Prof. Hanko is professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

One passage in Scripture more than any other speaks of the terrible sin of homosexuality. To this passage we wish to call attention. It is found in Romans 1:18-32. Because of its importance we quote the entire passage here. I fear that if I do not quote it here, the reader will not take the time to look it up in his Bible and read it carefully.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedience to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

This remarkable passage of Scripture has been often misinterpreted, and has, in fact, been interpreted in such a way that it speaks of Gods gracious restraint of sin. How one can find such a teaching in the passage is hard to imagine, but no less a theologian than Dr. A. Kuyper explained it in that way.

Clearly, the passage is teaching the church at Rome concerning the great moral depravity into which the Roman Empire had fallen in the days in which the apostle lived. He is speaking of the great sins which were committed outside the sphere of the gospel among the heathen who had never had any contact with the gospel nor heard its message. He is doing this in order that he may demonstrate the great wonder of the gospel which is the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). That gospel is the great power that it is, even to save from such degradation as characterized ancient Rome, because “therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).

The theme of this section beginning in Rom. 1:18 is expressed in the very first statement: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” That is the dominating thought which controls the whole passage.

These ungodly and unrighteous men hold the truth in unrighteousness. They have a knowledge of that truth because it is clearly showed to them in all the things that are made. The heathen know that God is God and that He alone must be served. But they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. And that suppression of the truth manifests itself in all their idolatry, for “they changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). They “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:25).

Because of this terrible sin, God gave them over to the sins of homosexuality so that they dishonour their own bodies between themselves (Rom. 1:24) and even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. But the men did the same. They left the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, and men with men worked that which is unseemly (Rom. 1:26, 27).

The sin of homosexuality is here described as being a particular judgment of God upon these wicked. That is a perspective that is not often mentioned. Godgave them over to this sin. God brought them into this sin; and He did so because of their idolatry. He hated their idolatry and punished them for it by giving them over to homosexuality. That ought to give any defender of any form of homosexuality pause. Scripture here depicts it not only as a repulsive and vile abomination, but specifically speaks of it as a punishment of God.

After all, God punishes sin with sin. He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children even unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him. Sin leads to sin. One sin leads to many sins. “Lesser” sins lead to “greater” sins. But all because God punishes the sinner with worse sins and more terrible sins. Idolatry is punished with homosexuality. Homosexuality is a manifestation of the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). It is impossible to justify homosexuality when we receive Scripture’s description of it as punishment for sin.

This does not mean, however, that men and women were dragged into homosexuality by God against their will. Of course not. God never works that way. God gave them up through the lusts of their own hearts. They were wicked and depraved. They lusted in their hearts. They indulged in every form of vice and fornication. And through the instrumentality of their own evil hearts and the lusts residing there, God gave them up to this great sin. They are responsible. They changed the natural use into that which is against nature. They burned in their lust one toward another. They did not want to retain God in all their thoughts. And in their burning lust, they sought sexual gratification, men with men and women with women.

It is striking that this is all against nature (Rom. 1:26, 27). That makes the sin so terrible. The reference is, of course, to the creation ordinance. God originally created man and woman. He created them for each other. He married them and instituted the great and blessed covenant relation of marriage. He made man for woman within that relationship so that they could be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. But sinful man degrades that great creation ordinance. He commits fornication and adultery not only, but he even goes against nature. It is not enough that man has sexual relations with women other than his wife. It is not enough that women vent their sexual lusts by intercourse with men who are not their husbands. It is not enough that divorce and remarriage flourish in direct contradiction to the law of God. All this, though terrible, is still in harmony with nature—a man and a woman. But lust consumes in ever increasing measure so that “against nature” men with men work that which is unseemly, and women change the natural use into that which is against nature.

That is Scripture’s description of the sin. It is the bottom of immorality, the dregs of lust, the ultimate depravity in sexual relations, a groveling in the deepest filth of sin, a squirming in the sewage of total debauchery.

We must now return to the question with which we began these articles: Is AIDS God’s judgment against the sin of homosexuality?

