Romans Lesson 23 - The Sands of Sodom
As homosexuality grows throughout America and other parts of the world, our need to understand what the Bible teaches on the subject grows as well. In this message Stephen examines this controversial issue.
“The Sands of Sodom”
I have read that the region of North Africa now known as the Sahara desert was once filled with herds of buffalo, lions and antelope. Cattle grazed in lush pasture land that is now buried under mountains of sand. With the absence of rainfall, this once fertile land has been transmuted into a howling, relentless desert. The sands of the Sahara desert are never satisfied. They are constantly moving southward claiming more and more of the African continent. In fact, the Sahara desert is moving southward at the rate of 175 feet every day.
However, there are rivers of water that flow from the Atlas Mountains underneath the Sahara desert. Sometimes the water of these rivers comes to the surface and the land around it becomes what we call an oasis. There vegetation, crops and animal life flourish. As long as the water is there, the killing sands of the desert are kept at bay.
The church of Jesus Christ is an oasis in the midst of a desert land. It is to be an oasis that offers the truth of the gospel, the water of life, to all who are dying of thirst, to all who are captives of the desert. And the desert around us is never satisfied.
Today, there is evil and unrest and chaos in the culture
Paul predicted as much in every generation that abandons God and seats itself at a banquet table of terrible consequences.
He writes in Romans chapter 1 verse 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19. because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20. 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. 21. 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. 22. Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23. 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.
24. Therefore God gave them over (the word is paradidomi God abandons man who has already abandoned God – God abandons mankind to their perversion and wandering – lost in a spiritual, emotional and physical desert. Why? They refused His authority, they refused His word – so He refuses them and escape from the penalty of their rebellion – the text here says, “[God abandons them] in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25. 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.
Some of the consequences we have already noted are these:
- Mankind loses his dignity and role as King and Queen over the animal kingdom and instead becomes ruled by the animals
I spoke about this in our last discussion, entitled, the Reign of Mother Nature. I illustrated the rise of animal rights – the laws that once viewed animals as property are now changing to treat animals as people.
Several states have changed the term animal owner to animal guardian.
We have pet psychiatrists and pet vacation resorts and pet cemeteries.
Animals are, more and more being treated like people.
While the Bible makes it very clear that we are not to treat animals with cruelty, and that the animal kingdom was created by God for man to enjoy; mankind has rejected God’s design and thus ends up providing for whatever they believe the animals would enjoy.
Someone asked me last week if I saw the special on television recently of people who are now putting braces on their animals teeth. I said, “No, I missed it.”
While children in our county and in other countries need braces, people are putting them on their dogs.
I was at the vet, as I told you, some months ago – I couldn’t help but overhear – there was a woman at the counter purchasing a tube of chicken flavored toothpaste.
I thought that was a little much – but I suppose it isn’t when you consider braces are fashionable now for Fido who suffers from an overbite.
Ultimately, when a society rejects God’s order of nature, animals find equality with mankind.
Trouble is, a society that treats animals like humans digresses to a corresponding loss of human value and dignity. So humans now treat humans like animals and treat animals like humans.
Thus, secondly, there is the unbridled:
- Defilement of one another for personal pleasure
Humans beings are objects to be manipulated and mistreated and abused.
Whether it’s for physical pleasure or material pleasure that causes people to lie to one another in order to close the deal.
Graft and corruption are commonplace – along with sexual immorality which is nothing more than people seeking to use other people’s bodies to meet their own selfish desires.
But the desert sands don’t stop there – for our study today we have a third consequence:
- The third consequence is the abandonment of nature’s order within human relationships
Romans 1:26. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27. 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.
Don’t miss the connection.
When the God of nature is abandoned, the order of nature is abandoned.
This passage has become in our generation one of the most controversial passages in the entire Bible.
And one of the most politically incorrect.
Frankly, as much chaos as there is in our culture over this issue, there is equally corresponding confusion in the church!
Just this past week, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. voted to overturn an earlier ban, and now allow active homosexuals and lesbians to be ordained to the ministry. This is the 6th largest Protestant association of churches in America.
