Abandoned to Homosexuality

Romans 1:26-27

Tom Pennington  •  February 1, 2015
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Well, I invite you to take your Bibles this morning and turn with me to Romans 1 as we continue our journey through this magnificent letter of the apostle Paul. I was shocked this week to read the decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers versus Hardwick. In that case our Supreme Court actually upheld a Georgia law that classified homosexual acts as illegal sodomy. In its five to four ruling, the Supreme Court held that there is no constitutional right to engage in homosexual acts. The year of that decision was 1986. That ruling was only overturned just over 10 years ago in 2003 in the case of Lawrence versus The State of Texas. When they overturned and vacated the 1986 ruling in 2003, our Supreme Court declared all sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

Now, that is a short time for such a radical shift and change in the culture. Why did that happen? How did that happen? It's so important for us as believers to understand that such a radical change, change in such a short period of time, is not an accident, and it is not even primarily human related. It is, as we're learning from Romans 1, the result of the divine wrath of abandonment.

Now just to remind you of the flow of Paul's thought, as he begins this letter to the churches in Rome, he introduces, for the first time, his theme in the very first verse. As he's introducing himself he says, I was "set apart for the gospel of God," the good news which has its source in God. In verses 16 and 17 he summarizes that gospel and then, as we will see, beginning in chapter 3 verse 21, Paul sets out to explain the gospel that he preached in great detail, but he begins the body of his letter not with the good news but with the bad news. He begins with several indictments to show that every human being is guilty before God, that every single one of us needs the gospel.

His first indictment comes in chapter 1 verses 18 to 32 and it's an indictment against all unbelieving pagans. Three times in this section he refers to those who are engaged in idolatry, in verse 23, again in verse 25, and a third time in verse 28. So this section then indicts all of those who have rejected the true God of the Bible and who have refused to worship Him. And Paul says, when it comes to all of those unbelieving pagans, notice verse 18, "the wrath of God," literally, "is being revealed, right now." God is displaying His wrath.

Now beginning in the middle of verse 18, Paul sets out to answer the first question about that wrath against pagans and the question is why? Why is God's wrath being revealed against pagans? And, as we discovered, there are two basic answers. The first answer is because of the pagan's willful rebellion against God's Law. Verse 18 says, they are ungodly and they are unrighteous. Verse 32 says, "they know the ordinance of God." Chapter 2 verse 14 says, they know that ordinance because God has written the substance of that Law on their hearts, and they choose to rebel against that Law.

The second reason that Paul gives us as to why God's wrath is being revealed is because of the pagan's willful ignorance of God's person. Beginning at the end of verse 18 we're told that pagans "suppress the truth" that God has made known to them about Himself in creation. Now, it's not saving truth, but it's enough truth for them to know that there is a God and that He is eternal in His power, and therefore that they ought to submit to Him and to His Law that is written on their hearts. But man chooses, verse 21, knowing those things about God, he chooses to suppress those things, and he refuses to honor God as God, or to give Him thanks. This is willful ignorance of God's person.

Now, beginning in verse 24 and running down through verse 32, Paul answers a second question about this wrath that's being revealed, and the second question is how? How is God's wrath against pagans being revealed today? Now before we looked at the text itself, we first stepped back and looked generally to make sure we understand what God's wrath is, and I took it apart and said that when we speak of God's wrath there are three basic components that comprise God's wrath.

When we say that God has wrath we mean three things.

First of all, we mean that God is always firmly opposed to evil in all its kinds and in all its degrees. God cannot tolerate sin of any kind or any amount; He is, in His person, opposed. Secondly, we discovered that by God's wrath we mean that God is always personally displeased with those who commit that evil, with sinners. It's not just that God is opposed to evil; where there is evil, where a person commits it, God is angry with that person because of their rebellion against Him, their rightful King. And thirdly, by God's wrath we mean that God then is compelled to punish sinners on account of their sins. All of that together is what we mean when we speak of the wrath of God. He is opposed to evil, He is angry with those who commit it, and therefore He is moved by His righteousness, by His holiness, by His justice, to punish it. He can't do anything else. He is compelled by who He is.

