(For distribution in its present form within the CDEF, CEEC and by any Christian who upholds the conclusions of this article)
By Andrew W Harrison, Feb 17th 2023
This article is written in response to the recent decision by the General Synod (held on the 6th to 9th February 2023) which upheld the concept of endorsing, affirming, blessing, and celebrating same-sex relationships (which in effect is endorsing, affirming, blessing and celebrating same-sex physically intimate relationships). As the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, clearly condemns sexually intimate activity of any kind between members of the same sex, this decision by the General Synod is very disheartening for many.
‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). All must repent of their sins when they come to Christ. We all constantly wrestle with sin, and we need each other’s support as we do so; one thing we should not do is condone or celebrate sinful activity. As we live to love God with our whole spirit, soul, mind and body, we must surely choose to live righteously and choose to urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same, rather than give a green light to sinful practices.
The New Testament constantly urges us to live holy lives and is very specific throughout in what is considered by God to be right behaviour and what is considered by God to be bad behaviour. The Bible is indeed God’s written Word, with which we can measure error. The Bible enables us to understand who the one true God is, and enables us to ascertain correct doctrine. The Basis of Faith for the CEEC (Church of England Evangelical Council) says that ‘we receive the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the wholly reliable revelation and record of God’s grace, given by the Holy Spirit as the true word of God written.’ It is ‘the ultimate rule for Christian faith, and conduct.’ If you do not consider yourself to be evangelical, you may not agree with these statements, in which case you will have your own personal views of God’s identity and doctrine, which will differ from everyone else. If these statements are not considered to be accurate, then every individual can pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe and which to disbelieve, giving rise to as many interpretations of the Bible as there are people. This article, however, is based on the Old and New Testaments being the unchangeable, fully trustworthy, ultimate rule for Christian faith and conduct.
I will not delve much into the Old Testament for this article, but instead focus on a brief analysis of four New Testament passages. This is because New Testament references leave us in no doubt that the content applies literally to today, the days of the New Testament Church, while we await the return of Christ. It is not necessary here to go into all the reasons why Genesis 1:27 and 2:18, 24 form the original pattern of marriage between one man and one woman only, as it is self-explanatory, and there are many articles addressing this. It should also not be necessary to re-state the obvious fact that we are born either male or female (as Genesis points out). There are occasionally some babies that are born with a physical anomaly that makes the sex unclear, and that is a challenge for the parents, doctors and potentially for the child in the future; this is acknowledged. This article does not address that issue, but neither does the thrust of the LGBT movement, except as an attempt to provide some evidence to support unbiblical sexual activity. Neither does this article address genetic issues, which are brought up by supporters of the LGBT community. But, in the same way that we cannot use the theory of the ‘sin gene’ to justify murder and sexual abuse, we cannot use genetics to justify unbiblical sexual activity as though humans have no choice or control. Certainly, our personality, our relationships, our upbringing, our positive and negative experiences, and our genetic make-up contribute to our attitudes, decisions and actions, but we are still responsible for our own choices, however much pressure we are under. This is a good reason for patient, sympathetic, loving support for all people in our churches and in our communities, regardless of how they have chosen to live their lives, rather than it being a good reason for condoning wrong behaviour.
Some argue that as long as a same-sex relationship is loving, then sexual intimacy within that relationship is a good thing, and should be affirmed. Taking this logic, we would have to say (and too many do say) that a loving, sexually intimate extra-marital affair is a good thing. This too is contrary to God’s written Word. The Bible does not in fact condemn intimate relationships of any kind, unless they become physically intimate relationships outside of a marriage between one man and one woman. If people of the same sex are tempted to become sexually intimate, they should not live together, and should take other steps to ensure the relationship does not develop in a physical manner; the same can be said about any sexual temptations outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.