One of the first official documents to embrace homosexuality was the Friends’ report, “Towards a Quaker View of Sex (1963). It included the statements “one should no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness” and “surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters.”
Similarly, 1979 the Methodist Church’s Division of Social Responsibility, in its report “A Christian Understanding of Human Sexuality” stated that “homosexual activities are not intrinsically wrong; for homosexual men and women in permanent relationships characterized by love can be an appropriate and Christian way of expressing their sexuality.”
In 1999, the Biblical Recorder, North Carolina’s Baptist paper told how a the University of Richmond, a Baptist-affiliated university, has dropped discrimination against sexual orientation. Trustee Clint Hopkins, a retired Southern Baptist pastor, voted for the new policy stating, “Jesus never made sexual habits an issue with his followers. We want to be as much like Jesus as possible.”
You remember when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus – did he seem to care about her sexual activity? What did He tell her, “Go and sin some more?!” No, “Go and sin no more.” In other words, stop adulterating.
Clint Hopkins went on to say, “It isn’t proper for us to give too much attention to sex in deciding who is in and out of the kingdom.”
Oh? Then was Paul improper when he wrote, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, “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. (I Corinthians 6:9, 10)
Four out of the six lifestyles he mentions had something to do with sexual relations.
Again, to Timothy Paul wrote, “6. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7. wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. . . we know that the Law is good . . . 9. realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10. and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” (I Timothy 1:6-10)
In Ephesians, Paul again makes sexuality an evidence of salvation – which then makes it an issue of whether or not a person is in or out of the kingdom – he isn’t saying you can’t be forgiven of these things, he is saying can’t remain unrepentant in these and believe at the same time God will cover His holy eyes and pat you on the back and say, “Everything’s okay.”
Paul writes to the Ephesians, “But do not let immorality or any impurity . . . be named among you . . . 5. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person . . . has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words . . .” (Ephesians 5:3-6)
In other words, the Clint Hopkins and Committee reports within mainline denominations are simply deceived and deceiving others with empty words.
How anyone can say that the Bible doesn’t address sexual relationships is inconceivable. And yet, they do.
The author of Hebrews said plainly, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed by undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)
But in spite of that, one religious author has written, “Sexuality as we understand it today is not addressed in the Bible. It is a modern concept . . . in this field we must look to the ongoing revelation of science and of newly emerging voices of experience.”
How did the church and the religious world become so confused? Because they’ve set aside the Bible and said, “It isn’t relevant! It really doesn’t address the modern issues of relationships.
John McNeill wrote, “The scriptures are historically limited; Biblical judgments against homosexuality are not relevant to today’s debate.”
In other words, the Bible just isn’t sophisticated enough to understand the issues of modern life!”
Marti Nissinen adds, “Paul’s arguments are based on Jewish moral codes that are culture-specific . . . in fact, Paul may have needed sexual therapy himself.”
Quotes taken from Master’s Seminary Journal, Homosexuality and the Church, p. 157
Was Paul out of date – did he have some naive impression of sexuality, including homosexuality – was he uninformed and unaware?
Listen, the Greek world that surrounded Paul, had by his day already begun to teach homosexual love as the highest of loves. Bisexuality was considered the norm and straight heterosexuals were considered fearful and prudish. Many highborn Greeks maintained male concubines along with their wives. In Rome, it wasn’t any different. 14 of the first 15 Roman emperors were homosexuals.
In fact, the emperor during writing of the Book of Romans was a man named Nero who had already openly married a man – and he was known for his baths with young boys.
This isn’t a modern concept – this isn’t unique to the 21st century! Paul was surrounded by it – and under the guidance the Holy Spirit, condemned it and every other form of sexual immorality.
Now, I want to raise a number of issues in the remainder of our time this morning.
I have a couple of books, here if you’d like to do more study on your own – James B. De Young has written a book simply titled, “Homosexuality,” which is a thorough study of both scripture and contemporary arguments in favor of it.
