Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Happened To Christ in "Christ"ianity?

I was reading the opening chapter in Michael Horton's book entitled "Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church," when a statistic he cited took me by surprise. George Barna, the popular Christian pollster, claimed that 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. This amazes me as the evidence for the statistic seems to be lacking by my own observation of the many I have come into contact and rubbed shoulders with, both inside and outside the church. I don't see 86% of Americans portraying fruit that would indicate a genuine conversion. Instead, I view what Paul described the rebellious men, empty talkers, and deceivers (Titus 1:10) that Titus ministered to in Crete as being. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed (Titus 1:16).

Many professing Christians and churches today see Jesus more as their mascot instead of their Lord. He is regulated to an example of how to live a moral life with no mention of the very purpose for which He came. Some view Jesus as a flag to wave in their "war" against war and poverty. However, these caricatures fall short of the description of Christ in the Bible. Jesus stated that For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10) and For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus did not come merely to serve as an example but to give up His life in the place of those who would put their faith in Him in order to appease God's wrath on their sins. How many churches today still proclaim the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ unashamedly?

I have been very disheartened in evaluating several profiles of churches in my quest to discover the church that God has prepared me to minister to. A majority of these churches are very "man-centered." They clearly are concerned with what God can give them or how He can best benefit them instead of seeking to glorify Him whether He brings the sunshine or the rain, laughter or the pain. So many churches today seem to paint God as their servant who worships them instead of recognizing that God created them for the very purpose of worshiping and glorifying Him! Many appear to forget that He is the potter and we are the clay. Through several humanitarian and environmental deeds, man is once again building his own tower of Babel to make a name for ourselves (Genesis 11:4). This is contra to making a name for God by spreading His fame through the preaching of the Gospel where He is glorified. Life is not and cannot be about us but must revolve around Him. One cannot read the Bible without seeing how every event, purpose, and plan all center around God.

Christ has not been the only casualty lost in Christianity today. Along with Christ being forgotten and recrafted, the Bible also has been shelved and reworded. Often the Bible is viewed as another "self-help" book that can aid one in living their "best life now." It is treated as being on par with the advice that Dr. Phil and Oprah would give. When one approaches a section in Scripture that makes them feel uncomfortable or reveals a certain sin in their life, instead of asking God for help to change their life, they either dismiss or seek to change the Scriptures. Much of the controversial debates over homosexuality and the like in the church today really are debates over the authority of the Bible. In fact, for some churches it appears that the Bible might be for decoration only since they do not seem to take it seriously or abide by what it says.

This erosion of Christ and God's Word that I am discussing is not limited to one particular denomination or a specific group of individuals. It is not a liberal or conservative issue. In fact, much of this can be seen within the camp of "evangelicalism" as well. Also, as I write this, I am confronted by the fact that I have been guilty of several of these very things I mention certain times in my own Christian life!

I confess that I have painted a very pessimistic view of the current state of the church and most who know me would describe me as an eternal optimist. However, I cannot deny the sad state the church has found itself in. In many ways, the church resembles the world so much that one can scarce view a difference! As a pastor whom God has called to devote his life to preaching and teaching His Word, I am heartbroken at what I observe. Though, praise God there is always hope with Him!

What Can We Do About This?

I think the best way to handle this ongoing problem with a church who has forgotten Whom Christ really is and that often fails to take Him seriously, is the same remedy that Paul prescribed for Titus in Crete. After describing the false teachers in Crete (Titus 1:10-16), Paul instructs: But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). The only way to address churches that speak of a Christ but not necessarily the Christ of the gospels is to faithfully teach God's Word. Part of the reason Christ has been drifting out of "Christ"ianity is due to the fact that people have not been taught about Who He really is and the work of redemption He accomplished on the cross. Biblical illiteracy has been increasing at an alarming rate in this country. I don't think that it is a coincidence that this occurs at the same time Christ becomes viewed as more of a great moral teacher instead of the Savior and Lord that He is. We need to get back to the Bible and study Who God is and what He has done. We need to be taught again from God's Word what the gospel really is and the necessity of conversion. This will not be easy as the absolute truths of Scripture have become very unpopular in today's culture. Of course, Jesus' message of being the only way to God and the call to repentance were not popular in His culture so we should not be surprised that things have not changed today. Let's be like Paul and not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) but boldly proclaim it for the glory of God! Let's focus on theology once again as the reason many lives are messed up right now is due to their theology being messed up. Without a proper view of God, one cannot know how to live a proper life that glorifies Him. May God, using the means of the faithful preaching and teaching of His Word, place and keep Christ in "Christ"ianity!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!
Solus Christus!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Finding Meaning in the Minute (the measurement of size and not time)

Have you ever been reading through your Bible and decided to skip over another long list of unpronounceable names in what seems to be a never ending genealogy or whisk past the excruciating details of how Noah was to build the ark or the specifics of Solomon building the Temple and his palace? Perhaps you have come to one of these sections in your scheduled yearly reading guide through the Bible and are whining and complaining with every begat or cubit by cubit. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that too many of us downplay these portions of Scripture and regulate them into a category of unimportance. However, such a position is mistaken and unbiblical. Paul states that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). This all Scripture would include the genealogy lists and temple building instructions. The question many might be asking is how can these monotonous (at least from their perspective!) sections be useful. I would like to propose two questions to ask in dealing with these portions of Scripture to help us not miss out on their intended meaning. May these aid in your study of God's Word!

