I write a lot on the sexual ethic. Roughly half of the posts that I have written are in some form or another touching this topic – whether homosexuality, transgenderism, or sexual license in general, and I don’t think that will be settling down any time soon. Yet contrary to the chagrin of many it is one addressed with profundity in the scriptures. The topic of sexuality and idolatry are so closely united within the biblical corpus that it is not a topic which can be ignored, especially given humanity’s inability to avoid sexual license and idolatry. To be quite clear – I am not speaking solely to the liberal sexual ethic, though this is invariably wrapped up under the auspices of what the scriptures speak to.
Try as they might to change the definition of words, such as the intended meaning of Paul’s usage of μαλακός or ἀρσενοκοίτης in 1 Cor. 6:9, there is no biblical defense of homosexual practice. Though others would seek to define μαλακός simply as “soft,” the context of any given passage is what provides the proper gloss. Lexical differences are just that, but we know words from how their definitions flesh out in the given context and to define this particular usage as “soft” without proper contextual support is just plain silly. In this case, μαλακός finds a rather nuanced definition, given that it is referring to passive partners in the homosexual act. In the practice of Paul’s day, this often involved what we know as a catamite, who would be the young male in the consensual relationship with his pederast (the active participant in homosexual behavior: ἀρσενοκοίτης) – yet the terms could also be used broadly to simply refer to the passive and/or active partner.
What is clear from the usage of both of these terms is that the coupling of ἀρσενοκοίτης and μαλακός are being used to denote either party engaging in homosexual activity. This is further served by the immediate context wherein we find “vice catalogues” from Paul, and while many theologians may differ on the purpose behind these “vice catalogues” (i.e. is Paul advocating that they merely do not behave as the Gentiles, or is he indicting some among them as unsaved?) – they still all function to resoundingly deal with issues of sin and find the inclusion of a severe, pastoral warning.
Yet one finds even more clarity on this issue when they refer to Paul again within the content of his epistle to the Romans when he simply makes the comment that these relations (male on male or female on female) are unnatural to created order – and specifically connected to idolatry. What this highlights quite well is the disposition of the unregenerate man, in regard to their sexual practices, is actually tied to unbelief (Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Thess. 4:5). Remarkably, these references by Paul hearken back to the Old Testament – where one not only finds equally strong condemnation of sexual licentiousness, but an allusion to the vengeance poured out upon those who do not know God. A simple word study will prove quite illuminating on the topic of “vengeance” or even the phrase “do not know God.”
As an aside: it is quite interesting how often those who are inclusive toward the practice of homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. do so under the auspices of love – especially when the apostle John connects loving others with obedience to the commands of scripture (1 Jn. 3:24-25).
However, many ignore this simply by leaping headlong into the tumultuous grounds wherein they deny authority of the scriptures by placing special authority on the red-letters, as if the incarnate Christ, the divine Logos, is not found elsewhere within the scriptures as the harbinger of such teaching through the apostles (for example: 1 Thess. 4:1-2, 5:12; Heb. 13:17). What one finds then is the illumination of the text in that it is not any ordinary set of letters where one finds the freedom to pick and choose what they will – for it bears eternal consequences to reject the scriptures in their fullness and the teaching of the apostles (1 Thess. 4:8; Luke 10:16; John 13:20). Incidentally, it is this very same Word which will reject the rejecter, bearing the grounds on positional authority in the person of Jesus Christ (John 12:48).
What’s more than this is that Christ specifically highlights why this is so: Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God (John 8:47). That same foundational rejection addressed to the Pharisees is that rejection addressed to those who do not heed the voice of God in His scriptures: you do not belong to God. One then moves full circle to see the direct connection that the scriptures make to draw the conclusion: those who do not know God are bound by their deviancy and will be judged fiercely in the end, not only on the grounds of practice, but of idolatry (or as the scriptures simply call it in the NT: unbelief).
This is what can be particularly frightening to many who claim Christ due to the fact that the scriptures do not address homosexuality alone in the biblical corpus, but all forms of sexual immorality. The topic of homosexuality deserves quite a bit of attention these days simply because many claiming to be of God are affirming and inclusive to the practice of this sin – yet the issue surely does not stop here. There is a mass of conservative Christians who miss the mark, for while they decry homosexuality and transgenderism, they are unwilling to critically examine their own lives in regard to forms of entertainment, or more specifically, the fact that sexual deviancy has mastery over them, even though they claim allegiance to Christ.
The world, though being in darkness with respect to who God is and the goodness of His restrictions, knows hypocrisy quite well when they see it. This does not revoke the truthfulness of His Word nor the authority it bears over all mankind, but it does give reason for them to blaspheme God. Brothers and sisters, this should not be so. I’m not advocating a life without any pleasure, but asking whether there is an inherit difference between the one who is thrust into temptation simply by the fact that they live in a fallen world that rejects the teaching of the scriptures – and the one who willingly invests their time and money into things which have no business in the life of one who claims Christ.
To sum it all up – warning passages serve as a warning to all. There is every reason to believe that if one’s life and doctrine do not conform to the practice of repentance outlined in the scriptures, they are not saved and do not contain a love for their Savior. I speak not of the one who struggles in that act of repentance, but the one who rejects the need for any repentance. There are measures in our lives wherein we can easily find greater refinement in the fight against our flesh and the misguided sexual ideologies of this world. Yet in the end, even one with a “conservative” sexual ethic can be barred from the Kingdom if we take a closer look at those vice lists Paul gives (Rom. 1:29-31, 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:10-11, 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:31, 5:3-5; Col. 3:5; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:2-5; Tit. 3:3).
These catalogues highlight more than just one sin; they provide a swath of sins which demonstrate not only that the Christian is not to be conformed to this age – but that the continual practice of such things constitutes a continual rejection of God. This is not said with intent to deny the reality and heinousness attached to sexual deviancy, and in particular, the acceptance of what the Lord calls abominable – but to understand that these vice lists function in much of the same way that the Law functions: to reveal sin leading to death (Rom. 4:15, 5:20, 7:5-7). There is no practice, which if repented of, that can bar one from inheriting the Kingdom of God if they trust in Christ for forgiveness – yet there is no sinful practice we have liberty to defend or deny if it has been revealed by the Lord to be sinful.
For those rejecting the teaching of the scripture on these matters, you are not rejecting man, but the God giving His Holy Spirit to you (1 Thess. 4:8). Notice that Paul doesn’t say, “You are not rejecting [me]…” as if the one you’d be rejecting is simply Paul. He leaves it ambiguous. This again, brings the reader full circle to that positional authority of the teacher in Jesus Christ’s revelation given in the scriptures. It not only serves to demolish the red-letter nonsense so many wish to appeal to, but categorically rejects a denial of the text by all those whom would reject the sexual ethic plainly given in scripture. Let the reader take note.
Image Credit: IMG_7670 by Olivier Ortelpa; CC 2.0