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Jul 12, 2015

Freedoms in Conflict, Part 2

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: God's Heart for a Sexualized World

Category: Life Together

Keywords: holiness, homosexuality, interpretation, marriage, morality


This message looks further at two important Old Testament passages and two important New Testament passages regarding Christian sexual morality in general and homosexuality in particular. It seeks to address both traditional and revisionist interpretations of these passages as well as begin to address some of the criticisms of our culture against Christian sexual morality as it pertains to homosexuality.


Freedoms in Conflict—Part 2

July 12, 2015

INTRO:  This past week, former President Jimmy Carter did an interview with the Huffington Post Live host Mark Lamont Hill in which he weighed in on homosexual marriage.  After talking about how he teaches Sunday School every Sunday in his Baptist church in Plains, GA, and is a “born again Christian,” he was asked whether he thought Jesus would embrace same-sex marriage. His answer was, “I believe that Jesus would approve of gay marriage. I don’t have any verse in scripture– that’s just my own personal belief.…”

The former President went on to say, "I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else,"

Now if you missed out on last week’s message, I encourage you to go to our web site and either read over the transcript or listen to the podcast.  I’m not going to be repeating my introductory comments which were absolutely essential if you want a balanced and full sense of what I am trying to lay out over these three weeks. 

Suffice it to say that I don’t think homosexuality is a worse sexual sin than adultery or fornication or, as Jesus himself said, lusting after someone in your heart.  Nor am I afraid of homosexuals or hateful towards them.  I’ve always enjoyed their friendship and conversations that we’ve had. 

But unlike former President Carter, I don’t think Jesus Christ would approve of gay marriage or any form of marriage other than one-man/one-woman.  If you doubt me on that, you also need to go back to last week’s message.  Jesus himself affirmed the Genesis 1-2 model and prescription (not just description) of the marriage union as between a man and a woman as the only God-ordained marriage configuration. (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-9)

            Proponents of homosexual marriage are quick to point out that Jesus never explicitly talked about homosexual marriage and therefore he must not have been opposed to it.  That’s a rather twisted view of both the Old and New Testament as well as of biblical morality in general and Jesus’ teachings in particular. 

First, Jesus never spoke directly against a host of sexual sins that the rest of the Bible does speak against such as incest, bestiality, necrophilia, orgies, voyeurism, sadomasochism, pedophilia or exabitionism. Not talking specifically about some form of sexual sin certainly doesn’t mean you are in favor of it! 

But Jesus did speak against all forms of sexual sin when he used the Greek term porneia, a broad word encompassing every kind of sexual sin.  (Sound like a word we use in English?  Our English word is far more restrictive than the Greek word from which it comes.) 

Jesus said in Mark 7:21, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality [porneia], theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All theses evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  That hardly sounds to me like a resounding endorsement of any non-biblical form of sex!

Our own New Testament scholar Dr. Jim Edwards (who teaches right here in Spokane at Whitworth University) states that porneia “can be found in Greek literature with reference to a variety of illicit sexual practices, including adultery, fornication, prostitution, and homosexuality.  In the O.T. it occurs for any sexual practice outside marriage between a man and a woman that is prohibited by the Torah.”  [Quoted by DeYoung, p. 75, from James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, p. 213.]  Homosexual sex has always been forbidden by the Torah. It certainly was in Jesus’ day…and therefore Jesus did speak against it by using this term porneia.   

Last week we looked at the biblical model presented in Genesis 1-2.  This week I would like to take you to 2 similar O.T. passages that speak of homosexuality and 1 N.T. passage.  Then I want you to grapple in groups for about 10 minutes with some answers to the criticisms our friends and neighbors level at us for holding to this biblical position over our culture’s and Supreme Court’s position. 

First, let’s go to that seemingly weird but wonderful book of Leviticus, 18:22 & 20:13.