Ask It's Purpose in the Context

No genealogy (or any other list in Scripture for that matter) ever appears isolated. Each play a role in the greater narrative in the text or in the author's argument. For instance, the long list of the descendants of Adam in chapter 5 serves a greater purpose than merely keeping a record of all of the sons of the first man throughout the ages. In fact, there may be intended gaps in some of the genealogies as part of the point the author desires to get across. This genealogy tells us several things already touched upon in the narrative in Genesis thus far. The numerous sons and daughters that followed after Adam illustrate man's obedience to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth as God had commanded them (1:28). A similar reason may exist for the genealogy of Noah's sons being given after the flood (10:1-32) since he was given the same command (9:1). The genealogy in chapter 5 also emphasizes one of the tragic results of the Fall being death. At the end of every individual record, with the exception of Enoch whom God took, we find the statement and he died (vv. 5, 8, 11, 14, 20, 27, 31). This statement also emphasizes the truth of God's promise that man would die upon eating the fruit from the tree that He explicitly commanded them not to. From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (2:16-17). The original Hebrew uses a form of the verb for die that communicates that this statement about death is a "a matter of fact" or "without a doubt." While Adam and Eve both died spiritually shortly after the sin in that they became ashamed and were kicked out of the garden, thus being separated from God, they also would die physically. The resounding of this phrase indicates that God kept His word.

Genealogies also show the connections between the different people and events in their lives recorded in the narrative. The genealogy in chapter 5 connects Adam to Noah and then proceeds to describe the situation of the flood. It may also help solve the issue of the identity of the sons of God and daughters of men in 6:1-4. (I take the sons of God to refer to the descendants of Seth and the daughters of men being those whom were descended from Cain based on the contrast of the two genealogies given prior to the recording of this incident as well as all the evidence in the narrative pointing to men and not angels. I am continuing to study this issue and am working on revising and expanding a paper I did in seminary concerning it. Perhaps I will turn it into a blog post sometime if the Lord is willing.) See how much one would miss if he or she decided to just skip over this lengthy genealogy?

Matthew 1:1-17 is another example of a genealogy packed with wonderful insights that would be overlooked if one decided to dismiss it in their study. In opening his gospel, Matthew decides to provide Jesus' genealogy and presents it in such a way to identify Jesus as the Messiah as well as to emphasize God's grace. Matthew specifically traces Jesus back to David and Abraham. In illustrating how Jesus is the son of David, he shows Jesus' credentials to be the Messiah or anointed One that God promised would be in the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11:1-5). Tracing Jesus' ancestry back farther from David to Abraham indicates that Jesus can be said to be the son of Abraham, connecting Him to the promise God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Paul later described part of this promise as the gospel since it foretold of God's plan to provide salvation to the Gentiles by grace through faith (Galatians 3:8). Matthew demonstrates God's grace by including five women in this genealogy which is unusual for such lists in that culture. Four of these women were not Jews and had a shady background. Tamar (v. 3) was a Canaanite who had dressed as a prostitute to fool Judah into sleeping with her since he refused to give her his youngest son for her to have children (Genesis 38:6-30). Rahab (v. 5) was a Gentile who had practiced prostitution (Joshua 2:1). Ruth (v. 5) was a Moabitess who had formerly served idols (Ruth 1:1-5,15). Bathsheba (v. 6) was the wife of Uriah the Hittite who had committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11). Matthew clearly alludes to this event with the statement who had been the wife of Uriah (v. 6). The inclusion of these women who typically would have been excluded in these types of lists indicate that no one is excluded from God's offer of salvation regardless of gender, nationality, and sin. Mary (v. 16) serves as the fifth woman mentioned in this genealogy and here Matthew highlights Jesus' virgin birth. In the Greek language, a pronoun matches the noun it replaces in both gender and number. The whom (hes in Greek) is feminine singular, meaning that it refers to Mary alone and not Joseph and Mary together. Matthew is showing that Jesus was born from Mary and not the product of the union between the two. Again, notice what one would miss concerning Jesus from not taking the time to study this genealogy.