Now, we noted that in the Scripture there are various ways God displays His wrath. There are several of them we are going to meet as we walk through Romans, but in Romans 1 we learned that the specific kind of wrath that Paul has in mind here is what we could call, the wrath of divine abandonment. And so last time we began to walk through the text itself so that we can understand God's wrath of abandonment. Let me read for you this paragraph, Romans 1, beginning in verse 24, running through the end of the chapter. You follow along in the Scripture.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Now, Paul's structure here in this paragraph is easy to follow. Three times he says, "God gave them over," in verse 24, again in verse 26, and then the final time in verse 28. He's talking about how God's anger, God's wrath, against pagans is being revealed and here he identifies three specific ways that God's wrath of abandonment is being revealed against unbelieving pagans.

The first way the pagan experiences the wrath of abandonment is that he is abandoned to sexual sin. We studied this last week in verses 24 and 25. God abandons him to his sexual sin. Verse 24, "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity." God withdraws His restraining grace and allows man to have what he wants, his sin, and what he doesn't want, the consequences that come with that sin. Notice specifically, God abandons him, verse 24 says, "to impurity." This word literally means uncleanness. It is used almost exclusively in the New Testament to refer to sexual sin. Now, the result of God abandoning the pagan to sexual sin, notice in verse 24 is, "that their bodies are dishonored among them."

Now, why would God do this? Why would God abandon the idolater, the pagan, to his sexual sin? Well, Paul tells us the reason in verse 25, "For," because, "they exchanged the truth that they had seen in creation about God," in other words, "they exchanged the true God," literally, "for the lie," for idolatry, "and they worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." You see what Paul is saying here? God abandons sinners to pursue the lusts of their hearts and to commit sexual sin because of their idolatry and their paganism.

Now, that's what we looked at last week. Today we discover a second way that the pagan experiences God's wrath of abandonment and that is, he is abandoned to "degrading passions." He is abandoned to "degrading passions." Notice verses 26 and 27,

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

Now as you can see, this text speaks very frankly to the issues of our time. Before we try to discern what Paul means here, I think it's important to step back and be very clear about what Paul does not mean. There can be a lot of confusion in this text. Let me tell you what he does not mean.

Number one, Paul does not mean that the temptation to homosexual desires or actions is evidence of divine abandonment. The temptation itself is not evidence of divine abandonment. Our Lord, for example, was tempted in all the categories of sin as we are, yet without sin. Our Lord faced sexual temptation. Now, let me be very clear, He did not experience those temptations from the inside. He had no fallen nature. Instead, all of the temptations he experienced were from the outside, but nevertheless He experienced sexual temptation. So temptation to sin is not sin, even though for us, unlike our Lord, it often rises from within, from our fallenness.

Secondly, Paul does not mean, and this is very important to understand, that homosexuality is the worst possible sin against God, and that the homosexual is the worst possible sinner. That is not what Paul is saying. In fact, let me ask you this question, what is the worst sin against God? Well, Jesus tells us specifically. He tells us Himself the kind of sinner for whom the day of judgment will be the worst, you can turn there or you can just listen, Matthew 10. In Matthew 10 Jesus is sending out His followers, His disciples, whom He's equipped to go and minister the gospel, and in verse 14 of Matthew 10, this is what Jesus said. He said, as you go with this message,

Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, [that is, the message of the gospel,] as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, [this is what Jesus says when He wants to make a very strong point.] Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

Now that's a shocking statement by our Lord. Jesus says, and by the way, He's the one who will be doing the judging, He says, on the day of judgment it will be worse for those who heard the gospel, who heard the gospel and rejected the gospel, than for those He destroyed in fire and brimstone in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Can I just appeal to you if you're here this morning and you're not in Christ, you know you're not, you're here with family members or friends and you know in your heart you've never submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ, do you hear what Christ has said to you? The fact that you have heard the gospel, that you understand that your sins can be forgiven through the work of Christ and you've rejected that, means it will be worse for you on the day of judgment than for the homosexuals God destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah. I plead with you to run to Christ. So that's not what Paul means.

