Return to Sermon Archive
I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Romans, chapter 1 and follow along as I read verses 24-27.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves,
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,
27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
Last week, The Herald published a story (“Baptist panel: Church Should Go,” August 6‚ 2005) about how the York Baptist association and the Southern Baptist Convention are dissolving ties with Oakland Baptist Church in Rock Hill, SC because of remarks the church's pastor made about homosexuality. The accusation is that Rev. Robert Shrum made anti-biblical statements condoning homosexuality when he spoke against a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
This dispute among Baptists shows that homosexuality remains a hot issue, and not only in the Baptist church. Two years ago, the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop. The Herald yesterday ran an article (“Lutherans Reject Leeway on Active Gay Clergy” August 13, 2005) about Lutherans rejecting a proposal that would have allowed gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy in some cases.
The ARP position is found in the paragraph I have included in the bulletin.
“Today, many seem to be caught in the web of homosexual practices and thought-patterns. In Christian love, we declare that God's Word clearly forbids homosexual practice as a sin against God. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we affirm our obligation to show Christian love and concern for homosexuals, and call them to repentance, cleansing, and deliverance in the saving power of Jesus Christ.”
(Minutes of the General Synod, 1977, p. 444)
As the statement points out, we are not against homosexual people. We are against homosexual practices. To put that more generally, we are not against people, we are against sin. The Bible consistently condemns homosexual acts as sin.
In Genesis chapter 19, we have the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God sent two angels to the city of Sodom. They did not appear to be angels, just men, and as they approached the gates of the city, Lot met them and invited them to spend the night in his home. At first, the angels said they would just camp out that night in the public square. But Lot knew only too well the wickedness of the Sodomites, and he finally convinced the angels to stay with him. But the Sodomites found out that strangers were in town and that night a great crowd of men surrounded Lot’s house, and demanded that Lot produce these two strangers, so that they could “know” them, that is so that they could have homosexual relations with them.
Apparently, it was the custom in Sodom that strangers who came to town were forced to have sexual relations with the men of the town. This shows the absolute depravity of the place. Generally, in this time in the Middle East, people were hospitable toward strangers, but not in Sodom. Lot tried to talk the men of Sodom out of raping the angels, but they disregarded him and launched an attack upon his house. The angels blinded the attackers, and shortly thereafter they destroyed the city and indeed the whole area. You can tell that the angels were right ticked. Now if we read Genesis 19 carefully, the evil of Sodom was not homosexuality; it was homosexual rape. Rape was the sin that so displeased God that he wiped out the whole county.
Other Old Testament passages speak more directly against any kind of homosexual behavior. Lev. 20:13, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Someone might say, well that is Old Testament. We are New Testament Christians. What does the New Testament have to say on this subject? I Cor. 6:9-10: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers--none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”
We should note a couple of things about these two verses. First, the list is not in any sense complete. Paul gives us samples of the sort of sinful lifestyles that God’s people should avoid. Also, note that Paul does not single out homosexuality as some sort of special sin. It is part of a list of sinful activities.
Homosexuality is such a hot issue today that the church sometimes reacts so aggressively against it that you would almost think that it was in a unique sin, even an unforgivable sin. No, a homosexual act is no more sinful, if you are comparing sins, than an act of adultery. Paul says it is no more sinful than being greedy or being a drunkard. But it is a sin, and those who dwell in sin are under the wrath of God and will not see the Kingdom.
Then we have the last half of Romans chapter 1. This is a denunciation of human wickedness. Paul emphasizes that if we deliberately cultivate an evil way of living, we cannot expect the forgiveness of God. He says in v18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.”
He goes on to say that all of us should have known God from the creation. The creation is the body of God that shows us God. Now I realize that people would argue with this today. Many people look at the world and do not see God. Paul would say there is something wrong with them; they are mentally messed up. In v22, he says, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” As part of God’s creation, we all have an intuition of God. We may not be able to prove God rationally and scientifically, but we know that God is. What Paul says in Romans is that many people ignore and despise their own knowledge of God. They “suppress the truth,” and live in “ungodliness and wickedness.” If they are determined to live this way, eventually, God gives them up. They launch themselves upon a downward spiral of depravity that eventually takes them so far from God that nothing is left between them and God. In describing part of this downward spiral, Paul says, “Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” (RM1:26-27).
Does Paul mean then that homosexuality is an unforgivable sin. No, as I said earlier, if we are comparing sins, homosexuality is no worse than many other sins, but it is a sin, and before a person can be acceptable to God they must repent of their sins and stop doing those sins.
