“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 recompense 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.”
There are some subjects, especially certain sins, which a preacher hesitates to treat in his public teaching. They are shameful evils. So much is this so, that a preacher wonders whether it is not even a shame to speak of them. Such is the subject—the sin—dealt with in the last part of Romans 1, the sin of homosexuality. Perhaps, thinks the minister, we could better be silent about this.
But the world will not permit it. The world discusses homosexuality publicly. It is on the front page of the daily paper. It is part of the news on radio and television. The world accepts homosexuality and defends it. It is a “sexual preference” and an “alternative lifestyle.” Casually, the television critic of the Chicago Tribune remarked in a recent column that a new program will involve a gay uncle caring for a family. Psychology, that most uncertain science, holding its finger in the wind of public opinion and judging what should be from what is, has already exonerated as “normal” that which it formerly called an illness and an abnormality.
If we were able to hold our peace in the face of the world’s approval of homosexuality, this becomes impossible when the churches chime in to give their sanction. This unbelievable thing is happening today. The churches, poor, pathetic institutions, desperate to appear “modern,” craving the esteem of society, devoid of faith in Holy Scripture, fall in line. They have long since forgotten that the church is pillar and ground of the truth, God’s bulwark of godliness in the abounding lawlessness of the end-time. Denying the commandment of God in the learned, hollow language of “cultural conditionedness” and “hermeneutical principles,” they sanctify Sodom and pollute Zion, making the gate to eternal life broad and the way wide, so that many may find it (who are not even seeking it).
Reformed churches are included. Officially, some have decided that, although homosexual practice is to be condemned, homosexual nature is not sin. Other Reformed churches have already taken the next step and have officially approved practicing homosexuals as members in good standing in the churches. Other denominations have approved homosexual officebearers. Such is the impudence of the homosexuals themselves that they do not hesitate to identify themselves in the church papers and to call for acceptance of homosexual practice as part of the freedom of Jesus Christ.
The main reason, though, for speaking out is that Holy Scripture speaks on this subject. One need think only of the history of Sodom in the Old Testament (Gen. 19:1-11). That city practiced the sin of homosexuality, giving the name “sodomite” to those who afterward practice the same sin. Referring to this, the prophet Ezekiel says that Sodom “committed abomination” before Jehovah (Ezek. 16:50). Among the abominations of the heathen forbidden to the Israelites was this, that “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Lev. 18:22. Cf. also Lev. 20:13 and Deut. 23:17). I Kings 14:24 notes of Judah already in the days of Rehoboam that “there were sodomites in the land,” viewing this as evidence of Judah’s doing “according to all the abominations of the nations” and warning, “which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.”
The New Testament expressly states its oneness with the Old Testament in the condemnation of homosexuality. It does this most fully in the passage quoted at the beginning of this article, Romans 1:26-28. The sin spoken of is homosexuality: the sexual desire of a person for a member of his own sex, whether of a woman for a woman or of a man for a man, and the carrying out of that lust in a sexual relationship. It is an evil that has to do with the fundamental physical differences between men and women; with the sexual nature of humans; and with the sexual relationship and activity. For this reason, the apostle does not use the ordinary words for “men” and “women,” but the words that mean ‘males’ and ‘females.’ We should understand the passage in this way, as treating of the basic physical division of humankind’: “their females did change the natural use…likewise also the males, leaving the natural use of the female…males with males…” The same word that is here translated “men” occurs in I Corinthians 6:9, where we read of “abusers of themselves with mankind,” and in I Timothy 1:10, where we read of “them that defile themselves with mankind.” In both of these passages, the reference is to homosexuality.
The passage in Romans 1 sets forth this sin as an exceedingly shameful iniquity. There are different aspects of sin; one aspect is the shamefulness of sin. Whereas all sin is shameful, since it misses the mark of God’s glory, certain sins show this shamefulness more than others. Such is homosexuality. It is “unseemly” (v. 27), i.e., indecent, ugly. The practice of it is a doing of “things which are not convenient” (v. 28) i.e., things not fitting for a human being. Verse 26 speaks of “vile affections,” i.e., affections of dishonor, or disgraceful affections.
