Homosexuality: Why Does God Declare Homosexual Conduct Sinful? Part 1 (the Image of God)

gaysurveyStrictly speaking, this question is irrelevant. After all, God is — by definition — wiser than we mortals. It should not surprise us that we sometimes can’t understand God’s purposes.

(Deu 29:29 ESV)  “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

God is under no obligation to explain or defend his commands. He often does, but we are not entitled to an explanation.

On the  other hand, we may fairly expect God to be consistent with his own declarations. And God teaches —

(Rom 13:8-10 ESV) Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

(Gal 5:14 ESV)  14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Now, there are two ways of looking at this when it comes to God’s commandments regarding homosexual conduct —

1. It could be that we’re wiser and closer to God than Jesus and Paul, and so when they both condemn homosexual conduct, they are actually violating this principle, and so we in our great wisdom may overrule their words, since we understanding homosexuality so much better than they did.

2. It could be that Jesus and Paul understood homosexual conduct far better than we do, and so they’re right even if we don’t understand why.

Now, obviously, I’m in camp no. 2. I think we should approach the scriptures with humility, recognizing that the wisdom of God, Jesus, and his apostles and the other inspired writers greatly exceeds our own. Therefore, we should seek to learn from the commands we find in the text rather than seeking to find ways around them.

Of course, this assumes that we’ve correctly exegeted the commands, so that it’s really true that the scriptures command us to refrain from homosexual conduct. And I’ve previously covered those arguments in considerable depth, and plan to answer some additional arguments in the future.

But one of the biggest problems, I find, for many devoted Christians is their intuition that it’s illiberal, intolerant, and not entirely fair to deny gay people the joys of marriage while allowing straight people the joys of marriage — especially given how little respect we straight people often show our marriages.

It’s a fair point. But for reasons previously discussed, it’s beyond clear that the Bible condemns homosexual conduct and that this was not a command, like the command not to wear jewelry or to greet with a holy kiss, that was intended to apply only in the culture in which it was given. I’ve covered the scriptures dealing with the sinfulness of homosexual conduct many times: see these posts. It’s likely that I’ll do so again, as new arguments are constantly being made, pro and con.

The hermeneutics of sexuality

Now, as I discussed in detail in my series “Jesus, Paul & the Hermeneutics of Sexuality,” Jesus and Paul find their marital and sexual ethics in Gen 2, largely in the relationship of Adam and Eve before sin entered the world. To their thinking, the Gen 2 relationship of Adam and Eve is God’s template for how married people should live together.

I just realized that other day that the scriptures point us to two — and only two — models for how we’re to be returned to the image of God. Recall that one of the major points of the entire Bible is God’s work among humankind to restore us to his image. It’s one of the major themes of scripture coursing from Gen 1 to Rev 22.  It’s a big, big deal.

In Gen 1:26-28, God says,

(Gen 1:26-28 ESV) Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God created “man” in our image — plural. God himself is referred to in the plural (“our image”) and mankind is created “male and female.” Thus, we see that a married couple, male and female, represents the plural image of God.

In Gen 2, this  image is explained in more detail —

(Gen 2:18-25 ESV) Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. 

The woman was made of the same substance as man — Adam’s own rib — and they lived together as husband and wife, charged to be fruitful and to fill the earth.

This is the image of God. God himself exists in three person joined as one. We struggle to understand, and so we coined a word: triune — three in one — to express God’s nature. Among humans, the analog that God chose was husband and wife joined as one flesh, fruitful, and exercising dominion over God’s creation together.

That’s one expression of the image of God in scripture. What’s the other?

(Rom 8:29 ESV) 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

(1Co 15:49 ESV)  49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 

(2Co 3:18 ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

(2Co 3:18 ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

(Col 1:15 ESV)  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

I’d love to work through the context of each passage, but I’ve been too long-winded as it is. Here’s the point: Jesus of Nazareth, a 33-year old celibate, single man, is also held up as the very image of God.

And we are charged to be conformed more and more to the image of God —

(Col 3:9-10 ESV) 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

(2Co 3:18 ESV)  18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

And we are offered two and only two templates for how to be the image of God: Adam and Eve, as they lived as husband and wife before the Curse of Gen 3, and Jesus of Nazareth, who was single and celibate.