18:22--19 “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor's wife and so make yourself unclean with her. 21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

20:13--10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father's wife, he has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

            Leviticus is all about holiness in living before God.  The section from chapter 17 onward is sometimes called the “Holiness Code” because it details how God’s people were to live as holy.  Chapter 18 is about holiness as it relates to the family and sexual activity.  It’s not comprehensive but it is sufficient to tell us what we need to know:

  • incest is bad (vv. 6-27);
  • taking a rival wife is bad (v. 18);
  • coming in contact with menstrual uncleanness makes one unclean (vs. 19);
  • adultery is bad (v. 20);
  • killing our children is bad (v. 21);
  • homosexual activity is bad (v. 22);
  • and bestiality is bad (v. 23).

Those who argue that these passages can’t apply to us today use several different arguments against applying this to our contemporary homosexuals or homosexual activity. 

False claim #1—Leviticus only prohibits certain kinds of homosexual activity, i.e. casual, forced or non-committed, non-monogamous homosexual sex.  

Reply:--None of the other laws against sexual sin are qualified in any way.  There are no hints that, say, incest between consenting adults is O.K or adultery is O.K. if you “really love the person” or “have a horrible marriage.”  The condemnation of homosexual sex is straightforward and absolute.

False claim #2—“Leviticus is simply prohibiting sex between older and younger men to protect vulnerable youth, not committed same-sex relationships.

Reply:--There is NO such qualification here.  Lev. 20:13 says “both of them have committed an abomination” which is a euphemistic way of condemning both the active and passive roles in homosexual sex.  Furthermore, the language of these two passages hearkens back to the created order with the phrase “as with a woman.”  It is reinforcing that man was designed to have sex with woman, not another man. 

            Additionally, these prohibitions can’t be just referring to the victimization of someone as revisionists claim.  In Deut 22:25-26 where the Mosaic Law prescribes punishment for a rapist, no punishment for the woman raped is called for.  If this were speaking of homosexual rape, only the rapist would be put to death.

False claim #3—“Leviticus outlaws a lot of goofy things… stuff like not charging interest on a loan or wearing clothes with two different kinds of fabric interwoven or eating bacon or even having sex with your own wife during her monthly period.  It’s largely irrelevant to us today.  So why should we still hold to the notion homosexual sex is still prohibited?”


  • Jesus and the N.T. writers didn’t treat Leviticus as irrelevant. Jesus quoted Lev. 19:18 (“Love your neighbor as yourself.”) more than any other verse in the O.T. while the N.T. refers to that vs. 10 times!  Peter and Paul both quote Leviticus as part of their calls to holiness (2 Cor. 6:16 quoting Lev. 26:12; I Pt. 1:16, quoting Lev. 11:44). 

Jesus claimed to fulfill all of the Law (Mt. 5:17-18).  And when he did, he and N.T. writers specifically changed certain parts of the Old Covenant under the New.

  • All foods are declared clean (Mark 7:19; Ac. 10:8-11:18).
  • Holy days have been rendered optional (Rom. 14:5-6)
  • The entire sacrificial system of temple, priests, and sacrifice has been suspended (Heb. 7:1-10:18).
  • Clearly the sexual ethic of the O.T. was not abrogated like the sacrificial system, but carried forward into the early church. Paul reaffirmed that the law is good if one uses it lawfully (I Tim. 1:8), i.e. not to make one feel more righteous or acceptable to God but to govern personal and social behavior.  This is the whole argument of Galatians which we’ve been studying lately. 
  • Leviticus calls homosexual behavior “an abomination,” very strong language and something the Lord despises, not just a minor social taboo as revisionists claim. All sexual sin in Lev. 18 is lumped together under the term “abominations” but only male-with-male sex is singled out by itself as an abomination. It’s the only forbidden act specifically given this label in the entire Holiness Code. 
  • When Paul chose a term to use for homosexuality or “men who practice homosexuality” (as in I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim. 1:10), he chose the Greek term (arsenokoitai from the LXX) found in Lev. 18:22 & 20:13 that is derived from two Greek words—arsen (man) and koite (bed). Paul was obviously thinking of this Lev. passage when he chose that particular word.  There are no instances of that word arsenokoitai prior to Paul’s usage in I Cor. And I Tim.  We’ll come back to this in just a moment.
  • Finally, what about a woman’s menstrual period mentioned just before this? Doesn’t that call into question the application of the rest of the sexual ethic in Lev. 18 & 20 to today?
    • Notice the progression in both Lev. 18 & 20 of increasingly severe sexual sin:

           Lev. 18                                        Lev. 20                    

With menstruating woman (v. 19)         -------

With neighbor’s wife (v. 20)                  Neighbor’s wife

[child sacrifice, v. 21]

Male with another male (v. 22)              Another family member

Male or female w/ an animal (23)          A family member of a

                                                                   younger generation

                                                               Another man

                                                               More than one partner

                                                               Men with an animal

                                                               Women with an animal

What do you notice about a woman’s menstrual period?  