Then this little booklet Same-Sex Partnerships? By John Stott.
Several arguments are being heard not only outside in our culture, but inside denominational debates including the one last week within the Presbyterian council:
Arguments such as this one:
- The Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality, only homosexuals who act selfishly.
They state, in the words of Boswell, a pseudo-Bible scholar, “The men of Sodom
were not punished in the Old Testament for their homosexuality but for their inhospitality.
Let’s look at the record. Turn to Genesis 19:11
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2. And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” They said however, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square.” 3. Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4. Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; 5. and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” 6. But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, 7. and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. 8. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9. But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. 10. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11. They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the(doctor?!) doorway.
This wasn’t inhospitality – it was unrestrained lust and perversion – these men so craved to sodomize the angels that, even after being blinded, their lust continued to drive them toward their evil intention.
The homosexual scholars say and I quote, “There is no reason to believe that sexual relations was part of the picture.” The word for “know” – there in verse 5 “Bring them out that we may know them – the NASB translates have relations with them . . . doesn’t have to mean anything other than get acquainted with them.
Trouble is, the very same word – yadha is used as Lot tried to get them to take his two daughters saying, in verse 8 “They have never “known” – yadha men.
The New Testament Book of Jude provides additional commentary on Genesis 19 as Jude writes in verse 7. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross (inhospitality?!) immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
- Another argument is this: A homosexual was born that way and can’t change.
This, of course, is a key issue by the way. Because if you can’t change, then it isn’t a choice – you simply can’t help it.
A man or woman may, from a very early age, have a propensity toward a certain sin. In fact, Paul indicates as much when he refers to our struggle with that besetting sin that so easily entangles us. (Hebrews 12:1)
This is a reference to that particular sin which brings us into intense struggle with sinful urges and temptations.
But a person is no more born a homosexual anymore than he is born an adulterer or a liar or a pornographer or a polygamist. He chooses to be a liar; he chooses to commit adultery; he chooses to rape . . . all sin is a choice.
However, in a way this statement is true – we were all born that way. And none of us can change, including homosexuals. They truly can’t change. Frankly, no sinner can change apart from the power of God through the saving redemption of Jesus Christ and daily submission to the Holy Spirit.
Whether it is politically correct or not, the Bible never refers to homosexuality as a genetic issue or a sickness – but a sin.
And that happens to be wonderful news, by the way! Sicknesses may not have a cure. Genetic problems may never be resolved. But sin can be cured.
There is a remedy for sin !
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church these powerfully revealing words: I Corinthians 6:9. Or do you not know that the unrighetous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10. nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11. Such were some of you (not, such are some of you – but such were some of you! What happened to them – Paul goes on to tell us) “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.
The Bible never tells us to accept each other’s behavior when it violates scripture. In fact, it simply tells us to confess and repent and experience the daily forgiveness and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another prevalent statement is this one:
- Jesus never uttered one word against homosexuality, so he isn’t against it.
The first part of that statement is true – but He also never uttered one word against rape, incest, bestiality or pedophilia, so are we to suppose He isn’t against that either?
The Metropolitan Community Churches are churches led by homosexual clergy and filled with homosexual members. They have spent enormous energy attempting to join homosexuality with the evangelical church. I have a copy of their small group study on What the Bible does and does not say about Homosexuality.
I read it and was saddened to not only hear the typical arguments for legitimizing evil, but the implications that David and Jonathan loved each other in a homosexual way and the study even implied that a lesbian relationship was perhaps the basis of love between Ruth and Naomi.
On the last page this small group Bible study were these words about the church: “Whoever you are, wherever you may be, whatever the circumstances of your life, it is important for you to know that Jesus Christ died to take away your sins, not your sexuality. Christ accepts you as you are, and so do we.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a vast difference between saying Jesus Christ accepts you as you are and Jesus Christ accepts anything you want to do.
Jesus Christ does not promise you freedom in sin, but freedom from sin.
