The culturre around us tells us that homosexuality is innate and fixed. We are told that “I was born homosexual” and “This is just the way the way I am.” The Bible teaches us that sin disorders our worship, belief, desire, and behavior. We have exchanged God’s pattern for our preferences and God’s praise for our pleasures. In this episode of the Radical Podcast on Romans 1:18-32, David Platt reminds us that the gospel reorders, renews, and redeems our lives.
- The gospel renews our worship.
- The gospel renews our belief.
- The gospel refreshes our desire. The gospel redeems our behavior.
If you have a Bible and I hope you do, I invite you to open with me to Romans 1. I thought I was uneasy in the previous sermon. I want to be as up front as possible from the beginning. I believe the gospel and homosexuality is an extremely important issue in our day. I think it’s been an important issue for a long time, even more so recently in light of rulings that we have seen in California where the Supreme Court, as most of you know, in a four to three ruling decided that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry one another. It’s not just an important issue today, but over the last however many years, this has been a huge issue in our culture and in the church. Frankly, I believe the way the church has addressed this issue has been found wanting.
It’s an important issue. I believe this is a biblical issue. I am really not interested in what the courts have to say about this issue or what politicians have to say about this issue or what activists on any side have to say about this issue. I’m not really interested in what I have to say about this issue and quite frankly I’m not interested at all in what you have to say about this issue. I’m in interested in what God has to say about this issue and I realize from the very beginning that any authority that I have to speak on this issue before you will be based in alignment on this Word. So that’s the goal, to see what this book says about this issue.
I realize there’s probably people here today who may not believe this book is the Word of God or may not even believe in God at all. I’d like to ask you if you might fall into one of those categories to start with this assumption, that there is at least a possibility that God exists. Even the most staunch atheist would have to acknowledge that none of us have all knowledge and there’s still at least a possibility that God exists. So let’s start with that possibility and assume that He does exist and He has given us a Word from Him. This is the Word of our Creator and if that is the case then we would be wise to listen to what our Creator has said to us, which leads to the third reason I really want to address this.
It’s an important issue, it’s a biblical issue, and this is a personal issue. Heather and I both have members of our extended families who have been openly involved in homosexual relationships. I have had a variety of friends and acquaintances, especially living in New Orleans, that participated in homosexual behavior and when it comes down to it, this is an issue not about laws or courts or policies or protests or debates. This is an issue about people. It’s an issue about people. People love and people desire to be loved and some people seek to fulfill that desire with members of the same sex and what I want to do from the very beginning is I want to put a personal face on this picture.
I am not going to assume to be the expert on every situation that’s represented here. I know just like with every sermon in this series, there are so many different situations. I know there are many of you who are followers of Christ, many of you who are not, many of you who have homosexual thoughts or desires or participate in homosexual behavior, and others of you who are decidedly heterosexual.
I’m not in any way claiming to be an expert on all the situations but I do want to from the very beginning try to put a personal face on the ideas in our world that are very real in individual’s lives when it comes to homosexuality, maybe even many individuals here.
Homosexuality and the World…
Romans 1:18–32: Homosexuality is Innate
When it comes to homosexuality and the world, these are prevailing. I’m not even saying these are all of them, but they are the prevailing ideas, thoughts and ideologies. The idea, the thought that homosexuality is innate. This is commonly expressed in phrases like, “I was born homosexual. God made me this way. Homosexuality, homosexual orientation is one of God’s gifts in my life.”
Mel White is one of the most prominent gay spokesmen for Christian lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender men and women. He said, “I have learned to accept and even celebrate my sexual orientation as another of God’s good gifts.”
Homosexuality is Fixed
Another prevailing idea is that homosexuality is fixed, that it can’t change. Homosexual orientation cannot be changed, instead people say, “This is just the way I am.” One prominent gay psychiatrist said, “Sexual orientation simply cannot be changed. There may be severe emotional and social consequences in the attempt to change from homosexuality to heterosexuality.” As a result, in other words, don’t try to change. That could cause negative implications. It’s fixed.
Homosexuality is Loving
Others believe that homosexuality is loving. “What’s wrong with homosexuality?” many might ask. “My partner and I love each other. An exclusive relationship doesn’t bother you. How can that be wrong?” One quote from a homosexual Christian brochure that I was reading said, “The relationship of two women or two men can be just as loving as the relationship between a woman and a man. Christ died for the sins of both homosexuals and heterosexual persons. Therefore gays and lesbian can freely come to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and still retain their identity and the authentic expression of their sexuality.” Why would anyone want to stop that? Why are we afraid of that?
Homosexuality is Christian
The next step is logical: homosexuality is loving and homosexuality is Christian. Many people say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. Troy Perry, one gay Christian leader, said, “As for the question what did Jesus say about homosexuality, the answer is simple. Jesus said nothing, not one thing, nothing. Jesus was more interested in love.”
Others say, “I’m a Christian and I’m gay. How can that be if homosexuality is wrong?” Again, when Mel White – who had been involved in ministry with a variety of different high profile ministers – came out that he was openly homosexual he said, “Thank God after 30 years of struggle I can say at last who I really am. I am gay. I am proud and God loves me without reservation.”
Others might say, “I attend a gay church where the presence of God is evident. How can that be if homosexuality is wrong?” The Reverend Sylvia Pennington, a defender of pro-gay theology, when she attended her first gay church said this, she drew this conclusion: “I became aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence hovering around, about, and within me. They—gay Christians—were sensing the same Spirit that I sensed and loving God back as I was. They were actually worshiping God and God was there, undeniably there.”