Thirdly, Paul does not mean that every person who struggles with homosexual temptations is an unbeliever. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man." That doesn't mean we all experience exactly the same temptations. We may not experience these temptations. His point is, as believers, the temptations we face are the ones that are common to mankind. That includes the potential for homosexual temptations. He's not saying that every person who struggles with homosexual temptations is an unbeliever.

Number four, he's not saying that the unbelieving homosexual is beyond redemption, that God has abandoned him, every one of them, forever. There were Christians in the churches to whom Paul wrote his letters who were saved out of a life of homosexuality and idolatry. There are people in this church who had been saved from a similar background. The only unforgivable sin is unrepentant, unwavering unbelief.

So now that we've, sort of, cleared the ground of several potential misunderstandings, let's come back to our text and see if we can understand what Paul does mean. Paul here provides us with a far-reaching, profound understanding of the sin of homosexuality. In these two brief verses Paul makes six clear declarations about homosexuality. We need to make sure we understand the teaching here and then we need to make sure that we determine to believe what's taught here, to accept God's word on homosexuality as the final word, His unchanging, timeless truth that transcends what may be going on in the culture around us. So let's see what Paul teaches us through the inspiration of the Spirit.

The first declaration that Paul makes is that homosexuality is often an expression of God's wrath against paganism. Homosexuality is often an expression of God's wrath against paganism. Look at verse 26, "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions." Now notice, "For this reason" refers back to verse 25, and to idolatry,

they exchanged the true God for the lie of idolatry. They worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions.

So the reason God often abandons the sinner to homosexuality is his paganism, because he has abandoned the worship of the true God. So because of their paganism, "God gave them over to" what Paul calls "degrading passions."

The word passions is, in Greek as it is in English, a picture of these strong, compelling desires and in the description that follows Paul makes it clear what kind of desires he's talking about. He's talking about the sin of homosexual desires and the sin of acting on those desires. Notice how he goes on in verse 26 to explain degrading passions. They're the passions in which women leave "the natural function" of men for women, "in the same way men who abandon the natural function of the woman and burn in their desire toward one another." That's the degrading passion, he's talking about homosexuality, it's very clear.

But I don't want you to miss Paul's big point. This is point number one and it's crucial. God invariably abandons pagans and pagan cultures to the sin of homosexuality. Now, if you're a student of history you understand this. This is absolutely borne out by human history. Most cultures in the history of the world have either turned a blind eye to homosexuality or they have wholeheartedly embraced and accepted it.

For example, many of the ancient Greeks not only accepted homosexuality, but they even wrote that it was the ideal relationship. Plutarch in his dialogue on love, called Eroticos, has one of his characters argue this, "The noble lover of beauty engages in love wherever he sees excellence and splendid natural endowment without regard for any difference in physiological detail." There are even stories of the Greek gods like Zeus engaging in homosexual activity. Paul wrote the letter to the Roman churches from Corinth. Corinth is in Greece and in Corinth there was a temple with 1,000 temple prostitutes, many of whom were homosexual. Greece accepted homosexuality as good, right, even beautiful, the highest of relationships.

During the Roman Republic there were similar attitudes among the Romans. This changed over time, but initially during the republic, this is true, some historians have even estimated that 14 of the first 15 Roman emperors were either homosexual or engaged in homosexual activity. This is the way history is written. Most of the peoples and cultures of the world have at least turned a blind eye, or have accepted homosexuality. We are the odd man out.

In fact, there are only three primary people groups in the history of the world among whom homosexuality has been clearly rejected. Number one, among the Jews, because of the Hebrew Old Testament which demands that it not be tolerated. Secondly, Christians, because of both the Old Testament and the teaching of the New Testament in which is renounced. And Muslims because of the influence of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, in spite of how badly Muhammad distorted and even contradicted them. Nevertheless, there was that influence and because of that it's in those three people groups that it has been rejected. Apart from that it has been embraced or at least tolerated.

