Why do we still consider homosexuality a sin if so many Old Testament laws have been abrogated?

7 Min Read

PARSONS: To abrogate something means to repeal something or for it simply to be done away with or go away. Many of the Old Testament Mosaic laws have been fulfilled—not abrogated, not repealed—but fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That’s a very important point. Now, not all of those have been fulfilled, in the sense that some of them continue.

When it comes to sexual ethics in the Bible, we have to understand that they are rooted in creation. They are rooted in God’s ordering of creation, in creating man male and female, man and woman. Jesus appeals to the creation ordinance, and the Apostles in the New Testament appeal to the creation ordinance pertaining to all matters of sexual relations and sexual identity.

When it comes to homosexuality, we need to understand that homosexual activity is sin, homosexual lusts are sin, homosexual desires are sin—and that’s how the Bible speaks of them. The Bible doesn’t whisper about them. The Bible speaks plainly and clearly about them. Throughout the Old Testament in places like Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, Genesis, and later on in Judges, but also in the New Testament in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1, it is made very clear that homosexual activity is sinful.

In our day and throughout history at different times, but particularly in the last century or so, people have identified with their sin. They’ve wanted to take on the identity of being homosexual, when, in reality, that is not technically an identity. We don’t identify ourselves by our sin.

I certainly realize the world disagrees with this and doesn’t understand this, but I would argue that, in truth, homosexual sin is understood not only by Christians but by all human beings to be essentially inappropriate, to be essentially wrong, because I believe human beings know by the light of nature that homosexual sin is against nature. That is, in fact, the language the Apostle Paul uses in Romans 1 when he speaks of homosexual sin—men with men, women with women—as a sin that is “contrary to nature.”

In 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, Paul lists homosexual activity along with numerous other sins: revelry, drunkenness, and all sorts of other sins, some of which are minor, some major; some less significant, some more significant; some even heinous sins. In Romans 1, however, Paul identifies homosexual sin as a more heinous sin, being that it is contrary to nature. So, while we know that God hates haughty eyes, arrogance, pride, hands that shed innocent blood, adultery, fornication, pornography, divorce without biblical grounds—He hates my sin, your sin, and all of our sins—homosexual sin is different because it is sin contrary to nature. God hates it all, but homosexual sin is a sin contrary to nature, which is based in the creation ordinance and creation principles. Homosexual sin is taught against and prohibited by God throughout the Old Testament, and then it is prohibited throughout the New Testament as well.

As Christians, we don’t want to give into the sociocultural influences of our day to make it seem okay to identify as a homosexual. The reality is that no one should identify by their sin. We don’t want people to identify as adulterers or drunkards. We want to identify by who we are. We are either in Adam and in sin or we are in Christ, justified, and in grace. So, while we are all sinful and we all still sin, we are either still in our sins in Adam or we are in Christ. We must understand that truth.

It’s also important to understand that homosexuals, or those who identify as homosexuals, are people we should love, care for, and preach the gospel to. Over the years, I have met many people who identify as homosexuals and who are in homosexual relationships. I’ve known people at different gyms where I work out or restaurants where I go, and I’ve worked with homosexual people. I have sought to help them know that I love them and care about them. I have sought to help them understand the gospel and the hope that they have in Jesus Christ, and I have also sought to explain to them and make it clear to them that I believe that their lifestyle is sinful and wrong. But ultimately, I want them to know that it’s not them getting cleaned up or changing their lifestyle that saves them and makes them justified before God. Salvation only comes through their faith in Jesus Christ and trusting Him, and that faith in Jesus Christ means repentance, which means rejecting and leaving that homosexual lifestyle. It means recognizing it as sin, repenting, and recognizing their need for the righteousness of Christ and to live in the righteousness of Christ.

We have heard a lot of talk in recent years about so-called Christians who want to identify as homosexual, yet still Christian, fighting their lusts and their homosexual desires. What I would say to them (and have said to them) is that because of our genetics, because of our upbringing, because of our own personalities, and because of our own sin natures, we all have certain proclivities toward certain sins that we are born with. We all have besetting sins. In a sense, all of our sins are besetting. But it is true that each of us has certain proclivities or desires towards particular sins—it might be arrogance; it might be pride; it might be sexual lust. Some might have a certain proclivity or desire toward homosexual lust. They have to recognize it as sin, repent of it as sin, confess it as sin, and consecrate themselves, their hearts, their minds, and their eyes to a new way of living such that they reject that sin. We have to reject every sin that we’re faced with—any sort of sexual temptation, gluttony, revelry, drunkenness, disobedience to parents, or whatever it is that the Bible tells us. We have to reject it, we have to reckon with it, and we have to consecrate ourselves to a new way of life.