So this gives a theological reason for God’s commands regarding homosexuality. But does it help explain why it’s a command based in love?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to Homosexuality: Why Does God Declare Homosexual Conduct Sinful? Part 1 (the Image of God)

  1. Richard constant says:

    oh wait a minute… wait a minute… I know that one.
    it’s because the law of the land of our Christian government decided that it would be okay to have a no fault Divorce. and of course all the churches went along with that and divorce has been desensitized to the point of being accepted.
    no no less God said he hates divorce, and the only let it happen because the hardness of the heart.
    Now we in the church you’re supposed to understand that and not have a hardened heart anymore right.
    Go figure now then we have a group of people and, I understand how politics work and they squeal real loud and they have a political clout. and of course were thinking we have a Christian nation and we stand for certain principles although 10% of the population if they all voted as a block, could possibly sway an election. and we all know that to be true. so then if divorce is legal any reason why not allow same sex marriage. and how can we possibly overtime expect to deny these deviants less grace Than Us Deviants, liberal Christianity quote unquote.
    although it’s one thing to get a divorce and not be a Christian.
    It’s another thing to be a Christian and get a divorce anyway that’s what the Lord says.
    I mean exactly how bad did the people of Israel have to be before God said I’m going to divorce you.
    all things taken into consideration pretty bad.
    I could go on with this but I think it’s enough.
    but to sum it all up.
    If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.
    Blessings rich

  2. Ellen says:

    Hm. Good thing we’re all standing for something.

  3. Richard constant says:

    Absolutely Ellen.
    Of course with this government of ours.
    100 years ago we never thought we’d be here Discussing the legality Of these disgusting issues. so now what do you find.
    you could say democracy gone wrong.
    Or you could say a representative republic what do you expect.
    You could look at this as a little irony.
    The tail is wagging the dog.
    and as with homosexuality it’s sad but true

  4. Gary says:

    Jay, Jesus never condemned homosexuality and you can’t prove that he did with a twenty-first century lexicon. The sexual immorality that Jesus condemned in general certainly would have included such aspects of homosexuality as prostitution, promiscuity, pederasty and coercion. What cannot be proven is that it includes loving and committed gay relationships of today that are entered into voluntarily by adults. That is the great question facing Christians today. You’re welcome to your opinion of course but I think you damage your credibility when you present as an obvious and established fact that Jesus condemned homosexuality. That persuades no one except those who have already accepted the conservative position.

  5. Larry Cheek says:

    I believe that Jesus never addressed the concept that men have conceived, these loving life time relationships, because he and all of the nation which God had picked to bring Jesus to the world had been commanded how to deal with that situation and there was no place in the Jewish Nation where couples were in existence. Can you produce evidence that any homosexual activity was addressed within the Jewish Nation? If you could then surely Jesus would have been knowledgeable of it. Your case would be rock solid if Jesus would have addressed any individual whom he knew had homosexual desires, remember he could read minds, and told them just find another individual with the same desires and if you love each other and make a lifetime commitment, and I,ll accept it as a marriage and both of you into my kingdom. Would that have been too great of a job for Jesus?

  6. Dwight says:

    Gary, you’re argument is faulty because the sins of sexual immorality never carried the weight of caveats or alternative reasons to make them not sinful. It was the act that was sinful…the homosexual act, the act of adultery, the act of incest, etc.
    The why never changed the outcome of sin in any of the cases.
    But let’s take your argument that God makes the exception of homosexuality for love or for the case of where one is like this from an early age…then if one is incestual from an early age, then it must be fine and natural or if one commits adultery because that adultery is spurred by love, then it is fine with God. What you have done is recategorized sins as not sinful due to something that is never approached by God as making it not sinful.
    The reason that it was sinful is because God said it was. It doesn’t matter if you were attracted to your pet from an early age and have feel a deep love for it…bestiality was and is a sin. It doesn’t matter if you fall in love with another woman or man, while you fall out of love with your wife or husband, adultery is still a sin.
    The why never changed the outcome of sin from being sinful in regards to sexual immorality.

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