Those who argue that it is not argue from different viewpoints. The outright liberal will not concede that homosexuality is a sin at all; and because it is not sin it is not punished. The more religious person will perhaps argue that homosexuals are not punished for their sins because God is a God of infinite love who loves all men and has compassion on them. Punishment is anger, and that is foreign to God’s nature. Others argue that AIDS cannot be a punishment for sin because innocent people also contact AIDS either through innocent contact with a carrier or through polluted blood. How can innocent people contact this dreaded disease if it is punishment?

We must be sure that in all this we take the Biblical teachings concerning God’s judgment to heart. There can then be no question about it at all that all sickness and disease, all suffering and death, all trouble and woe are God’s just punishment against sin which came into the world through the fall of Adam and Eve and came upon all men because of their accountability which they share with Adam. No one who has any acquaintance with Scripture will deny this.

Nor can anyone deny that the judgments which come upon this world in the form of “natural” disasters are God’s judgments upon a wicked world which speak of Christ’s return in judgment when the world and all in it shall be destroyed. Even Zion is redeemed through judgment.

It is equally true that specific sins have specific consequences which are the hand of God’s judgment. Drunkenness results in diseases of the liver and destruction of the brain. Fornication results in venereal diseases of increasingly virulent form which destroy the body and mind of the sinner. Why then is it so difficult to believe that AIDS is a particular judgment upon a particular sin? That it arose in the homosexual community and that it is still found primarily there surely indicates the truth of this.

But that leaves the question: How is it that the “innocent” also suffer these diseases? The answer is not hard to find. This is a question which does not relate to homosexuality only; it is a question which one must face when one sees the horrors visited upon children through sexual abuse by parents; when one witnesses the ravaged lives of children brought up in the homes of drunks; when one sees the effects of syphilis on newly-born children. Let those who raise the question of “innocent” victims explain all these things.

But in a broader context, the simple fact is that God’s judgments come upon all. Tornados do not bypass the homes of the righteous. Floods do not swirl a distance away from the homes of the elect. Famine does not leave the wicked starving while the people of God are provided with plenty to eat. Sickness and disease are not the inheritance only of those who have rejected Christ; you will find also God’s people in the hospital.

Some general comments must be made about this.

For one thing, God always judges organically. That is, nations, peoples, races, tribes, families, etc. are judged together. All Israel suffered defeat at Ai when Achan hid treasures he had stolen from Jericho, The whole nation went into captivity when Judah forsook God, even though among them could be found Daniel and his three friends. There is a federal responsibility by which God even visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.

For another thing, we must never confuse blessings and curses with mere things. This is the Achilles’ heel of common grace. Common grace finds God’s favor and love in rain and sunshine. But even the most ardent proponent of this doctrine flinches at the thought that famine and drought are curses in themselves. The whole philosophy leads to impossible conclusions.

The fact is that, while God’s people must surely share in the judgments which come upon the ungodly, nevertheless, all things work together for their good, for they are called according to God’s purpose. Disease, suffering, pain, illness, drought, famine, pestilence, tornados—all the judgments of God serve the purpose of the salvation of His people. Sometimes these judgments are God’s chastening hand beneath which we are called to humble ourselves. In love to His people, God chastens in order to correct. And in wonderful grace God uses all these evils for the good of His saints—even as He uses prosperity and riches for the ultimate destruction of the wicked.

Hence, there is hope and promise. Homosexuality is not the one unforgivable sin. It is a sin present in the evil nature of all of us. It is there, whether we will acknowledge it or not. And the child of God, knowing something of the vast potential for evil resident in his own sinful flesh, acknowledges that he too is a homosexual by nature. The sin is not beyond the capacity of his own sinful flesh. The evil is not foreign to his depravity. It is there in all its stark horror.

But there is forgiveness for our evil natures in the blood of the Son of God shed on the cross. And there is forgiveness there in that cross for the sin of homosexuality as well. All sins for all God’s people are forgiven by that great gift of God’s free and sovereign grace in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

When the child of God humbles himself and flees for refuge to the cross, fully aware of his own utter sinfulness, he finds not only forgiveness and pardon, pure and complete, but he finds also grace and power to overcome all the sins of his nature. Trusting in that cross, he has the mighty, conquering strength of Christ within him to overcome every lust of the flesh, every tendency of his .evil nature, and every evil within—not his power, his strength, but the power of the blood of atonement.

“We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:15, 16).