The sin of homosexuality is not one shameful sin among many; rather, it is the sin that most fully works out and manifests sin’s vileness—it is the nadir of the degradation of sin. This is plainly the teaching of the passage. First, the apostle is describing the very end, the fullest development, of the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men apart from the gospel which he has spoken of in verse 18. Second, this is the force of the word “working” in verse 27, “males with malesworking that which is unseemly.” It is not merely that they do the deed, but that they work out to its fullest possibility the unseemliness of sin. In this sin, they exhaust the ugliness of sin.
Third, the apostle writes that God gives men and women up to this sin. Men have appealed to these expressions in this passage in support of the theory of common grace, the theory that there is a gracious operation of the Spirit in the unregenerated restraining sin in them, so that there is still some good in them and so that they can do some good works in the sphere of society. The argument based on these expressions goes like this: If God at some point gives human beings up to these vile affections and gives them over to this reprobate mind, He must have been restraining sin in them before this point. The passage is explained as teaching that there is a development in the wicked from good to bad. Abraham Kuyper gives this explanation in his work on common grace, De Gemeene Gratie. “Common grace was expanded after the Flood; now it shrinks again; and this shrinking again of common grace the apostle represents to us in these words, that God has given over our human race to a reprobate mind. ” “Thanks to common grace had God begun to take the guidance (leiding) of the nations into His own hand, after the Flood; but when once again, from the root of sin, a general apostasy came forth, God has given the nations over to another guidance, namely, to the guidance of their own perverse heart and thus really to the guidance of Satan.” ” . ..being given over in itself only means that the evil of sin is no longer so strongly restrained by God as previously” (Vol. 1, pp. 415, 416. Cf. also Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 442, and De Drie Punten in Alle Deelen Gereformeerd, p. 44).
Against this stands the entire passage itself. Where is there so much as a hint of any good in fallen man—on the contrary, there is only wickedness. Where is there a gracious attitude of God to fallen man apart from the gospel-on the contrary, there is only the wrath of God revealed from heaven. Where is there any testimony of a restraint of sin—on the contrary, there is a positive act of giving over to sin. The interpretation of “giving up” that infers a previous restraint is a reading into the text of that which is not there.
God’s giving up of men to sin certainly indicates development of sin, but a development from bad to worse. Both in the life of the individual and in the life of a particular society and in the life of the old human race, depravity is worked out to its vilest end. The example is not that a man who is almost dead finally dies, but that the corpse rots and decays more and more. Exactly this is the teaching of the passage: in the sin of homosexuality, new depths of sin are plumbed; under the Divine giving up, society reaches the last stages of moral rot.
The reason for this is that homosexuality is a sin contrary to nature. It is a sin practiced with the body; and, therefore, the shamefulness of sin, which can be hidden somewhat in other sins, is displayed. But it is a sin which, in distinction from fornication and adultery, is contrary to nature: “…females did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the males, leaving the natural use of the female, burned in their lust one toward another….” Homosexuality is contrary to the revealed law of God in Holy Scripture; in addition, it is contrary to the fundamental law of God in creation, or nature. God created two sexes; and by virtue of that creation it is laid down in nature itself that the female satisfies the sexual desire by the male and that the male has a natural use of the female. But in this sin, the female changes the natural use and practices something contrary to nature; and the male, likewise. This is still deeper degradation and fouler shame than fornication. The apostate race carries out its revolution against God its Creator to the final stage, disobeying the basic laws of creation.
If one thing is clear, it is that homosexuality is not a natural life-style, a normal expression of humankind’s sexual nature. It is unnatural and monstrous. In the literal sense of the word, it is perverse.
(to be continued)