Now we will look at the four New Testament passages mentioned earlier. These are not what are often cynically described as ‘proof texts’ (as though we are not allowed to quote scripture, even though Jesus himself did so when Satan was trying to tempt him). These are in fact a series of texts in complete agreement with each other and in complete agreement with both the Old and New Testaments on the issue of same-sex sexual activity. We will see that in all circumstances, same-sex sexual activity is condemned. That may seem unfair, but it is a fact.
A bibliography is given at the end of the article, and a glossary of Greek words is given too. These are given so that the evidence for this article can be easily verified, whether that is in regard to scriptural quotations, dictionary definitions, or scholars’ opinions. Rather than relying on personal translation of these passages, this article has relied on four of the most respected Bible translations used in churches today, all involving world-renowned translation teams. These versions are: the New International Version, the New King James Version, the New Revised Standard Version, and the English Standard Version.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
In this passage, we are told that wrongdoers/the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (v 9). This introduces us to the following list of examples, which includes:
Fornicators and the sexually immoral (Greek: pornos) Male prostitutes and homosexuals (Greek: malakos) Sodomites (Greek: arsenokoites)
The presence of the latter two Greek words, together, clears up any doubt about this including sex between two males, however hard LGBT supporters try to argue for a different definition of the words. In fact, the NIV and ESV combine these two words and translate them as follows: ‘men who practice homosexuality/men who have sex with men,’ and in both cases the footnote suggests that this involves consensual sex. And verse 10 reiterates that people who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So, those who practice idolatry, those who practice adultery, those who are sexually immoral or are fornicators, those who are male prostitutes, and those men who have sexual relationships with men (regardless of age), will not inherit the kingdom of God. There is no mention of rape here, but that can clearly be included within the Greek word given for the sexually immoral (Greek: pornos) in this context.
On 1 Corinthians 6:9, the NIV Study Bible affirms this says:
‘Paul here identifies three kinds of sexually immoral persons: adulterers, male prostitutes, and males who practise homosexuality. In Ro 1:26 he adds the category of females who practise homosexuality. People who engage in such practices ... are explicitly excluded from God’s kingdom.’
(NIV Study Bible 1996)
1 Timothy 1:9-10
In this passage, we are looking at the law of God. The intention is for the lawless, the disobedient, the godless etc. to turn away from their sinful ways, and these sinful ways are contrary to sound teaching. These sinful things that are contrary to sound teaching include:
Being a slave trader, a kidnapper or an enslaver who does so in order to sell the ones enslaved. Being a fornicator, a sexually immoral person (Greek: pornos)
Being a sodomite, a person who practices homosexuality (Greek: arsenokoites)
This passage completely backs up the passage we looked at in 1 Corinthians.
Both passages, without a shadow of a doubt, make clear that any act of sodomy (and note there is no reference to context or specific situations, whether this is with a loving motive or not; neither is there any reference to age or status) is sinful.
In the Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bernadette J Brooten says in her article on Homosexuality:
‘Like Leviticus, Paul does not employ the ethical categories of consent or age for distinguishing between sanctioned and condemned sexual relations ... Thus 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states that ‘the ones who lie with men’ ... will not ‘inherit the kingdom of God’ ... Paul describes male-male sexual relations as ‘impurity’ and asserts that such men ‘deserve to die’ (Rom. 1:24-32). Paul extends the prohibition to include sexual relations between women (Rom. 1:26) as do other postbiblical Jewish writings.’
We have a couple more references to look at in the New Testament.
We are told here that people practised idolatry and worshipped images of humans and animals. Because of this futile behaviour (v 21), God gave them up in the lusts of their own hearts to impurity (v 24). So, the examples that follow are examples of lust leading to impure acts. Also, in verse 24, we are told that they dishonour and degrade their bodies with one another. This clearly includes consensual sinful acts, as they take place among themselves. The reason why people stooped so low was because, instead of keeping their eyes on God himself and God’s purpose for his own creation, they decided to worship and serve the creature (humans and animals), created things, instead of their Creator (see v 25). People are doing this today; they are saying they have a right to choose who they have a physically intimate relationship with, even if God has forbidden it, and they are saying they have a right to be whatever gender they want to be (even making up their own genders), and that God’s teaching in the Bible has nothing to do with it. But this turning to the creation instead of the Creator himself, is causing people to feel free to follow their own shameful desires (v 26). These are described as:
Degrading passions (NRSV), shameful lusts (NIV), vile passions (NKJV), and dishonourable passions (ESV).
