“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Romans 1:26-27
In the last part of our study we looked at the history of God’s purpose and design for creating “man” (male and female) in His image and likeness. What we learn in Genesis 1 & 2 prepares us to understand why the Apostle Paul used sexual relations as the first example of what happened after God gave up the human race to “vile passions.”
“For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.”
τε γαρ θηλειαι αυτων μετηλλαξαν την φυσικην χρησιν εις την παρα φυσιν
Paul used the word θηλειαι for “female.” It’s the Greek word that speaks of the sexual “function” of a woman (female breast to suckle). Women “exchanged” (μετηλλαξαν – change, transform, alter, exchange) the “natural use.” The Greek words are φυσικην χρησιν (phusiken chrésin). The word φυσικην means “natural, according to nature.” The word χρησιν means “usage, manner of use.” The manner of use was often in the sexual sense, as it is here.
εις την παρα φυσιν
One literal translation would be – “into that contrary to nature.” What does that mean – “contrary to nature”?
First, let’s take a look at how various English translators deal with this verse –
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” KJV
“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural …” NASB
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.” NIV
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature …” ESV
“For this reason God gave them over to degrading and vile passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural [a function contrary to nature] …” AMP
“This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.” HCSB
“That is why God let go of them and let them do all these evil things, so that even their women turned against God’s natural plan for them and indulged in sex sin with each other.” TLB
“Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women …” MSG
Many Christian commentators believe Paul was addressing a big problem in the Gentile world – homosexuality. However, some commentators believe that is not what Paul meant. They believe Paul was addressing heterosexuals involved in homosexual relations rather than homosexuals having sexual relations with other homosexuals. Their idea is that a female heterosexual who engages in sexual relations with another female is doing something “against” her nature. However, a homosexual female who engages in sexual relations with another female is doing something within her nature. Is that what Paul meant?
First, let’s look at how a leader in the Christian gay community views Romans 1:26-27 –
“Gay people have a natural, permanent orientation toward those of the same sex; it’s not something that they choose, and it’s not something that they can change. They aren’t abandoning or rejecting heterosexuality—that’s never an option for them to begin with. And if applied to gay people, Paul’s argument here should actually work in the other direction: If the point of this passage is to rebuke those who have spurned their true nature, be it religious when it comes to idolatry or sexual, then just as those who are naturally heterosexual should not be with those of the same sex, so, too, those who have a natural orientation toward the same sex should not be with those of the opposite sex. For them, that would be exchanging “the natural for the unnatural” in just the same way. We have different natures when it comes to sexual orientation.” Matthew Vines, The Gay Debate: the Bible and Homosexuality, http://www.matthewvines.com/transcript/
Text and Context
Is Vines right? Do people have “different natures” when it comes to sexual orientation? Does God give some people a heterosexual nature and others a homosexual nature? Was Paul rebuking Christians who had “spurned their true nature”? We need to look at both the original Greek text and the context of the verses leading into and following the study text.
Lead-in Text – “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
Study Text – “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.”
Follow Text – “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
The lead-in text clearly states that –
- God gave them up to uncleanness
- in the lusts of their hearts
- to dishonor their bodies among themselves
- who exchanged the truth of God for the lie
- and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator
The study text clearly states that –
- God gave them up to vile passions
- even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature
The follow text clearly states that –
- Likewise also the men
- leaving the natural use of the woman
- burned in their lust for one another
- men with men committing what is shameful
- and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due
Who is Suitable?
Vines argues that Christians who hold to the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”- are missing an important point of God’s design from Genesis 2:18 –
“In Genesis 2:18, God says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ And yes, the suitable helper or partner that God makes for Adam is Eve, a woman. And a woman is a suitable partner for the vast majority of men – for straight men. But for gay men, that isn’t the case. For them, a woman is not a suitable partner. And in all of the ways that a woman is a suitable partner for straight men—for gay men, it’s another gay man who is a suitable partner. And the same is true for lesbian women. For them, it is another lesbian woman who is a suitable partner. But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives, without a spouse or a family of their own. We are now declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone. And the fruit that this teaching has borne has been deeply wounding and destructive.” Matthew Vines, The Gay Debate
Vines is “forcing” his interpretation onto what is clear in Scripture. He may believe that God created gay men as suitable partners for other gay men and gay women as suitable partners for other gay women, but the text of Genesis 1 & 2 doesn’t support that interpretation. “Living alone” is not the lesson of the Genesis 2:18 text. The lesson is design, purpose, completion and function.
Here’s a reminder of what we saw in our previous study –
“We see the ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ of God when we see male and female together. How did God demonstrate this to the male who He created first?
‘And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.’ Genesis 2:18-20
God said that it was not good that man should be alone – (בַּד – bad), which means ‘separation, apart.’ Because God created adam in His (Our) image and likeness and that image and likeness was male (zakar) and female (neqebah), God brought every living creature to the male adam and told him to give them names. The male adam saw that the cattle, birds and beast of the field came before him in pairs (male and female) and would have seen that he did not have a helper (עֵ֫זֶר – ezer) comparable (נֶ֫גֶד – neged) to him sexually as he saw among the animals who were sexually paired male and female. God put the male adam to sleep and created the female adam from the male’s rib. God brought the female to the male and the male said –
‘This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’ Genesis 2:23
Some scholars believe the Hebrew words zō’t happa‘am (זֹ֣את הַפַּ֗עַם) have an exclamatory nature – ‘This is now!” The male saw the female and realized they were a completed pair sexually even as he had seen the animals in comparable sexual pairs.
The next words of the text demonstrate an understanding from the earliest time that sexual union was understood to be between male and female in a marriage relationship –
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ Genesis 2:24
It’s interesting to see that the word ‘female’ is neqebah and the word ‘comparable’ is neged. There is a special comparability/suitability with male and female in God’s purpose and design. Important to remember that male and female together are how God made man (adam) in His (Our) image and likeness.
Even as the male named all of the living creatures God brought to him, he named the female adam God brought to him. He named her ‘Woman’ (נָשִׁים – ishshah – wife) because she was taken ‘out of Man’ (זֹאת לָקַח אּישׁ – zoth laqach ish).
As we continue to read Paul’s words in Romans 1, we must remember that the image of God is male and female together. That will guide us in understanding why Paul wrote what he wrote.”
The argument that God created the homosexual nature even as He created the heterosexual nature has no support in Scripture. None. Matthew Vines and others who identify as “gay Christians” are forcing, twisting, bending, and spinning their homosexual wishes onto the Bible in ways that the original language and text will not allow or defend.
If you are interested in reading more about why Vines is wrong in his interpretation of Scripture, please visit these thoughtful Christian posts –
We will look deeper into the text of Romans 1:27 and see what else the Bible tells us about homosexuality as our series on the Book of Romans continues.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.