Paying attention to context also might help mine some meaning from the numerous details pertaining to the building projects. For instance, the author of Kings appears to be telling us something in his description of both Solomon's work on God's temple and his work on his own palace. He points out that it took Solomon seven years to build the temple for the heavenly King (6:38) but thirteen years to construct the palace for himself as earthly king (7:1). The author makes a contrast between the building of the temple and the palace. 7:1 is connected to 6:38 by a "waw," the Hebrew character for and. The author places emphasis on his house in 7:1 by placing the word before the verb to build. In Hebrew, the subject and direct object typically follow the verb (contra the subject-verb-direct object sequence in English). Anytime the subject or direct object is placed before the verb, it usually indicates that the author wants to emphasize it. If you look at the sizes given for the temple (6:2) and the dimensions of the different parts of the palace, you will notice that Solomon's palace is actually larger than God's temple. In fact, just the house of the forest of Lebanon, one section in the king's palace, is bigger than the Temple as a whole (7:2). What is really interesting is that in light of the size and duration of the two buildings, the author spends more time on the details of the temple compared to the slim twelve verses for Solomon's palace. Could he be indicating the difference of perspective concerning the two buildings between God's view and that of the king? How often do we become preoccupied with building something for our own glory instead of seeking to establish God's glory? What is God's perspective of this? All of this understanding would be lost if one chose not to read through and study these details!

Ask What It Reveals to Us About God

The Bible is God's revelation. It is His revealing of Himself to His creation. We learn Who God is through His written Word. In it we see God's characteristics, attributes, works, and glory. Every narrative and form of teaching points back to Him someway or another. The Bible is basically God's book about God. Knowing the details concerning how God instructed Noah to build the ark or Moses the ark of the covenant may not seem relevant to us unless we would be called to craft similar constructions. However, these details may tell us a few things about God that we might miss if they were dismissed.

God is a God of detail. He cares not only that something is done but that it is done right and according to His specifications. We see this in the meticulous instructions God gives pertaining to the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:10-22) and everything else related to the tabernacle (Exodus 25:23-27:21). God did not say to Moses "You must build the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle" and then leave Moses to do it his way. No, instead He told him not only to do it but how He wanted it to be done. God is concerned in not just that we do something He commands but how we do it. It is never about us and what we want but about God and what He desires. The specifics given with these building projects indicate that God has standards that ought to be followed. The Law provides the specifics of God's standards of holiness and in turn reveals how much we all fall short of them. Thus we are shown to be sinners in need of a Savior because we cannot meet God's standards on our own within ourselves. Here are some crucial understandings about God that we can glean from these details.

Asking this question also would help us guard against the common "man-centered" mindset we often bring to the text. Several times the first things we ask when approaching God's Word is "what's in it for me?" or "what can I get out of this?" The better question would be to ask, "what can I learn about God?" In fact, such a question would be more beneficial in that the more we learn about God and His holiness, the more we realize how much we are not living the holy lives He calls us to live. The more we learn about what glorifies God, the more we realize just how much we fall short of that glory. In focusing on what we can learn about God, we get a better picture of our sin and how desperately we need Him in order to live for Him.

In addressing this question, I want to caution you against finding Jesus in every part of the Temple. Several well meaning Bible students have postulated that certain parts of the Temple were foreshadowings or types of Christ in the Old Testament. While it may be true that God in His providence instructed the Temple and tabernacle to be constructed in a certain way to point to the coming Messiah, one must be careful to claim specifics without any biblical warrant to do so. Certainly, the entire sacrificial system points to the necessity of the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God as the New Testament authors clearly affirm. However, these authors do not specify certain parts of the Temple as being symbolic of Jesus. Unless God indicates to us elsewhere in Scripture that such and such piece of the Temple represented Christ, we cannot claim that it does with specificity and authority. To do so would be to add to the teaching of Scripture.

As you can see, these gruesome genealogies and daunting details are much more important than you may have realized. To ignore or neglect them would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The next time you come across these passages, instead of fretting over them, why not take the time to examine them in light of their context and focus on what they may teach you about God? You may discover a rich truth in them that you would have missed otherwise. May we not be afraid to glean the genealogies and delve into the details!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Bible on Homosexuality

DISCLAIMER: I am always open to comments on any of my public work that seek to complement or criticize, especially if one believes that I have erred in my exegesis or exposition. However, with this being such a heated topic that typically spawns emotionally charged and harsh responses, I ask that if you desire to criticize, please adhere to the following considerations:
1) I ask that your response be limited to what the Bible teaches concerning the topic. As stated in my introduction, I am primarily interested in what the Bible says about homosexuality as for me this settles the issue.
2) I ask that your response be respectful of me as well as anyone else who has taken the time to comment on this post. Please only comment with the attitude and words that would glorify God. If you are truly seeking to glorify God in your response, you will be sure to answer in a loving and respectful way. Too many unloving words have been said with this issue and I in no way want to be responsible for anymore. Such attacks on people are not a biblical way of handling disputes and do not honor God.

