Do we really need a “New” conversation about an act that God has condemned? Has God really condemned homosexuality? Or perhaps God has changed his mind. Why does Father Shannon Kearnes think a new conversation is “Desperately” needed? How would we know if God did change his mind? I am writing on a foundation that Scripture, the Bible, is God’s word to humanity. It was not written on a whim by man and it has one interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21). The often touted “that’s your interpretation” is vacuous. It has not and will not resolve anything. Plainly, God has not changed his mind. True Apostles (capital “A”) do not exist today (apostolic succession was man’s invention for control purposes). What is a true Apostle? Simple.
Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.
The context of the passage is a selection of a man to replace Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus for the price of a slave who had been gored to death by an ox (Exod 21:32). The criteria is stated quite clearly, “. . . men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us . . .” Unless there is one alive today who can meet the criteria, in the neighborhood of 2000 years old, there are no Apostles. And, what is the significance of this?
The Apostles were the writers of the New Testament. There are four clear exceptions. Two of those are Mark (Gospel of Mark) and Luke (Gospel of Luke). They were close associates of the Apostles, first hand witnesses and co-laborers with the Apostles. A third exception is Jude, a half brother of Jesus who distinguished himself from the apostles (Jude 17). Finally, the fourth was a Pharisee named Saul. He was confronted by Jesus as he was traveling to Damascus to imprison Christians (Acts 9; cf. 1 Cor 15:8). His life changed that day. All the intensity that was directed in efforts to conform to the Mosaic Law was redirected because Jesus said, “for he [Saul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). These men, to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection, and the two who were close associates of these men, were moved by the Holy Spirit to write the New Testament. There are no living Apostles today, therefore, no additional revelation to the Church of Jesus Christ.
There are only two reasons a “new conversation” about homosexuality should take place. One, that God may have changed his mind, has been answered. He hasn’t. Two, the possibility that interpretations were inaccurate. The traditional view of Israel, dating back to B.C. 1400, is that same sex relations was forbidden by God; it is a sinful act (Lev 18:22; 20:13; see also Gen 18:20-21; 19:4-7; Judg 19:22-23). That view remains in the New Testament (Rom 1:24-32; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Tim 1:8-10). Seven years ago Brian McLaren suggested “a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements” about homosexuality because “many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality. We’ve heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say ‘it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.'” 1 What McLaren is suggesting is that Scripture might be beyond understanding or that Scripture presents a neutral or non-committal view about homosexuality. What is there now to do but to examine passages in God’s Word.
Galatians chapter 5 and verses 13-18 is all about life by the Holy Spirit. The sufficiency of the Spirit in the believer is noted in the promise, “you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (v. 16). Regarding verse 16, if we walk by the Spirit, are led by the Spirit, then you are a believer, saved from hell and the fruit of the Spirit will follow (vv. 22-24; Rom 8:14, “for all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”). That freedom the Spirit gives is true freedom to serve Jesus Christ and one another.
Verse 13, in contrast to the bondage of the false teachers (v. 12), warns “. . . don’t turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” because what will happen is listed in verses 19-21. Paul gives a random list of vices that represent the kind of lifestyles characteristic of unregenerate people. The list is not intended to be exhaustive or categorized into classes (e.g., sensuality, idolatry, conflict, etc). It represents the “works of the flesh” (v. 19), “that element in man’s nature which is opposed to goodness,” with its appetites and propensities. Should the “flesh” be allowed to indulge its cravings, a lifestyle the very opposite the one led by the Spirit results. The different lifestyles represent different conditions of the heart (soul). A great contrast lies before the reader in the vice and virtues of vv. 19-24. They provide an objective basis for evaluation, answering, who is your master?
The “deeds of the flesh are evident” (v. 19), meaning open to sight, visible, opposite of invisible. Only God knows the heart of a person but the occupation or content of the heart will work itself into visible expression. When there is no restraint, no discipline, no guide to direct behavior, the result will be quite evident. The first “deed of the flesh” Paul lists is “sexual immorality” (porneia). The word porneia comes from the word “to sell,” like prostitutes that were frequently bought and sold on the slave market. Older English words such as “licentiousness” and “fornication” depict porneia. The idea here is no sexual restraints or disregarding sexual restraints. The word is broad, not specifying any one kind of act but every kind of unlawful sexual action—generally to refer to any sexual sin (1 Cor 6:13, 18; 7:2; Eph 5:3; 1 Thess 4:3), but also specifically of adultery (Matt 5:32; 19:9) and incest (1 Cor 5:1). The word homosexuality (ἀρσενοκοίτης) specifically points to male with male sex. Porneia includes the specific act called homosexuality because it is contrary to the created order, a violation of what God intended when he created men and women. The English word “pornography” comes from porneia. Paul concludes this list of vices with the result, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 21).