Homosexuality is Biblical
The next logical step then is the idea that homosexuality is biblical. “The passages and Scripture with deal with homosexuality have been misinterpreted. The Bible doesn’t actually condemn homosexuality.” Now these phrases, these ideas are real ideas. They’re real thoughts. They’re real emotions. My goal is not to go down this list one by one and give you my opinion on them.
Romans 1:18–32: Homosexuality and the Word…
Instead what I want us to do is dive into the Word and I want us to see how the Word either directly or indirectly addresses some of these thoughts and I want us to be honest in our investigation of the Word and really see it for what it says.
The context here in Romans 1 is Paul writing from the city of Corinth to the people of Rome. We’ve talked about Corinth the last few sermonss because Corinth was a city filled with sexual immorality. Homosexuality was common, somewhat common there, and Paul is writing from a very sexually indulgent city, not unlike or dissimilar to our culture today. This is a good reminder to us that the Bible is not approaching anything, especially sexual sin, from having its head in the sand. The picture is that Paul is surrounded by a culture similar to ours, sexually indulgent all the way around, homosexual and heterosexual, and he writes these words, and these words are about sin in general, specifically about sexual sin and as a result I want to caution us from the very beginning. Even if you have never had a homosexual thought or desire in your entire life, these verses are still for you. They’re for all of us. In fact, from the beginning I really almost want to put aside the picture of homosexuality and let’s see what Paul is saying here generally about sin and sexual sin.
So start with me in Romans 1:18 and we’ll go through the end of the chapter. He says:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Rom. 1:18–32).
Now, overall context, Romans 1:18 all the way to Romans 3:20 is one of the clearest pictures, most humbling pictures of the sinfulness of man in all of Scripture. Some have said that the context here in which homosexuality is mentioned, specifically in verses 26 and 27, never even uses the main Greek word for sin, “hamartia,” and as a result it’s not addressing sin. The only problem with that idea is instead of using that one Greek word, it uses eight other Greek words that connote sin all throughout the New Testament, in these two chapters alone.
The picture is radically sinful in this context. It’s the depravity of man that is being described here and what happens is in this passage there is a fourfold progression. I’m going to kind of give you a preview of all four of them right now, but I want you to see a fourfold progression that is repeated three different times that shows the effect of sin in our lives. Remember we’re just putting homosexuality as sin aside for a second.
It starts with this, number one: sin disorders our worship. I want to show you this progression. Verses 18 and 20 give us a picture of the greatness of God, the glory of God, the character of God that is revealed to all people of all time and then you get to verse 21. It says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Rom. 1:21). In other words, they turned their hearts away from the glory of God to other things. That’s the picture. Sin disorders our worship, takes God off the glorious throne that He belongs as our Creator, and puts substitutes in His place. Sin disorders our worship. Now what happens after that?
Sin disorders our worship which then, sin disorders our belief, our thinking. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,” – but look at what it says – “but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:21–23). The picture here is when God is no longer the center of our universe, so to speak, center of our hearts, of our worship, that affects the way we think. It affects the way we believe and our thinking becomes futile, foolish.
Now that then leads third. Sin disorders our worship, it disorders our belief, the way we think, and then third sin disorders our desires.
Verse 24: “Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts” (Rom. 1:24) So, sinful desire doesn’t just pop out of nowhere. It flows from a heart that is sinful, belief that is sinful, flows the desire that is sinful.
Romans 1:18–32: Sin Disorders Our Worship
Sin disorders our desires and the result of that, sin disorders our worship, our belief, our desires, and finally sin disorders our behavior, our actions. We saw that in verse 24, “sinful desires of their heart to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Rom. 1:24). So that’s the picture. We see it progress from verse 21 to 24 and then we see it repeat itself again. Look at verse 25: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised” (Rom. 1:25). You see disordered worship there, disordered thinking, exchanging the truth of God for a lie. Both of them are in there in verse 25. Then in verse 26, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful” (Rom. 1:26), what? – “lusts, desires,” which flows from disordered worship, disordered thinking, into disordered desires, and then, “Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones” (Rom. 1:26). This is actions now, behavior. Then you get to verse 28 and it does that one more time. “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (Rom. 1:28), that’s disordered worship and that leads to, “He gave them over to a depraved” (Rom. 1:26), what? – “mind,” which leads to disordered thinking, belief that leads to disordered desire and behavior, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity” (Rom. 1:29). Then you see this litany of sinful behaviors that is listed here at the end of Romans 1.
So this is huge. If we could just get our minds and our arms around this, sin doesn’t just pop out of nowhere. When we do something that is sinful it doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It has a root in our hearts. When our hearts, in a moment in time, say, “I know what is best, not God.” As a result we begin to think, “I’m not going to listen to what He says, I’m going to do what I think is best.” That in forms our desires. We begin to desire things that are not honoring to God and we act on those things. When we act on those things, the root was way back here. If we could just see this, the anatomy of sin in every single one of our lives.
What Romans 1 is showing us here, is that because of disordered worship we have exchanged God’s pattern for our lives for our preferences. This is huge. All of us, without exception, have exchanged God’s pattern for our preferences. We have disordered worship in our hearts, we spurn the glory of God in our hearts, and it affects the way we think, it affects the way we feel, and it affects the way we behave. It’s the whole point of Romans 1–3. That’s why he says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Now, what I want us to do is I want us to take this picture that is applicable to every single one of us and I want us to think about how it relates to sexuality. I want you to hold your place here in Romans 1 and go back with me to the very beginning of the Bible to Genesis 1 and 2. This is a passage we have looked at, it seems like, every single sermon. This verse is so foundational for us to understand the gospel and our families.