And He accepts the homosexual who comes to Him in repentance and confession of sin; as He accepts the murderer, the rapist, the greedy, the gossip, the arrogant.
But He doesn’t then say, “Now go back and continue in that lifestyle – but, go and sin no more.”
- A homosexual is simply doing what comes naturally – thus it should be considered an alternative lifestyle.
The attempt is made to prove from Romans 1 that Paul is condemning unnatural homosexual behavior – greedy, lustful, multiple partnered homosexual behavior. Or homosexual acts performed by heterosexuals to whom such acts are unnatural. That’s what Paul is condemning.
That’s very clever exegesis, but it ignores the meaning of the words.
Paul in fact, goes to the order of nature and says females abandoned nature and males abandoned nature and burned in their lust toward one another which is unnatural or, literally, “against the order of nature” as God created it.
Notice the language he uses in Romans 1:26 – degrading passions . . . exchanged the natural function vs. 27 burned in their desire . . . committing indecent acts. . .. receiving the penalty of their error...
Remember, you ignore the Creator of nature, and you may violate the order of nature and you will sit down to a table of awful consequences.
But wait! they say, homosexual behavior is biologically alluring to them – it comes naturally to them. Thus they are merely going along with their nature.
Does the Lord say, “Listen since lusting after women comes naturally to you, it’s okay . . . since coveting after things comes naturally to you, I understand.”
Should a man be allowed to rape simply because it is biologically alluring to him. Aren’t adulterers and fornicators doing what is biologically tempting to them?
Ladies and Gentlemen, listen to this profound statement – if you don’t get anything else – get this – all sin comes naturally.
Every one of us have desperately wicked hearts that, left to natural urges and natural temptations and natural leanings would be capable of every sin under heaven.
We do not determine what is acceptable behavior based upon what comes naturally. When society and the church buy into that deception, the desert sands sweep in with greater force and speed.
Newsweek last month ran an article on a man who had 5 wives and nearly 30 children. Whose to say he’s wrong? Why not?
The polygamist says, “This is natural.” And he has 5 wives – why not?! One to eat with; one to take on vacation; one to work out in the yard with; one to clean house; one to watch the kids. What a system.
And it comes naturally!
Dear friends, the Bible informs us that our nature is fallen – you are the last person in the world you ever want to trust. You happen to need a new nature – Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2. in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5. even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
The church is not supposed to condone the nature of man, but condemn it – and reveal its evil and expose its need for redemption, and then point to the Savior who died to take away the sin of the world.
Three principles that emerge from our study so far in this series:
- When God's word is rejected, the depravity in a person's life can be unbelievable.
A San Francisco coroner estimated that 10 percent of his city’s homicides were related to sado-masochistic sex among homosexuals – so Bob Greene stated in The Chicago Tribune (19 March 1981). The city government of San Francisco has even conducted workshops to teach homosexuals how to avoid serious bodily harm while engaging in sad-masochistic sex, although by definition, both sadism and masochism are destructive! The very purpose of both deviations is to inflict pain and harm, sadism on others and masochism on oneself.”
Quoted in Romans, by John MacArthur Jr. Moody Press, p. 106
- When God's design for relationships is refused, the destruction of a person's life will be inevitable.
While living, there is the:
Utter loss of personal identity and self worth
Unfulfilled desire that simply craves for more
Unmitigated guilt and anger
Terrible personal destruction and disease. Terrible loss of personal dignity; terrible loss of healthy relationships. But that isn’t the greatest loss.
This is only the beginning. There is the eternal loss of heaven because of unrepentant sinners Paul clearly said, will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
Ignore God and you invite the sands of the desert to sweep every so subtly, ever so surely into the crevices of your heart.
- When God's Word is received, the difference in a person's life becomes remarkable.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, behold all things are continually passing away, all things are continually becoming new."
2 Corinthians 5:17
The sands of the desert are repelled by the Spirit of God – the wasteland is replaced by an oasis of dignity and purpose and forgiveness and redemption and fellowship. . . with Christ and His true church.
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