Offering Hope To Homosexuals
The following Bible study lesson by Dr. Ross H. McLaren originally appeared in The Herschel Hobbs Commentary on January 31, 1999. The Herschel Hobbs Commentary is a quarterly commentary on the adult Life and Work series published by LifeWay Christian Resources and is based on the King James Version.
OFFERING HOPE TO HOMOSEXUALS
January 31, 1999
Background Scripture: Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20
Focal Verses: Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:24-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,18-20
- Some people seek love with members of their own sex. This raises the question for each of us, What should my attitude be about homosexuality and homosexuals?
- God created human beings male and female. So to address the issue of sexual orientation is to come close to the center of our identity. This demands an unusual degree of sensitivity. This is a warning that those who read, study, and/or teach this lesson need to heed.
- Everyone using this material should keep in mind that when it comes to sex everyone is fallen. As Thomas Schmidt said, "There is no heterosexual who is not troubled by fallenness in the area of sexuality" (Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995], 55).
- The Lesson Bible Truth is that God condemns homosexuality but offers homosexuals hope of a new life through faith in Jesus Christ.
- The Life Outcome is to help you hold to the biblical view of homosexuality and homosexuals.
- Note: Those who wish to read only the Bible exposition may skip to the section "Focal Verses Examined." Readers may wish to keep this issue of The Herschel Hobbs Commentary for future reference.
I. SOME PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS
1. What’s the Big Deal About Homosexuality?
More and more when the issue of homosexuality is raised one hears responses like these: "Why can’t we just ‘live and let live’?" "Why all this bother about something that isn’t anyone else’s business?" "It isn’t for me, but who am Ito say anything about what goes on between consenting adults behind closed doors?" "Aren’t personal decisions about sex a private matter?"
Unfortunately, many in today’s culture—including many church-going Christians—have bought into the argument that if a homosexual relationship is truly a loving relationship characterized by commitment, mutuality, tenderness, and faithfulness, then it must be affirmed as good and not rejected as evil. Such a relationship, it is asserted, rescues people from loneliness, selfishness, and promiscuity; and it can be just as rich and responsible, as liberating and fulfilling, as a heterosexual marriage.
John R. W. Stott responded to such thinking: "The biblical Christian cannot accept the basic premise on which this case rests, namely, that love is the only absolute, that beside it all moral law has been abolished, and that whatever seems to be compatible with love is ipso facto good, irrespective of all other considerations. This cannot be so. For love needs law to guide it. . . . Indeed, I have to add that they [homosexual relationships] are incompatible with true love because they are incompatible with God’s law"(Homosexual Partnerships? Why Same-Sex Relationships Are Not a Christian Option [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985], 20-21).
Richard Howe agreed. He wrote, "The issue of homosexuality is not simply a matter of what goes on between consenting adults in the privacy of the bedroom. Basic elements of society are targets of change"("Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," in The American Family Association Journal [Tupelo, MS: The American Family Association, 1994], 3).
2. What Is the Homosexual Agenda?
According to Dr. James Kennedy, founder of Evangelism Explosion and senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, "Homosexuality may well be the most important moral issue of our day." According to Kennedy, many Americans do not know that "a strategic battle plan to impose homosexual immorality on the rest of the nation has already been created and is being carried out." This strategy involves the complete restructuring of American public policy ("Gay Rights:Private Lives and Public Policy").
The homosexual strategy is to raise homosexuality to the level of an accepted alternative lifestyle, hence legitimizing it alongside heterosexuality as a prevailing norm of behavior. This includes the implementation of homosexual and bisexual curriculum at all levels of public education; the legalization of homosexual marriages and family structures; custody, adoption, and foster care rights; affirmative action as a government policy; health care insurance for domestic partners; access to organizations and programs like the Boy Scouts of America; open access to the military; and civil rights protection based on sexual preference.
This last item is the most insidious. Thomas Schmidt noted, "For increasing numbers of people, sexuality is no longer a moral issue but a civil rights issue" (Straight and Narrow? 25). Richard Howe concurred: "Today the homosexual community is casting the debate along the lines of one’s identity as being a homosexual rather than one’s actions as engaging in homosexual activity. This makes it easier for the debate to be construed as a civil rights debate"("Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," 3). Howe explained the reasoning behind this strategy: "The more the homosexual community is able to construe the issue of homosexuality and public policy along the lines of ‘civil rights,’ the more success it will have in achieving its agenda"("Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," 13).
3. It’s Time to Speak Up
This is an issue about which Christians must break the sound barrier. Richard Howe warned, "Today the homosexual community is seeking not only the right to practice and celebrate their homosexuality openly, but is in many ways seeking the endorsement from the rest of society for its lifestyle. There is no way to remain neutral on this issue. To allow for homosexuality in public life is tacitly to concede its legitimacy"("Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," 9). He continued, "Homosexuality can no longer be an issue that we are too shy to confront publicly" ("Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," 15).