So, what are these degrading, shameful, vile and dishonourable acts? Verse 26 starts us off with women:
‘Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural’ (NRSV)
‘Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones’ (NIV)
‘Their women exchanged their natural use for what is against nature’ (NKJV)
‘Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature’ (ESV)
However it is translated, the meaning is obvious to anyone who does not have a personal agenda.
There are arguments put forward by some to suggest that this passage is talking about men and women having sex during a woman’s period, men and women having anal sex, or women taking on a dominant role instead of a less dominant one. All of these interpretations are without support in the New Testament. The context of the whole passage also makes it clear that this section of verse 26 is about sexual activity between two women. Neither is this simply referring to promiscuous practices that took place during idolatrous worship, and therefore one of many idolatrous acts, rather than a condemnation of homosexual sexual activity; this is clutching at straws. This passage refers to sins that have been given full throttle due to people taking their eyes off God. These things are a consequence of putting the created being before the Creator. Homosexual sex is unnatural and a misuse of nature (as the following verse will show).
Verse 27 begins with ‘and in the same way also the men ...’ (Greek: homoios te kai hoi arsenes). So, the men did a similar thing to that of the females, and again the meaning is obvious, described as follows:
‘Men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another’ (NRSV)
‘The men ... abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another’ (NIV)
‘The men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another’ (NKJV)
‘Men ... gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another’ (ESV)
This is homosexual passion or lust for ‘one another’ (Greek: eis allelous), so is not in the context of rape or pederasty. In these verses we are clearly being taught that homosexual sexuality is offensive to God, however unkind that sounds, as it is against nature, against the purpose of our bodies.
In the same verse (v 27), the text adds:
‘Men committed shameless acts with men’ (NRSV) ‘Men committed shameful acts with other men’ (NIV) ‘Men with men committing what is shameful’ (NKJV) ‘Men committing shameless acts with men’ (ESV)
This is indeed ‘man with man’ (Greek: arsenes en arsesin, literally, ‘males with males’). Without a doubt, the three passages we have already looked at condemn homosexual sexual activity.
The final passage we are going to analyse is Jude 4-8, and more specifically verse 7. The main argument against this passage being used to confirm that homosexual sex is a sin, is the suggestion that it is only talking about rape, and not homosexual sex, in itself. I will show this is a poor argument, but even if it were true, the previous three passages are more than sufficient to back the purpose of this article. Those who argue that suggestion tend to take us back to Genesis chapter 19 where rape certainly took place. But Genesis chapter 19 concerns the men of Sodom in particular, and does not include those of Gomorrah and the surrounding cities (read verse 7). Jude 7 is talking about the sexually immoral practices that took place throughout not only Sodom, but also Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, of which Genesis chapter 19 is just one example.
Another argument is that it was hospitality that was the offending sin. The people of Sodom were certainly inhospitable, but that is not dealt with in Jude 7, and is not the sin for which Sodom and Gomorrah were punished so magnificently.
The context of this passage is set by verse 4 which says there are people in churches that are ungodly and condemned. They:
‘Pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness’ (NRSV) ‘Pervert the grace of our God into a licence for immorality’ (NIV) ‘Pervert the grace of our God into sensuality’ (ESV)
‘Turn the grace of our God into lewdness’ (NKJV)
So, these people think they can take advantage of the gift of God, his salvation by grace. They think they can go on sinning however they like and expect to be forgiven after the fact regardless, using the excuse that anything goes since we are under grace. But, of course this is contrary to sound doctrine.