One of today's current hot button topics is the issue of homosexuality. Just the mention of the word generates debate. The issue cannot be avoided as references to it are found in almost every newspaper and in several television shows and movies. States are wrestling over whether a homosexual relationship constitutes a marriage with all the rights and privileges that one entails. The people of California decided that it doesn't while the legislature of Washington D.C. recently stated that it does. The debate is also occurring in the church. Two popular Christian recording artists (Ray Boltz and Jennifer Knapp) have both recently admitted to being in a homosexual relationship while trying to reconcile it with their faith. Several denominations question whether the lifestyle even is a sin and thus whether it should effect the role one plays in the leadership of the church. Most recently, a branch of the Episcopal Church has ordained their second openly gay bishop. My own beloved denomination, the Church of the Brethren, is currently waffling on the issue and after acknowledging that the denomination is not "of one mind" concerning this, have agreed to a two year study period. The mind that is needed on this issue, as well as every issue that we face in life, is that of the Bible's. The question that everyone should be asking is not "what is your position?" but instead "what is the Bible's position on this matter?"

My sole goal in this article is to understand Scripture's teaching on the topic of homosexuality. I am not concerned with the perspective of psychology or sociology. Being convicted that the Bible serves as the Word of God that should form people's worldview, govern their lives, and is sufficient for every topic that they need to know pertaining to their life, I view what it says concerning the issue as settling the debate. This understanding has been known since the Reformation as sola Scriptura. Anyone who follows the common presuppositions that guide my approach to God's Word should come out to the same place. These presuppositions are: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Scriptures. What I mean by inspiration is that though the words of Scripture were written by men, these men were moved by the Holy Spirit in such a way not to compromise their style or personality in writing and yet record God's very words (2 Peter 1:21). This is why Paul can describe Scripture as God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), because it is God's very words communicated through the medium of man. Due to this point, Scripture may also be described as being without any errors (inerrant) and also cannot fail in bringing about its intended purpose (infallible). However, this inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility would be limited to the original autographs of the Scriptures themselves and not necessarily to the copies and translations of them. For the reasons why I hold to these presuppositions, please see my earlier blog entry, "Why I Believe the Bible." These presuppositions led me to view Scripture to be God's objective and authoritative Word. Our goal as students of Scripture then is to seek to understand the meaning that He has inspired the original author to write. The best way to do this is the analyze the historical and literary context of what is written as well as the grammar and parts of speech used. Such an approach is often referred to as a "literal, grammatical, historical" hermeneutic (a fancy name for the science of interpretation). This will be the approach used in the evaluation of the selected texts in hopes of understanding the meaning that God has intended to communicate. Much of the passages cited are my personal translation from the original Hebrew and Greek.

You will notice that I also refer to homosexuality as a lifestyle. This is due to my understanding that it is not something one is born with but a choice that participants are often forced into by certain circumstances or events in their lives. Many people have wound up in a homosexual lifestyle after being molested at a young age by a male relative, going without a strong father figure, or for ladies after several failed relationships with men. (This of course does not mean that anyone who has ever experienced any of these issues will become a homosexual just as the fact that one who has had an alcoholic or abusive father does not necessarily indicate that they will turn out to be such themselves. However, many homosexuals can identify similar instances to those mentioned here in their past.) No medical evidence has been sufficient to substantiate the claim that homosexuality is genetic and a condition one may be born with. Furthermore, as will be seen with this study, Scripture appears to identify homosexuality as a sinful lifestyle and not a sexual orientation originating from birth.

I do not intend to upset or diminish anyone who currently is or who knows someone involved in a homosexual lifestyle or who may be struggling with homosexual desires. I have had friends who are homosexual and have appreciated their personalities and character. Just as a mother loves her child who is addicted to drugs but cannot affirm his addiction because of how much she knows it harms him, I could show compassion to them but could not and cannot affirm their lifestyle. While you will see why I understand the lifestyle to be a sin, I recognize that I am no less of a sinner in my own life. I confess that the church has not always dealt with the issue appropriately and seek to make no excuses or justification for the times that the church has failed to speak the truth in love in confronting the issue. I only desire to communicate the plain truth of Scripture.

Homosexuality in the Old Testament

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 defines what God constitutes as a marriage. Notice you have a man being joined to his wife. One man and one woman both rules out polygamy and so-called "same-sex marriage" (I refer to it as "so-called" because according to God such a union does not constitute a marriage in any means. His definition of marriage is found here in this verse). The heterosexual union that God defines is part of His plan to aid in the man's role to serve and glorify Him. In v. 18, God states that it is not good for man to be alone. This observation leads God to seek to make a helper corresponding to him. After bringing the animals to the man, none of them could be found to be such a helper (vv. 19-20). So God puts the first man, Adam, to sleep and crafts a woman out of his rib (vv. 21-22). Both Adam's declaration that this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (v. 23) and God's establishment of the close union between the two (v. 24) indicate that the woman served as the help corresponding to him that God decided was necessary for the man. God did not take Adam's rib and make another man but a woman to be this helper that corresponds to him. God's intention for a marriage commitment clearly is that between one man and one woman. Furthermore, one of the responsibilities that God gives to this couple are to Be fruitful and multiply (1:28), an impossibility for a homosexual couple to carry out for obvious reasons.

