This is the Jewish Paul looking across the Mediterranean at life in the capital of Graeco-Roman culture. Homosexuality is not the focus of his condemnation, but just one item on a list... Paul's explanation for all this is that they have refused to acknowledge God, and therefore God has given them up to their own wicked desires...
  2. Paul is speaking to those who violate their sexual orientation, those that go against their natural desire. But a homosexual's natural desire is for the same sex. Therefore this verse doesn't speak of them. In fact, if you encourage a 'constitutional homosexual' to become heterosexual you are violating this passage."

C. Analysis:

  1. First observation: This is about God being mad ("For the wrath of God [orge] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men..."
  2. Second observation: There is a specific progression that leads to this "orgy" of anger.
    1. "They "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." (v18)
    2. "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator." (v25)
    3. "God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity..." (v24)
    4. They "exchanged the natural [sexual] function for that which is unnatural" (v26)
    5. They encourage others to do the same (v32)
    6. Therefore, the wrath of God rightly falls on them (v18), they are worthy of death (v32), they are without excuse (v20).

D. Condemnation of homosexuality in the New Testament:

This text is a crystal clear condemnation of homosexuality in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul right in the middle of his most brilliant discourse on general revelation (i.e., he's not speaking to a localized aberration of pedophilia or temple prostitution of "Mediterranean life in the capital of Graeco-Roman culture")!

  1. Here are the specific words Paul uses to describe this behavior:
    1. An impurity and dishonoring to the body (v24)
    2. A degrading passion that's unnatural (v29)
    3. An indecent act and an error (v27)
    4. Not proper and the product of a depraved mind (v28)
  2. There's only one way this can be missed: if you're in total rebellion.
    1. According to Paul, homosexual behavior is evidence of active, persistent rebellion against God.
    2. According to v32, it's rooted in direct, willful, aggressive rebellion against God--true of any "Christian" defending his homosexuality.
  3. "But I'm seeking God." No, according to Paul you're rejecting Him and instead are obeying your deeper rebellion.
  4. God's conclusion: there's "no excuse" (2 verses).

E. Does this apply to all homosexuals?

  1. 1. What if one's "natural" desire is for the same sex (co-called constitutional homosexuality)?
  2. There are five different reasons this is a bad argument. The first four are good; the fifth is unassailable.
    1. The court is still out on scientific evidence.
    2. The "genetic" argument is a non-argument because it commits the naturalistic fallacy, i.e., you can't get an "ought" from an "is."
      1. Many laws exist to keep you from doing what comes naturally.
      2. Paul is addressing this on a moral level, not a physiological level.
    3. This interpretation introduces a whole new concept that is entirely foreign to the text.
      1. If Paul did not understand genuine homosexuality, then how can one say that he excepted constitutional homosexuals when he wrote they "exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural"? This argument, therefore, self-destructs.
      2. Paul would also note that some men burned unnaturally towards women, & vice versa if his interest was only in violating whatever sexual orientation one was born with.
    4. Creates another problem: if all who have a desire for the same sex do so "naturally," then who does this verse apply to? If everybody is only following their "natural" sexual desires, then to whom is Paul speaking?
    5. None of these previous arguments are even needed because Paul was not unclear about what he meant by "natural."
      1. 1:26-27 "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another..."
        1. "Function" (#5540) v 26&27 kreesis, is used only these two times in NT but is frequently used in other literature of the time.
        2. According to Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich (BAG), A Greek/English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago Press), the definitive Greek language standard reference work, the word means "use, relations, function, especially of sexual intercourse."
      2. Paul is not talking about natural desires here in this instance, but natural functions.
        1. "Natural" is not determined by what you want sexually, but by how you function sexually.
          1. The body was built to function a specific way.
          2. Men were not built to function sexually with men.
        2. Natural desires go with natural functions. The passion that exchanges the natural function of sex for the unnatural function is what Paul calls a degrading passion.
        3. Jesus clarified the natural, normal relationship:
          1. Matthew 19:4-5 "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh [sexual intercourse].'?"
          2. The desire is unnatural because it abandons the natural function.
            1. Extramarital heterosexual sex is wrong because it exploits a natural function in an immoral way.
            2. Homosexuality is worse because it's an immoral act based on the perversion of a natural function.

©1998 Gregory Koukl. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only.

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