Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part one)

The Bible teaches clearly that homosexual behaviour is sinful.  Unfortunately, sometimes Christians who believe this do not understand some aspects of Biblical teaching on the subject.  Romans 1 is a very important passage in sharpening our thinking so that we do not add to God’s Word, and so we can better minister to those who are in spiritual need.

Previous:
Homosexuality and the Purposes of Marital Intimacy (with related links)
Homosexuality — What the Bible Clearly Says

This post continues a series triggered by the recent Kirk decision to permit the ordination of actively practicing homosexual behaviour.  We’ve been looking at this in our Bible Study, with these posts roughly based on that study.  I decided Romans 1 was important enough to give it special treatment.  The entire last half of the chapter is relevant.

Romans 1:18-32

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 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:
27 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 recompence of their error which was meet.
28 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;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

I’d like to look at some things that Bible-believing Christians sometimes get wrong.  I’ll start in this post with making sure we understand the real point of the passage.

This Passage is not About Homosexuality

This passage mentions homosexuality, but it is not about homosexuality.  It is about all who are unrighteous and resist the truth (verse 18), about those who do not honour God as God and are not thankful (verse 21).  It describes sinful people taking a path away from God (verses 18-23), and tells us the places that path can lead them (24-32).

The passage does not tell us that everyone who takes that path goes to all those places.  It is not saying that all who reject God commit homosexual sins, nor is it saying that all who commit homosexual sins commit all the other sins listed here.  Homosexual sin is just one of the destinations on this path.

Sometimes Christians look at every sin listed here and assume they are characteristic of homosexuals.  Rather, this describes many different symptoms of a life away from God.  One person may commit one of these sins, another person may commit others.

A person who commits homosexual sins is still made in the image of God, just like everyone else.  That image has been marred, disfigured, by sin, just like every other person who sins.  But God’s image is still present in every sinner.  As a result, we will see good qualities in everyone.  Those good qualities are damaged by sinful attitudes and motives, whatever a person’s sins and good qualities may be, but the remnants of God’s image will never be completely obscured in anyone.  It might be impossible for any one person to commit all the wickedness described in this passage without God’s judgment falling.

It is a mistake to take a person (whatever his sins may be) to Romans 1, read the list of sins, and say, “This describes you.”  That person will look at that list of sins, find one that doesn’t apply, and say, “No, it doesn’t” — and he will be right.  The part that describes him is verses 18-23.  If 18-23 applies, he will certainly also make an appearance in the list somewhere else, but the entire list is not intended to describe him.  Furthermore, it would be wrong to look at the list of sins and say, “This describes homosexuals.”  People could look at the list, look at someone they know who commits this sin, and say, “Not the one I know.”

If we try to apply every aspect of verses 24-32 to someone who engages in homosexual sin (or any other sin), we bring an accusation against him which Scripture does not support, and which is almost always going to be partly untrue.  We undermine any ability we might have to present the Gospel to that person, because we portray ourselves as only wanting to accuse.  Furthermore, we turn the focus away from the real problem (unbelief, rejection of God, verses 18-23) to the results / symptoms of the problem (verses 24-32).

The last nine verses of this chapter (including the references to homosexual sin) are not describing the real problem.  They simply tell us how destructive unbelief is, how deeply into sin it can take a person.  If we forget that, and treat the symptom as if it is the problem, we mar our testimony of the Gospel by misusing God’s Word.

Next:
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part two)
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part three)
Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part four)
Romans 1:32 and Homosexuality

To My Homosexual Readers

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
This entry was posted in Rightly Dividing, The Christian and Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Romans 1 and Christian Errors on Homosexuality (part one)

  1. alcoramdeo says:

    A wonderfully balanced beginning, Brother Jon.
    “If we… treat the symptom as if it is the problem, we mar our testimony of the Gospel by misusing God’s Word.”
    Such is the sad case of the society of this present age. People will spend fortunes treating their symptoms [to obtain pain relief] rather than seeking to understand and address the causal disease that threatens life itself.
    We seek comfort [relief from the stresses of everyday life] through distraction, via every form of pleasure for body, mind and emotion, ignoring the God of all comfort who provides His children a resident Comforter, “…our Helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”
    How good it is to be instructed by God’s servant, in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit, according to the immutable authority of the Holy Scriptures.
    Sincerest thanks.

  2. UK Fred says:

    If we are to love God with all of our heart and strength and mind, that surely means we ought to use the intellectual faculties that God gave us when He made us to understand as best we can what He has to say to us in His word. We need to be as thorough as we can be and as careful as we can be to ensure we both understand what has been written and we do not read into the Word something that is not there. Thank you, Jon, for your analysis.

  3. Bruce Smith says:

    Hello Jon, this has the ring of truth and the documentation. It has added and reinforced my understanding.

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