While you’re turning back to Genesis 1 and 2, I want us to see here a picture of God’s design. Yes, Jesus did not specifically address homosexuality in the Gospels, but that does not necessarily mean He’s a proponent of homosexuality. He didn’t address incest, he didn’t address spousal abuse. This does not mean he’s a proponent of these things. What did Jesus address though? When Jesus talked about sexuality and marriage, this is what He quoted from, Genesis 2. What I want us to see here is the picture back in Genesis 1 and 2 that forms the framework for Jesus’ conversations about sexuality and marriage and Paul’s conversations about sexuality and marriage. How the New Testament addresses sexuality is based completely around Genesis 1 and 2.
Genesis 3 is when sin enters into the world and so what we’ve got in Genesis 1 and 2 is a picture of everything is good. The end of Genesis 1 says that it is very good. Well what’s so good about this picture? I want to show you four things that are good in this picture.
One, sexuality is good in this picture. Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them.” So it’s not an accident that Eve and Adam looked a little different than one another. God created them distinctly. Now even this has been debated in our culture today in large part due to a rampant male chauvinism that has tried to assert the superiority of man over woman and that is obviously not what Scripture is teaching here. What we’ve got is an equality of worth, an equality of value. Both man and woman distinctly made in the image of God. There’s a difference here, sexuality, gender differences, being a good thing. We’ve seen that all throughout the series in what Scripture teaches about family. The gender differences are a good thing. Adam and Eve, different, distinct, equal value, equal worth, but they’re sexuality is a good thing.
Second, reproduction is good. That’s what we see in verse 28. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Gen. 1:28). In other words, multiply other Adams and Eves everywhere. Now how do you do that? Go to Genesis 2:24. What does it say? How is this reproduction going to happen? It says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
Sexuality is good, reproduction is good, and third, marriage is good. This is the design of God in the very beginning of Scripture. Before we have any picture of sin in the world, marriage is a very good thing, a man and a woman coming together, reproduction happens in that context.
Sexuality is good, reproduction good, marriage good, and fourth, sex is good. Look at verse 25. “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). This is all over the Bible. Song of Solomon clearly depicts this. 1 Corinthians 7:4–5, Paul says sex is a really good thing that you don’t need to neglect if you’re married. The Bible says that.
So the affirmations that we’ve got in the very beginning here in Genesis 1 and 2 are clear that God’s design that was very good involved good sexuality, reproduction, marriage, and sex, all in the context of coming together in this picture. What you’ll find is from this point on, after Genesis 3, when sin enters into the world, what you’ll find is every time the Bible talks about sexual sin, every single time the Bible identifies sexual sin, the one common denominator every single time is that sin violates the picture in Genesis 1 and 2. We see this every single time.
Because God in His goodness and in His wisdom as our Creator has designed this picture and has designed sex and sexuality to experience expression and fulfillment in the context of His design and whenever Scripture points out an instance where this is not a reality, Scripture calls that sexual immorality.
What this means is that any sexual expression, fulfillment, outside of the design in Genesis 1 and 2 of a man and woman coming together in marriage is illicit, immoral, and sinful in Scripture. We haven’t even gotten to lists of sexual sins in other places. This picture alone, and not just talking about homosexuality, we’re talking about heterosexuality as well. Any sexual expression, any sexual expression seeking sexual fulfillment outside of this design in Genesis 2 is illicit, immoral, and sinful according to what the Bible is teaching us.
Now this is huge. For every single one of us, we have all exchanged this pattern for our preferences. Even taking a step deeper, we have all exchanged God’s praise for our pleasures when it comes to our sexuality. All of us without exception.
Some of you are thinking, “Well I’m not guilty of these things.” If you have gone through adolescence in our culture today you are guilty. You are guilty of looking for sexual expression or sexual fulfillment outside the design of Genesis 1 and 2. Every single one of us is in this boat. Let’s just get that out on the table. We have all let the pleasures of this world, whether in thought, in desire, or in action overcome the praise of God in our hearts and we have sought fulfillment in other avenues apart from what Genesis 1 and 2 have given to us, every single one of us.
This is huge to understand because what the Bible is teaching is that this is where the gospel really begins to address not just homosexuality but heterosexual sin. The gospel is telling us, showing us, that we are all born with a heart of pride. This is the picture in Genesis 3 that affects every single one of us. Regardless of what type of sexual desires we might have, Genesis 8:21 makes it very clear that every inclination of our heart is evil from childhood. This means that all of us have different biological heritages but we have all got one spiritual heritage and it’s called sin and every single one of us as a result of Genesis 3 has inherited a sinful nature. We are born with a heart of pride that says, “God is not the center of my universe and His pattern is not what I’m going to live for and His praise is not what I’m going to live for.” We are all born with a heart of pride.
Don’t miss how big this is. This means that the Bible leaves no room for anyone to say, “God would not allow me to be born with a bent towards sin.” The reality is we are all born with a heart of pride and we are all bent towards sexual deviation, every single one of us. Every single one of us is bent towards sexual deviation.
This is huge for two reasons. Number one, this is where we’re beginning to address the picture of homosexuality specifically. It’s big first because – before we get to any other passage in Scripture – homosexual thought, homosexual desires, homosexual practices are not just an adjustment to the pattern of God in Genesis 1 and 2 that Jesus and Paul both point to. Instead, homosexual thought and desire and practice is direct rebellion against the pattern of God that is established here in Genesis 1 and 2.