I did a blog previously arguing and articulating how this definition of marriage can be found consistently throughout Scripture. This was in response to a popular Newsweek article that claimed to provide the religous case for gay marriage. The issue over "so-called" same-sex marriage is not one over homosexual rights. In fact, homosexuals have the same rights pertaining to marriage as anyone else in America. I have the right to marry any woman of my own choosing within the confines of what defines a marriage. I cannot choose to marry my cat because that does not constitute a marriage. Likewise, I cannot choose to marry a child or two women. What homosexual activists are fighting for with "so-called" same-sex marriage is not marriage at all but something different. God has established and defined marriage as recorded here in Genesis and man has no right to change that.

They had not yet lied down when the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every end, and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them." And Lot went out to them at the doorway and shut the door behind him. And he said, "Please my brothers, do not do evil. Now behold I have two daughters who have not known a man. Please let me bring these to you and do to them what is good in your eyes, only to these men do nothing in the matter because they have come under the shadow of my roof." And they said, "Stand aside." They said, "this one came as a sojourner and he is acting like a judge; now we will do more evil to you than them." And they pushed against the man, against Lot, hard and came near to breaking the door. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot to them into the house and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great and they wearied to find the doorway. Genesis 19:4-11

Genesis 19:1-29 describes the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. While not the only sin of the cities, a major one was homosexuality as witnessed in the narrative itself. The men of the city came with the intention to have sex with the two angels who must have appeared as men. They called out to Lot and asked, Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them (v. 5). The Hebrew word for "know" often is used to connote sexual relations as can be seen in its use in Genesis 4:1 when Adam "knowing" Eve resulted in the birth of Cain. Clearly, Adam had to do more than just know who Eve was or be cognate of her existence for her to conceive. The same verb is used in v. 8 here when Lot describes his two daughters as having not known a man. This has to have a sexual connotation because it would not make sense for these two to have gone through their lives without ever meeting a man, especially since they might have been engaged (v. 14)1 These men wanted to have sex with the angels. Lot described their intended actions as evil (v. 7). They were so perverse that they even bypassed the offer of Lot's two virgin daughters (which was discrediting to Lot who obviously desired to protect the angels more than his own daughters) (vv. 8-9). The angels had to strike the men blind to make them stop their attempt to barge into the door to get them (vv. 10-11). The wickedness of the city was so great that God decided to destroy it (vv. 12-13). Ezekiel 16:49-50 points out some of the wicked sins of the city: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed an abomination before Me. Though homosexuality is not mentioned in this list of atrocities, Jude in the New Testament clearly identifies it as one. In listing the judgment that all those faced who had apostatized (a complete falling away from the faith and outright rejection of it) throughout biblical history, the author includes the angels who left their domain just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these [the angels] indulged in gross immorality and went after different flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire (Jude 7). I am not completely sure what the event with the angels mentioned here is referring to. Some try to connect it with the incident of the Sons of God marrying the daughters of man in Genesis 6 but that doesn't fit the context of that chapter. However, it does seem clear that whatever these angels did, the people of Sodom were similar by participating in gross immorality and going after different flesh. This would make sense to be referring to homosexuality which would have men going after different flesh than normal and would be immoral as the other Scriptures dealing with homosexuality show. Furthermore, the common terms, "sodomy" and "sodomite," used to refer to homosexual activity or one who performs such activity, originate from the name of the city of Sodom.

Leviticus 18:22 simply states as part of the Law the prohibition that You shall not lie in bed with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Leviticus 20:13 also condemns the practice of homosexuality and prescribes death as the punishment for such a sin: And a man who lies with a male in bed as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. The author emphasizes the fact that this act is detestable to God in 20:13 by highlighting the word, abomination, in the original Hebrew. The standard in the Hebrew language is to place the verb before the subject and then to have the direct object after the subject (contra our English style to always place the subject directly before the verb). Here the direct object, abomination, precedes the verb, to do or make, drawing attention to God's hatred of this practice.

The main point of Leviticus can be summarized by God's statement, For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:45). All of the dietary, ritual, and purity laws and prohibitions serve the very purpose of the people separating themselves from the sinful practices of the other nations to be "set apart" (the basic meaning of "holy") for service to God. For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44). This is the explicit reason given for the list of sexual prohibitions in chapter 18 of which homosexuality is a part. Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled (Leviticus 18:24). The verb translated as defile literally means to be or become unclean. A holy God cannot have an unholy people. (This point established in this book has wonderful implications for the necessity of a perfect sacrifice needed for God's people to be viewed as holy in the eyes of such a holy God.)

