Romans 1:26-27

Romans 1:26-27

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

Let’s first take a look at the culture, the audience and the purpose in which Paul wrote the book of Romans.  Rome was a large cosmopolitan trade center, a wealthy city with much political power.  The Roman emperors were powerful monarchs who saw themselves as gods and demanded worship from the people there.  Temple prostitution and idol worship to the various gods and goddesses was widespread.

Christianity had recently been introduced in Rome and Paul was writing to the Christian church there to share the Gospel of Jesus and to present to them God’s overall plan of redemption, which was offered for both Jews and Gentiles alike.

So, as we look at the entire passage beginning with verse 16, it’s important to note the sequence in which Paul writes.  First, we see that Paul reminds the Christian believers of God’s power and grace for the salvation of everyone who believes.  It is after this reminder that he goes on to speak about those who have gone against God.

In verses 21-23, Paul speaks about those in Rome who did not acknowledge or glorify God, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified [God] or gave thanks to [God], but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”  So, Paul is talking about those in Rome who knew who God was, but they did not acknowledge God as the one and only Almighty God.  Instead, they chose to worship idols.

The following verses then give the consequence for this lack of acknowledgement; “Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator….” (vs. 24-25, emphasis mine).  It was because of their lack of acknowledging God that God gave them over. They failed to believe in God, the Creator of all, and chose to worship idols.

And finally, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion”. (vs. 26-27, emphasis mine).

This entire text speaks of those in the Roman culture who did not acknowledge God as the Creator, who worshiped and served idols, and who engaged in temple prostitution.

Now, those who use this Scripture to condemn homosexuality, cite particularly the verse pertaining to natural and unnatural relations. So, let’s explore this a bit.

The Greek word used in this text for natural is ‘physin’ meaning nature, and it refers to someone’s nature.  It implies what is characteristic, consistent, or ordinary for someone.  The word ‘unnatural’ is translated from the Greek, ‘para physin’, meaning contrary to nature, implying that which is unusual, unexpected, or different from the normal order.

So, when Paul speaks of ‘unnatural relations’ in verse 26, he is talking about acts being performed that were not ordinary or characteristic of those engaging in them. These were sexual acts that were not consistent with their nature, but were being used as a means of idol worship.  Essentially, Paul is condemning heterosexual people who were performing homosexual acts.  These acts were ‘para physin’ for them, contrary to their nature, and they were being done for purposes of idol worship.

Noted historian John Boswell writes, “…the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons. The whole point of Romans 1, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on. He goes on to say, “Paul did not discuss gay persons but only homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons.”

Boswell infers that homosexuals performing heterosexual acts in this light would be equally condemned.  Going against what is natural for the person is where the sin lies.

Romans 1:26-27 is speaking about men and women in a terribly corrupt society who rejected God and engaged in sexual rituals for the purpose of idol worship.  It refers to heterosexual people who were engaging in homosexual acts.

When we look at the overall message of the book of Romans, it is clear that it is a message of God’s love for all people.  It is a message of justification by faith and right standing with God which is found in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (3:22).

“For God so loved the world that God gave us Jesus, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).  The “whosoever” includes LGBTQ. Belief in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross gives right-standing with God.  Accepting Jesus into your heart gives right-standing with God.

Further, God looks at the heart and the intentions of the heart. (I Sam. 16:7). God knows that the love between two people comes from the heart.  God is love.  Same-sex relationships are about love.

Next – I Corinthians 6:9-11 & I Timothy 1:8-11