It is not a misunderstanding of Genesis 1 and 2, a misrepresentation. It is total defiance of the picture of Genesis 1 and 2 when it comes to the picture of sexuality in Genesis 1 and 2. It nullifies reproduction. It defies the design of God and marriage in Genesis 2:24 and it takes sexual expression outside of that context and it brings it into our lives. It is direct disregard of Genesis 1 and 2.
The second reason this is so important is because it’s not just homosexual sin that skews the picture of Genesis 1 and 2, but it is heterosexual sin as well. I represent the class of people that is responsible for the vast majority of sexual wrongdoing in the world: male heterosexuals, and I, and every heterosexual person, we would be wise to stop looking at the speck in other’s eyes when there is a mammoth log in our own eyes.
It makes no sense to be watching TV and to see footage of same-sex marriages in California, to roll your eyes or shake your heads and flip the channel only to stare uncritically at adultery in a drama or to laugh at the trivialization of sex in a sitcom or to gaze upon the seductive images that dominate just about every realty TV show and to sit and watch advertisements that are virtual prostitution as people sell us, as followers of Christ, their products based on their appeal to our sexual desires. This makes no sense.
This is why these Scriptures apply to every single one of us. Are our sins as heterosexuals acceptable because they’re of the majority? Absolutely not, we are all born with a heart of pride and we are all, all of us, bent toward sexual deviation and as a result we all need the gospel. Every single one of us needs the gospel because we’re all guilty, all of us and we need to remember these things.
Sin Disorders Our Belief
Sin has disordered all of our worship. What happens as a result of that, sin disorders our belief. We talked about this. “Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom. 1:21–23, 25).
Now I want us to think about disordering belief, exchanging the truth of God. I want us to think about this on a cultural level. Let’s take the bridge from what Romans 1 is showing us here to the twenty-first century culture. How do we understand this truth in light of the culture we live in today? What have we exchanged truth for? I believe we have exchanged, based on what Romans 1 is teaching here, we’ve exchanged truth for tolerance in our day.
I realize that what I have just said about both homosexual and heterosexual expression, whether they’re in a teenager’s life, single person’s life, married person’s life, heterosexual or homosexual, that all sexual expression, thought, desire, behavior, outside of Genesis 2:24, the picture of marriage, that all of it is wrong. I realize that as soon as I say that, going completely against mainstream culture and the first label that is put on me is intolerant, among many other labels that might be included there.
Here is where I want you to think with me about the foolishness of even that idea. Now follow with me here. You realize that that accusation, that label, in and of itself is self-defeating? Think about it with me. If you were to claim I was intolerant, you would be expressing your intolerance of me. The way I put it is that America is sick of intolerant people that are not going to tolerate them anymore. In other words, follow with me; people who claim to be tolerant are intolerant of intolerant people, which means, they cannot tolerate themselves.
We’ve created the idea that every belief, every idea in the world is equally right, equally true, and so to disagree with someone makes you intolerant. But the reality is tolerance in and of itself, look it up in the dictionary, tolerance in and of itself implies disagreement. If you and I agree on every single thing, I don’t tolerate you. I don’t tolerate your beliefs if I agree with them all. If you believe that Jesus is the Lord of the universe then I don’t tolerate you for that. On the other hand if you deny that Jesus even exists, then yes, I would passionately disagree with you but it’s at that point that I would tolerate you. See the picture here?
Tolerance in and of itself implies disagreement. But what we have done is we have taken every belief, every idea, put it on the same level as right and as true, therefore to disagree with someone’s ideas makes you intolerant. As a result the cardinal sin of intolerance is robbing us of our quest for truth in our culture because if you disagree with someone and say something is not right, then you deny that there is a picture of truth. We ignore truth. Instead we take our experiences and we elevate them to the level of truth. Whatever I think and whatever I feel is true and you may think or feel something different and that’s true. We’re just all going to accept that and get along but we know, this is the picture of Romans 1…
That not only do we exchange truth for tolerance but take it a step deeper, we exchange the Word of God for the experience of man at this point by exalting our experiences above truth. But we must remember that the Word of God has more authority than all of our experiences and it is true apart from us.
Now we question this, we question this. We say, “Well no it can’t be absolutely true,” but we live every single day based on absolute truths. We accept this in so many different spheres of life. A simple illustration: two plus two equals four, whether or not you believe it, whether or not you feel good about that, whatever your particular emotion is when you hear that, the reality is two plus two does equal four, apart from whatever you think or whatever you believe. Now we take that from mathematics and so many different practical areas in our lives, but the danger is we get to the ultimate areas of our lives and we throw truth out the window and we say, “Well it’s now based on our experience—what I feel.” And this is most evident… Let’s leave the cultural debate outside. This is most evident when it comes to the church debate over—discussion over—homosexuality.
We don’t have time to dive into all the different passages in Scripture that deal with homosexuality and there are a variety of them. In fact I’d encourage you to maybe write some of these down and go back and look at them. The interesting thing is in every single one of these things, I’ve read and studied, not just over the last sermon, or over the last years, there are all kinds of new innovative interpretations of these passages of Scripture that basically are used to justify homosexuality.
