Aren’t a person’s sexual desires simply a private matter? Does it really matter what people do in the privacy of their own homes?
As we saw last time, sexual deviance is destructive to the individual. But God’s Word also teaches that it has wider effects on society. The book of Romans illustrates its broad impact.
In the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, Paul charts the degrading results of man’s sinful rebellion. What we see is the process by which sin begets more sin, and how God’s judgment includes unleashing upon sinful man the full exercise of his own wicked appetites.
The process begins with the rejection of God’s authority over His creation.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18–20)
Despite the manifold evidences of God’s creative work, and all the ways He has revealed Himself to mankind, the sinner’s first priority is to suppress the truth about God, reject His authority, and usurp His throne. As Paul explains, this rebellious rejection leads to idolatry.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
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. (vv. 21–25)
Idolatry always leads to immorality. You can trace the pattern throughout history. When man settles on a god of his own design, the worship of that god becomes an excuse to explore and entertain his sinful desires. It’s no surprise that the ancient world’s pagan worship centered around temple prostitution, unspeakable rituals, and unrestrained orgies. Idolatry and immorality dominated virtually every aspect of life in ancient times.
In our day, not much has changed. While the object of man’s idolatry has shifted—from inert idols to more overt selfishness and self-satisfaction—his craven appetite for immorality has not diminished. Gone is any sense of restraint or social propriety. The sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s did not usher in a new era of enlightenment. Instead, it popularized promiscuity and unleashed a tidal wave of perversion into the culture.
And just as Paul describes, sexual revolution inevitably leads to a homosexual revolution.
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. (vv. 26–27)
As sinners reject God’s creative authority, they also reject His creative order. They abandon their natural function in order to pursue the fulfillment of their twisted lusts.
It’s worth noting that homosexuality isn’t just another step in man’s rebellious, sinful descent—it’s also an aspect of God’s judgment unleashed upon sinful man. God gives the sinner over to his degrading passions, along with the fallout of those corrupt appetites. Paul says they burn in their desires. We saw last time how the men of Sodom were devoured by their lusts. We see evidence of the same consuming passions routinely play out in our culture today—the violence within the homosexual community is well documented, though seldom mentioned.
Paul also notes that these sinners “[receive] in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (v. 27). Many people have taken this to be a prophetic reference to HIV and AIDS, or some other sexually transmitted disease. And that could be what Paul had in mind here. But we don’t need to be that narrow when it comes to understanding the self-destructiveness of sexual sin. Consider the way it warps and consumes the sinner’s entire identity, reducing him down to nothing more than his sexual appetites. It distorts the way he sees himself, and how he fits into the communities and culture around him. It tells him to deny the massive guilt he lives with, assuring him that there’s nothing he can do to change anyway—that he was born that way, and he should embrace his twisted desires to the fullest. No doubt there are physical consequences to a life dominated by sexual sin, but the full measure of its debasement extends much deeper.
Paul concludes by describing the other features of a society given over to idolatry and immorality.
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. (vv. 28–32)
There was a time when I might have said that Western culture was somewhere in the latter half of that long downward spiral. Today, I’m convinced we’re squarely in verse 32—especially when you consider the way the world is dominated by depraved minds that heartily approve of the surrounding corruption and evil. That list looks like what we see whenever we turn on the news or glance at social media.
Today it’s not enough to simply allow sinful men and women to pursue their unrighteousness—they demand our approval of the same. Society aggressively propagandizes homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of other perversions in an all-out campaign to normalize immorality.
The truth is, with the forceful promotion of sexual sin and the effort to indoctrinate young people with notions of gender fluidity and pansexuality, the very notion of homosexuality itself might soon be—if it’s not already—completely outmoded. And at the light speed with which social norms continue to plunge into the depths of man’s depravity, I shudder to think what new perversion will be unleashed upon us tomorrow.
The effects of unchecked lust are not isolated to the individual—they infect the entire culture, upending morality and warping God’s design. A culture dominated by sexual sin is already living under God’s judgment, and inviting even more judgment through its comprehensive corruption.
Thankfully, that’s not everything the Bible says about homosexuality.
Homosexuals Have Hope for Redemption
We need to turn back to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6 and conclude our study on a hopeful note. We’ve already considered the condemnation he delivers in verses 9 and 10: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Now for the good news: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).
The good news for homosexuals—and sinners of every stripe—is that God is able to forgive, redeem, and transform them. It’s His desire that they be saved—that they will be justified, sanctified, and washed of their sin and guilt, so that their homosexuality might be only part of their past, and that it may likewise be said of them that “such were some of you.” The great news, for all sinners, is that as long as there is breath in their lungs, there is still time to repent and believe in Christ.
That’s the message we have to bring to people still caught in the clutches of any type of sin—that they must cry out to God, because He alone can forgive them, justify them, and make them holy. We need to tell them that God’s grace is their only means of escape.
I’ll close with a story that powerfully illustrates that point. Every Sunday, I read a psalm or other passage of Scripture during the worship service. On a particular Sunday morning, many years ago, I read from Psalm 107. It’s a potent passage extolling God’s power to deliver His people.
There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death,
Prisoners in misery and chains,
Because they had rebelled against the words of God
And spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Therefore He humbled their heart with labor;
They stumbled and there was none to help.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He saved them out of their distresses.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death
And broke their bands apart.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
For He has shattered gates of bronze
And cut bars of iron asunder. (vv. 10–16)
There was a young man named Robert visiting our church that morning. Robert was a prominent member of the homosexual community at that time, and one of the leaders of the Los Angeles gay pride parade. And he was dying of AIDS.
He told a friend, “I’m afraid to die; I’m not ready to die. Where can I go to get help?” The friend, a fellow homosexual, told him, “There’s a church in the San Fernando Valley called Grace Community Church. Go there.” So he came to our church, sat among the congregation, and listened that morning as I read Psalm 107. In particular, verses 6 and 7 caught his attention: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses. He led them also by a straight way, to go to an inhabited city.”
Now if you’re immersed in the homosexual world, the word straight has significant meaning. And as Robert sat there, his mind raced with questions like, “How do I get delivered? Where do I go? What do I do?” Later on he told me, “You got up and preached this really long sermon, and the more you talked the more irritated I became, because I wanted to be delivered, and you just kept talking and talking.”
After the service ended, Robert came to the prayer room and fell on his face before God. He repented that day, embraced Jesus Christ as Lord, and found deliverance and salvation in the grace of God. And in the time he had left, he became a powerful witness for the gospel in the homosexual community. Robert actually lived along the route of the gay pride parade, so when the time came, all the leaders stopped by to wish him well as he was dying. Robert made sure each one of them heard the truth about their sin and the only hope they had in the Savior. Not long after that, he went to heaven. I look forward to seeing him there someday, along with countless others the Lord has rescued and redeemed from the clutches of sexual sin.
The church cannot afford to compromise. God’s people need to boldly speak the truth about sin, in order that we might speak the truth about the Savior who forgives.