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Too much emphasis??

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11:17 AM   [20 Jan 2014 | Monday]

Too much emphasis??

Some people think that certain Christians are guilty of putting too much emphasis on the sin of homosexuality. After all, they contend, isn't homosexuality just one sin among many sins? To this we reply that even though homosexuality is, indeed, one sin among many it is a sin that receives special attention in Scripture.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) is an example of this emphasis. In verses 24 and 25 we read that “the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” Upon arising from sleep Abraham came “to the place where he had stood before the LORD: and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the Plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace” (vss. 27-28).

Both of these passages use language that is consistent with the Bible's description of Hell. In Revelation 19:20 & 21:8 we read about the lake of fire burning with brimstone which is the final and terrible place of punishment for God's enemies. It is described as the 'second death' which is an indication of the full and final judgment of God. In Revelation 14:11 we read about this lake of fire and brimstone again, this time with reference to the smoke of the torment of those in that place which rises up forever and ever. In addition to this we understand that the term 'overthrew' indicates a complete turning upside down.

The Genesis 19 reference to brimstone and fire, and ascending smoke, is understood, then, to be a direct reference to Hell. As such we see that what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah was, literally, an appearance of Hell on earth. This appearance resulted in an overthrow, that is, a literal turning upside down of absolutely everything. This was an utter ruin, more so than the great flood for, whereas God restored the world after Noah, the site of Sodom and Gomorrah remains a 'dead' sea of over 370 square miles (236,800 acres).

This 'sea' is basically toxic to normal sea life and has none of the normal sea-life in it. The ancient Greeks called this sea Asphaltites because of a sort of pitch which it casts up. This is significant because the Hebrew word for brimstone, gophriyth (pronounced go-freeth) speaks to something that is related to the hydrocarbon bitumen, a black, oily, viscous substance that is the essential ingredient in asphalt. Much of the area is also covered with a spongy ash (see 2 Peter 2:6 ref. ashes), and shows clear signs of great destruction by intense heat.

Such unprecedented and immediate punishment must surely have been the result of extremely wicked sin, for, in the perfect justice of God, the punishment must have answered the sin proportionately (Luke 12:47). As if to emphasize this point Scripture repeatedly uses the ruin of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as;

a) a pattern for the ruin of other lands and people (Israel - Deuteronomy 29:23; Babylon - Isaiah 13:19; Edom - Jeremiah 49:18; Moab and Ammon - Zephaniah 2:9);

b) a representation of the eternal fire of judgment (Jude 7);

c) a sample of the ruin of all that live ungodly (2 Peter 2:6), especially those that despise the gospel (Matthew 10:15).

We also have the testimony of Romans 1. When we understand that the book of Romans is the fullest Scriptural discourse on the universal Gospel, the way of salvation for men, we can appreciate its importance in the Bible. We observe that within the context of the very opening lines of that discourse (chapter 1) we find primary and specific reference to the sin of homosexuality. In Romans 1:20-25, Paul explains that men 'know God' by His creative power yet they refuse to thank or glorify Him. They even change the glory of the immortal God into an image made like to mortal man, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, all descriptions of idolatry.

On account of such attitudes and behaviors God 'gives them up' to uncleanness (the impurity of lustful, decadent living) “through the lusts of their own hearts,” to the end that they “dishonour their own bodies between themselves” and to vile affections (dishonorable passions) described as “men, leaving the natural use of the woman, (and burning) in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly (inappropriate), and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet (suitable)” (vss. 24-27). Following these statements, Paul, who we understand to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in writing Scripture, then adds a cursory list of those ‘other’ sins that proceed from man’s rejection of God and refusal of his truth (vss. 29-31). In this instance the sin of homosexuality is given particular attention Paul devotes a full 3 verses to it even as he condenses a number of 'sins' into 3 further verses.

From such passages we can safely conclude that homosexuality is, at the very least, a sin that definitely marks a person and/or society as being wholly given over to the willful hindering of the truth of God, to idolatry, and to vile impurity and utter dishonor. While we do not say that homosexuality is the only sin that a man can commit, nor the only sin that deserves Hell, nor a sin that cannot be forgiven, we do say that it is a particularly wicked form of rebellion, one that not only defies God's laws but the very basics of creation order.   

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