We’ve already seen Genesis 1 and 2 which I think is sufficient enough in and of itself, and then you go to Genesis 19. This is obviously the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and people have said when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah it wasn’t because of sexual immorality, it wasn’t because of homosexuality, it was because of inhospitality. This is how one argument goes, that when the people surrounded Lot’s house with his guests, that they just wanted “to get to know” them. This is the word, this is what they say, in the original Old Testament. And yes it is, “to get to know,” but the sexual implications of that, not just in that passage but in other passages. Obviously if all they wanted to do was have a cup of coffee then Lot would not have said, “Do not do this evil thing.” You get to Jude 7; it says the reason why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed was because of sexual immorality and perversions, very, very clear. I’m not saying, I don’t think the Bible’s saying that sexual immorality or homosexuality was the only sin in Sodom and Gomorrah, but it was a prevalent sin in Sodom and Gomorrah, no question about that.
Then you fast forward to Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.” The reaction to these verses is that homosexual activity is being addressed in the context of idolatry there in Leviticus 18 and 20. So homosexual activity, as long as it’s not associated with idolatry is okay. The only problem with that is in the same chapter, those same verses that surround, address things like, “Do not be involved in bestiality, do not be involved in incest, adultery, child sacrifice.” Does this mean that these things are okay as long as they’re not involved in Canaanite idolatrous practices? Absolutely not.
In fact when you get to 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 Paul uses two terms to talk about homosexuality. He talks about male prostitutes and homosexual offenders. He uses the same words that are used in the Greek translation of Leviticus 18 and 20. The picture is there is a clear link between teaching in the Old Testament on homosexuality and the teaching in the New Testament on homosexuality. Then people come to Romans 1 and they say, “Well this passage is talking about homosexual activity by heterosexual people. Paul, when he was writing this, did not know that there was such a thing as sexual orientation, homosexual orientation, and so he is condemning here homosexual activity by heterosexual people.”
You see, this just doesn’t hold water. How could a people be inflamed with lust for one another if they were heterosexual people? The picture we’ve got all over Scripture is consistent. It is affirming throughout Scripture with one voice, just like other sexual sins, that outside of the pattern of God in Genesis 1 and 2, this is sinful. That’s the picture we have here in the Word. Now here is where it gets really interesting because when you begin reading and listening to what people are saying in the church to justify homosexuality, you see a departure from the Word of God running to the experience of man.
Let me share with you a couple of quotes and I want you to pay attention very closely to them with me. Look at these words. We’ll start with William Kent, a member of the United Methodist Committee to Study Homosexuality. He said this, “The scriptural texts in the Old and New Testaments condemning homosexual practice are neither inspired by God nor are they of enduring Christian value.” Don’t miss it. He knows, he’s honest enough to admit that Scripture does not condone homosexuality. But then he’s bold enough to say that it’s not the Word of God.
Gary David Comstock, Wesleyan University protestant chaplain: “Not to recognize, critique, and condemn Paul’s equation of godlessness with homosexuality is dangerous. To remain within our respective Christian traditions and not challenge those passages that degrade and destroy us is to contribute to our own oppression. 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.” In other words, Comstock says get rid of the verses.
This last one though takes the cake. Luke Timothy Johnson, professor of New Testament at Candler School of Theology over here at Emory University, not too far away from here, says, “The Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love.” He’s acknowledging what these other guys are acknowledging, that you look in the New Testament, you look in the Old Testament, you don’t see positive pictures of same-sex love. But, he’s come to the conclusion that that means the Bible is wrong. These are his words:
I think it important to state clearly that we do in fact reject the straightforward commands of Scripture and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good and what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witness to which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is to in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality.
Don’t miss the danger. He never asks the most obvious question. If we’re not going to trust the authority of the Bible and we’re going to trust human experience instead to be our authority, then whose experience are we going to trust?
See the danger here and how this is so thoroughly a biblical issue. Do you see what supposed theological, supposed Christian leaders are saying when it comes to this issue? The reality is that in order to maintain homosexual advocacy and advocate that homosexuality is okay before God then that means you have to maintain that the Bible is number one, irrelevant, that it’s outdated, it’s inapplicable, that this is apparently an oppressive book that is written by, dominated by heterosexuals, that it’s irrelevant to us, that the Bible is inconsistent, either inconsistent with itself or definitely inconsistent with our experiences and if it’s inconsistent with our experiences, then we throw the Bible out and our experiences are right. The Bible is irrelevant, it’s inconsistent, and the Bible is insufficient. If only God knew then what we know now about homosexual orientation then He would not have given us these commands. That is the picture being described here, that it’s insufficient to guide me today. Please do not miss this. I’m going to put this as bluntly as possible. If the claims put forward by the homosexual movement are true, then the entire foundation of the Christian faith is undercut.
Lest you think this is an overstatement, think about it with me. As soon as we take the authority to decide which parts of this Book are right and which ones of them are wrong, which ones fit with our experiences and which ones don’t, then we have thrown the whole picture into question and who is to determine what is right or what might we discover later that would show this Book to be wrong. We undercut the very foundation of the entire Christian system in this picture.
You see Romans 1 at work: sin disorders our worship and disorders our belief. Although we claim to be wise, we are fools. I’m not saying that I know everything. What I’m saying is there is a truth that exists apart from me and our task as the people of God is to respect, honor, dive into that truth, see that truth for what it is and live according to that truth. If we compromise on that truth, if we elevate our experience above that truth, we undercut our entire faith. This is huge. Sin disorders our worship and sin disorders our belief.
