LGBTQI, part three

Words.  Our way of articulating thoughts and feelings.  I choose a word I feel best expresses my thought and feeling and trust that the word is both recognizable to you and that we share a common meaning for that word.  This is why communication in person, face to face is so important because it allows one to ask clarifying questions, benefit from body language, observe facial expressions, and work to ensure that what was intended to be communicated was accurately received.

With the Bible, not only are we dealing with an ancient manuscript from an ancient culture that was written using ancient languages, I can't Facebook message the Apostle Paul and ask, "What did you mean when you said...?"  However, I believe we can still have a great confidence in dealing with understanding the Bible.  That is another blog for another time and also there are many resources out there when it comes to reliability of Scripture apologetics.  If that topic interests you, I would recommend the HCSB Apologetics Study Bible and also Church History In Plain Language by Bruce Shelley.  Those are two great resources regarding whether or not the texts we have today reliably represent what was originally written.  In addition, we have the benefit of centuries of scholarship which has produced reliable traditions of hermeneutical disciplines, meaning the science of Biblical interpretation.  We are not, as some would have you believe, stumbling around in the dark hoping to chance upon a reliable conclusion.

For me, one of many longstanding principles of Biblical interpretation is that we must interpret the Bible in light of itself.  If my rendering of a certain text brings me in conflict with another text, the problem is not with the text.  The problem is with my interpretation!  I must keep studying, praying, researching...until my interpretation can be completely complimentary to all other texts.

Arsenokoites.  There is much controversy around this word.  In the New American Standard Bible, this word is translated into English as "homosexual."  We only find this word used twice in all of Scripture and both times it is by Paul.  The first reference is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and the second is 1 Timothy 1:9-10.  This word comes from the Greek "arsen" which means male and "koites" which literally means bed but is also used in Scripture to mean marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4) and sex (Romans 13:13).  The other interesting fact is that there is no record of this word ever being used except by Paul in these two instances.  It appears that Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit created this word.  What was Paul trying to communicate?  I have read convincing arguments from both sides.  I'm sure as you research, you too will find many opinions.  But because we interpret the Bible in light of itself, is there anywhere else in Scripture that speaks to homosexuality, especially by Paul?

Romans 1:18-27 is a key text for us.  This text was also authored by Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit.  He plainly states that the desire of same sex attraction is both unnatural and is a degrading passion.  He goes further to say that the acts resulting from these desires are indecent.  Now some will argue that Paul's only motivation here is to remind people not to judge.  If you continue reading, this is how he begins the second chapter.  But this is a poor rendering of text.  The prohibition is not against declaring the sinfulness of homosexuality but rather being critical of others when the one being critical is practicing these same sins.  In fact, Paul goes on to say in verse three of chapter two that God's judgment is unavoidable and this statement is clearly directed towards those who are guilty of these desires and acts as well as those who are being critical when they themselves are equally guilty of these desires and acts.

We also have Leviticus 18.  Remember, the Mosaic Law is divided into three divisions:  ceremonial law, civil law, and moral law.  I think one would be hard pressed to make a convincing argument that Leviticus 18 is anything but moral law.  The ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law are time bound.  The civil aspects of the Mosaic Law are time bound.  The moral aspects of the Mosaic Law are timeless.  What in this list are we saying, "Oh wow, that really doesn't apply to today?"  What part of that text would lead one to say, "I'm perfectly fine with someone being a devoted follower of Jesus and practicing..."  There is a self-evidencing quality of this text being moral in nature.

In addition, we know that sexual immorality is a matter that God gives special attention towards.  In Acts 15 when the first century church was working to understand what aspects of Judaism would be required of Jesus followers, one of the matters that received special mention was sexual immorality.  God is not passive when it comes to sin, any sin, especially sin that is sexual in nature.

So back to arsenokoites.  Even without these two texts in question where Paul uses the word arsenokoites, with what we have read in Leviticus 18 and Romans 1, the Bible has a very clear prohibition against same sex attraction and same sex acts.  For me personally, I do believe arsenokoites is what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, not to confuse but on the contrary, to make clear.  There were other words Paul could have employed but he did not.  And my belief is that the Holy Spirit is inspiring Paul to form a word that traces it roots directly back to the Leviticus 18 prohibition.  Leviticus 18 specially uses the phrase "you shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female."  This is why Paul took "arsen" and "koites" and joined them together.  It is the perfect word to now articulate the Leviticus 18 moral law prohibition against same sex male sexual desire and acts.  Paul then goes on to expound upon this prohibition in Romans 1 to include same sex female desire and acts.  But if you cannot agree with me on my position regarding arsenokoites, Leviticus 18 and Romans 1 are surely enough by themselves.

Let us not forget either the uniqueness of sexual experiences.  Sexual sin carries a unique consequence.  We are taught in 1 Corinthians 6 that when we have sexual experiences with other people, there is a joining together with that person that is more than just physical.  That union is spiritual.  Some may argue incorrectly that the prohibition is primarily against sex with prostitutes.  Prostitution is merely the application.  The emphasis of the text is sex outside of marriage.  This text reminds us to understand that sex is not just a natural exchange between two biological entities as some in the secular world would have us believe.  Sex is sacred.  Sex is created by God for many reasons, but as we have already discussed, it was always first a means of consummating a life long covenant of marriage between one man and one women, enabling them to experience a unity that is unlike any other measure of intimacy found in the world.

Do not fall prey to a convincing voice that there is ambiguity in Scripture when it comes to same sex attraction and same sex acts.  And do not let people convince you that just because the Bible is an ancient document it has lost its relevance to our contemporary world.  Don't confuse God being timeless with Him being old and out of touch.  He is perfect and is ever leading us into the fullness of life both here and forever!

And still yet another warning.  If you take these thoughts of mine and use them to justify uncaring, disrespectful, and unloving attitudes and actions towards people who are struggling with these desires and practices, shame on you!  The purpose of this series is not to degrade anyone.  The purpose of this series is to help, to heal, to inspire, to reveal.  I believe God's Word gives life, even when it convicts, even when it corrects, even when it threatens judgment...God's heart is always to save us.  Does not God's own Word say that His desire is that none should perish and all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)?  May our hearts also be toward others, all others, a hope for being reconciled to God!

Next week will begin the vital conversation about parents leading their children on a journey of gender identification and sexuality.

Thanks for reading!

Pastor Fred