  • Not even mentioned in this list in Lev. 20.
  • Was connected to a women’s ritual uncleanliness during her period (Lev 15:19-24).
  • Menstruation wasn’t a sin. No sacrifice was required to atone for it (unlike an abnormal issue of blood and the required burnt and sin offerings, Lev. 15:28-30). Was a matter of ritual uncleanliness, a system that the New Covenant has completely erased. 
  • Not all uncleanliness was sin but all sin made you unclean.
  • Men were likewise “unclean” whenever they had “an emission of semen” (Lev. 15:16-18). But as with a women’s menstruation, no sacrifice was required. 

Finally, there is no discontinuity/disconnect between the O.T. sexual ethic and what the N.T. affirms when it comes to sin. 

  • Adultery is still a sin in the N.T. (Mt. 5:27-30; 15:19; 19:18; Rm. 13:9; James 2:11; 2 Pt. 2:14).
  • Incest is still sin (I Cor. 5:1-13).
  • Polygamy is even more clearly rejected (I Cor. 7:2; I Tim. 3:2). WHY would the homosexuality mentioned in the N.T. be the exception (I Cor. 6:9 & I Tim. 1:10)??? 
  • The Jerusalem Council affirmed the continuity of the sexual ethic when it stated the importance for all believers in Jesus, including Gentiles, of abstaining from “sexual immorality” in Acts 15:20 & 29. Paul reaffirmed the need to leave sexual immorality behind also in I Cor. 5:11; 6:18 and 10:8 among other passages 

While determining HOW to apply the O.T. to our life today under the New Covenant can be challenging, it is abundantly clear that there is really no disconnect between these prohibitions in Leviticus and what the N.T. teaches.  If anything, they are parallel passages the reinforce the continuity of sexual morality between the Old and New Testaments and Covenants.  The only real change between those two is the degree of punishment.  Where the O.T. called for death or separation from the people of God, the N.T. calls for excommunication.  Paul tells the church in I Cor. 5:13 to “Purge the evil person from among you” speaking of the sexually immoral man flaunting his sin in the church. 

Now let’s go back to the New Testament and the two terms it uses in I Cor. 6 and I Tim. 1 for homosexual activity.  I apologize that this part of the study is rather technical.  But if we are going to be honest about what the Word of God says and if we are going to be able to stand against the “revisionists” wrong interpretation of these passages, we need to know their arguments and we need to know our Bibles.   

I’ve already talked about the Greek compound word arsenokoitai that Paul uses in both these passages.  This word comes from the two Greek words—arsen (man) and koite (bed).  So we could literally translate it “bedders of men” or “those who take males to bed.” Since there are no examples of this word surviving in Greek literature prior to Paul’s use in I Corinthians and I Timothy.  It is most probable that Paul took this term from the Greek translation of the Hebrew passages in Leviticus 18 & 20 (the Septuagint or LXX). 

Now look at how it is used in I Timothy 1:8-10.   

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine….

            Notice that this list of forbidden things somewhat parallels the general order of the 10 Commandments. 