Romans 1:18–32: Sin Disorders Our Desire
Sin disorders our desire. We’ve talked about this. I’m going to speed up and I’m going to put these last two somewhat together. There is such a mingling between desire and behavior because at what point does desire become sinful and how does it led to behavior? I want to put these together and we’re going to run through a couple things and I just want us then to step back and think about it. Sin disorders our desire. “God gave them over to shameful lust. God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity” (Rom. 1:26, 24). We have exchanged in our day, exchanged sexual responsibility for supposed rights. When it comes to desires, we have exchanged responsibility for those desires for rights to those desires. We have equated desires that we have with rights we possess. We know this.
You look at moral debates. Every moral debate in our culture does not revolve around responsibility. It revolves around rights, whether it’s sex, divorce, abortion, or homosexuality, whatever it may be. It revolves around a right to choose, a right to a personhood, a right to this, a right to that and what we’ve said is research and science has shown us that we have these desires, therefore the conversation is not about what homosexuals do. It’s about who homosexuals are. That’s a big step. Not what heterosexuals do, but who heterosexuals are, at their desires, and if we possess desires, then we have rights to use those desires.
What we’ve done is we have not only exchanged our sexual responsibility for supposed rights, but we have exchanged what Scripture says about our desires for what science says about our desires. Now I want to be careful here. We’re going to come back to this in a minute. I’m not saying, the Bible’s not opposed to science. The Bible’s not opposed to truth in any form whatsoever, scientific or otherwise. No matter what science concludes about our desires, where they come from, how they get there, when they get there, Scripture still speaks and what does Scripture say? Scripture says this – improper sexual desire is immoral, not inevitable. It’s immoral, not inevitable and there’s a huge difference. We’re going to come back to this. I want to move on to behavior and then kind of put all this together.
Sin Disorders Our Behavior
Sin disorders our desire, disorders our behavior. We act out our desires. This is clear at the end of Romans 1, the litany of sinful actions. It doesn’t leave anyone not seeing their guilt in Scripture. All of us take this and apply this to this contemporary discussion of homosexuality. We have exchanged, this is where I want us to focus for a while, moral obligations for natural explanations. I want you to follow with me here.
There is a lot of research being done today and there’s a lot of debate over that research. You won’t find people claiming to have the conclusive research but there’s a lot of people claiming to have the conclusive research. There’s a lot of debate on all sides about all of the factors that may be at play in our lives when it comes to sexual desire, homosexual or heterosexual desire and there’s a lot of research that says, speaking directly about homosexual activity, that there are biological factors, genetic factors, social factors, environmental factors, emotional factors that all play into the picture of homosexual activity. While there is debate about how much plays into it genetically or biologically or environmentally, whatever it is, what I want to propose to you based on what we’re seeing in the Word here is that it really doesn’t matter what this research concludes, if anything at all.
Think about it this way. One writer, a Christian writer, wrote this. “At about the age of 13 I began to notice girls, or should I say, it was then that I began to notice little else.” This is a male heterosexual.
Twenty five years later, the inclination is a bit more refined, a bit more controlled, but only a bit. Wherever I am, I notice women and I notice particular parts of women. I often entertain fleeting thoughts, at times lingering thoughts, of how I might enjoy sexual expression with women I have never met. It is after all only natural, or is it? Was I born with an inclination to desire sexual interaction with several different women, even in a day, an inclination that merely remained dormant for thirteen years? Did my father, whose desires are very similar to mine, train me to think about women in a certain way? Am I the product of lifelong exposure to advertisements, film, and popular music? Did the trauma of my parents’ divorce when I was 3 or my mother’s actions during my infancy create in me particular sexual needs and desires?
Now all of those questions are valid questions and they are interesting questions but none of them determine the rightness or the wrongness of the desires that he’s expressing. None of them determine the morality of those desires.
Now this is huge because we have taken natural explanations and used them to justify even imply moral obligation. If I feel this way then I must act out this way. You see the danger of that? The fallacy here is so clearly exposed.
I want you to forgive me from the beginning of this illustration because it’s poignant but I hope it’s poignant. I debated whether or not to use it but follow along with me. I want us to take just for a moment the explanations given by homosexuals and those in the homosexual movement to describe or justify homosexual desires or actions. I want us to take those statements and thoughts and beliefs and apply them to pedophilia, more specifically homosexual pedophilia. I know as soon as I mention that that anyone would say, “Well that is an unfair comparison because that involves manipulation; it involves harm to a boy, a child.” But follow along with me. I’m not making this up. These are real articles, homosexual journals. Not even saying that everyone who has homosexual desires or beliefs about certain things about homosexuality would agree with these things. But look, follow along with me.
Who would define manipulation? ‘What form of sexual expression,’ a pedophile might say, ‘doesn’t involve some form of manipulation? Even sexual expression between a husband and wife involves some form of manipulation. And harm? Several studies show that both partners in pedophilia activity, both partners enjoy positive experiences. Studies put the two together, if manipulation is used to make someone else feel better then why is this not a good thing? After all,’ the pedophile argues, ‘we both enjoy this. How can it be wrong? I want to do this. Why would God give me the desire if not to be carried out? He has made me this way. He has given me this gift. Jesus never spoke against it. He welcomed children to himself. I’m a Christian. I have these desires and I can’t change. I’ve tried therapists and they don’t work. I’ve been told by many to suppress my natural orientation but I can’t deny it no matter how many people say I should. I’m a part of a persecuted minority and as a result I am all the more deserving of civil rights.’
