While there are not an abundance of explicit references to homosexuality in the Scriptures, the places where it is referenced make it clear that God prohibits every form of homosexual desire and behavior. This is clear in the Old Testament in the institution of marriage (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:24-25), the condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19; Ezk. 16:46-50) and the prohibitions in God’s Law (Lev. 18:22; 20:13, part of the Holiness Code of Lev. 17-26).
Some suggest that the New Testament is not as harsh towards homosexuality. Yet all the New Testament references similarly confirm that homosexuality is outside the boundaries of God’s good plan for sexuality for all people. As we will see in Romans 1:26-27 in a couple of weeks, homosexuality is part of the judgment of God against the idolatry of men. And 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 demonstrates that those who live a lifestyle of homosexuality (either as the “aggressive” or “passive” members of the relationship) will be excluded from God’s kingdom — there is no salvation for those who continue to practice that sin.
And while some in the homosexual movement have attempted to minimize the homosexual sin of the Sodomites and their subsequent judgment, every reference to Sodom and Gomorrah in Scripture is negative (cf. Mt. 10:15; 11:24; Rom. 9:29; 2 Pt. 2:6; Jude 7; Rev. 11:8). All the references either affirm the reason for the judgment of Sodom or warn that unless the hearers and readers repent they will experience a similar judgment as Sodom endured.
Consider also 1 Timothy 1:10. In that passage Paul uses the same word for “homosexuals” as he does in 1 Corinthians 6:9. He is reinforcing that all those who practice that sin (and a variety of others) are violators of the Law of God and living contrary to “sound teaching.” In other words, you can’t be a homosexual and be experiencing God’s peace and blessing.
Paul is also reinforcing what is said about homosexuality in Leviticus 18 and 20. And in fact, he is reinforcing the usefulness of the Old Testament Law for New Testament believers. He says in v. 8 that “the Law is good.” How is it good (how can we use it “lawfully”)? The Law is good in that it demonstrates to sinners (like the ones mentioned in vv. 9-10) that they are indeed sinners and in need of the gospel of Christ to save them from their sin. (See also Gal. 3:23-24, which makes clear that the Law is given to reveal our sin and to lead us to Christ.)
Additionally, 25 times the New Testament refers to the broad category of sexual sin of porneia (generally translated “immorality” or “fornication”). This is a wide term that encompasses every form of sexual perversion and would undoubtedly cause the Jewish hearer to think of passages like Leviticus 18 and all the sexual sins prohibited there (adultery, polygamy, incest, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality). While “immorality” does not exclusively refer to homosexual sin, it certainly includes homosexual sin and the first century hearers of Christ and readers of the New Testament would have understood it that way.
So while some (and increasingly more) are saying that it is unkind and harsh to call homosexuals sinners, it is actually an act of kindness and grace (if it is done in a spirit of love and not anger) because it reveals to the homosexual what he is (a sinner) and what he needs (a Savior).
And the Savior, Jesus Christ, is given for the express purpose of liberating us from our sin. This is inherent in the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11) and in the redemptive work of Christ. In fact, following his statement that homosexuals and other enduring sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10), Paul also affirms that Christ’s death is for the express purpose of redeeming people from lives consumed with sins like homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:11). This is good and gracious news for all sinners, including homosexuals. All sinners (which is every person) are guilty of violating God’s commands and stand condemned before Him in that unrighteousness and they also are corrupted in the way they live. And the gospel meets both those needs in every sinner by forgiving every sin and liberating one from the corrupting influence of sin so that he can live righteously. The gospel frees us from both the penalty and power of sin.
We agree with Robert Gagnon that,
“People who engage in homosexual intercourse do so in spite of the self-evident clues implanted in nature by God; specifically, male-female anatomical, physiological, psychological, and procreative complementarity.…even gentiles without access to the direct revelation of Scripture have enough evidence in the natural realm to discern God’s aversion to homosexual behavior.…[So] Paul’s rhetorical aim was to demonstrate that Jews and gentile alike had no option but to believe in Jesus Christ or die, to urge believers to unite in common praise in what God’s grace had done in Christ, to exhort believers to a transformed life in things that matter, and to caution against judgment over matters of indifference within the Christian community of faith.” [The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 338.]