We need to seek to love our enemies, pray for those who are against us, pray for those who hate Christianity and hate biblical ethics, but what we cannot do is water down the clear biblical ethic and truth about my sin, your sin, and homosexual sin. It is sin, and we cannot water it down. We cannot make light of it. We must call it what it is because if we make light of sin, then we’ll make light of the grace of God. We have to have a proper regard for our sin so that we can have a proper regard for the grace of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—why He came and why He died for those like you and me who sin in different ways.

I think about this regularly: I want to hate my sins more than I hate the sins of those who sin differently than I do. That’s not easy to do. Our tendency is to hate everyone else’s sins more than we hate our own sins. I want to hate my sins more than I do the sins of everyone else, even though some of those sins are contrary to the nature of who we are as men and women, as God made us.

BINGHAM: Oftentimes, when we point our fingers at someone else’s sin, and we look at our own sins, we’re just calling them “mistakes.”

PARSONS: I have heard that there are pastors who have sought to develop an entire vocabulary of words and terms that they use in place of the word sin. They have developed this vocabulary in their preaching and teaching, using words like mistakes, shortcomings, issues, and all the rest, rather than using the word sin because the word sin offends people. It does have a tendency to offend people when you tell them that they’re sinners, but the reality of it is that we are sinners. We do make mistakes and we do have shortcomings. I use those words as well because they are legitimate, but we also must insist on using the biblical language that God uses and calling them sins, transgressions, going across, past, or against God’s law and God’s will for our lives. We all have them, and we exhibit them in different ways with our different personalities every day of our lives.

BINGHAM: You said that you’ve had conversations with individuals at restaurants, gyms, whatever the case may be. Is it easier for you because you’re a pastor, so Christianity just comes up, or is it harder? I’m sure some people might think, “Of course you’ll talk about your faith because people will ask what you do.”

PARSONS: Not too long ago, there was a fellow I ran into at a gym who works there, and he saw me in a video in which I was doing a local wedding. He and his partner were planning to get married, and they saw this video. I didn’t know they had this video, but the location where the wedding was being performed had me doing a wedding for some folks in our church. He didn’t know I was a pastor, but I am always friendly to him, and I always say hello and good morning to him, and so on.

He came up to me one day and said: “I saw you in this video. We’re looking at doing our wedding there.” He told me that he and his partner met down the street and wanted to have it there. And we had the most wonderful conversation where I got to tell him that I am a pastor. I had the opportunity to tell him what I believe and tell him about the gospel. I haven’t seen him a lot since then, though we’ve talked here and there. But I was able to preach the entire gospel to him and explain to him what I believe.

In one sense it is easier for me, but people don’t always know I’m a pastor. That sometimes comes up a year, or two, or three afterward. There are times that people hear the gospel from me when they don’t know I’m a pastor, and sometimes they don’t find out till a year or two later.

BINGHAM: You invite them to church and they see you in the pulpit.

PARSONS: I actually don’t always invite them to church; I invite them to Jesus. In fact, in the same gym is a trainer that I worked with early on when I started working out there. I always joke with people who say: “You work out at the gym, really? I don’t believe it.” But the trainer I worked with has actually been coming to our church. So, I’m very grateful.

Back when I was in high school and college, I worked in the restaurant industry and many different places, so I got to know many different people. And one thing I’ll say is this: some of the people I worked with who identify as homosexuals have often told me: “I have never met a Christian like you because you tell me the truth. You tell me that you think I’m wrong. You tell me that you think I’m in sin, but you are one of the kindest people to me.” I have names in my mind right now that I can go back and refer to of women and men that I’ve known and still think of and pray for. I think that we can be kind and gracious while also preaching the truth and speaking the truth with clarity and conviction. People won’t always like that and they don’t always respect it, but I think we as Christians are called to do that.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Burk Parsons and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.