The main issue pertaining to these verses concern their application to the church today. We no longer follow the prohibitions of men shaving their beards, women leaving the city during their period, and the strict dietary instructions of what should be eaten and what should not. Jesus stated that He did not come to abolish the Law but instead to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He even declared all foods clean as Mark points out upon His declaration that it is what comes out of one's mouth that makes him unclean and not what goes in (Mark 7:19). However, Jesus never addressed any of the sexual sins mentioned in both chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus as not making one unclean. Perhaps the reason that these practices make one unclean is due to the fact that they are a sin against God's standard of proper sexual relationships. The purpose of the Law was to set the standard and reveal man's sins as he fell short of God's standard due to his depraved nature (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-8). While we are not described as still being under the Law and all of those rituals, the underlying principles that God based His Law on have not changed from the very beginning. Murder was a sin before God established the Law as is seen with God's confronting of Cain due to his slaying of Abel (Genesis 4:6-12). Likewise, lying and adultery are still considered sins even though we are not under the Law. In Hebrews 13:4, notice that the author does not say that defiling the marriage bed is wrong because it is one of the "Ten Commandments" but because it is an offense to God who will judge those who go against this principle. While homosexuality, as well as many of the other sins commanded against in the Law, may no longer result in stoning due to us not being under the Law (praise God for His grace shown at the cross!) I see no evidence that God no longer considers such a relationship as an abomination (Leviticus 18:22), especially when it is explicitly referred to in the New Testament as a sin. In fact, almost all of the other sexual sins listed in the context of the two verses referenced would still be regarded as a sin and disgraceful in God's eyes. Certainly, no one would try to argue that incest (18:6-18; 20:10-12, 17, 19-21), adultery (18:20), and bestiality (18:23; 20:15-16) are now viewed as appropriate in God's sight and thus affirmed. Yet, to be consistent, to claim that homosexuality is now acceptable contra to these statements, one would also have to say that incest, adultery, and bestiality are as well. According to God, all of these are sins and should not be practiced.

While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came to your house that we may know him." Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No my fellows, please do not do evil; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly. Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do the good in your eyes. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man." But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man's house where her master was, until full daylight.
Judges 19:22-26

Judges 19:22-30 describes a scene very similar to that which occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah although with a much more gruesome ending. An old man takes in a Levite for the night and during their evening feast, the men of the city come to the house demanding for the guest to come out so that they can have sex with him. Bring out the man who came into your house that we may know him (v. 22). The owner of the house even described the action they desired as evil and an act of folly (v. 23). Here the Hebrew verb for know must again carry a sexual connotation. Having a desire to become acquainted with this man surely would not be described as evil or an act of folly. The word for folly literally means senselessness and is used especially to refer to disgraceful sins. Just as Lot offered his daughters to the wicked men of his city, this man gave his daughter and the concubine of the guest to the wicked ones of this city. Unfortunately, their sexual appetite was so strong that they went ahead and raped the concubine all night and all morning (v. 25), eventually leading to her death (vv. 27-28). This is a very gruesome picture along with many others throughout the book of judges where everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25). In fact, the author introduces this narrative with the reminder that Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel (Judges 19:1). The homosexual desire led to rape when the people could not get their way.

While many may dismiss these as being in the Old Testament, this in no way invalidates them as God's principles have not changed in any way with the cross and the dawning of the church age. The New Testament also has several clear statements concerning the issue. All of which unambiguously identify homosexuality as a sin.

Homosexuality in the New Testament

Because of this God gave them over into disgraceful passions, for their females exchanged the natural relation into that which is against nature, and in the same way also males abandoned the natural relation of the female, they were inflamed in their desire for one another, male with male doing the shameless deed and receiving from in themselves the penalty that was due of their error.
Romans 1:26-27

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes the wrath of God being against the ungodly who suppress the truth of what God has made known to them about Himself through creation (vv. 18-20). Though they know of God's existence due to the evidence of His fingerprints in what He has created, they failed to glorify Him or give Him thanks (v. 21). They chose to worship created images instead (vv. 22-23). Paul here is referring to the sinful practices of the Gentiles as he makes his case that all have sinned and thus are under God's righteous wrath. He later points out to the Jews that they practice the same things and are also sinners deserving of God's judgment (2:1-11). As a result of worshiping something in place of God, Paul says three times that God gave them over to various sins (vv. 24, 26, 28). The term in Greek for to give over often is used in legal matters to describe someone turning another in to the authorities or to a judge. Paul uses it for the divine justice demonstrated in the practice of church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20. God's judgment upon this group is to allow them to revel in their sins to their own degradation. In a sense, God abandons them because they have abandoned Him.2 One of these sins God hands them over to appears to be homosexuality.

Verse 24 seems to introduce the topic of homosexuality in this passage with vv. 26-27 expanding on it. The impurity their hearts are given over to for the purpose of the dishonoring of their bodies would fit a description of homosexuality, especially if Paul would have the impurities of the holiness code of Leviticus in mind. After reiterating the point that this judgment originates in their sin of worshiping created things rather than the God who created them (v. 25), Paul elaborates on what God has given the people over to. In vv. 26-27 we find an inescapable reference to homosexuality.

