Christian BoyLove Forum #65432
Understanding Leviticus 18 and Romans 1 in context.
So often when people make a case against treating Leviticus 18 as a serious sanction against homosexual relations they quote other aspects of the Old Testament Law, such as wearing cloth of two types, sowing two grains in a field, slavery laws etc They seek to establish a principle along the lines of wrong preconceptions in the human authors of Scripture made them write laws that we (with more educated preconceptions) can clearly see were wrong. They suggest that the underlying heart of the Scripture is the injunction to love and that many of the practices of the OT (like taking slaves, invading nations and stoning sinners to death) were done before the understanding of how best to love matured in human history.
God, in this view, is seen as someone who patiently put up with the ignorance of the past generations, giving us time to learn and to grow and mature.
Im going to suggest something very different.
In my view God has not changed His mind about anything (Numb 23:19). God has a plan that has been unfolding throughout human history and of which the law, for a season, was very much a part. The time of the law is behind us now with the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit - for the law was just a teacher to bring us to faith in Christ (Gal 3:23-25). Nevertheless, the principles upon which the law was founded remain which are these:
God has a will that He expects man to obey.
When man fails to do this he is sinning.
Man sins wilfully.
God will bring every man to account and judge us for our obedience/disobedience to His will.
No man can succeed in this judgement
Except one the perfect, sinless man who was God in human form Jesus Christ.
Jesus pays the penalty for our sin and makes us right with God, giving us access to the Father God by His Holy Spirit.
Those who believe in Jesus will be saved from the wrath of God and death and given a place with God in a new heavens and a new earth which God will recreate after the day of judgement.
There are various aspects of the Old Testament Law. The different aspects each had different purposes in the unfolding plan of God.
The moral laws had to do with living in a loving attitude both towards God and our fellow man. These laws included things like, not committing adultery, honouring ones parents and respecting the elderly.
The Holiness laws had to do with marking out the children of Israel as a people whom God had separated from the rest of the nations. These laws included things like circumcision, being limited to certain types of foods and clothing, and restrictions over the nationality of whom one could marry.
The God honouring laws had to do with giving God his due respect. These laws were specifically about keeping away from idolatry and not using Gods name in vain.
The Temple laws had to do with the setting up and sacrificial system that God had Israel follow with a view to them understanding the gravity of the sin problem and giving them a shadow of what He was going to do in Christ.
The civil laws had to do with the government and management of the nation of Israel. These laws set boundaries on where people were to live and how their rulers were to behave, laws governing existing practices such as slavery and divorce as well as listing various penalties for breaking the law.
The Old Testament is not written in a systematic manner that sets these various different aspects of the law in their own neat and distinct groupings; its all thrown in hodge podge together; its all referred to as the law.
Never the less, it is very important that we recognise these various aspects because in the unfolding plan of God, His expectation of how we handle the various aspects of his law becomes different for different aspects.
The civil laws for the government of Israel had no carry over into the Church of Jesus Christ and the temple laws were completely and totally abolished when the veil of the temple was torn in two at the death of Jesus (having been completely fulfilled in Christ). The national holiness laws underwent a significant change which took the church (as recorded in the New Testament) some time to adjust to. For a long time the apostles didnt preach to non-Jews and when they did, debates over what foods could be eaten and circumcision ran hot. The God honouring laws remained steadfast and solid as stone. Idolatry and sorcery continued to be completely forbidden; not an inch of latitude was given. As for the moral law, Jesus and the New Testament authors took it further than the rules and regulations that had been recorded. It was not enough to obey the letter of the moral law but the spirit of it had to be honoured. Love was the undergirding principle behind it all. Love fulfilled the law, love followed Jesus example and gave ones life for the welfare of others.
In Acts 15, we see the history of the emerging Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians. The debate was raging over circumcision and if these new converts should be required to keep the law of Moses. At the end, the Apostles realised that it was only two aspects of the Mosaic law that needed to continue, keeping away from idolatry and sexual immorality (Acts 15:28-29).
This is hugely significant.
The issues of idolatry and sexual immorality were beyond the law God gave to Moses. Gods expectation for human kind to keep away from idolatry and sexual immorality extended to all of His creation right from the beginning and will continue to endure right to the end. I will show now how Leviticus 18 fits into this context.
Deuteronomy 9:4-6 says this:
4 After the LORD your God has driven them (the nations whos land Israel was taking over) out before you, do not say to yourself, The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness. No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
I remind you of the list of principles I expounded above. In this passage we see them at work. God has a will He expects to be obeyed and the nations around Israel have failed to obey it. God is judging them as wilfully wicked and is bring His wrath to bear against them. He is casting them out of the land for the sake of their wickedness.
What is the nature of their wickedness? Is it that they wore cloth of two different kinds or that they ate pork and shell fish? Is it that they planted two different crops in their fields? Not at all! The nature of the wickedness that God was concerned about fell into only two camps . Sexual immorality and idolatry.
Leviticus 18 and 20 are significant chapters in this regard. Chapter 18 begins:
The LORD said to Moses, 2 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: I am the LORD your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.