Southern Baptists have heeded this warning. The messengers to the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution that read in part, "God, the Creator and Judge of all, has ruled that homosexual conduct is always a gross moral and spiritual abomination for any person, whether male or female, under any circumstance, without exception"("On Domestic Partnerships," Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention [Nashville: The Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Convention, 1997], 97).
Some will dismiss this position as homophobia—an irrational fear of homosexuality—a charge constantly leveled at those who question the normality of homosexuality. But as Thomas Schmidt said, "Narrow options for sexual activity do not necessarily emanate from a narrow mind" (Straight and Narrow? 161).
4. What Percent of the Population Is Homosexual?
One often hears the statistic that 10 percent of the American population is homosexual; that’s one out of every ten Americans. This is a myth based on the flawed 1948 Kinsey report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Judith A. Reisman and Edward W.Eichel, in their book Kinsey, Sex, and Fraud [Lafayette, LA: Lochinvar-Huntington House, 1990], demonstrated that the Kinsey report was fraudulent and inflated. According to The Alan Guttmacher Institute and USAToday, only one in 100 is homosexual; that’s one percent of the American population ("Gay Rights:Private Lives and Public Policy").
This raises the question, Why is the myth of 10 percent still perpetuated in the national media and by homosexual groups? The answer is that it is because it is a strategy to convince you that homosexuality, being so widespread, is normal.
However, even if homosexuality were as widespread as they would have us believe, we should remember that the statistical frequency of a phenomenon does not determine its moral status.
5. What Causes Homosexuality?
Thomas Schmidt addressed this question: "There is no scholarly consensus about causation. Biological, sociological, developmental, moral, behavioral, and volitional variables may all play a part in the formation of a homosexual identity"(Straight and Narrow? 163). The 1996 Southern Baptist Convention agreed with this assessment. The messengers passed a resolution that read in part: "Homosexual attractions are pathological, abnormal, and mostly if not entirely a matter of external influence, learned behavior, acquired taste and personal choice; and . . . no conclusive scientific evidence has been found to support claims that homosexual attractions are biologically fixed and irreversible" ("On Homosexual Marriage," Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention [Nashville: The Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Convention, 1996], 92). (Those who wish to learn more about what modern science has discovered concerning homosexuality, whether homosexuality is innate, or if there is a homosexual gene, should read Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996].)
Homosexuality is a complex psychosis involving thoughts, feelings, fantasies, attractions, identity, behavior, and, only possibly, genetics. But, as Schmidt concluded, "Whatever factors, negative or neutral, alone or in combination, may explain homosexual desires and actions, they can never justify homosexual desires and actions, because causation is not a moral category"(Straight and Narrow? 163).
6. How Can People Get Around What the Bible Says?
Some Christians and Christian denominations have attempted to remove the biblical prohibition against homosexuality—or at least to reinterpret it. Two common revisionist approaches to the traditional Christian stance against homosexuality normally are used.
(1) The attempt to deny that the Bible condemns homosexuality. The biblical passages are explained away as referring to inhospitality (Gen. 19; Judg. 19); male prostitution (Lev. 18; 20; 1 Cor. 6; 1 Tim. 1); adult pederasts with prepubescent companions, that is, to sex between men and boys (Rom. 1); or rape (2 Pet. 2; Jude 7).
(2) The attempt to qualify the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. This approach can take three forms.
(a) Implication: Condemnation must be replaced by the notions of love and liberation.
(b) Expansion: The concept of loving relationships must be expanded beyond relationships that are needed for reproduction and male-female complementarity.
(c) Correction: The unjust and unchristian elements in the Bible need to be rejected in favor of more contemporary understandings of human sexuality. (For an explanation of these approaches, see Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 29-38.)
Not only are these attempts flawed hermeneutically and exegetically, they are wide of the mark concerning the true biblical starting point about this issue. As Thomas Schmidt pointed out, "The proper starting point for a consideration of homosexuality is not a list of prohibition texts but an understanding of what the Bible affirms in heterosexual monogamy"(Straight and Narrow? 52). Heterosexual monogamy was established by creation, not culture. Therefore its validity is both universal and permanent. Homosexuality, therefore, is prohibited on the ground of a creation-based morality, not just on a few texts scattered throughout the Scripture.
7. How Should Christians Respond to Homosexuals?
In responding to the question "What should we understand about the homosexual?" Mike Hawkins, whose story is told on the North American Mission Board video "Hope for the Homosexual:Mike’s Story," said, "Homosexuals are people who have been rejected their whole lives. They’re hurting individuals. They’re people who really need affection. . . . They feel isolated. They feel isolated from the rest of society. . . . It’s very difficult for them to establish relationships outside of the boundaries [of the homosexual community], except within the safe environment of their [homosexual] community. Understand that they’re hurting. They’re afraid of a relationship with a heterosexual person."
In other words, Christian heterosexuals must never lose sight of the fact that homosexuals are individuals struggling with their humanity and experiencing pain.
When asked what are the most important things heterosexuals could do for homosexuals, Mike Hawkins suggested: First, people need to be patient with homosexuals. Second, tell them how much you love them. Third, keep telling them how much God loves them.