Another passage, Romans 1:26-27, describe what happens when people “exchanged” (v. 23) God’s glory and “exchanged” (v. 25) his truth. Here it is, they “exchanged” (v. 26) natural sexual relations for that which is unnatural. The result is undeniable. Sexual immorality is a consequence of human idolatry (see Thomas R. Schreiner, “Romans,” Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 93).
The first consequence of exchanging God’s glory and truth is “impurity” (v. 24). The word means without cleansing, unclean. The word is broad for anything (defined by God) that separates people from God; anything that restricts one from participation in the worship rituals of the temple until the matter was corrected. One who had leprosy or touched a dead body is unclean. Also, rape (Gen 34:5), homosexuality (Lev 18:22), relations with siblings (Lev 18), and animals (Lev 18:23), all rendered one unclean. The normal use of this word in Paul’s writing and the New Testament has to do with sexual impurity or looseness in a moral sense. It occurs with “sexual immorality” or “immorality” in 2 Corinthians 12:21; Ephesians 5:3 and Colossians 3:5.
Another consequence of the exchange is “degrading passions” (passions that bring dishonor, v. 26). The word “degrading” means dishonor, disgrace, shameful (John 8:49). The denial of God’s honor is self-deception. Paul then explains what sort of disgrace the exchange involves. The text is clear, “women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (vv. 26b-27). That Paul is specifying homosexual acts comes from three phrases,
- “women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,”
- “men abandoned the natural function of the woman,”
- “men with men committing indecent acts.”
Note the words used. “Women” is the word female (θῆλυς), not the word often translated “women” (γύνη) and “men” is the word male (ἄρσην), not the word often translated “man” (ἀνήρ). The meaning of this is that Paul is showing distinctions between male and female. The difference has its origin in creation for Genesis employs the same words, “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27; 5:2 LXX). Jesus himself quotes Genesis, male and female, as proof that God never intended divorce (Matt 19:4). Clearly, Jesus presumes the truth both in creation, God created, and distinction, male and female. The Bible is not confusing on this matter and the Bible does not distinguish forms of homosexuality (there is no ‘responsible’ degrading passion). When males are sexually engaged with males or females with females, whether they be consensual, whether they be 3 years of age or 30, the act is shameful and condemned by God.
It is time now to ask the question, “have interpretations been accurate?” The conclusion is “yes, the original intent was male and female, a family, and violation of original intent, even from a New Testament time perspective, represents an exchange of God’s glory and his truth for deviant sexual relations.” This passage, Romans 1:26-27, is the clearest teaching in the New Testament on homosexuality. Though the word homosexuality is not used, the act is described quite plainly.
The only ‘felt’ desperation is by those who do not believe in the inspiration and perspicuity of the Bible, God’s word. We do not “desperately need a new conversation about homosexuality” rather, we need to “desperately” embrace the plain meaning of Scripture. It has not changed because God has not changed. The traditional view of Israel (Old Testament) and the Church (New Testament) are still true. All forms of male with male sex or female with female sex are condemned by God.
Here is more good news. Scripture does not cut off anyone who remains alive. There is a saying, “while there is breath, there is hope.” God’s grace is able to reach the most complacent, independent, peaceful, and reprehensible sinner. And that is the condition in which God receives anyone, as a sinner. People cannot wash away their sins, nor can they live so righteously that God will accept them. This begs the question, “how does one get forgiveness of sin?” One, understand you are a sinner and need forgiveness. You cannot fix your condition; you are hopeless to do so. Two, understand that Jesus Christ has made full payment for sin. Pray to him; ask for forgiveness of your sins. Put your trust in his full payment for sin and you will be granted forgiveness of sin.
A Crucial Distinction . . .
It is important to understand that temptation is possible in any form of sin, and that includes same sex attraction. Temptation is not sin. A person may be tempted to lie but if he does not the temptation is not sin. A person may have same sex attraction and be tempted to engage in homosexual activity but if he does not, the temptation is not sin. All believers struggle with sin in one or many of its forms. The struggle or temptation is unavoidable while living in this world. The defining mark of believers is their identity with Jesus Christ; their obedience to him as expressed in the Bible. The defining mark of believers is not in their struggle with sin, regardless of the form. A pastor in England has wisely said,
We [believers] will be conscious of different battles to varying degrees at different moments of a day and in different seasons of our lives. No one battle, of the many we face, however strongly, defines us, but our identity as Christians flows rather from our relationship with Christ. 2
- “Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question: Finding a Pastoral Response” January 23, 2006, http://www.outofur.com/archives/2006/01/brian_mclaren_o.html, accessed 27 July, 2013 ↩
- http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-6028-A-battle-I-face.htm. I recommend a recent article written in response to a mayor advocating the sin of homosexuality (http://www.gloucestertimes.com/opinion/x35805900/Midweek-Musings-Shaking-citys-fists-in-the-face-of-God?utm_source=Dividend+List&utm_campaign=88a8e47bdb-Shaking_city_s_fists_in_the_face_of_God_8_2_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_610922c4a8-88a8e47bdb-280296921) ↩