Gods concern here is that Israel not copy the practices of the surrounding nations. Which practices specifically?
Moses goes on to give a long list of forbidden sexual practices and some forbidden idolatry (we will look at them in detail in a moment). He then concludes the list by saying:
24 Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
29 Everyone who does any of these detestable thingssuch persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.
The important thing to see here is that God is talking about the sexual and idolatrous behaviour of people outside of the Mosaic law. The bible makes no mention of any formal law having ever been given to these nations. This expectation of God came from the creation itself (as we will see when we look at Romans 1). God expected people to know better than to engage in sexual immorality and idolatry from the beginning. No other part of the law given to Moses is presented in the light of Gods anger towards the nations except for where it directly regards sexual immorality and idolatry.
With this in mind there is no comparison between Gods laws on sacrifices, feast days, kings, slaves, clothes, food etc and the laws regarding sexual immorality and idolatry. The removal and discontinued relevance of the various other aspects of the law does not negate the ongoing continuance of the sexual immorality and idolatry laws.
Let us now look at the list of sexual practices in Lev 18. I encourage you to go and read the passage at this point below I will summarise.
It is all written from the perspective of what the men were to do. Sexual relations were forbidden with the following:
Close relatives (specifically):
o Your mother
o Your sister
o Your grand daughter
o Your step sister
o Your aunt
o Your aunts-in-law (the wives of your parents siblings)
o Your daughter-in-law
o Your sister-in-law
o If you have a sexual relationship with a woman you cannot also have one with her daughter or her grand-daughter
You cannot marry your wifes sister as a rival wife while your wife is alive
during a womans menstrual period
Your neighbours wife
Animals (a comment is made that this applies to women as well).
There is a single verse in there (21) which mentions the idolatrous practice of sacrificing children to Molek.
It is worth noting that with the exception of homosexuality and possibly the menstrual period issue most people in the modern world would still agree that this list still applies as a correct standard of morality. It is also worth observing that until the historically recent (and still debated) acceptance of homosexuality, they would have agreed with all of it (again, not sure about the menstrual issue) and that is has only been because of pressure from homosexual persons that this has changed. The question of love between any of the persons involved in the practices on this list is not considered for an instant. They are all simply never allowed regardless of any feelings of loving affection.
Deviance from this list of forbiddens was considered wickedness for which God was punishing human kind.
In Leviticus 20 this list is repeated (including the sanction against homosexual relations) along with several additions and various punishments to be metered out for breaches of these forbiddens. The additions include, cursing your father and mother and practicing sorcery and consulting mediums/fortune tellers. With its repetition we are again told that these practices are bringing down Gods wrath on the nations who are practicing them.
When we turn then to Romans 1 we see that Paul clearly has the exact same basic idea firmly in mind that through idolatry and sexual immorality man has set himself in opposition to God and is suffering under Gods wrath. (The suggestion that Paul is here introducing the idea of surrogacy a man going against his own natural sexuality seems to me to be completely without context as also in Lev 18 & 20).
In this chapter Gods wrath is being poured out on sinful man because he has rejected the knowledge of God revealed in the creation (vs 18-21). Man has turned away to idolatry and served the creature rather than the Creator (vs 22-23, 25). As a result of this God has given them over to sinful desires and sexual impurity (vs 24). The type of sexual impurity Paul cites is homosexual lust (vs 26-27) but anything from the Leviticus 18 list could have been included with equal relevance. He goes on to discuss how Gods wrath follows including the compounding wickedness that accompanies idolatry and sexual immorality 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know Gods righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul makes it clear as he goes on in chapter 2 and 3 of Romans that hes not singling out any one kind of sin over another. All are equally guilty he goes on to say (3:23) and there is no room for judging one another (2:1-3) (truths that have been sadly overlooked in the modern church). Further the sacrifice and grace of Jesus, offers freedom from the wrath of God to all men who repent of their sin and come to faith in Him.
These are no trifling matters.
Nevertheless, I need to make some personal comments at this point.
Being a same-gender attracted (SGA) person in this world is extremely difficult even with the growing acceptance (or tolerance) of homosexuality. SGA persons can indeed experience genuine even godly love for one another, of this I have no doubt whatsoever.
For a SGA person to accept what Im proposing from these Scriptures one has to also embrace that they have a powerful inner drive to go against what God desires and that they must forever abstain from the kind of loving relationship they feel most suited for. It hardly seems fair. It may not even seem possible. Further, if celibacy seems impossible, the idea of entering a heterosexual marriage when one is predominantly SGA can even seem criminal considering the emotional damage it could do to the partners involved. All our human logic would caution us against adopting this view.
But the gospel has never been about human logic. Jesus sacrificed all (choosing a celibate life) to lay down his life for the Kingdom of God and the greater reward. We are called to follow in His steps. This life is temporary the life to come eternal.
Anyone who can embrace the difficult truth of these passages and seek to live them out belongs in good company with the heros of faith we read about in Hebrews 11.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaohs daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the kings anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better countrya heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Blessings to all
(Also posted at cjat.)