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INTRODUCTION

A Bible engagement crisis exists when a person or a group advocates an interpretation of Scripture that negatively impacts or erects an obstacle to someone being saved.  In this situation, the crisis is due to the fact the pro-LGBTQ faction of the UMC teaches that homosexual practice is acceptable to God.  If a practicing homosexual takes stock in what the pro-LGBTQ faction teaches, then he or she places their trust  in what is, in reality, a damning false proposition.

In truth, according to the clear interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, a practicing homosexual is on the road to an eternity in hell.   While some highly educated exegetical gymnasts argue to the contrary, the reality is that a straightforward proper exegesis of this passage teaches that a practicing homosexual, along with a listing of people who practice other serious vices, is on the road to hell unless something changes. 

Of course, the good news is that something can change.  In 1 Corinthians 6:11 (NET), Paul taught that a practicing homosexual can be saved:

11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Verse 11 infers that once saved, a practicing homosexual will have given up homosexual practice.

THE TEXT-UNDER STUDY

While there may be many other texts,  per 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 teaches that a practicing homosexual is o the road to hell.  The text-under-study is 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NET) reads:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals,10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Throughout this series I have used the English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the Bible.   While it is an excellent translation, it does not appear to be the best translation to use for 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, especially or this analysis.  A better, more accurate, translation is the Net English Translation (NET) because it recognizes that the Greek text of verse 9 uses two words to characterize homosexual activities rather than one as the ESV implies.  The ESV has combined the Greek nouns μαλακοὶ (malakos) and ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoitēs) to read “men who practice homosexuality.”This is in contrast to the NET which translates these words as “passive homosexual partners” (malakos) and “practicing homosexuals” (arsenokoitēs).

LITERARY CONTEXT

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 follow a passage (i.e., 1 Corinthians 6:1-7) about the error of a believer filing a civil lawsuit against another believer in a secular court.  In 1 Corinthians 6:4–6 (ESV), Paul called out these believers about this practice:

4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?

Verses 9-11 precede a passage (i.e., 1 Corinthians 6:12-20) about sexual immorality.   The most pertinent portion [1 Corinthians 6:13b–20 (NET)] reads:

13b  The body is not for sexual immorality [porneia], but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute [pornē]? Never! 16 Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute [pornē] is one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”17 But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him.18 Flee sexual immorality [porneia]! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body”—but the immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

The NET Bible translates the Greek noun porneia as “sexual immorality” and it means to engage in sexual immorality of any kind, often with the implication of prostitution—‘to engage in illicit sex, to commit fornication, sexual immorality, fornication, prostitution.’ See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 770). New York: United Bible Societies.  The NET Bible translates the Greek noun pornē as “prostitute” and it means a woman who practices sexual immorality as a profession—‘prostitute.’ See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 770) [boldfacing added].   

The lens through which to view 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is that any sexual immorality (porneia) is sin.   It is interesting that Paul made the distinction between heterosexual sex with pornē (vv. 15-16) and homosexual sex when he used malakos and arsenokoitēs in verse 9.  It is of further interest that the words used malakos and arsenokoitēs are the essential components for the homosexual act.

OBSERVING 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9

Paul began this passage in an effort to contrast the sinful (i.e., “wrong and defraud”) behavior of some in his audience as expressed in verse 8 with the truth contained in the rhetorical question “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  In Paul’s mind, his audience knew the truth of the question which is “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The ESV translates the Greek adjective adikos as “unrighteous.”  According to one lexicon [ ], adikos means “pertaining to not being right or just—‘unjust, unjustly, unrighteous.’” See Louw et al. at (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 744).    Adikos is used in the New Testament twelve times in eleven verses.   In all of these usages adikos has a negative sense, and in some usages imply that the adikos are unsaved.  For example,

Acts 24:15 (ESV) – 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust [adikos].

1 Peter 3:18 (ESV) – 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous [adikos], that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

2 Peter 2:9 (ESV) – 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous [adikos] under punishment until the day of judgment,

Paul employed the expression “will not inherit the kingdom of God” to confirm that those who were adikos were headed on the road to hell.  One commentator [Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 89). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers] writes:

The Corinthians had forgotten a basic Christian doctrine: there is a big difference between believers and unbelievers. Wicked people are not destined to inherit the kingdom of God—they face a future of divine judgment.

Another commentator [Hodge, C. (1995). 1 Corinthians (p. 104). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books] writes (boldfacing added):

In the Bible, believers are often called heirs. Their inheritance is a kingdom—the kingdom that God has established and that is to be consummated in heaven (Luke 12:32; Matthew 25:34; etc.). From this inheritance all the immoral will be excluded, no matter how zealously they may profess the truth or how assiduously they may perform religious services.

Paul began verse 9b with the phrase, “Do not be deceived …” because he wanted emphasize what he was going to say next.  At the end of the complete list of ten vices in verses 9-10, Paul reinforced his earlier expression that these people will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”  It is apparent that this listing identifies the types of people who are hell-bound unless something changes in their lives. 