The quarrel the church has with many homosexual activists is that they want us to say that homosexual patterns of behavior are not sinful. They want us to say that it is all right for them to live that sort of lifestyle. And we cannot do that. If a serial killer commits 25 murders, we do not say that is all right, you are just living an alternative lifestyle, If a person makes a career out or robbing banks, like John Dillinger, we do not say that is all right. If a person is doing drugs, Again that is not all right. And we need to say that.
Sometimes, in an effort to be nice, the church does not stand as strong against sin as it ought to. I agree that we should be nice. We have a loving God; we should be loving people. But we need to understand that we do not love people, when we tolerate their sin. We are not doing them a favor when we say, “You are all right,” when they are not all right. That is not love; that is just cowardice. We are afraid to say the truth. Sometimes the church is afraid to say the truth, and that is sad because if there is one place in our society where we ought to speak plainly, not cruelly not harshly, but plainly, it is in church.
We should say that as Christians, we take the Bible seriously, and the Bible plainly and clearly condemns homosexual acts. On some issues, the Bible is admittedly vague. On the issues of war and capital punishment, different Christians read the Bible and come to different opinions. The Quakers and the Mennonites argue from scripture against all war and against all capital punishment—using verses like “love your enemies” and “bless them that persecute you.” As Presbyterians, we agree with them generally, but we allow some exceptions. We say some wars may be justified, and some executions.
Thus, on some issues, there may be legitimate differences of opinion among Christians, but when we come to homosexual acts, the bible so explicitly condemns those acts, it does not leave us any room to say otherwise.
A homosexual act is a sinful act. Having said that, how does the church deal with homosexual people? We deal with them as we deal with any person. They are sinners. Well, I am a sinner also. When you get down to it, there is nobody here today that is not a sinner in some way or another.
We say that homosexuals are under the wrath of God because they are engaged in doing things that God does not approve of. Well, we were all under the wrath of God because we were all engaged in doing things that God did not approve of.
We may have different sins, but we were all in the sin predicament, and God hated what we were doing. God hated our sins, but God loved us. God loved us so much that God gave us a way out of the sin predicament. That way is Jesus. We are made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Now you might ask, “If we are saved through faith in Jesus alone, why can’t a homosexual believe in Jesus and continue a homosexual lifestyle?” Because that would be the same as a murderer asking, “Why can’t a murderer believe in Jesus and continue to kill people?” We reply that a person who believes in Jesus does not go around killing people. An adulterer who believes in Jesus does not continue to commit adultery. Jesus saves us from our sins; Jesus does not save us so that we can continue to sin. Thus, repentance of sin is part of coming to Jesus in faith, and any real repentance of sin includes an intention to stop doing it.
Along the way of my life, I have had some bad habit. I used to chew tobacco. It is a nasty, destructive habit. I know I ought to quit chewing, but I didn’t. I kept intending to quit, but I didn’t. then one day, I got so disgusted with nastiness of it—you have to spit all the time—I got so disgusted with even the smell of it, that I quit. I absolutely despised that habit and I did not want to have anything more to do with tobacco in any form. Since that day, I have not had anything to do with tobacco in any form.
Now my experience with breaking the tobacco habit is a good description of repentance of sin, of any sin. We are revolted by the sinful way we are living and determined to stop. And when we truly repent, and turn to Jesus in faith, we find forgiveness—for every sin. No matter what your sin, you can come to the cross, lay that sin at the foot of the cross, and God will forgive you.
I remember a conversation I had with a homosexual. He said to me, “I believe God has cursed me.” “Homosexuality,” he said, “is a curse, and God cursed me with it, and I am going to hell, so I might as well continue to be homosexual.” I disagreed with him totally. I told him that God had not cursed him. I told him that God loved him. God did not condemn him to hell. God opened up heaven to him. But like all sinners, he must repent of his sin and walk in God’s way to get to heaven.
God reaches out to us, to all of us, but we make a choice to accept God’s loving embrace. We make our choice by turning away from our sins, and turning to a new and better way of living.
Any sinful way of living is destructive because it gets between us and Jesus. Homosexuality is just another sinful way of living. Sometimes Christians are homophobic, that is they are possessed by an irrational fear of homosexuals. They want homosexuals banned and beat up and deported. That is not the way Jesus taught us. This church, any church, should be a beacon of light for those who want to leave any sinful lifestyle.
Let us offer all people the power of Jesus Christ to bring healing to their lives. That is the one power that can set them free from sin and allow them to be the happy and effective people God created them to be.
Above all, when we are dealing with a person enmeshed in any sinful lifestyle, we need to remember that we were sinners too. Though the sin may be different, we are dealing with people just like us, so deal gently.
As believers, we have the greatest treasure in the world to share. We have Jesus. So share Jesus. Share him the way he would want to be shared, in kindness and love. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2003 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified 8/22/05