On this verse, the NIV Study Bible says:
‘They assume that salvation by grace gives them the right to sin without restraint, either because God in his grace will freely forgive all their sins, or because sin, by contrast, magnifies the grace of God (cf. Ro 5:20; 6:1).’
(NIV Study Bible 1996)
Verse 4 also points out that these are people who:
‘Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ’ (NRSV) ‘Deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord’ (NIV) ‘Deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ’ (NKJV) ‘Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ’ (ESV)
This reminds us of Romans 1:25 where they are described as people who worship and serve the creature/created things rather than the Creator himself.
Jude 5-7 follows on with a list of examples that the readers are expected to be aware of and should take warning from, as in each case there was a serious punishment from God. In other words, they won’t get away with it, in spite of the reality of the grace of God.
Even though everyone delivered from Egypt was a part of the called-out nation of Israel, those who did not believe (adhere to God and his commandments) were destroyed by God.
The angels who left their dwelling and assigned positions (sinning angels – see 2 Peter 2:4) are to this very day being held in eternal chains for judgement.
Sodom and Gomorrah and its surrounding cities (not only the men who gathered outside Lot’s home) indulged in sexual immorality and had:
‘Pursued unnatural lust’ [Footnote says that the Greek is: went after other flesh] (NRSV) ‘Gone after strange flesh’ (NKJV)
‘Pursued unnatural desire’ [Footnote says that the Greek is: other flesh] (ESV)
Given themselves up to ‘perversion’ (NIV). The NIV Study Bible footnote here says:
‘sexual immorality and perversion: more specifically, homosexuality’ (NIV Study Bible 1996).
And as a result, those people are punished by eternal fire.
In this third example, there is no doubt that homosexual sexual activity is meant here, for the following reasons:
1. There are two Greek words/phrases used, even though one word is sufficient. The first one is ‘ekporneuo,’ a strengthened form of the verb ‘porneuo,’ indicating excessive sexual indulgence (Abbott-Smith 1968). This can include all sexual sin, even rape. The fact that the verse adds ‘apelthousai opiso sarkos heteras’ after it shows a specific sexual sin is being singled out among the others, and that is the glaringly obvious homosexual sexual activity.
2. In the latter phrase, the force of the Greek word in the form ‘apelthousai’ (i.e. aperchomai, going after/pursuing) implies lust, but not predatory rape (and rape is already covered in ekporneuo anyway, as we have just seen in point 1). It is the fact that it was sexual activity with ‘other flesh’ (Greek: sarkos heteras) that there was a problem. The meaning of this is obvious to anyone who does not have a personal agenda which requires them to strive to interpret it differently.
3. This Greek word heteras (i.e. heteros, other/different) in this position implies its dual force meaning the second of a pair (Abbott-Smith 1968). Obviously, this therefore indicates that they were sinning by going for men as opposed to women, sexually. Therefore, if a man’s desire is to have sex with another man, it is punishable as it is a serious sin.
4. The above evidence already answers this one, but to leave us in no doubt, we need to look at the false claim that this was a sin because men were desiring sex with angels rather than humans. This may have some weight if there were evidence to suggest the men of the city knew the men were angels, but there is none. And even if they did somehow know this, and wanted sex with angels, this would be in addition to the sin of homosexuality as they were men seeking to have sex with a male manifestation.
Jude 5-7 gives us three examples of sinful activity. The first is unbelief (and related sin), the second is sex between angels and humans (and related sin – see Genesis chapter 6), and the third example is sexual immorality between humans (and related sin); it is very unlikely a second and third example of three would refer to an identical phenomenon when there are plenty of punishable sins out there!
Some argue that the phrase in Jude 7 that connects the previous verse(s) - ‘in a similar way’ - justifies this belief that it was angels that the men wanted sex with, and not other men; this is a very weak argument. The subject and purpose of the passage in Jude 4- 8 is to point out that all sinful behaviour and intentions resulting from taking our eyes off the Creator, and instead worshipping and serving created beings, is punished by God, and this reliance on God’s grace to help them get away with it is futile. On this, the NIV Study Bible says correctly that this phrase ‘in a similar way’:
‘Does not mean that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was the same as that of the angels or vice versa. This phrase is used to introduce the third illustration of the fact that God will see to it that the unrighteous will be consigned to eternal punishment on judgement day.’