Paul describes women as switching a natural relation in for an unnatural one. While the relation may not be explicitly defined in v. 26, the connection and explanation given for the men who in the same way abandon the natural relation of the woman in v. 27 indicates the reference being a sexual one. Men instead of having the proper relation with women are described as being inflamed in their desire for one another, male with male. The fact that Paul mentions lesbianism coupled alongside of the male homosexual relationship means that he did not intend to limit the latter case to pederasity, an erotic relationship between an older man and a young boy common in ancient Greek practice. This situation could certainly be included but Paul appears to indicate a more general male-male relationship. Interestingly, Paul in these verses uses the less common Greek words of thleis (female) and arseues (male) instead of the usual gune (woman or wife) and andros (man or husband). Typically, the apostle uses the latter two to refer to the different gender relations throughout his writings.3 The only other case where he uses thleis and arseues is in Galatians 3:28. By choosing these two words over the other two, he might intend to point back to Genesis 1:27 where it states male and female He created them. In fact, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) uses these two words to translate the Hebrew words for male and female. In such a connection, Paul indicates that this type of relationship is against God's created order.

Paul's description of this relationship as against nature may indicate that homosexuality is not something one is born with. If it was, then it could be described as natural for that person. The passions and desire must then develop in another matter. This does not necessarily mean that the practice may not feel natural for the person involved as any habit may begin to feel as part of one's nature over time.4 The desire to drink does not feel strange to an alcoholic as the habit has become a part of his nature. The same could be said with a smoker as well pertaining to cigarettes.

The penalty mentioned that those who practice this relationship receive is not specified. It could refer to the practice itself as divine punishment for the original rejection of God. The error could refer back to this suppression of truth and exchange of the glory of God for the glory of man. Another possibility would be that the penalty refers to the spread of sexual diseases such as AIDS that plague the homosexual community with the error then being the homosexual relationships God gave them over to. While the referent may be unclear, Paul's characterization of homosexuality is not. He views it as a sinful passion that is unnatural and a shameless deed.5

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor effeminate nor homosexuals nor thieves nor greedy, no drunkards, no revilers, no swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And these were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Homosexuality is also mentioned in a list of vices Paul gives in I Corinthians 6:9-10 of characteristics of the unrighteous who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The apostle is chastising the church for taking each other to the secular courts to settle their issues instead of working them out among themselves. Does any of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? (v. 1). Paul tells them of the foolishness of having those who are unsaved evaluate their disagreements (vv. 2-6). As part of this point of how foolish going to the secular courts to be judged by unbelievers are, Paul reminds them of what characterizes such a group and how such things prevent this group from entering God's kingdom. This should not be whom they would want to go to in order to settle their disputes. Two words in this list may pertain to the current discussion on homosexuality but they are not without much dispute concerning their meaning. The two words in Greek are malakos (translated as effeminate in NASB) and apsenokoites (translated as homosexuals in NASB).

The term malakos literally means soft and carries this connotation in its other three New Testament occurrences.6 The gospel writers use it to describe the clothing of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25. However, here in 1 Corinthians it does not refer to clothing but a sinful practice that characterizes one's life. The major question then concerns how Paul uses the term. Unfortunately, Paul never uses the term again in any of the letters that we possess for us to have any point of comparison in other contexts. The identification of the word next to apsenokoites which will be discussed shortly has led many translators to render the term as effeminate. The idea then would be that it refers to the passive partner in a homosexual relationship. While this is a possibility, it is not conclusive without any other evidence to back up the claim. It could be just as easily connected to the word that precedes it (aduterers) or stand on its own like several of the other characteristics in the list. However, apsenokoites definitely appears to refer to homosexuality.

One lexicon translates apsenokoites as one who has intercourse with a man as with a woman.7 What makes this word puzzling is the fact that no record of the word exists prior to its use here in 1 Corinthians and later in 1 Timothy 1:10. Scholars have not found it used anywhere before these letters, even in works outside of Scripture. This may indicate that Paul created this word to describe a specific group. The word is a compound word consisting of the two words apsenos (male) and koiten (bed). Just as English has often taken two separate words and combined them into one (such as airport, backhand, and sunshine), Paul might have done the same with the two words mentioned. These two words are both used in the Septuagint's translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 that were examined earlier.8 In fact, the two words are used side by side in 20:13 (kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos, And whomever lies with a male in bed as with a woman). Paul might have taken the two words and decided to combine them to refer to the males who lie in bed as with a woman as Leviticus prohibited. If this is the case, then homosexuals are clearly referred to in this list.

There are two things to notice concerning the place of this word in this list and with reference to the following verse. While homosexuality (arsenokoites) is identified as a characteristic of the unrighteous, it is not singled out as a greater sin than adultery or drunkenness or idolatry. It is given just as much weight as the other sins. In God's eyes, sin is sin, regardless of what specific sin it may be. While certain sins may have graver consequences than others, no sin itself is identified as greater, with maybe the possible exception of the unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:31-32. Also, Christ has the power to change people who are characterized by such things mentioned in this list. In v. 11, Paul mentions that and these were some of you, referring to the believers he is addressing, recognizing that many of them used to have been characterized by such sins. But the power of Christ changed that as He has washed them, sanctified them, and justified them. In the original Greek, each of these verbs are coupled with a but that might indicate the contrast of the present state of the Christians from the unrighteous they once resembled. All of these verbs are salvific terms. Through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, God has the power to save and change any sinner, whether they be an adulterer, idolater, homosexual, or frequent liar.