This analysis looks at the first five kinds of adikos people wherein the NET Bible reads:

The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals …

Paul began the listing with the noun pornos, which the NET translates as “sexually immoral,” and it means one who engages in sexual immorality, whether a man or a woman, and in some contexts, distinguished from an adulterer or adulteress—‘a sexually immoral person.  See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 770).   This noun pornos is used ten times in the New Testament and none of the usages are favorable.   The Bible always condemns pornos.

The second kind of person Paul listed was described by the Greek noun eidololatrēs which the NET translates as “idolators.”   This noun means a person who worships idols—‘idolater, worshiper of idols.  See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 540).  

Idolatry is a gross sin.  In light of Romans 1:18-32, which correlates idolatry to homosexual practice, it is not a surprise to see idolatry listed along with sexual sins.  Many times the Bible links idolatry with adultery so it is no surprise to see adultery (moichos) and idolatry paired together.

Paul described the third kind of person on his list with the Greek noun moichos that the NET translates as “adulterers.”   This noun means “(derivative of μοιχεύω ‘to commit adultery,’ 88.276) a person who commits adultery, specifically referring to males, but also including females in generic contexts—‘adulterer, adulteress.”  See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 771).   As one would expect, all of the uses of adulterer are negative.

The next two kinds of adikos are especially relevant to this discussion.  Paul described the fourth kind of person on his list with the Greek noun malakos that the NET Bible translates as “passive homosexual partners.”  According to one lexicon [Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 771–772)], malakos means:

the passive male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’ For a context of μαλακόςb, see 1 Cor 6:9–10 in 88.280. As in Greek, a number of other languages also have entirely distinct terms for the active and passive roles in homosexual intercourse. 

The word malakos is used in the New Testament four times with the other three usages referring to soft clothing.  This verse is the only reference to the sexually passive partner. 

Paul described the fifth kind of adikos on his list with the Greek noun arsenokoitēs which the NET translates “practicing homosexuals.”  According to to one resource [Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 771)], it means a male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’ It is possible that ἀρσενοκοίτης in certain contexts refers to the active male partner in homosexual intercourse in contrast with μαλακόςb, the passive male partner (88.281). 

The Greek noun arsenokoitēs is used one other time in the New Testament in another set of vices presented by 1 Timothy 1:8–10 (NET) [boldfacing added]:

8 But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately, 9 realizing that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 sexually immoral people, practicing homosexuals [arsenokoitēs], kidnappers, liars, perjurers—in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching.

In the 1 Timothy passage, Paul characterized “practicing homosexuals” as “lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane.” 

Paul used many coined words in the New Testament.  One of those coined words was arsenokoitēs.  Some people try to use exegetical gymnastics to exclude practicing homosexuals in a consensual, loving, committed relationships from the scope of the word arsenokoitēs .  However, their arguments to place a restrictive gloss on arsenokoitēs are wrong. 

It seems higly likely that Paul (or Hellenistic Jews) coined the word arsenokoitēs from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:1 in the Septuagint (LXX).  Dr. Robert Gagnon writes at page 315 (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, (2001) Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee):

As David F. Wright has persuasively argued, arsenokoitēs was probably coined by Hellenistic Jews from a conflation of two Greek words appearing in the Septuagint’s rendering of Lev. 18:22 and 20:13: meta arsengos ou koimethēsē, kottēn gynaikeian (18:22); hos an kotmēthē meta arsenos koitē gyniakos (20:13).  The Greek word for male is arsēn and the word for “bed” or “lying” is koitē (related to the verb keisthai.
to lie”), to which been attached a masculine personal suffux –(t) ēs denoting the agent or doer of the action (“a man/one who …”).

The fact that arsenokoitēs refers to same-sex intercourse is strengthened by its pairing with malakos.  As mentioned above, this pair comprises the necessary components for homosexual sex.

Both usages of arsenokoitēs in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 condemn homosexual practice.  Per 1 Corinthians 6:9, both participants in homosexual sex “will not inherit the kingdom of God” which means will not go to heaven, but, instead, go to hell for eternity.  Again, verse 11 provides the hope since saved people include former practicing homosexuals.

CONCLUSION

A Bible engagement crisis exists when a person or a group advocates an interpretation of Scripture that negatively impacts or presents an obstacle to someone being saved.  In this situation, the crisis is due to the fact the pro-LGBTQ faction of the UMC teaches that homosexual practice is acceptable to God. 

If a practicing homosexual takes stock in what the pro-LGBTQ faction teaches, then he or she places their trust  in what is, in reality, a damning false proposition.   If a practicing homosexual takes comfort in what the pro-LGBTQ faction teaches, then he or she is on the road to hell with the active encouragement of the pro-LGBTQ faction of the UMC.  How tragic!