Are you convinced? You say, “Well of course not, it’s against the law.” So was same-sex marriage two months ago in California. Please hear me. I am not equating these two things completely together. But I am showing us in Scripture and practically in our lives that causation does not imply justification. Causation does not imply justification. That’s just the way I am, doesn’t hold up. It doesn’t hold up.
Time magazine reported not long ago that infidelity may even be in our genes, in male genes. Gentlemen, regardless of how unnatural it may be for you to be faithful to your wife, to one woman, you will be held accountable to God for whether or not you are faithful to her, no matter what is in your genetic code. We have a responsibility as men before God, married men, to be faithful to our wives and any sort of causation no matter how thick it is never implies justification before God. You see this? We realize this.
I don’t believe Scripture is saying that there are not some of us, maybe many of us, who have had homosexual thoughts, who have had homosexual desires, and that are even predisposed towards those sorts of desires. In fact, I would even go so far to say what we’ve seen, based on the fact we’re all born with a heart of pride and we’re all bent towards sexual deviation, is that we all are bent towards sinful sexual desires and those may be homosexual or they may be heterosexual. They’re probably different in different ones of our lives and if you think or wrestle with these thoughts, I’ve got these desires—“Did God make me this way?” I hope you see the foolishness, the futility of that route of thinking. But I in no way believe the Bible’s invalidating the reality of those temptations.
The depiction the Bible is giving us is we do not always choose our temptations but we always choose our reactions. Whether you struggle with heterosexual or homosexual sin, you will not find a place in the Bible where it says, “Thou shall not do ‘x’ unless of course you try hard to change, you go for prayer and counseling, and you find out you just can’t stop wanting to do ‘x.’” If that’s the case, then now “x” is no longer a sin for you. It’s actually an innate, immutable gift and you can indulge in it. It’s not in Scripture.
Romans 1:18–32: Homosexuality and the Gospel
You say, “Well where does that leave me? Where does that leave us when it comes to sexual desire?” I don’t want in any way to imply that this is simplistic. There’s a simplistic solution to how this works out in our lives but it leads us to one place. It leads us to the gospel. This is where the gospel has radical implications for homosexuality. You’re thinking, “What does the gospel have to do with homosexuality? What does the gospel do in our lives?” When we see the reality that God who we have rebelled against has sent His Son, and on a Cross He has taken all of our sexual sin, every sexual thought, desire, and behavior outside of His design, every single one of them compiled, He’s taken his wrath against them all and He poured it out on His Son on a Cross. Jesus took our sexual sin upon himself in all of His purity and His holiness. He conquered sin. He rose from the grave.
The Gospel Reorders Our Worship
How does that affect homosexuality? Number one, the gospel reorders our worship, not just homosexual sin, also heterosexual sin. The gospel reorders our worship. This is the picture in 1 Corinthians 6. I’ll read it to you. You’ve written down verses 9–10. Verse 11, well I’ll start with verse 10: “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10).
Sexually immoral, idolaters, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, you will not inherit the kingdom of God. But then he says, he’s speaking to a young church in the middle of this sexually indulgent city and he says this, “That is what some of you were. 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” (1 Cor. 6:11). Praise God in every single one of our lives when it comes to sexuality, God by His grace, reorders our worship so that He is supreme in our hearts. How does that affect our belief?
The Gospel Renews Our Belief
The gospel renews our belief. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your” (Rom. 12:2)—what? Of your mind. This is why we cannot throw this Book out and disregard it and try to figure out how to do this thing on our own. Because this is the Word of life, then we will starve feeding off the ways of the world and ignoring the Word of life. We must see the bread of life here and feast on it. This is the picture in the gospel, what renews our belief, and not just when we pray our prayer and move on and we live our Christian life. The gospel renews our belief every day. We live in this culture and we need the gospel every day to radically transform the way we think about the world.
The Gospel Refreshes Our Desire
The gospel reorders our worship, renews our belief, the gospel refreshes our desire. This is the beauty when it comes to desire. All kinds of homosexual and heterosexual desires that we have, you come to Christ through the gospel and you are conquered by a superior desire because Christ is more glorious, more beautiful and more satisfying than all of the pleasures of this world wrapped up into one. He is good, He is gracious and every day we fall on our faces before Him and say, “You are my desire, you’re my satisfaction, you’re my life, you’re the center of everything. I find my joy in you. I find my pleasure in you.”
Romans 1:18–32: The Gospel Redeems Our Behavior
The gospel refreshes our desire and ultimately the gospel redeems our behavior. He redeems our behavior, all of our sinful behavior, all of our sinful behavior. I’ll share this one former homosexual as he testifies to the power of the gospel in his life as he stands with his wife and nine children and says God heals very well.
I’m not saying that every person who experiences homosexual thoughts or desires or maybe has been involved in homosexual activity will one day be married with nine children. Marriage may or may not be the picture. Singleness may be in the picture. But when God takes our lives and who He has crafted us to be and even, don’t miss it, even the sinful effects that have led us to where we are, He takes them and He redeems them to use them for His glory. Every single one of our lives, homosexual or heterosexual, every single one of our lives is intended to be a trophy of His grace, no matter what our past, no matter what our struggles. The gospel redeems our behavior.
Homosexuality and the Church…
I want to challenge you church when it comes to homosexuality based on this Word to do three things. Number one, to look in. And here’s what I mean by that. I want to challenge us as a faith family to completely avoid selective moral outrage.