Mike, who died of AIDS on July 27, 1995, also commented on Southern Baptist churches in particular. He said, "Southern Baptists should be more open to saying, ‘This exists in our churches, and we can help. God’s grace can help.’ And we need to be open enough to address it and deal with it without being only condemning but to also talk about the grace of God to help a person work through this in their lives."
In other words, the church needs to provide a Christian environment of love, understanding, personal acceptance, and support. As Thomas Schmidt said, "Christian faith and Christian community in particular offer unique and powerful supports to people in transition" from homosexuality (Straight and Narrow? 163).
II. FOCAL VERSES EXAMINED (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:24-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-11,18-20)
What Christians believe about homosexuality must be determined not by what their society or culture thinks is right but by what the Scripture teaches. In this area, as in all others, Scripture must be the primary and final authority.
Homosexuality is condemned in nine biblical passages: Genesis 19:1-8; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Judges 19:16-30; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 2:6-7; Jude 7. The teaching of these passages is so clear that one homosexual writer, G. D. Comstock, confessed: "Those passages will be brought up and used against us again and again until Christians demand their removal from the biblical canon or, at the very least, formally discredit their authority to prescribe behavior" (Gay Theology Without Apology [New York: Pilgrim Press, 1993], 38).
1. Is Homosexuality an Acceptable Lifestyle? (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:24-25)
Leviticus 17–26 is called the Holiness Code. These chapters are characterized by moral and ethical instruction and obligation that is based in the nature of God (see the tenfold repetitious expressions in these ten chapters: 19:1; 20:8,26; 21:8,15,23; 22:2,9,16,32). One of the many topics addressed in the Holiness Code is homosexuality. In fact, it is addressed twice—once in 18:22 and again in 20:13. In Romans 1 Paul declared that God abandoned the Gentiles to their sinful perversions.
Leviticus 18:22: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
This prohibition concerns specific immoral sexual relations. Men are not to lie with ("to have sex with," CEV) other men as if they were women. Such homosexual relations are clearly labeled an abomination. Abomination is something that is "detestable" (NIV) and "hated" by God. It is that which is "repugnant" to Him. The word is used of homosexuality again in 20:13, where such an act carries the death penalty. (to‘ebah)is a term of strong disapproval. It is used five times in this chapter (vv. 22,26,27,29,30). comes from a root meaning "to hate" or "to abhor" (ta‘ab).
Romans 1:24-25: Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: 25who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Romans 1:24-32 consists of a threefold condemnation of the Gentiles. Each section is introduced by the words God . . . gave them up (paredoken autous ho theos, vv. 24,26,28; the KJV translates the identical Greek phrase as "God gave them over to" in v. 28). In verses 24-25 Paul focused on lust and idolatry. In verses 26-27 he described homosexuality and lesbianism. In verses 28-32 he listed some vices that are destructive to human relationships.
Nowhere does the word sin appear in the first two chapters of Romans. Some people have taken this to mean that homosexuality is not a sin. This is to miss the point completely. The description of sin is the primary subject of these chapters. That homosexuality is sinful and an ungodly lifestyle that is incompatible with biblical teaching is seen in Paul’s characterization of it as uncleanness ("sexual impurity,"NIV). In Paul’s time, the Greek word akatharsia referred to moral, and especially sexual, wrongdoing (see, for example, Rom. 6:19; 2 Cor. 12:21; 1 Thess. 4:7).
Paul also said that homosexuals dishonor their own bodies between themselves ("degrading of their bodies with one another," NIV). The word dishonor is atimia. It means "dishonor," "disgrace," and "shame." One of the few other times Paul used this word was in the next chapter in reference to dishonoring God by breaking His law (2:23). Here the word probably is in the middle (rather than passive) voice, which has a reflexive sense, "the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves"(RSV). Those who engage in homosexual acts do the dishonoring to themselves.
Lusts of their own hearts is translated in the New International Version as "sinful desires of their hearts." The Revised English Bible has "their own vile desires." The word lusts or "desires" (NIV) is epithymia. The Pauline letters contain 17 instances of this word. Only in Philippians 1:23 and 1 Thessalonians 2:17 does it have a positive connotation. All of the other 15 times—and doubly so if the rest of the New Testament is counted—the word is used in the context of moral teaching and is negative and connected to sin. By the use of this term, Paul pointed to the inclination of the will as leading to sinful same-sex acts.
In reference to these verses, the 1996 Southern Baptist Convention messengers publicly resolved that "God makes it clear in Scripture that even desire to engage in a homosexual sexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted" ("On Homosexual Marriage," Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1996, 92).
2. Is Homosexuality Natural? (Rom. 1:26-28)
Many homosexuals—and now even many nonhomosexuals—regard their supposedly positive experience of homosexuality as decisive for moral justification of the lifestyle. They rely on individual experience, which becomes their final authority for their moral standard. To them, their desires and habits are not unnatural. To act in any other way, they say, would be "unnatural." To them, their homosexuality is "natural." Unfortunately, such an argument that homosexuality is natural and normal is based on individual subjective standards of normality and naturalness.
