What does the New Testament say about homosexuality? Many Christians often quote passages in Leviticus, but even most Christians admit that at least some of the laws (such as dietary laws or laws about not wearing clothing made from two different types of fabric) do not apply anymore. Is homosexuality on the list of New Testament approved actions? Does the New Testament even directly address the issue? The following list summarizes the four possible situations in the New Testament.
The New Testament completely reversed the Law of Moses and now supports homosexuality.
The New Testament permits homosexuality despite the Law of Moses.
The New Testament does not address the issue of homosexuality unlike the Law of Moses.
The New Testament condemns homosexuality as does the Law of Moses.
There are numerous passages in the New Testament that condemn sexual immorality in general. If it can be established that homosexuality is a form of sexual immorality, then the same passages that condemn sexual immorality in general would also condemn homosexuality. Therefore, establishing the morality or immorality of homosexuality is crucially important. With this in mind, let’s take a look at only those passages that directly mention homosexuality (either by action or by name) to see if homosexuality can be identified or labeled as a form of sexual immorality. This method gives us three passages within the New Testament, and all are found in Paul’s epistles: Romans 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10. We will examine all three in context to let the New Testament speak for itself concerning homosexuality.
The first passage is Romans 1:27 which is nestled within the context of verses 18-32. The larger passage follows a short narrative of “humanity’s descent into sin.” Paul himself says he is describing the “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” of human history. While the Greek equivalent of “homosexual” does not appear in this passage, the activity of homosexuality is clearly described. There are five stages to the descent of humanity.
They (people in general) knew God but they did not honor him.
They worshipped the creation instead of the creator.
Therefore, they dishonored their bodies among themselves (sexual promiscuity).
Therefore, God handed them over to “dishonorable passions” which included women being with women and men being with men. Paul portrays this as a judgment on humanity.
Finally, people do and approve of all manner of evil.
The conclusion is clear. Homosexual activity is not only a part of humanity’s descent into sin, but it is also a judgment on humanity. Some scholars argue that Paul did not know anything about “sexual orientations.” They claim that Paul’s words do not apply, or he is talking about sexually promiscuous homosexuals rather than condemning homosexuality itself. However, this argument fails because Paul already mentioned promiscuity in the previous verse, and Paul stated that the homosexuality itself was the judgment. In Romans 1:27, as well as the next passage we will consider, Paul links homosexual acts with idolatry and sexual immorality in general.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9, instead of using narrative, Paul provides a laundry list of the kinds of actions that are typical of the unrighteous, or literally, the “wrong doers.” His list includes the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, and “men who practice homosexuality” as translated in the English Standard Version (ESV).
Though the ESV translates the last section as a phrase, Paul uses two distinct words in the original Greek. The first word is “malakoi” which indicates a passive homosexual partner. Some people use the word “catamite” or “effeminate,” as does the King James Version (KJV), to reference a young boy in a homosexual relationship. This was a common practice in the Greco-Roman world and the original readers would have understood the exact meaning of Paul’s word. The second word is “arsenokoitai” which some people translate as “sodomite” indicating the dominant homosexual partner. The best modern Greek lexicons agree, and these lexicons define the Greek words according to the way the ancient people used them. In other words, Paul was not using these words any differently than the way everyone else used those words in his day.
Some people reject these definitions in favor of other “possible” usages. For example, “malakoi” can mean “soft,” but such a definition does not fit in this context. Some argue that the word has a figurative meaning of a “spiritually soft or lazy person.” However, it makes little to no sense for Paul to use a word that literally denotes homosexual activity to suggest spiritual laziness. Additionally, some claim that “arsenokoitai” refers to a sexually aggressive person, not just a homosexual. But this Greek word, the words that it derives from, and other words with similar semantic usages all refer to homosexuality in some form. Stripping this term of homosexual connotations violates historical and lexical context. Therefore, as used in this list, these words undoubtedly refer specifically to homosexual activity.
Additionally, Paul clearly states in verse 11 that the readers are no longer those things. The conclusion is that people who practice any of these things he lists in verse 9 and 10 are not washed, not sanctified, and not justified by God.
The last passage that needs to be addressed is 1 Timothy 1:10. In this passage, Paul explains that the law was given to show wrong doers that what they do is wrong. This point should be obvious. People do not need rules until they begin engaging in immoral or dangerous activities. Laws are often written in response to the bad things people do so that they (and others) will know these actions are bad and punishable offenses. Paul uses the same word “arsenokoitais” in his list of “wrong doers.” Therefore, homosexuals are among the group of “wrong doers” who need the law to show them that their actions are wrong.
Since this passages clearly establish that homosexuality is a form of sexual immorality, the number of passages that address homosexuality more than triples, as there are numerous passages in the New Testament that address sexual immorality in general.
In conclusion, by looking at the only three direct references to homosexuality, we see that 1) homosexuality in a society is part of God’s judgment, 2) people who practice homosexuality in any form practice sin, and 3) that according to the New Testament homosexuals need the law to show them that what they are doing is wrong, but in Christ, can find freedom from the law and sin. As sin, homosexuality is morally wrong according to the New Testament, and it is one of several lifestyles that are unacceptable to God. Also, the New Testament does not overlook same-sex couples in a loving committed relationship any more than it “overlooks” heterosexual spouses who freely engage in open, loving marriages. Open marriages are still adultery, whether each spouse has permission or not. Similarly, homosexuality within the confines of a loving, committed, monogamous relationship is still homosexuality. As such, the New Testament explicitly condemns it.
OpenBible.info - Homosexuality
GotQuestions.org - What does the Bible say about homosexuality? http://www.gotquestions.org/homosexuality-Bible.html
CARM.org – Homosexuality
CARM.org - What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
James M. Hamilton - God and the Gay Christian?: A Response to Matthew Vines (Conversant Book 1) http://amzn.com/0764225529
Kevin DeYoung - What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?