So homosexuality then is often an expression of God's wrath against paganism and idolatry. Paul's second declaration here in Romans 1 is that homosexuality dishonors and shames those who practice it. Verse 26, "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions." The word degrading speaks of being in a state of dishonor. Paul says these strong, compelling desires disgrace or shame the person who gives in to them, who lets them run rampant in his life. You remember back in verse 24 Paul makes the same point about heterosexual sin. He says there that sexual sin dishonors the body and here in verse 26 he says homosexual desires dishonor or bring shame to the entire person who nurses and pursues them.

Paul's third declaration is that homosexuality is a sinful choice. It is a sinful choice. Notice verse 26, "their women exchanged," active verb, "they exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural." Verse 27, "in the same way also the men," active verb, "abandoned the natural and burned in their desire, one toward another." It's interesting, the word exchanged in verse 26, the same word that's used earlier to describe, in verse 25, the exchange of the worship of the true God for idolatry. You see, just as an idolater chooses to exchange what he knows about God for idols, the homosexual chooses to give in to his desires and to act upon them.

Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying, all of us are born tainted with original sin and each person, apparently, has a propensity toward a unique package of sins. I say that because James refers to "each of us being carried away and enticed by his own lust." And there's an implication there, many commentators agree, that there's this sort of unique propensities that we are born with, not genetic predisposition, but rather part of the sin package passed down to us with unique propensities. I believe that's true, and it's possible therefore that people are born, not with a genetic predisposition, but with a sinful predisposition, a sinful propensity toward homosexuality. We can't be certain of that, but if that is true, listen carefully, it's in the same way that a person is born with a predisposition to anger or murder or lying. The fact that I was born, in my family, with a propensity toward anger, and before Christ I demonstrated that anger in fist fights and other things, doesn't mean that I'm not culpable for acting out that propensity, for giving in. It just means that I am more easily tempted by that sin.

So, listen very carefully to what I'm saying, the temptation to homosexuality may not be a deliberate choice, but dwelling on that temptation, accepting that temptation, enjoying that temptation, and acting out on that temptation, are all deliberate choices, just as with every other sin. Now, in the case of God's abandoning the pagan to homosexuality, understand that the punishment perfectly fits the crime. Because pagans exchanged the truth of God that's revealed in creation, for the lie, so God abandons them so that they also exchange the sexual relations that are obvious in creation with that which is contrary to what is obvious in creation.

Now, that thought brings us to Paul's fourth declaration. Homosexuality is against God's creative design and really a large portion of these two verses' focus is here. Look at them again,

for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another.

Now, first of all let me just note that we can't be absolutely sure why Paul first addresses lesbianism and then male homosexuality, but it's likely because he wanted to emphasize and address the male version of the sin because it's the more frequent of the two.

Now, let me define several key words for you here and these definitions come from the leading Greek lexicon on the first century Koine Greek. Okay? Look at the word natural. That word refers to that which is in keeping with the basic order of things in nature or in creation, natural. Look at the word unnatural. Literally, the Greek text is, "against nature" or "contrary to the basic order of things in creation." So when Paul says unnatural he means it's against the created order, what God has established in creation. Look at the word function; it's used twice in these two verses. That's actually a euphemism. Let me give you the definition. The word means, literally, "a state of intimate involvement," that is, sexual intercourse. And then the other word you need to know is the word burned. The word burned literally means to be on fire, to be inflamed with sensual desire.

Now, with those definitions in mind, I want you to look at verses 26 and 27. I'm going to read them, supplying those definitions. Follow along with me.

Their women exchanged the sexual function in keeping with God's original design, for that which is against God's design, and in the same way also the men abandoned the sexual function in keeping with God's original design with a woman, and became inflamed, [or on fire,] in their desire toward one another.

So, in other words, Paul's primary point here in these two verses, or one of his primary points at least, is that it is contrary to God's creative design.