Some want to say that homosexuality is natural because it is observable in nature. Or to put it another way, if animals do it, then it must be natural. This idea assumes, of course, that animals are a proper model for conclusions regarding humans—a position easily shown to be false when it is pointed out, for instance, that cannibalism is found in the animal kingdom. And even though some same-sex mounting occurs in nature to express dominance and submission, as Thomas Schmidt pointed out, natural and moral are not the same thing—"The point is that something is not moral merely because animals or people do it" (Straight and Narrow? 134).
Others want to point to the long history of homosexuality in the West to argue that it is natural. After extensive investigation Thomas Schmidt wrote, "Upper-class Greek and Roman males alternated between women and boys for sexual gratification, but approval did not extend to sex between adults [of the same sex], to passive partners, or to long-term [homosexual] relationships." Therefore he concluded, "Throughout the history of human cultures, no society has approved of homosexuality as we know it today: long-term relationships of mutual consent between adults" (Straight and Narrow? 135). The history of human societies and cultures does not demonstrate that homosexuality is natural.
Among the world’s major religions, only Buddhism—and possibly Shintoism—takes a neutral stance toward homosexuality. Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, and Christianity all historically have forbidden the behavior. The world’s major traditional religions do not support the idea that homosexuality is natural.
But what does the Scripture say?
Romans 1:26-28: 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: 27and 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. 28And 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.
Notice that Paul’s first reference is to sexual relations between females—even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature—and only then to sexual relations between men. Obviously then Paul was not merely condemning pederasty or male cult prostitution, as some have argued, but lesbianism and homosexuality.
In verses 26 and 27 Paul contrasted homosexual relationships with that which is natural, clearly stating that homosexuality is against nature. Homosexuality is not natural because it is a violation of a creation-based morality. Concerning women Paul said in verse 26 that they did change the natural use into that which is against nature or "unnatural"(NIV, NASB, NRSV; para physin). In verse 27 he said of the men that they abandoned the natural use of the woman. The words natural and nature both come from the Greek word physin. What lesbians and homosexuals did change or "exchanged" (NIV) was "natural intercourse for unnatural" sexual relations (NRSV, REB).
Thus the Bible declares homosexuality not only immoral but unnatural. Just as idolatry (vv. 21-23) shows humanity’s corporate rebellion against the Creator, so lesbianism and homosexuality show humanity’s revolt against the created order. In fact, in verses 26-27 Paul did not use the usual words for women and men. He used "females"(theleiai) and "males"(arsenes)—a fact lost in the translations. Thus even in his choice of language Paul seems to have been consciously echoing and affirming the created order, "male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27), thereby demonstrating that homosexuality is a violation of that order. "The homosexual condition, being a deviation from God’s norm, is not a sign of created order but of fallen disorder" (Stott, Homosexual Partnerships? 25).
Those who think homosexuality is natural have bought into a fundamental falsehood. Even if they think homosexuality is natural for them, they have embraced a lie that goes back beyond their experience. The created order as established by God is what is natural. The standard of truth and morality cannot be the individual homosexual’s experience—no matter how loving and enhancing it has been. Such thinking is only evident of a reprobate ("depraved," NIV, NASB; "debased," NRSV) mind.
Paul used two more terms that point to the inclination of the will in leading to sinful same-sex acts. Whereas in verse 24 he used epithymia, lust or "desires" (NIV), in verse 26 he used pathos, affections ("lusts," NIV; "passions," NRSV, NASB), and in verse 27 he used orexis, lust. Pathos is used only two other times in the New Testament and denotes sinful action (Col. 3:5, where it is translated "inordinate affection" in the KJV, and 1 Thess. 4:5). The word Paul linked with pathos was vile ("shameful," NIV; "degrading," NRSV, NASB). Paul literally wrote, "passions of dishonor" (pathe atimias)—combining pathos with a form of the same word for "dishonor" that he used in verse 24. Orexis is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. We should, however, notice that the word it modifies in verse 27 is burned (ekkaio). Of the males Paul wrote that they "were inflamed with lust for one another"(NIV), or they "were consumed with passion for one another"(NRSV), or they "burned in their desire toward one another"(NASB).
Make no mistake about it, homosexuality is driven by a sinful, lustful burning desire for sexual relations with members of the same sex. Homosexuals often attempt to deny this. They attempt to propagate a myth that they are monogamous. This is not true. According to Mike Hawkins, many heterosexuals don’t realize how sexually active homosexuals are.
An article in USA Today in November 1984 reported that homosexuals have an average of 50 different sexual partners each year. A. P. Bell and M. S. Weinberg, in researching for their book Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women, documented homosexual promiscuity. They found that 74 percent of male homosexuals reported having more than 100 partners during their lifetimes, 41 percent more than 500 partners, 28 percent more than 1,000 partners. Seventy five percent reported that more than half their partners were "strangers," and 65 percent reported that they had sex with more than half their partners only once. For the previous year, 55 percent reported 20 or more partners, 30 percent 50 or more partners (cited in Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 106).
