Posted by: Alicia | December 21, 2008

Homosexuality and the Bible – Romans 1:21-28

As I mentioned in the beginning of these studies, we must always read the scriptures within context. Confusion and misunderstandings can often result if we do not take a look at the complete picture of what is being said.

This is especially important when reading the passage in Romans Chapter 1. If we were to just read the set of verses so often used to condemn Gays and Lesbians (verses 25 – 27), we could very easily come to the conclusion, that this passage does indeed take a negative stance against them. And this is why we need to first read the verses that lead up to 25 – 27, and the remaining verses through the end of the chapter. One should never take scripture out of context.

With the above in mind, let’s summarize Romans Chapter One.

  1. Verses 1 through 7:
    1. Paul is writing this letter to the Roman Christian, who are also Gentiles.
  2. Verses 8 through 16:
    1. Paul has heard many good things about the Roman Christians, and because of this he has been telling others about them. He also has been praying that he would be able to come visit them so that he can:
      1. “impact some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established”
      2. “obtain some fruit amongst you, even as among the rest of the Gentiles”
    2. Paul was prevented from visiting them in the past.
    3. Paul is eager to preach to them the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
  3. Verses 17 through 20:
    1. God’s wrath is poured out on those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
    2. This is because God has revealed Himself to everyone through everything that has been created. We are all without excuse.
  4. Verses 21 through 25:
    1. Even though the people being talked about in this scripture passage knew God, they refused to honor God or give thanks.
    2. They were involved in idol worship (worshipping idols of man, birds, and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. I.E. insects, snakes, etc.)
    3. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.
  5. Verses 26 through 27:
    1. Because of what these people did in verses 21 – 25, God removed His control over their lives, and as a result, they started to do things that they normally may not have done.
    2. They exchanged the natural for the unnatural. Men burned in their desire for one another, and (it is implied) that women did the same.
    3. Without God’s influence in their lives, they fell prey to their own sinful nature.
  6. Verses 28 through 32:
    1. Since they refused to acknowledge God (to allow God to be in their lives), God removed His influence in their lives and they continued on their chosen path until every vestige of God consciousness had been removed. Everything good is no longer held in their conscious awareness. Corruption, the world, the flesh, and the devil totally encompassed their reality. There was continual pursuit of evil.
    2. Knowing the ordinances of God, they refused to acknowledge them, and even approved of those who did the same.

Before I go any further, I want to quote “Halley’s Bible Handbook” on this chapter in Romans:

“Whosoever (verse 16) includes every one of us. Not that everyone does ALL the things mentioned in 1:29-31. That is a picture of the race as a whole. But each one of us is guilty of some of the things mentioned. The Day when God shall judge the Secrets of Men (2:16); in that day the test will be, not race, not whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, but the Inner Nature of the Heart, and its attitude toward the Practices of Life.”

In other words, the first chapter of Romans is actually a picture of all of humanity without God. It is not a picture of a particular people, but all people. If you examine the passage with that in mind, you can clearly see what it is that Paul is trying to say.

However, we still need to examine the key points in Romans Chapter One, to better understand what the scriptures say about homosexuality.

The key points are:

Idol Worship:

The people Paul is talking about refuse to acknowledge God or serve God. Instead they are involved in idol worship. And because of this, God removes His influence from their lives.

Unnatural:

Because God has removed His influence in their lives, they soon start to do that which to them, is unnatural.

Depravity:

The end result is total depravity.

Idol Worship:

Any time we worship anything other than God, we become involved in idol worship. This can included:

  1. Job
  2. Money
  3. Ourselves
  4. Celebrities
  5. Television
  6. etc. (anything that takes precedent over God)

In this passage, the idol worship involved worshiping mankind, bird, animals, insects, snakes, etc.; everything except God. And, as happens with most cults, sexual rites and practices were involved.

Rome was known for assimilating cultural practices from the tribes and nations they conquered. It is very possible, even probable, that the Roman citizens were involved in the fertility cults of Venus, or the worship of Diana, etc.

Unnatural:

In verses 26 through 27, we read that they changed the natural function for that which is unnatural.

We can better understand the meaning of natural and unnatural by looking at the passage on Romans in the book, “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality”, by Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D.

“Paul’s letter to the Romans raises a question about the “natural” and the “unnatural”. He says men “gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.” This is certainly a reference to homo genital acts. And the “women exchanged natural relations for unnatural.” The Greek words translated as “unnatural” are para physin.

Physis is the Greek word for nature. It is the root word of the English word “physics,” the study of the natural world.

What exactly did Paul mean when he used this word?

This is where the debate begins on the meaning implied in this passage. Some scholars believe that is does indeed mean “unnatural” or “contrary to nature”, because they are siting the use of para physin in Stoic philosophy.

The words “stoic” or “stoical” mean unfeeling, unmoved by emotion, rigidly austere, etc. When applying this philosophy to sex, it is said that the purpose of sex is procreation, and any non-procreative sex was called para physin. Sex that was procreative was called kata physin, or “according to nature.” With this in mind, Paul must have been referencing homo genital acts in Romans 1:26-27.

