Sexuality has become an interesting topic. The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex unions has radically changed the conversation. So many things influence the discussion: culture, politics, philosophy, ethics, and religion just to name a few. From a Christian perspective, I believe the most important lens through which to view this topic is the Bible. With many people attempting to deconstruct sound biblical teaching concerning marriage, it only seems right to expound on the issue at the root of the entire conversation: Homosexuality.
I’d like to start by saying that I have friends who are homosexual. I’ve ministered over the years to many within the homosexual community. This is not an attempt to promote an “us-versus-them” mentality. It is merely a look at biblical sexuality: God’s intent and how we should respond.
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone…’ Then the Lord God made a woman…” (Genesis 2:18, 22). There are several truths to be learned from the creation account. First and foremost, God created sexual identity and it can’t be undone inherently, theoretically, psychologically, or any other way. God made Adam who was a man, and Eve who was a woman. Thus sexual identity was established.
Beyond identity, God also created sexual intimacy. God intended sexual intimacy to take place between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. Homosexuality abandons God’s design in several ways. For one, instead of embracing the man-woman design, homosexuality embraces a same-sex preference as an option for sexual intimacy.
What does the Bible say?
- “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin” (Lev. 18:22). “If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent” (Lev. 20:13).
- “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies… Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men…” (Rom. 1:25-27).
Every mention of homosexual behavior in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, condemns it without question. The passages aren’t vague in the way that people might have once looked to the Bible to inaccurately uphold slavery. Yet those who advocate for the legitimacy of a homosexual lifestyle have gone to great lengths to call into question every biblical reference. For example, they would argue that the book of Leviticus also condemns eating shellfish or cutting your sideburns. They would say it’s ancient religious law that doesn’t apply to New Testament believers.
First, that is an extremely irresponsible way to read and interpret Scripture. One can’t just ignore these commands as ancient practices no longer relevant for New Testament Christians. That misses one of the most essential understandings of the Old Testament. Specifically, that there is an entire portion of teaching dedicated to ceremonial uncleanness and another section of teaching that speaks specifically to immoral conduct. One is centered on the sacrificial system of the people of Israel. The other is meant for every human being throughout history.
It’s one thing to describe temple rituals. It’s an entirely different thing to talk about God’s moral law (e.g. Ten Commandments). Besides, the New Testament condemns homosexual behavior as well. When it’s talked about in the Old Testament, it’s rooted in the moral law of God. It’s not the same as which foods one was allowed to eat under ancient Jewish dietary laws. Just like the prohibitions in the Old Testament against incest, God’s warning against homosexual behavior is for every age.
Then there are people who challenge New Testament verses by saying that while it seems to reprimand homosexual acts, it’s really talking about male prostitutes, not same-sex monogamous relationships. There’s only one problem, the Greek word used for homosexuality in the New Testament is ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoítēs) and means “partner in homosexual intercourse.” So the conclusion remains: God created human beings as male and female, and meant for sexual intimacy to take place in the context of marriage alone. As a result, the Bible throughout describes any deviation from that design as outside of God’s will for our lives.
Today’s culture hangs so much on sexuality. The world teaches that fulfilling one’s sexual desire is what brings ultimate satisfaction in life. The reality is that no earthly relationship can make one’s life complete. However, there is One who can fulfill our heart’s desire for love and acceptance. Knowing Jesus will never leave us empty. True fulfillment comes by having an authentic relationship with him.
There are many who want to ignore clear biblical teaching on the matter. Some of those people are clergy, who have no problem performing ceremonies for same-sex couples. These people not only ignore the Bible, but also 2000 years of church history. Make no mistake, from the Early Church Fathers to the Reformation and beyond, homosexual behavior has been deemed as against God’s unique sexual design for humanity.
The problem we will run into in the future does not pertain to clear biblical teaching on the subject, but rather to ecclesial and pastoral ethics. Will those who are ordained in the church uphold the biblical views and traditions of the church faithfully? Only time will tell. Regardless, the Bible is clear, without doubt and without reservation, homosexual behavior stands against God’s intent for human sexuality.
(Sources: Philip Yancey article “Homosexuality”; Sam Allberry sermon “Can You Be Both Gay and Christian”; James Emory White sermon notes from the series “Hot Topics” sermon “Homosexuality”)
6 thoughts on “Biblical Sexuality”
Feminine behavior and masculine behavior are social constructs. Gender roles were not created by God.
Male and Female biology has nothing to do with what society deems feminine and masculine.
I can’t stand the short-sighted “biblical” definitions of masculinity/femininity that are rooted more in American cultural models than anything found in scripture. Evangelical leaders like John Eldredge and Mark Driscoll have exalted this idol of “masculinity” that flies in the face of everything Christ taught us. Nowhere in the Bible does God establish anything resembling a model for gender roles, and we need to stop this idolatry in its tracks.
Jesus establishes a very clear sexual ethic.
For the sake of conversation I edited the blog. However, what I can’t stand is a theology that bypasses the bible. How can we overlook 2000 years of church history and clear biblical ethics on subjects pertaining to sexuality and God’s unique design.
A compound Greek word: literally men and bed.
How do you answer the argument that it is meant to indicate the Greek practice of older (married men) having younger male sexual partners (i.e.–like Alexander the Great taking his lover on campaign with him, even when he was married)?
You are correct. Arsenokoitai is a compound word: arseno is the word for “a male,” and koitai is the word for “mat” or “bed.” Put the two halves together, and the word means “a male bed”. Contextually, we have a person who makes use of a “male-only bed” or a “bed for males.”
The word meaning “bed” carries a strong sexual connotation for Paul. In fact, the Greek koitai is the source of our English word coitus (“sexual intercourse”). The conclusion is that the word arsenokoitai is referring to homosexuals—men who are in bed with other men, engaging in same-gender sexual activity. This would encompass Paul’s admonition against older married men having younger male sexual partners.
The Pauline corpus is rather clear on its definition of terms and application through Hellenistic culture. Jesus is also very clear in the design of his sexual ethic, specifically around marriage. He defines gender and works to intensify his sexual ethic, “Even if a man looks at a woman…” He is not relaxing moral guidelines but rather tightening them. These are incredibly important issues in our time. I would be happy to discuss or answer any questions.
If I may, I will offer my message entitled: “Homosexuality: A Christian Response” for a more in-depth exegetical work on Jesus’ sexual ethic and his use of the Genesis narrative. These are critical in understanding this important issue.