This is a comprehensive study that will give you, the reader, detailed, Scripture-based answers to the questions most commonly asked regarding what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality.
I grew up in a Fundamentalist church where they talked a lot about how the Bible condemns gays and lesbians. What do you think?
It doesn’t really matter what I, you or your Fundamentalist church think. It matters what GOD’s Word, the Bible, says.
Well, Jesus talked a lot about us. Didn’t He condemn us?
As far as we know from the Scriptures, Jesus said nothing about gays and lesbians. He did speak against those who judge others [Matthew 7:1]. He seems to have a special love for the outcasts of society.
Well, the Bible says a lot about gays and lesbians, doesn’t it?
No, the Bible is surprisingly silent on the subject. Only supposedly four times is it mentioned, and twice implied.
But what about the Ten Commandments? Don’t they say that God hates gays and lesbians?
No, the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:3-17] don’t say anything about sexuality except that you shouldn’t commit adultery. This, of course, is for people who have a committed relationship which must not be broken. In those times, men often had several wives, thereby making compliance easier. Women, unfortunately, didn’t have the same luxury!
Well, I’m sure I’ve heard about some law in the Old Testament that condemned homosexuality. Or am I mistaken?
You’re probably referring to Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13. We need to realize that this was written to a certain group of people, the Jews, during a particular time in their history. Some theologians assert that the original meaning of these verses has something to do with temple prostitution, a practice which is very foreign to our modern concept of worship. It is interesting to note that these same chapters of Leviticus are the Hebrew word “toevah” (translated most often as “abomination” or “unclean”) to condemn such things as eating pork and shellfish, or having intercourse during menstruation. The latter precept isn’t a problem for gays or lesbians. The former precept hasn’t stopped many Fundamentalists from enjoying the shrimp or lobster at their favorite restaurant-nor should it!
The Bible refers to the law as:
- Not able to lead to salvation [Romans 3:20 & Galatians 2:16]
- A yoke of slavery [Galatians 5:1]
- Leads to more sin [Romans 7:entire chapter]
- Leads to death [Romans 7:5]
- A yoke that neither our father nor we could bear [Acts 15:10]
- A curse if one is forced to live under it [Galatians 3:10]
As a matter of fact, in the First Century A.D. the Apostles (who were all Jews who had been raised in the law) called a council at Jerusalem to discuss if new Gentile converts should have to follow the teachings of the law. The answer in Acts 15 will probably surprise you. The Apostles upheld the precept about which Paul later wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12, that “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.” In order to maintain harmony between the Jewish and Gentile believers, they advised the Gentile converts in Acts 15:20 to “abstain from things contaminated by idols, from fornication and from what is strangled or from blood.”
That’s it-that’s all! So these “laws” were followed as a courtesy to Jewish believers. For us as Christian believers today, the idol, strangulation and bloody things won’t concern you unless you live in a strange neighborhood. The word translated “fornication” or “sexual immorality” in many Bible versions seems to indicate a heterosexual-type sexual problem. In our own research of the Hebrew and Greek words used in the Scriptures, it points again to “idolatry”. The final word from the Apostles doesn’t condemn anything you or your partner would do in a committed, loving relationship.
If the law was bad, why did God give it to the Jews?
The law isn’t bad-it’s perfect and holy [Romans 7:7]. It shows us an outline of what the perfect person should be in God’s eyes. It also lets us know that if we aren’t that perfect (and no one is), then we’ve sinned [Deuteronomy 27:26 & Romans 3:20-23] and we deserve to be punished [Romans 6:23]. So why the law? Paul stated in Galatians 3:24 that is was designed to be a teacher to lead us to Christ. When we honestly look at the law, we realize we’ve “blown it”. We can’t live up to that standard, and we look for a savior. Well, JESUS CHRIST is that Savior. He is the only person who lived up to the law. JESUS took our place, living the perfect life. He fulfilled the law for us [Matthew 5:17]. So now Christians are told not to live under the law, but to be led by the Holy Spirit: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law” [Galatians 5:18].
OK, but didn’t God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because they were homosexuals?