  • 5th Commandment: for those who strike their fathers and mothers,
  • 6th Commandment: for murderers,
  • 7th Commandment:  10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality,
  • 8th Commandment: enslavers, 
  • 9th Commandment: liars, perjurers,

Revisionists like to say that Paul is prohibiting things like exploitive forms of homosexuality, not committed monogamous homosexual sex.  But the reality is that there is not a single historic Jewish reference to or commentary on the 10 Commandments that allowed for same sex sexual intimacy. Furthermore, if Paul was just forbidding exploitive sex where older men took advantage of boys, there is a different and particular Greek word that he could have chosenpaiderastes

            In the I Corinthians 6 passage using arsenokoitai, Paul had just finished urging excommunication for sexual sin.  It would make no sense that he is now giving exceptions to the sexual ethic of the N.T. when no other exceptions are being made in this passage

            Something else here worth noting.  The text seems to emphasize actions, not feelings.  It is speaking of men engaged in homosexual behavior with other men.  It is not about same-sex attraction, self-identity or feelings.  It is behavior the Scripture puts its focus on.  While Jesus certainly called all of us to monitor and guard our thoughts, particularly as they pertain to sexual thoughts or attractions, having thoughts and attractions is not considered sin in itself.  Embracing lustful thoughts and giving them room to grow in our thoughts is where God says sin begins its destructive work with us. 

One last word in this passage is in I Cor. 6:9—malakoi in Greek.  Any Greek lexicon/dictionary of the N.T. lists a couple of possible definitions: “being yielding to touch” and “being passive in a same-sex relationship.” 

Here is how it appears in the original Greek.  Some translations make it one word (“men who practice homosexuality”—ESV) while others make it two (KJV = “…effeminate…abusers of themselves with mankind;  NASB = “effeminate…homosexuals)






men who practice homosexuality




malakoi oute arsenokoitai 

            Revisionists will argue that this simply talks about men who have become overly feminine in appearance.  In other words, it’s just about men who seem unduly feminine or passive or controlled by their passions, not “committed, consensual same-sex relationships” we know of today. 

            Here’s the real problem with this revisionists interpretation.  Context is always king when it comes to determining the meaning of any word.

ILL:  If I tell you, “Yesterday I had a flat tire,” you know exactly what I’m referring to.  The tire on my van must have lost air pressure by either a puncture or a prankster so that I had to change the tire and put on the spare.  BUT, if I tell you, “At age 58, I tire easily,” do you automatically have an image of me easily morphing into a Michelin tire?  J No, thankfully not.  The context of the sentence determines the meaning.  Context is king!

            So back to the sentence context of this word malakoi.  Sandwiched between adulterers (moichoi) and men who practice homosexuality (arsenokoitai), this word malakoi must refer to some kind of immoral sexual intimacy, not just an effeminate pattern of speech, deportment or passions.  Nothing else in scripture would support the notion that God will disqualify someone from His presence because of a pattern of speech, a personal style or even a confused personal passion. 

            Both the words revisionists want to change here are not so broad as to include feminized heterosexual behavior OR so narrow as to exclude everything but exploitative homosexual behavior.  Both terms refer to men who have sex with other men, be they the passive or active partner in such sexual activity.

The reason I’m taking such pains to talk about the words and passages in the Bible that address homosexuality is because in America there are whole denominations today and millions of confused Christians who are abandoning 2,000 years of settled Christian sexual morality and embracing homosexual unions, homosexual sex and a complete re-definition of marriage itself…all because they will not do the hard work of interpretation or the honest work of accurate and fair interpretation. 

If we are going to be Protestant believers who believe that we can all read and study the Bible and consistently come close to an accurate understanding of what God wanted to communicate (rather than be people who depend on a pope or a bunch of church bishops or other hierarchy to tell us what the Bible means), we must be willing…even eager…to study the Bible deeply.  Then when someone tries to tell us the Bible says something it doesn’t, we are ready and equipped to humbly but firmly refute their bad interpretation and protect people from losing their souls. 

APP:  NOW, I’d like you to do some work.  With this biblical background and understanding of what God has called His people to, I’d like you to spend a few minutes in a group of 8 or 10 people to come up with some good, reasoned and loving responses to some of the reasons people object to Christians today holding this biblical position that sees homosexual activity not as a blessing to be celebrated and solemnized but a sin to be repented of, forsaken and forgiven. 


