Does Romans 1 really forbid homosexuality?
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
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. – Romans 1:26-27, ESV
Gay rights activists often object to this passage, claiming it does not apply to consenting adult homosexuals. Here are three objections they give, and a rebuttal to each:
1) Objection: Some say this does not apply to those whom they claim are “born” homosexual. They say that when it refers to “natural relations,” it means people born homosexual are natural, but if a person is not born homosexual, then it is wrong for them.
Rebuttal: But Paul plainly says that homosexuality itself is unnatural, and so does the rest of scripture. Genesis 1:27 says we were created male and female, and intended for heterosexual relationships. Sodom was destroyed, according to Genesis 19, because of homosexual sin. Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Timothy 1:10 also condemn homosexuality.
2) Objection: Some homosexuals say this verse in Romans only applies to abuse of children, saying it is meant to keep adult homosexuals from sexually abusing children.
Rebuttal: While child abuse is also wrong, notice that verse 27 says “men with men,” not men with boys. It plainly applies to homosexual acts between consenting adults.
3) Objection: Some will admit that the homosexual act is forbidden, but they will say that homosexual feelings cannot be helped, so as long as the person with homosexual leanings remains celibate, it is okay to be homosexual.
Rebuttal: While it is true that feelings cannot be helped, it is also true that feelings and desires, if encouraged, will lead to actions. Notice that verse 26 refers to “lusts,” also translated “passions,” as shameful.
Notice at the end of verse 27, homosexuals are described as receiving “in themselves the due penalty for their error.” The word “error” is the Greek word for “wandering” or “straying” from the truth. It is the same word used for the straying sheep in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:12, and for backsliding believers in Hebrews 5:2. And here is where there is hope: sheep and backsliders can return from their wandering, and according to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, some of them did! Paul says that former homosexuals were washed and sanctified and changed!
What the Bible Says about Homosexuality May Surprise You
Does the Bible encourage hatred toward homosexuals? Much of the problem people have with the Bible on this issue is not what the Bible says, but what people think it says. What the Bible says about homosexuality may surprise you.
I. Homosexuality is not the worst sin
While homosexuality is sin, the Bible does not say it is the worst sin. For some reason, many Christians and churches act as if the sin of homosexuality is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. But the Bible simply lists it along with many other sins. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lists these sins: “No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”
Homosexuality is just one of many sins in this list, right alongside thieves, greedy people, drunkards and verbally abusive people, etc. If you cheat on your income taxes, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual. If you have a drinking problem, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual. If you yell and scream at your family all the time, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not denying that homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is very clear on that. From the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 to the law against sex with the same sex in Leviticus 18:22, to Jesus’ affirmation that sex is supposed to be between a man and a woman in Matthew 19:4-6, to Paul’s lengthy passage in Romans 1:24-27 about how unnatural it is for men to be with men and women with women, as well as 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, it is clear that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin.
However, nowhere does the Bible say that homosexuality is the worst sin or the unpardonable sin.
If there is any sin that can be called the worst, it would be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is a denial of the Spirit’s call to follow Christ, according to Mark 3:29-30.
II. Homosexual feelings are not sinful
Many people with homosexual attractions have felt excluded from the church, instead of helped by the church. But the Bible does not say homosexual feelings are sinful. Feelings are feelings. The sin is in how we act on those feelings. For example, Psalm 4:4 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26 quotes this psalm, again saying, “Be angry and do not sin.” The sin is not the feeling of anger, the sin is what you do with the feeling. Likewise, if a person has homosexual urges and feelings, but decides to abstain from homosexual acts, he has not sinned.
Notice at the end of 1 Corinthians 6:9, it names the sin this way: “anyone practicing homosexuality.” It does not say “anyone with homosexual feelings.” The original Greek refers specifically to partners in the act of homosexual behavior.
This is a very important distinction that has often been overlooked in conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Missing this point has caused many people who struggle with homosexual attractions to assume that they cannot come to faith in Christ. If you are struggling with same-sex attractions right now, please hear me. You can come to Christ. All of us must come to Christ just as we are, and allow God to make us into what He wants us to be.
Conversion to Christ does not mean that homosexual urges will immediately vanish, any more than other immoral sexual urges will vanish when a heterosexual is converted, but it does mean that the homosexual, just like the heterosexual, is called to abstain from sexual relations that are not between a man and a woman married to one another.
III. Homosexuals can change!
Our culture constantly says that homosexuals are born that way. They say that the homosexual did not choose to be that way. They say that it is simply genetic. Is that really true? If all homosexuals were born that way, then shouldn’t nearly all identical twins have the same sexual orientation, since they have the same genetic makeup? Yet research shows that only about half of the time when homosexuals have an identical twin is that twin also homosexual (exodus-international.org/exodus_faqs.shtml).
First Corinthians 6:9-11 lists “practicing homosexuality” as one of the sins that do not inherit the kingdom of God. But the passage also says that homosexuals can change. Notice that verse 11 says, “And some of you used to be like this. 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.” Did you hear that? Paul said, “Some of you used to be like this.” But they had changed! Some of them used to be thieves, but they stopped stealing. Some of them used to be verbally abusive, but they quit yelling at their wives. And some of them used to engage in homosexual acts, but they stopped!
A female Christian counselor I know in Macon, Georgia, shared with me how she talked to a young lady recently who was struggling with same-sex attractions, and the counselor saw God completely and radically transform her. Asked how this happened, the counselor simply said, “by taking her by the hand and walking her to the Redeemer.”
A male Christian counselor I know in the Florida panhandle told me that he has counseled many homosexual men, and he begins by letting them know that he loves them, not in a sexual way, but just wants them to know that he loves them. He says many of them have never had an appropriate love shown to them by a father or another man. He helps them see that our Heavenly Father loves them, and can change them, and he often sees men break down and weep in his office, desiring a change.
If you would like help with same-sex attractions, visit the website of the Restored Hope Network: http://www.restoredhopenetwork.org/.
I knew a man who lost his job and lost his family because he was caught in a homosexual act. He was a believer in Jesus Christ, but he struggled with the gay lifestyle. We had a mutual friend who referred him to me, not so much for counseling as for accountability. He wanted to change, but he needed a healthy relationship with a male friend to encourage him in that direction. So we would meet for breakfast or lunch, and talk, and talk on the phone sometimes. It was hard for him, because he found that the people who accepted him the most were homosexuals, when he needed Christians to accept him and help him to change! Although it was hard, he managed to abstain from the gay lifestyle, got another job, and began to rebuild his life. When he got a better job that required him to move out of state, he brought me a plaque with a rope on it, and said, “Thanks for being there for me when I was at the end of my rope.”
If you are at the end of your rope, the Bible has good news for you. Hang on. Jesus is ready to help you when you are at the end of your rope, if you will trust your life to Him.
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