M. T. Saghir and E. Robins, in their study titled Male and Female Homosexuality: A Comprehensive Investigation (Baltimore: Williams Wilkins, 1973), found that 50 percent of homosexual men over the age of 30, and 75 percent of homosexual men over the age of 40, experienced no relationship that lasted more than one year (cited in Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 106).
A research survey of 4,329 male homosexuals and 962 female homosexuals conducted by K. Jay and A. Young found that only 7 percent of male homosexuals had been in a relationship that had lasted more than 10 years; 38 percent had never been in a relationship that lasted more than one year; 55 percent had never been in a relationship that lasted more than two years.
Another study of several hundred male couples in Chicago conducted by J. Harry (Gay Couples [New York: Praeger Books, 1984], 115) reported a nonexclusivity rate of 87 percent among those who had been together less than a year, a nonexclusivity rate of 75 percent among those who had been together one to five years, and a nonexclusivity rate of 91 percent among those who had been together more than five years (both studies cited in Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 107).
The gay agenda would have us believe that the homosexual community is no more promiscuous than the general heterosexual population. This is not true when one compares the data.
In contrast to the promiscuity of homosexuals, a respected survey of heterosexual sexual behavior found that 85 percent of women and 75.5 percent of men reported no extramarital affairs in their lifetimes (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 200). A major study of American adult sexual behavior published in 1993 found that 17 percent of heterosexual men and 10 percent of heterosexual women had more than one partner in the previous year (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 107). Another study of nonmonogamy reported that only 3.8 percent of married heterosexuals reported more than one sexual partner in the previous year, as did 14.9 percent of cohabiting heterosexuals (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 200).
From this data Schmidt concluded, "The number of homosexual men who experience anything like lifelong fidelity becomes, statistically speaking, almost meaningless. Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereotype, and it is not merely the majority experience—it is virtually the only experience" (Straight and Narrow? 108). And again, "There is practically no comparison possible to heterosexual marriage in terms of either fidelity or longevity"(Straight and Narrow? 108).
Another term Paul used to describe the sinfulness of homosexual practices in Romans 1:27 was aschemosyne, that which is unseemly. The New International Version and the New American Standard Bible identify these as "indecent acts"; the New Revised Standard Version has "shameless acts." The Contemporary English Version reads, "They did shameful things with each other." The only other New Testament use of this word is in Revelation 16:15, where it refers to being exposed to shame.
Yet another way Paul described homosexual behavior was those things which are not convenient (ta me kathekonta). A newer translation is clearer here: "what ought not to be done"(NIV) or "things that should not be done"(NRSV).
Then in verse 27 Paul referred to the recompense of their error. The word for error is plane. It means "perversion"(NIV, REB). Recompense (antimisthia) means "due penalty" (NIV). "Payback" or "fitting wage"(REB)—recall Romans 6:23—would be good modern paraphrases. And, Paul wrote, they receive it—or "are paid"(REB)—in themselves (en heautois), or "in their own persons"(NASB, NRSV).
Whatever Paul meant in his day when he wrote in verse 27 that homosexuals were receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet (or "received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion," NIV), "it is hard not to make a connection between his words and the health crisis we observe in our time" in the homosexual community (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 122).
Homosexuals claim they merely want to practice the kind of sexuality that corresponds to their nature without harming anyone. But "no honest look at current scientific research allows us to view homosexual practice as peaceable and harmless" (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 130).
Thomas Schmidt (Straight and Narrow? 116-123) summarized the data:
1. At least 75 percent of homosexual men are carrying one or more sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They also have a 40 percent annual infection rate. This dwarfs the 16.9 percent lifetime infection rate and 1.6 percent annual rate in the general population (due largely to those who have had five or more sexual partners).
2. Fifteen common afflictions plague homosexuals—most of which most of us have never heard of! These afflictions can be grouped into three categories: physical trauma, nonviral infections, and viral infections.
3. The most common physical trauma among homosexuals is to the rectum. This trauma is caused by the insertion of body organs, fingers, fists, arms, and other objects.
4. The most common nonviral infections among homosexuals are amebiasis (affecting 25-40 percent of homosexual men), giardiasis (affecting 10-30 percent of homosexual men), gonorrhea (affecting 40-60 percent of homosexual men), shigellosis (affecting 10-20 percent of homosexual men), chlamydia (affecting 5-15 percent of homosexual men), syphilis (affecting 30 percent of homosexual men), and ectoparasites—including pubic lice or "crabs" and scabies (affecting 69 percent and 22 percent of homosexual men respectively).
5. Viral infections that are commonly found among homosexuals are condylomata—or anal warts (affecting 30-40 percent of homosexual men, and possibly as high as 65 percent), herpes (affecting 10-20 percent of homosexual men), hepatitis B—or HBV—(affecting 65 percent of homosexual men), and hepatitis A—or HAV—(affecting 40 percent of homosexual men—three times the rate of the general population). Neither herpes or hepatitis B have a cure.