What was the original design of the creator? If we had time I'd take you back, we'd walk through Genesis 1. Let me give you the summary. Genesis 1:27, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Although both share the image of God, God made man and woman different by design. By the way, Jesus affirmed that created order in Matthew, excuse me, in Mark 10:6, He said, "'from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.'"

So folks, here was God's original design, it was that there would be male and that there would be female. And then in Genesis 2 Moses adds a word describing the woman, which is suitable. The idea is "corresponding to." So, God's design was male and female and that male and female would complement, or correspond to each other in every way, including physically, and that's obvious. So, homosexuality then, is against nature. That is, it is against God's intentional design in creation.

You know, it's interesting, those of us who've lived long enough remember back when the homosexual community referred to their involvement in homosexuality as a sexual preference or as a lifestyle. These were the common phrases that were used to describe it. But in recent years they have developed an intentional, clever marketing plan. By the way, I could take you to the very book in which that marketing plan has been laid out and is being worked out on the stages of our national platform today, in which they said, don't talk about sexual preferences, don't talk about homosexual lifestyle, instead, speak about sexual orientation.

Now, what happened there? They intentionally shifted the discussion from moral choices to biological determinism. They essentially created a third category in Genesis 1. Not only are there males and females, there also homosexuals, and oh, now there are bisexual and transgender, and so forth, but biblically, according to the divine intervention in creation, there is no biological category of homosexual. No one is born gay, in that sense. Homosexual is not a created orientation any more than adulterer is a created orientation.

Homosexual simply describes the temptations and the behavior of those whom God created either male or female. God only created those two biological categories, male and female, and He created them to exactly correspond to each other. So, Paul's point is homosexuality is unnatural. In other words, it is contrary to how God created things, how He designed things to be. It is therefore contrary to His purpose.

Now, in Romans 1 Paul makes a fifth declaration about homosexuality and that is, homosexual acts are indecent and shameless. Notice verse 27, "the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts." Now, in describing it that way Paul takes us back to the Old Testament Law. Turn back with me to Leviticus, Leviticus 18. As God describes how His people are to be separate from the sins of the nations around them, He deals, in chapter 18, with sexual sin, and notice verse 22. In fact, let's go back first to verse 1. I want you to see the context. Leviticus 18:1,

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'I am Yahweh your God. You shall not do what was done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I'm bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. [Isn't that interesting.] You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes to live in accord with them; I am Yahweh your God.'"

Now go down to verse 22. Here is one of God's sexual commands, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Now folks, this text destroys the idea, prevalent among some, that God only forbids homosexual rape or homosexual prostitution, but they would say, God allows consensual homosexual relationships. What Moses says here, in verse 22, is crystal clear, all homosexual acts are forbidden. In fact, notice what he says, they are "an abomination." Now, we don't use that word very often, but the word, the Hebrew word, speaks of that which is repugnant or repulsive to God. He says, you may not do this because this is something that is repugnant, or repulsive, to God because it's an act of rebellion against His created order, how He made things.

Turn over to chapter 20. Moses adds another insight about this sin. Leviticus 20:13, "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act." I think this is where Paul is borrowing that language. "Both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them." Now, this text adds two things to our understanding. First of all, it assigns moral culpability in a homosexual relationship to both the active and the passive partner, both of them, and it adds that in Old Testament Israel, when God was King, homosexual acts were requiring the death penalty. Why? Because it's an abomination. It's repulsive, it's repugnant to God because it's contrary to how He designed things. It is a clear act of rebellion against the divine intention. So, homosexual acts are therefore, as Paul says, or excuse me, as Moses says here, detestable, or as Paul says in Romans 1, indecent.

Now, there's one final declaration that Paul makes about homosexuality and that is, that homosexuality comes with a very high price. Look at the end of verse 27, those who commit these things "receive in their own persons the due penalty of their error." Now there's a lot of debate about what exactly Paul means here and honestly, we can't be sure, we can't be absolutely certain. Let me give you the options. Some say that it may refer to the high psychological price of committing this sin as opposed to some others. There is clear evidence that the suicide rate, the depression rate, other factors that go along with the guilt of committing this sin are higher than among the normal heterosexual population. That may be what Paul has in mind.