(NIV Study Bible 1996)
5. Further evidence to show that this was not, in the third example, an intentional pursuit of sex with angels, is the fact that the men of Sodom referred to the angels as men (Hebrew: enosh). ‘Enosh’ means ‘man.’ This Hebrew word is not only used to describe the two angels, but also used to describe the men of the city themselves (See Genesis 19:4-5). Even the Old Testament Greek (LXX) of this passage uses ‘man’ (Greek: aner) here, for both the men of the city and the angels. And remember, the use of the word ‘men’ comes from the lips of the Sodomites themselves.
6. Finally, and if this is not already enough evidence, we have the fact that ‘other flesh’ uses the Greek word ‘sarx’ which means just that, flesh. So, this latter sin of verse 7 is without a shadow of a doubt the act of a man desiring to have sex with another man, which is a different flesh to the one he should have a sexual desire for; it is unnatural sex.
Humankind and human nature has not changed, only technology has. Sin is sin, however we try to dress it up to make it acceptable. We are not greater than God; we are his creation, and we should look to him for instruction, not look to ourselves to fulfil our own creature appetites. It is hypocritical of the C of E to decide to endorse, affirm, bless or celebrate same sex physically intimate unions, because it is in clear contradiction to the scriptures, and as we have seen, the scriptures are not silent on this issue. It is doubly hypocritical for the C of E to state that the Church’s doctrinal stance on marriage has not changed, and then in the next breath to promote the opposite. Nobody can fool God, however much we try to change the wording used to describe our actions!
In addition to this, the Church of England is encouraging people to sin, making out that God is okay with same-sex physically intimate relationships, the Church therefore being complicit. If this is not corrected, those responsible will indeed be punished by God. They are also betraying clergy and church members who see themselves as homosexual, but have strived to remain celibate out of love and respect for God and his Word, because now they are under great subconscious pressure to feel God has sanctioned homosexual sexual relationships, since the majority on the General Synod (including the vast majority of bishops) have sanctioned it. This is unfair to faithful Christians who are struggling with their sexuality. Again, this makes the Church of England complicit. In effect, the authorities within the Church are tempting its members to sin.
Instead of taking six years finding devious ways to endorse, affirm, bless and celebrate same- sex intimate relationships, the Church should have spent the time working out how we can support and love all people regardless of their lifestyle, while remaining faithful to scripture. The Church authorities have let their own church members down, and let society as a whole down. We should also have worked out how to support celibacy and singleness, which are both approved and encouraged in the Bible.
The Church of England is in a dangerous position and should take warning from Jude 4-8. The bishops and members of the General Synod who have promoted this, with action or by deliberate inaction, should repent, as God has not changed his mind (Revelation 3:19).
Glossary of Significant Greek Words
a male person, a man, a husband
a man as opposed to a woman (Abbott-Smith 1968)
In the LXX (Greek Old Testament), it is used to translate the Hebrew word ‘enosh’ (see Genesis 19:4-5).
The word is constructed from ἀρσην (arsen), which means ‘male,’ and κοιτη (koites), which means ‘the conjugal bed, sexual intercourse.’ Therefore:
a male who engages in same-gender sexual activity, a sodomite, a pederast
This is a strengthened form of πορνευω (porneuo), which means ‘to commit fornication or whoredom.’ This strengthening of the verb by the addition of ‘ek’ (ἐκ) implies ‘excessive indulgence’ (Abbott-Smith 1968). Therefore:
to excessively indulge in fornication and sexual immorality
(see ‘pornos’ below)
an instrument of unnatural lust, effeminate (the word ‘gay’ has similar connotations) πορνος (pornos)a male prostitute, a fornicator
a male prostitute, a fornicator