Before God had even sent the Angels into these cities, He had said He was going to destroy them. When we look closely at Genesis 19:4-5 we see that the inhabitants of the city wanted to know the men (angels). The Hebrew verb “to know” is hardly ever used with a sexual connotation-only 10 of its 943 occurrences in the Old Testament. There is no other place in the entire Bible where is states these cities were destroyed because of homosexuality. In Ezekiel 16:49 we discover that the cities were destroyed because of arrogance, that even though they were rich, they didn’t help the poor. Jesus asserts that they were destroyed because of inhospitality [Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:10-12]. We believe that JESUS, being God, is the final word on this subject.
OK, so the Old Testament doesn’t condemn homosexuality. But what about the New Testament?
In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 we have a word that has been at times translated “homosexual”. But first remember that the New Testament was written primarily in Greek. The Greeks didn’t have a word which corresponds to our word “homosexual”. The Greek word here is arsenokoitai. Historian and linguistic expert John Boswell translates it “male temple prostitute”, a man who was paid to have sex in a pagan temple as a means of offering sacrifice or homage to a heathen god. Hopefully this isn’t the gay person living today!
How about Romans 1:26-28? Isn’t that talking about gays and lesbians?
No, the entire chapter is not about sexuality, but idolatry. Paul is writing about those who know GOD and understood by nature that they should serve Him. They chose to go against what their nature showed them, and they worshiped idols instead. Paul uses sexual immorality as the example for chasing after other gods: a person satisfied with straight sex, for some reason goes against his or her “nature” in order to have sexual relations with someone of the same sex. But gay men and lesbian women aren’t acting against their same-sex nature, as straight men and women would be. Some Christians try to force gays or lesbians to have sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex, thereby encouraging us to sin against our nature!
Well, my Fundamentalist parents warn me that if I don’t repent and stop being gay or lesbian, then I’ll be eternally separated from God. Are you sure they’re mistaken?
Of course, because the Word tells us over and over again that only one thing will separate us from God: ourselves.
How is that? Why would I want to be separated from God?
God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. We choose to go there.
By not accepting the only one who can make us “right” with God-JESUS. JESUS said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]. We’ve all turned from God in rebellion [Romans 3:10-18]. According to the Bible, we are “in sin” because we are not perfect as the Bible describes God’s perfection. On the other hand, we can’t change that, as hard as we may try by ourselves. We need JESUS!
Now here’s where some people stumble. Most of us are too proud that we can’t admit we’re wrong and need help. But if we don’t accept God’s help through JESUS, God has no choice but to judge us as unrighteous (unlike Him) and to give us our due. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal like in CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.”[Romans 6:23].
So I can know if I’m saved or not?
Absolutely! The Bible assures us that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord (JESUS) shall be saved” [Acts 2:21]. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12].
There is a Bible verse many of us have heard and know by heart: John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Let’s also not forget the important message we learn immediately after this in Verse 17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
It says “whoever”-male, female, gay or straight, black or white, Asian, Hispanic, Jew, Gentile-we are all “whoever”. God loves us so much that He wants to love us right into His Presence (Heaven) forever. And He promises us abundant life here on earth as well [John 10:10].
How can I be saved?
Just stop running from God. Turn around (that’s what the word “repent” means). He’s right there waiting for you. By faith, just ask JESUS into your heart. He promised He would come to you: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him, and he with Me.” [Revelation 3:20].
We encourage you to read and prayerfully consider the following verses: “that if you confess with your mouth `JESUS IS LORD’ and believe in your heard that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heard that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” [Romans 10:9-10].
It’s just that simple! We also encourage you to cultivate a personal relationship with the LORD JESUS. Speak to Him as you would a friend. Read God’s word, the Bible, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you knowledge and discernment about what you are reading. Here are some additional sample ways of building a relationship with JESUS: “LORD JESUS, I need you. I admit that I have sinned and fall short of what God expects of me. I thank You for sacrificing Yourself on the cross in my place and for dying for my sins. I open the door of my life to You and receive You as my SAVIOR and LORD. Thank you for giving me eternal life. Take control of my life and make me the person You want me to be…”
Now go and tell some of your gay or lesbian friends, the people who are nearest and dearest to you in your life, about your decision for the LORD JESUS and be ready to truly live! “He who has the Son has life.” [1 John 5:12].
Courtesy of JESUS FIRST Ministries
The Rev. Dr. James T. Kries is senior pastor and evangelist at Open Bible (Christian) Ministries.