Or, secondly, some say it may refer to diseases to which they are exposed, such as venereal diseases, and, of course, in modern days, AIDS, because of the typical promiscuity that goes along with homosexuality, and in case you think I'm being judgmental on that, let me give you a little report. In 2004 the University of Chicago did a study and they found among the gay population of Chicago, 43 percent had had more than 60 sexual partners, 61 percent had had more than 30 partners, and 88 percent had had more than 15 partners. As a result of that promiscuity, the University of Chicago study found that 55 percent of the gay population had at least one sexually transmitted disease, 55 percent, much higher than the normal population, so it may be that.

There is a third possibility of what Paul means and that is, look at the expression "their error" in verse 27. There are commentators who say "their error" is not talking about their homosexuality, but the error of forsaking the true God for idolatry. If that's so, then the due penalty of their error may be referring to homosexuality itself, which is the result of their error of idolatry. Do you understand what I'm saying? And there's one other possibility of what this means, and that is, some say it just refers to eternal punishment, they receive in themselves "the due penalty of their error." We can't be absolutely certain.

Regardless, here's what I want you to get. What this passage teaches about the sinfulness of homosexuality is very clear, it is very straightforward, but you also know that there are those who profess to be connected to Christianity who try to argue against what the Bible teaches on this issue. So what do they do with Romans 1? Let me tell you what they do. Some of them would argue, some of those who try to defend homosexuality from the Bible would argue that Paul here is only confronting non-monogamous homosexual relationships. Now, we just worked through this text together, that's clearly an invention. There is nothing in this text that even hints at that as a possibility.

Others argue that what Paul is really dealing with is abusive homosexual relationships, but that's not what the text says. In fact, the implication in the text is that these relationships are consensual. Notice what it says, they "burned in their desire toward one another." Others claim that Paul here is only condemning pederasty, the homosexual relationship between men and boys. Although that's clearly included, notice Paul specifically says, "men with men." Others argue that he's only condemning homosexual acts, but notice Paul specifically identifies the desires as degrading, and he says that men "burning in their desire toward one another" is part of the sin to which God abandons the pagan.

Still others say that Paul is condemning, and this is the farthest reach of all, that Paul is condemning here only homosexual acts committed by a heterosexual. Now if you didn't see that in the text, that's okay, because it's not there. But here's what they say, if you're a homosexual it's not against your nature, it's not unnatural, it's only unnatural if you're a heterosexual engaging in homosexuality. That obviously distorts the passage. It misconstrues the whole idea of what natural and unnatural means. It means according to the original creation of man as male and female, and in addition to that, Paul specifically calls unnatural those who abandon their normal relationships for homosexual ones.

So understand that all of these dodges are completely without merit. They fall in the face of what Paul says here and I think you understand that. Now, let me ask this question, what we do with this? Let's apply this text and what it teaches to ourselves. Let me give you several application points.

Number one, our pagan society will become increasingly accepting of homosexuality, but we, as God's people, must believe God. Listen, don't be surprised, it's going to get worse. It's going to become a bigger plague on our culture. Why? Because this is part of the wrath of divine abandonment. The more pagan our culture becomes, the more it disconnects from the God of creation, the more God will abandon our culture and the people in it to homosexuality.

So don't be surprised, but for goodness sake don't jump on the bandwagon and begin to talk about how beautiful the emperor's new clothes are. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you must believe what God has said in His word and you must not believe what the culture, or even so-called evangelicals who are desperate to be accommodating to the culture, may say, "Let God be true and every man a liar." If you're the last person on the planet who believes what Paul wrote here, so be it, but expect to be persecuted for taking such a position.