I hope that we have seen that we are all in need of God’s grace and Scripture tells us not to look at the speck in other’s eyes when there are planks, logs in our own eyes. I want to apply this specifically to the way we talk about this issue. Anyone who uses slang or derogatory terms, crass jokes, demeaning jokes, or comments, when it comes to homosexuality, when you do this, you defame the gospel that has saved you from your sins and there is no place for it in the body of Christ, none whatsoever. We must avoid selective moral outrage completely.
And we must biblically assess each of our spiritual and sexual conditions. This is huge. I remind you as we lament the picture in our culture today, I remind you that in the history of the Bible and the history of God’s people, the times when God in His Spirit has moved in miraculous ways, awakening, it has not been when people outside the church finally start confessing their sin. It has been when the people inside the church have been honest with God about their sins, confess to God their sins, truly before God. We’ve got to avoid glossing over sexual sin in every single one of our lives. We have become so content with flirting with sexual immorality, giving ourselves to sexual immorality thoughts, desires, behaviors. We cover it up like it’s not that big of a deal but every thought, every desire, every behavior, every image we look at on the internet, every single picture of pornography that is in any life represented, any thoughts that do not fall in line with the design of God in Genesis 1 and 2 must be fled. We’ve got to flee sexual immorality. We’ve got to flee sexual immorality. We have no credibility to speak with authority on sexual morality and what Scripture teaches about God’s design and marriage when we let God’s design for marriage go by the wayside in the church. We miss the whole point. It affects our ability to proclaim the gospel in our culture today. So I urge you to biblically assess your spiritual, your sexual condition. Be honest before God.
Look in. Second, look out. How do we respond to gay men or lesbian women around us in our lives or our families or our workplaces? First we express humble compassion. If we’re going to share life with each other as a faith family then we’ve got to walk alongside each other when it comes to homosexual desire and temptation. Stanton Jones from Wheaton College said this, “If you cannot empathize with a homosexual person because of fear of or revulsion to them, then you are failing our Lord.”
It has become commonplace, even applauded, for men, so to speak, it’s applauded for men to be honest with other believers about their struggles with heterosexual sin. But the men who struggle with homosexual thoughts and desires have no place to run to many times in the church. This is a problem and we need to share life with each other honestly with each other. This is the whole picture in Romans 12.
Accept each other, walk with each other, comfort each other, express humble compassion, and maintain deep conviction. It’s not one without the other. You look at trends today, denominations today, what you’ll find is those almost inevitably who are ordaining gay or lesbian leaders, bishops, whatever it may be, have taken the Word of God and conviction about the Word of God and left it by the wayside and the picture is, this is compassion. It’s not compassion. It’s deception. The same time, unfortunately what you’ll see is people with their Bibles in their hands, putting it in people’s faces, and not walking alongside with compassion. We have to do both. It is compassion and conviction both together. We walk with each other. We walk with each other through the Word. We weep over the Word. We plead with each other based on the Word, pray through the Word, with our family members, with our friends, with each other. Express humble compassion. Maintain deep conviction. It will not be easy to maintain deep conviction, to cling to this Word, especially when someone close to you declares they’re openly involved in homosexual behavior. I urge you to maintain deep conviction and express humble compassion.
Look in, look out, and, look up. This is the whole point. Exalt His glory. This is the whole picture where it all starts where we’ve got to come back to. Christ, God is the center of our affections and our desires and our thinking and our hearts, our worship, Him at the center of everything.
This is what, I’ll be honest, this is probably the most frightening part of Romans 1 for me as I studied it especially for this sermon. You saw God gave them over to sinful desires of their hearts. God gave them over to sinful lusts. God gave them over to a depraved mind. Don’t miss this. The sexual desires and the thinking that is represented by this and the behaviors is not just in Romans 1. It is not just reason for the judgment of God. It is evidence of the judgment of God, that when you see sexual indulgence, it’s a picture of God giving us over to ourselves. This should cause every single one of us to fall on our faces on behalf of our culture and behalf of the church today and say, “God we want you to be restored to your rightful place in your church. We want you to be restored to your rightful place in all nations as the supreme king of glory. We don’t want to be given over to ourselves and our sinful desires. We want you. We want you.” We need to plead like this, to pray like this in the church.
Look up. Exalt His glory. God forgive us of our sin. Heal our land. Help us to exalt your glory and proclaim His gospel. God has not called us to be safe. He’s called us to be truthful. He’s not called us to win elections. He’s called us to win the souls and hearts and minds. He has not called us to control Congress. He’s called us to preach the gospel, live the gospel, proclaim the gospel.
Here’s what I want us to do. I’m going to pray about Christ being the center of our lives, the center of our affections, the center of our families, and I want to urge you, I want to urge you if Christ is not at the center of your life, in this moment right now I want to urge you to put Him at the center, let Him be the center, to acknowledge Him at the center.
Whether when it comes to homosexual desires or heterosexual desires, you would say, “Christ has not been at the center of my worship,” maybe never been at the center of your worship. I want to exhort you to say, “Christ I want you at the center of my life,” to trust and receive the picture of the gospel that we have seen here and maybe for you who have struggled in different facets of sexual sin to say, “I can’t do this on my own. I need Christ to be the center, to reorder worship.” It affects beliefs, it affects desires, it affects behavior. We’ve got to reorder our worship.
God, we pray that you would help us, God that you would help us to see you at the center of our hearts, that Christ, you would be the center of our lives and you would be the center of our sexuality and we pray you would help us to be honest with you about our struggles in thoughts, struggles in desires, struggles in behavior, and ultimately, our struggles to keep you at the center of our life. We need you to do that. So we pray that you would do that during these moments God, that you would help us to be honest with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.