  1. Criticism: Not accepting homosexuals and homosexuality is (pick your word) hateful…intolerant…judgmental…old fashioned…unloving …etc.
  1. Criticism: The Old Testament law is no longer relevant.
  1. Criticism: Why should we ask non-Christians to live by Christian moral standards…especially when Christians aren’t even doing that themselves?
  1. Criticism: Why is the church/Christians singling out the sin of homosexuality as worse than other sins?
  1. Criticism: What right do we have to tell other people they must live a lie (i.e. deny their homosexual feelings, desires and passions)?
  1. Criticism: Why are we so opposed to two people who love each other have the same privileges as heterosexual couples?
  1. Criticism: Jesus never specifically spoke against homosexuality.  Why do we as his followers think we need to?
  1. Criticism: You have no right to judge other people’s decisions and behavior when Jesus said, “Judge not lest you be judged” (Mt. 7:1-4).
  1. Criticism: What two people do in the privacy of their own bedroom/lives doesn’t hurt you. 
  1. Criticism: You Christians are a bunch of hypocrites who can’t live up to your own standards.  You have no right telling others what to do. 
  1. Criticism: “I thought the Church is supposed to be a place for broken, imperfect people?” 
  1. Criticism: It’s Not Fair; Nobody Decides to be a Homosexual.  They are born that way.



Criticism:  “I thought the Church is supposed to be a place for broken, imperfect people?” 

True or false?  TRUE.  It is.  But what is supposed with that statement that is false?

  • That you can be part of the redeemed membership of God’s people and not depart from sin.
  • That the sexual choices we make do not impact our relationship with Christ.
  • That repentance is optional for the child of God.
  • That God’s people should put up with persistent unrepentant sexual sin.

While we know that the church is made up of sinners saved by grace, the Gospel, the Good News is that once we have been saved, we no longer have to live in slavery to sin.  In fact, if we choose to, particularly without a sense of conviction by the Holy Spirit about it, that is evidence that we really don’t have the Spirit of Christ.  The grace that grants us saving faith will invariably be a grace that causes us to change. 

            Over and over again, the Bible teaches clearly that persistent unrepentant sexual sin leads people away from God and towards hell (Mt. 5:27-32; Rm. 1:18-2:11; I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; I Thess. 4:3-8; I Jn. 3:4-10). 

            When a man in Corinth was found sleeping with his father’s wife, Paul’s response was not, “we all make mistakes” or “thank God for his unconditional love.”  Paul told the Corinthians to mourn over the sin (I Cor. 5:2), to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (v. 5), to no longer associate with the immoral man (vv. 9-11) and to purge the evil person from among them (v. 13).  This is the N.T. form of church discipline that in the O.T. law was to be done by either excluding someone from Israel or passing capital punishment. 

What Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and martyr under the Nazis, said about “cheap grace” applies here. 

            “[Cheap grace is] the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs.  Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin.  Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.  Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”  [Quoted by Kevin DeYoung in What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?, pp. 100-101.]

Why should homosexuality be viewed as allowable, permissible, acceptable when it is mentioned along with other sins? 

Why has the American church found it acceptable when sins  such as ethnic prejudice, economic exploitation or violence against women are not tolerated? 


Criticism:  It’s Not Fair; Nobody Decides to be a Homosexual.

  • Everyone knows someone they love, respect and don’t want to have to disagree with…or appear uncaring and not understanding with.
  • Why would God “give”/permit someone these desires and then not allow them to be fulfilled?


  • Strong feelings, not even sexual feelings, make something right.
  • We must all struggle with unfulfilled desires.
  • What makes homosexual sexual activity acceptable for two people when heterosexual singles must fight the same battle every day too?
  • If the existence of this sexual drive makes it acceptable, there is no logical reason why other sexual drives/orientations should be stigmatized (which is where this is quickly leading us—towards pederasty, polygamy, bisexuality, bestiality, promiscuity, etc.)
  • Resisting sexual desire is a part of Christian discipleship.
  • Self-pity is not the appropriate response to temptation.
  • What makes the pain of unfulfilled homosexual desires worse than the pain other Christians have to face in things such as infertility, depression, addiction, injustice, persecution, suffering, etc?
  • Jesus is the finest example of what it means to be fully human…and He never had sex.
  • Nothing in the Bible encourages us to give sex the exalted status it has in our culture. It does not give us our complete identity, our fulfillment, our purpose.  Sexual intimacy is not meant to be everything.  It won’t be in heaven!