In contrast to the data on the homosexual community, the general population lifetime incidence of gonorrhea is 6.6 percent, syphilis 0.8 percent, chlamydia 3.2 percent, genital warts 4.7 percent, herpes 2.1 percent, hepatitis 1.1 percent (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 208).
6. And then, of course, there is HIV and AIDS. The former may remain asymptomatic for up to 10 years, while the latter often takes its toll in 18 months. In the United States, an estimated 50 percent of homosexual males are believed to be HIV positive, according to Dr. Robert Renfield and The Centers For Disease Control. Homosexuals are approximately 5,000 times more likely to contract AIDS. Approximately 70 percent of those who have died from this dreaded disease are homosexuals. That’s about 450,000 people! over 42,000 people a year!
In fact, Dr. Paul Cameron and his colleagues conducted research that demonstrated that while the average married heterosexual male lives to age 75—with 80 percent living to 65 or older—the average homosexual male lives to age 41—with less than 2 percent surviving to 65. The median age of death for lesbians is 45—with only 23 percent surviving to 65—while the median age of death for married women is 79—with 85 percent living to age 65 or older (World Magazine, March 1993; "The Lifespan of Homosexuals," April 17, 1993; Howe, "Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," 14-15).
According to a 1990 American Medical Association report, homosexual youth are 23 times more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases than heterosexuals (cited in "Gay Rights:Private Lives and Public Policy," a video by D. James Kennedy).
Homosexuality is not harmless! All of the homosexual sex acts are unhealthy.
The apostle Paul said that lesbianism and homosexuality are a "perversion" and evidence of "a depraved mind" (v. 27, NIV). Lesbianism and homosexuality pervert God’s created order. Thomas Schmidt said it best:"Paul’s profound analysis of the human condition in Romans 1 finds in homosexuality an example of sexual sin that falsifies our identity as sexual beings, just as idolatry falsifies our identity as created beings. Homosexual behavior is ‘revolting,’ not because heterosexuals find it so . . . but because it epitomizes in sexual terms the revolt against God. It is sinful because it violates the plan of God, present from creation, for the union of male and female in marriage" (Straight and Narrow? 85).
Homosexuality is an unnatural, perverse lifestyle that has profoundly destructive spiritual, psychological, and social consequences.
3. Do Homosexuals Have a Way Out? (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
Another myth is that there is no way out of homosexuality, that there is no healing. Richard Howe wrote, "As far as the homosexual community is concerned, their homosexuality is so much a part of their identity that it is beyond the ability of anyone to change it" ("Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," 12). That homosexuals cannot change, he continued, "is perhaps one of the most destructive myths about homosexuality, for it can lead to the abandonment of all hope for deliverance. The truth is that a tremendous number of homosexuals have changed"("Homosexuality in America:Exposing the Myths," 11). According to Mike Hawkins, many homosexuals feel trapped. They wonder, How can I change my desires? How can I change my attractions?
What does the Bible say? Is there a way out of homosexuality?
1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And 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.
In this section of 1 Corinthians Paul stated that it was part of basic Christian doctrine that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Anyone who thinks differently is deceived, that is, is in a dangerous frame of mind. Among the ten kinds of unrighteous people Paul named are two groups that pertain to this lesson—the effeminate and those he called abusers of themselves with mankind.
Effeminate is the word malakoi. Newer translations render this word "male prostitutes"(NIV, NRSV). The Revised English Bible has "sexual pervert." Abusers of themselves with mankind translates one Greek word, arsenokoitai—a male who practices homosexuality. This word does not appear in any literature before the New Testament, and, except for the two times Paul used it, it does not occur again in any writer for 200 years after the New Testament. In other words, Paul seems to have coined this term directly from the Greek text of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. The New International Version renders it "homosexual offenders." The New Revised Standard Version has "sodomites." Elsewhere Paul only used the term in 1 Timothy 1:10, where it is translated "them that defile themselves with mankind" (KJV) or "perverts" (NIV). The word literally refers to "a male who has intercourse with a male" (arsenokoitai; arseno, male, and koite, coitus or intercourse). It does not matter whether this word refers to lustful, uncommitted encounters or to loving, permanent relationships. There are no qualifications or exceptions given—all homosexual behavior is forbidden, no matter what the degree of lust or love involved.
And then Paul made an amazing statement—and such were some of you! Homosexual practice was not a foreign experience to some in the Christian community in Corinth. Such is literally "these things"(tauta): "Some of you were these things." "This expression points up the horrible condition they were in" (W. Harold Mare, "1 Corinthians," in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 10 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979], 223).
But then Paul added three adversatives, but . . . but . . . but (alla . . . alla . . . alla). Praise God for the "buts" of the Bible! Three things happened to these former homosexuals: ye are washed . . . ye are sanctified . . . ye are justified. Actually the words are in the aorist or past tense: "you were washed . . . you were sanctified . . . you were justified" (NIV). The Greek aorist tense, stressing the point of action, emphasizes the definiteness of the Lord’s work in their salvation. All three of these transactions occurred when the Lord saved them. All three of these transactions are also passive verbs—again pointing to the work of the Lord in their salvation.