Number two, second application point, Christians must never tolerate or act on homosexual temptations. Let me just speak to you as your pastor. If you're a Christian and you are tempted to be attracted sexually to members of the same sex, you must respond to that temptation the same way that all Christians must respond to their temptations and lusts, you must kill it, you must put to death, you must deny it. Colossians 3:5, it's talking about sexual sin of all kinds and Paul says, "consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, sexual covetousness, which amounts to idolatry." Whatever form sexual sin comes at you, Paul says, put it to death. Jesus says, if you're tempted to lust, then be willing to take drastic measures to cut that sin out of your life. Do whatever it takes, but whatever you do, don't tolerate it and don't give in to the temptation and act on it.

Number three, those who excuse homosexual lust and who consistently act on that lust are not Christians. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul says, "do you not know." Now, this is Paul's way of saying you ought to know this. Okay? "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" Now who are the unrighteous? "Do not be deceived," don't let anybody kid you, "neither," and then he has a list, "fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate," the Greek word here is feminine, very specific, this is the passive partner in a homosexual relationship, "nor homosexuals," again, the word is very specific, this is the active partner in a homosexual relationship, "nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers," none of those who are those things, that is, they are engaged consistently and practicing these things, "will inherit the kingdom of God." Notice that one whose life is characterized by homosexuality is unrighteous and he doesn't belong to Jesus's spiritual kingdom, he's not a Christian, and if he doesn't repent, he won't inherit a future place in Jesus's spiritual kingdom, or literal kingdom. Instead, God will sentence him to eternal hell.

Number four, and here's the hope, God can rescue and change homosexuals. God can rescue and change homosexuals. Look at verse 11, "Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified." This has to do with being set apart unto God. This is positional sanctification. At the moment of conversion you were justified, God declared you right with Him, based not on what you had done, but based on the sacrificial death of Christ, the righteous life He lived. He declared you righteous in His sight in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Listen, there were Christians in Corinth who used to be homosexuals, but God had changed them, He had forgiven them. They were now living lives, according to Paul here in this verse, they were now living lives of sexual purity, either in celibacy or in heterosexual marriage.

Can I just speak to all of us who are in Christ? There's really an important point for us here. Homosexuals are not our enemies; they are our mission field. "Such were some of you."

If you're not a Christian and you are enslaved to homosexuality, there is hope for you. God can forgive your sin and He can change you because of what Jesus Christ did. You see, on the cross, during those hours, God poured out on Jesus the wrath that the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Jesus deserved, including the sin of homosexuality, and Jesus paid the price in full so that if you will turn from your sin and come to Christ, you will accept Him as Lord and Savior, you will humble yourself before God, He will forgive your sin. He'll wipe it away as though it never happened. He will declare you right with Himself based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ and He will accept you, as we heard this morning in that song, the prodigal, as His child. "Once a rebel, now His child." That's the hope of the gospel and the gospel not only promises you God's forgiveness, it promises you His power, as we'll see later in Romans, to overcome the practical work of that sin in your life, including the sin of homosexuality.

Paul says, God abandoned them to homosexuality.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the clarity of Your word. Father, I pray for those of us who are in Christ, I pray that we would not see sinners of any stripe as our enemies, but rather, as our mission field. May we be open to share the gospel, to love those who are enslaved, captive to their sin as we once were to ours.

Father, I pray that You would also give us a heart of grace toward others. Lord, I pray for those who may be in Christ, but who struggle with a temptation in this area. Lord, help them to be serious about cutting this temptation and any acts out of their life. May they see it the way You see it, may they take it seriously. Lord, may all of us do that, whatever our specific temptations may be.

Father, I pray for those who are here this morning who are not believers, but are enslaved to homosexuality. Father, may they see the hope that You present them in the gospel, that You are by nature a rescuer and that if they will turn from their sin to You, even as we see in the story of the prodigal, You will run to them and receive them, forgive them, and make them Your child.

Father, I also pray for those here this morning who are not in Christ, but perhaps are tempted to climb up on their moral high horse about this sin because it's not something they're tempted with. Father, may they see the reality of their condition this morning, the truth of what our Lord said, that it will be worse for them on the day of judgment, having heard the gospel and refused it, than for those You destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah, and may they too run to Christ. We pray in Jesus's name, amen.