This is one of my favorite verses to use when discussing the Bible's teaching on homosexuality because it not only shows that it is a sin of equal weight to others but also because it shows that God has the power to deliver someone from this sin as He does all other sins. Far too often the church has been guilty of forgetting about communicating this important truth, especially to the homosexuals that may pay a visit on Sunday morning or whom we encounter throughout the week. The good news of the gospel is the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ and should be told to all regardless of their sins.

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
1 Timothy 1:8-11

Here in 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Paul gives another vice list. This time the list serves to illustrate the purpose of the Law. After warning Timothy about those who desire to be teachers of the Law but who do not have a proper understanding of it (vv. 6-7), he explains the purpose of the Law to possibly combat this group's wayward teaching on the subject. This group might have been following the popular error of the Judaizers who insisted that the Gentile converts had to become circumcised according to the prescription of the Law and also live according to its rules and regulations. He reminds Timothy that the Law was given for the sake of revealing man's sin and unrighteousness (Romans 7:7-13) by listing several groups of sins that mirror the ten commandments. It was not made for a righteous person but those in this list that the Law shows are unrighteous because they fall short of God's standards. One of the sins in this list is the exact same noun previously examined in the list in 1 Corinthians, arsenokoites, identifying homosexuality as referred in the holiness code in Leviticus.9 Also, like the passage in 1 Corinthians, Paul does not leave the vice list without providing hope afterwards. He shares how God saved him although he once was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor (vv. 12-13). Furthermore, he gives the trustworthy statement that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost (v. 15). Praise God that He has the power to save sinners through Jesus' death on the cross!

Jesus and Homosexuality

A major claim by proponents for the acceptance of homosexuality is Jesus' silence on the issue. It is true that Jesus never explicitly condemns homosexuality or homosexual behavior. However, that does not necessarily mean that He condones it. In fact, Jesus also never mentioned bestiality and pedophilia and that certainly does not indicate that He believed them to be okay. Such a claim is an argument of silence and does not carry any weight. While Jesus may never have spoken directly to the subject of homosexuality, He clearly affirms a heterosexual relationship as the norm and purpose of a marriage relationship. In Matthew 19:1-12, Jesus is asked a question pertaining to divorce. The Pharisees wanted to trap him by getting him to take one of the sides in the current debate at the time over what Deuteronomy 24:1 meant with the statement, he has found some indecency in her as a reason for divorce. Instead of taking a side with one of the rabbis, He affirmed God's original intention for marriage. By quoting Genesis 1:27 (v. 4) and 2:24 (v. 5), He supported a union between one man and one woman. Jesus did not amend these two statements of Scripture or alter them in any way. In fact, the statements are basically word for word identical to that of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). The evidence that we have for Jesus in relation to homosexuality is that He supported a heterosexual union in marriage and agreed with the Old Testament condemnation of sexual sin (Matthew 5:27-30).


The Bible's position on the matter of homosexuality is clear and consistent. Solid exegesis of Scripture reveals homosexuality to be a sin that veers from God's intended fulfilling relationship between a man and a woman. One has to work hard to dismiss or get around several of the passages examined in this article. For the denominations that are debating this issue of homosexuality, the real issue lies in the authority of Scripture and whether the denomination will take a stand with God's Word or seek to affirm what He has not. Instead of spending so much time, energy, and resources on debating what God has already decided and communicated, we would do better to discuss how best we can reach out to those in the homosexual community and share the love of Christ with them and the good news of the gospel. People need to hear what God's Word says on the issue and as a dear brother of mine whom God has delivered from homosexuality put it, let them know that "the grass is greener on the other side."

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!


1 It is unclear whether the Hebrew participle in v. 14 for take should be translated with a present or future tense. So these sons in law might either refer to the fiances of these daughters or be the husbands of other daughters of Lot.

2 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005) 1508.

3 Granted, the reason for Paul's numerous usage of gune (woman/wife) and andros (man/husband) in his writings stems from their occurrences in his discussions of marriage relationships since the two terms both can refer to the respective position of wife and husband. However, it still is significant that he does not use these two terms to refer to man and woman here in this passage as they can be used to convey a more general sense but instead uses two terms which are limited to refer to male and female.

4 Brethren Revival Fellowship, God Speaks About the Homosexual Issue (Ephrata, PA: Brethren Revival Fellowship, 2010) 10.

5 The Greek word used for passion in v. 26 is always used by Paul to describe a sinful passion (Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:5).

6 F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1983) 121.

7 Evangelinus Apostolides Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (From B.C. 146 to A.D. 1100) (New York: Scribner's, 1900) 1.253.

8 Leviticus 18:20: kai meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gunaikos; Leviticus 20:13: kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos; Andreas J. Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004) 216.

9 On a side note: The fact that the only two occurrences of this Greek word are found in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy with the evidence suggesting that Paul coined the term, more support is lent to the traditional understanding of the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles in light of the denial by many modern critical scholars.