Washed (apolousasthe) refers to spiritual cleansing by God. Sanctified (hegiasthete) means they were set apart as God’s people. Justified (edikaiothete) is the legal declaration that God as Judge had declared them righteous. All of this was done by God on the authority of the name of the Lord Jesus and by the regenerating power of the Spirit of our God.
Yes, homosexuals do have a way out! But it will take a work of God in their lives to change them. It will take His cleansing, His sanctifying, and His making them righteous to change their lives permanently. Mike Hawkins said he felt under the condemnation of God, and justly so, based on Romans 1. But 1 Corinthians 6:11 gave him hope. It let him experience the grace of God. Only God can cleanse, sanctify, and make those who have been caught up in homosexuality righteous in His sight.
4. What Will Help Someone Not Fall Back into a Homosexual Lifestyle? (1 Cor. 6:18-20)
Homosexuality is a form of addiction. What is the former homosexual to do about continuing homosexual desires and attractions? Mike Hawkins confessed, "Don’t expect it to just go away. You’ll still have the feelings from the habit, from the addiction." If this is the case, what will help someone not fall back into a homosexual lifestyle? In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Paul offered five tips to those who wrestle with sexual immorality of all types.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20: Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [Spirit] which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
First, he said, Flee fornication. The verb is an imperative, meaning a command denoting the urgency of the matter. It is in the present durative tense, meaning "be fleeing from" or "keep on fleeing." A. T. Robertson wrote, "have the habit of fleeing without delay or parley"(Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4, 122). This first exhortation shows that constant vigilance against sexual immorality is called for, not a one-time resistance. As G. G. Findley reminded us, "Other sins may be combated; this one must be fled, as Joseph in Potiphar’s house" ("St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians," in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 2 [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970], 821). Because the homosexual community is a self-serving environment, Mike Hawkins advised homosexuals who desire to come out of this sinful way of life to learn to break ties with their homosexual friends, acquaintances, and surroundings. He said those who desire to exit this sinful lifestyle need to find stability in their own life away from the homosexual environment ("Hope for the Homosexual: Mike’s Story"). Good advice!
Second, Paul declared that the one who commits sexual immorality sinneth against his own body. Unlike other dreadful sins, sexual immorality ruins the body itself. In sexual immorality, "the body is the instrument of sin and becomes the subject of the damage wrought"(Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4, 122). Sexual immorality is a self-violation. Determining to stop violating one’s own self will help one escape a homosexual lifestyle.
Third, speaking positively about the body, Paul informed them, your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Believers are to consider their whole body as a temple (naos), a sacred dwelling place of God. In the pagan temples of Corinth, female temple prostitutes were considered priestesses and male temple prostitutes were considered priests. For the temple of Aphrodite, commerce with the temple prostitutes was considered a consecration. For the temple of the Holy Ghost—believers’ bodies—sexual immorality is a desecration.
Fourth, Paul mentioned that the believer has received the Spirit of God—the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God. Thus the Holy Spirit is able to help the believer in his or her struggle against all unholiness. The Holy Spirit assists the believer to live a life of holiness because, after all, He is the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, Paul asked his readers if they did not know ye are not your own. The negative is emphatic. Because believers are not their own masters, they have no right to pervert or to misuse their bodies. "Their bodies were not theirs to do with as they pleased"(Herschel H. Hobbs, The Epistles to the Corinthians: A Study Manual, in the Shield Bible Study Series [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960], 37). Paul then reminded them why they were not their own: ye are bought with a price. Having purchased them, God was now their possessor. Herschel Hobbs (The Epistles to the Corinthians, 37) pointed out that "Bought with a price is an aorist passive form of agorazo, to buy in the market place (agora)." The picture is that of being slaves to sin and being purchased out of that horrible system of slavery (Rom. 6:17; 1 Cor. 7:23). A. T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4, 123) added, "Paul does not here state the price as Peter does in 1 Peter 1:19 (the blood of Christ) and as Jesus does in Matt. 20:28 (his life a ransom)."(See also Acts 20:28; Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7; Titus 2:14; Rev. 5:9.) Sexual immorality contradicts God’s rights to your body.
Then Paul broke off the discussion with a preemptory command—therefore glorify God in your body. Glorify is an aorist imperative. Hobbs translated this command, "Glorify God and do it right now"(The Epistles to the Corinthians, 37). Notice Paul wrote in your body (en to somati), not "with your body"(NIV). The way to do this is by living a chaste life. The words and in your spirit, which are God’s are not in the best manuscripts and are a late addition.
Does not falling back into a homosexual lifestyle mean that the person with homosexual desires is required to live a celibate life? to never be able to be sexually fulfilled?
Several things are wrong with this question. First, it confuses celibacy with abstinence. Celibacy is a special gift (Matt. 19:11-12; 1 Cor. 7:7); abstinence "is not a gift for a few but a responsibility for all who are not [heterosexually] married" (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 165). Biblically speaking, "The only alternative to heterosexual marriage is sexual abstinence"(Stott, Homosexual Partnerships? 23). This means that abstinence applies to unmarried heterosexuals as well as to those who claim to be homosexuals.