However, when you take the whole of Romans Chapter One into account, you see that Paul’s argument was one of wisdom, not of procreation. He was criticizing the people, whether they are the whole of humanity or just the Gentiles, for not acknowledging God. They should know God from all that was created by God, but instead they foolishly worshiped idols instead.

In summary, Paul was not looking at this from the viewpoint of procreation, but instead he was looking at it from the viewpoint of wisdom.

Let’s go back to what it was that Paul meant when he used the word “nature.” Paul did not use the word “nature” in our abstract sense of “Nature and the laws of Nature.” His usage was much more concrete. For Paul, the “nature” of something was its particular character or kind. Consider some examples:

In Galatians 2:15, Paul speaks of those who are Jews by nature, and in Romans 2:27, he speaks of those who are Gentiles by nature. In Romans 2:14, Paul speaks of Gentiles who follow their own conscience and “do instinctively (physei) what the law requires,” but the Greek text reads, “by nature”, and the implication is that these Gentiles act as consistent with the kind of persons they are. In 1 Corinthians 11:14, Paul writes,”Does not nature (physis) itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?”

In all those cases, Paul uses the term “nature” to imply what is characteristic or peculiar in this or that situation. In other words, you would not expect someone raised as a Jew to be ignorant of the Jewish Law, and you would not expect a Gentile to act like a Jew; that is not their “nature”.

According to Paul, something is “natural” when it responds according to its own kind, when it is as it is expected to be. The word “natural” refers to what is characteristic , consistent, ordinary, standard, expected and regular. When people acted as was expected and showed a certain consistency, they were acting “naturally”. When people did something surprising, something unusual, something beyond the routine, something out of character, they were acting “unnaturally”.

The Greek word para usually means “beside”, “more than,” “over and above,” “beyond.” We retain this meaning in many English words. A paraprofessional is someone who is not trained in a particular field, but who assists those working in that field. For example, “paralegal” refers to people who are not lawyers, but who work with lawyers, and other legal professionals.

In a handful of stock phrases, para can also mean “contrary to,” so para physin could be translated “contrary to nature.” But given Paul’s own usage of these terms, the sense is not “in opposition to the laws of nature”, but rather “unexpectedly” or “in an unusual way,” what we might mean if we said: “Contrary to his nature, Jean got up and danced last night.”

Verses 26 and 27 then mean that these women and men were engaging in sexual practices that were not the ones people usually perform. The practices were beyond the regular, outside the ordinary, more than the usual, not the expected. The words para physin in Romans would more accurately be translated as “unusual” or “peculiar” or “out of the ordinary” or “uncharacteristic,” instead of “unnatural.”

In Romans 11:24, Paul uses those very same words to talk about God. Paul describes how God grafted the Gentiles into the olive tree that is the Jews. Now Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. But to graft a wild tree into a cultivated tree is not the ordinary thing to do, it is something unusual. Still that is what God did through Christ.

In Paul’s understanding of the words, God acted para physin. God did what was “unnatural.” God behaved “in an unusual way.”

If to act para physin is immoral, then God must be immoral – and that is patently absurd. Therefore, there can be no moral meaning in those Greek words for Paul. – Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D., author of “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.”

Depravity:

The end result of humanity turning its back on God is depravity. And this means that every vestige of God consciousness is removed. Everything good is no longer held in conscious awareness. Corruption, the world, the flesh, and the devil totally encompass one’s reality. There is a continual pursuit of evil.

The parallel between this passage and the passages in Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Lamentations describing Sodom and Gomorrah are too coincidental to be taken lightly. And it is sad how once again, the Fundamentalists choose to say that this passage is about homosexuality, while ignoring the opportunity to use it as a tool for bringing the lost to Christ. It is a very dramatic picture of what can happen if one refuses to acknowledge God’s existence and right to be worshiped and served. I for one, am a much different person that I was before I allowed God to come into my life. If I had continued on the path I was on, I would surely have either been put into prison for the rest of my life, or been killed.

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Responses

  1. Could someone tell me where in the bible it reads about what to look for as any sign that the end times are near. I have heard there are 4 things that read something like this:

    1. When children lose or disrespect their elders
    2. When mothers start to abandon their own children. ( This not being a natural thing with most moms) They give them up or just do not take responsibility for their child at all.
    3. Not sure
    4. Not sure

    I was told I could find this information in Romans somewhere. Anyone able to help me Please. It would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Liz,

      Most likely whomever came up with this 4 point list, pulled the items from several places in the bible. And that is a prime example as to why it is not good to do so. You can’t boil down all the writings about the end times to 4 quick points. However, to try and answer your question, it may be referring to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:27:

      “but as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man Be”.

      I would then recommend that you go out to “www.searchgodsword.com” and enter the word “Noah” in the search box, then read all the scriptures on Noah (in context). And see if you can come up with something along the 4 points mentioned.

      Another possibility is that it is referring to Sodom and Gomorrah. In that case you would have to look at the scriptures on Sodom and Gomorrah in Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations (see my teaching on Genesis 19:1-25 for the actual verses). They detail the actual reasons God destroyed these two cities (hint, it had nothing to do with Homosexuality).

      I hope that helps. If it doesn’t please let me know.

      Take care,

      Alicia


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