Second, in spite of the popularity of the notion, sexual gratification is not essential to personhood or human fulfillment. It is not inhuman or inhumane for anybody to deny himself or herself sexual expression. We must resist the notion that sexual desire is a need that has to be acted upon or satisfied. In fact, it is dehumanizing to define one’s personhood by one’s desires alone. Nor should self-restraint and self-control, or any discipline of restraint, be depicted as unhealthy or repression—as the homosexual community seeks to do. One’s body is more than an instrument for the fulfillment of desire, and the fulfillment of desire is not the essence of the self. John Stott, himself a life-long single adult, commented: "The Word of God teaches that sexual experience is not essential to human fulfillment. . . . It is not indispensable to humanness. . . . So ultimately it is a crisis of faith: Whom shall we believe? God or the world? Shall we submit to the Lordship of Jesus, or succumb to the pressures of prevailing culture?"(Homosexual Partnerships? 23).
Third, the question gives priority to sinful desires over righteousness. It advocates living according one’s own standards rather than living according to God’s standards. Behind the question is the belief that sexual frustration is intolerable and that homosexual acts are tolerable (Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? 166). As Thomas Schmidt said, "The Christian faith does not change morality; it offers power for morality"(Straight and Narrow? 57). And again, "The Bible does not liberate people from righteousness, it liberates them to righteousness"(Straight and Narrow? 59).
Fourth, the question implies that unless the homosexual person can fulfill his or her sinful sexual desires he or she will be confined to a life of relational loneliness. This simply is not true. Close relationships with persons of the same sex need not involve having sex with them. Many people of the same sex have very close and intimate relationships with each other, yet they are not homosexual.
If you, or a member of your Bible study group, struggle with homosexual desires—or you know someone who has or does—and need to experience healing in your life—including not just self-mastery but the reversal of a sinful sexual bias—there are a number of excellent pamphlets, books, videos, organizations, and magazines available that can be of help.
The pamphlet Homosexual Partnerships? Why Same-Sex Relationships Are Not a Christian Option by John R. W. Stott (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985) is an excellent brief synopsis of this issue. This pamphlet has been revised and enlarged into the slender volume Same-Sex Partnerships? A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1998).
The American Family Association publication "Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths" (P. O. Drawer 2440, Tupelo, MS 38803 [601-844-5036]) is enlightening.
The book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Jeffrey Satinover, M.D. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996) is an excellent investigation into what modern science has discovered concerning homosexuality, whether homosexuality is innate, or if there is a homosexual gene.
Those who wish a rigorous analysis of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality should invest in Out of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East by Donald J. Wold, Ph.D. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998).
Two helpful books about homosexuality and the homosexual agenda are:
George Grant and Mark A. Horne, Legislating Immorality: The Homosexual Movement Comes Out of the Closet (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993).
Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995).
Among the better books related to healing for the homosexual are:
Mario Bergner, Setting Love In Order:Hope and Healing for the Homosexual (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995).
Andrew Comiskey, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1989). This is one of the most popular books on homosexual healing. Comiskey heads the Los Angeles-area Desert Stream Ministry.
Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel, Coming Out of Homosexuality: New Freedom for Men and Women (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993). Davies was executive director of Exodus International through 2000. Their book contains a wealth of practical details on coping with temptation, dealing with the past, forming healthy friendships, and considering marriage.
Leanne Payne, The Broken Image (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1981) and The Healing of the Homosexual (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984). Both of these volumes stress the role of prayer in healing.
Mona Riley and Brad Sargent, Unwanted Harvest? (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995).
The video "Gay Rights:Private Lives and Public Policy" by D. James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries, P. O. Box 40, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302-0040) unmasks the homosexual agenda. "Hope for the Homosexual: Mike’s Story" (The North American Mission Board, SBC, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022 [800-233-1123]) tells the story of Mike Hawkins and his struggle with homosexuality.
"On Wings Like Eagles: The Spiritual Journey of Michael Johnston" (Kerusso Ministries, 800-584-5630) is a compelling account of homosexual struggle.
Helpful Christian ministries that focus on healing for the homosexual can be found at the Restored Hope Network. There is a support group program "Living Waters" that Desert Stream Ministries offers: 706 Main St, Grandview, MO 64030 (866-359-0500),which is noted for the "Living Waters Program"being very successful in helping people overcome and First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City (405-236-4673). A wealth of information and videos can be obtain from the Nashville-based Mastering Life Ministries web site.
© Copyright 1998 by Lifeway Christian Ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention. All rights reserved. Used by permission. (This article was updated on September 16, 2015 to reflect the changes concerning Exodus International).
First Stone Ministries has permission to post the following Herschel Hobbs Commentary Bible Study here on our web site. The following Bible Study was presented in most Sunday School environments through out the United States on January 31, 1999. Our ministry received several phone calls as a result of this Bible study.