An Internet search on this subject reveals that widespread disinformation about what the Bible actually says is being disseminated by advocates, most often non-experts, such that an unbiased exegetical review is made necessary.
God’s Intent in Creation
From the start, Scripture describes God’s intent in terms of procreation, in which not only humans but animals naturally pair up, male with female.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Natural Pairing Continued for Procreation
As Noah received commandments regarding the Ark, species or “families” (“kind”), including humans, were still perceived in terms of complementary pairs of animals, one of each gender, able to produce offspring.
Genesis 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
Genesis 7:15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.
Christ’s Teaching on God’s Original Intent for Marriage
In speaking of marriage and divorce, Jesus framed the subject in terms of God’s original intent: one man and one woman, for life.
Matthew 19:3 (parallel Mark 10:2-9.) The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Sexual Conduct Established by Law
The Law of Moses codified acceptable behavior in order to establish God’s people as a Godly nation, his representatives among Pagans, outlining rules of conduct and punishments for transgressions. Some of the most grievous infractions included sorcery, necromancy, adultery, prostitution, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. Scholars theorize that male homosexual prostitutes were sometimes referred to as “dogs,” possibly including Revelation 22:15 and Philippians 3:2 (which obviously do not refer literally to canines).
Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. 23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. 24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) 28 That the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations that were before you. 29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Deuteronomy 23:17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. 18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
Revelation 22:15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Philippians 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
Sexual Conduct Laws Periodically Enforced and Idolatry Banished
Homosexuality recurred within Israel in spite of the Law, due to lax enforcement and the outside influence of Pagan peoples, sometimes prompting reforming kings of Israel to crack down on this behavior.
1 Kings 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
1 Kings 15:12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
2 Kings 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove [Pagan shrine].
Two Notorious Instances of Intended Homosexual Rape and Their Outcome
Neither of these attempts were successful, as such, the first averted by divine intervention, the second unfortunately leading to a woman’s death so brutal that the offending tribe, Benjamin, was nearly annihilated by the other tribes in retribution. (It is hard today to understand how the laws of the time regarding hospitality could be so compelling that a householder would protect a guest even at the expense of his own womenfolk, but such seems to be the case.) The Hebrew term “know” (YADA) is used not only in terms of cognizance but also to describe intimate relations, e.g., “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived . . .” (Genesis 4:1).
Genesis 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.
Judges 19:22 Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. 27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered.
Sodom and Gomorrah became a Byword for Sexual Sin and Its Judgment
More than that, comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah became a metaphor for any place whose people are deserving of God’s especial wrath (the list below is not exhaustive).
Isaiah 13:19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
Jeremiah 23:14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
2 Peter 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;
According to Jesus, Sodom and Gomorrah Have but One Mitigating Virtue
Since those cities and certain others had not known God, heard the Gospel, or received God’s witness, their punishment would not be as great as those who hear the Gospel and still reject Jesus Christ.
Matthew 10:14 (par. Mark 6:11) And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Luke 10:12 (par. Matthew 11:23-24) But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. 13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. 15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. 16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
“They Are without Excuse,” Romans 1:26-32
Paul the Apostle was born in Tarsus of Cilicia and traveled widely in the Greco-Roman world, hence was well-versed in the activities of Pagan cultures and uniquely qualfied to evaluate them. Here Paul clearly singles out Lesbianism as well as male Homosexuality as behaviors for which “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Rom 1:18), and for which, since “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made . . . they are without excuse” (1:20).
Romans 1:26 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: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Persons Involved in Certain Behaviors “Shall Not Inherit the Kingdom,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
The words that are challenged by advocates are “effeminate” (fr. μαλακός, malakos) and “abusers of themselves with mankind” (fr. ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoitēs).
1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The advocates are correct that malakos means “soft” and does not always refer to persons. In Matthew 11:8 (par. Luke 7:25), Jesus asks rhetorically in regard to John the Baptist, “What went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” and indeed malakos is used of things such as clothing that are delicate or “dainty.” Here Jesus expresses irony, since John was known to have worn camel’s hair and a leather belt, a marked contrast to dainty clothing.
So far, one might surmise that Paul is saying that people who wear delicate clothing are sinners. But in contemporary literature, as well as Paul’s usage, “dainty” becomes a substantive for persons who dress in a feminized manner, and in fact it is the term of choice for men who take on the feminized, passive, submissive role in a homosexual encounter or relationship (also a catamite or “beloved” in a pederastic relationship). Any doubt that such is the case is dispelled by the word that follows.
Arsenokoitēs is, according to Bauer’s Lexicon and other sources, a compound of arsēn, “male,” and koitē, “bed.” In addition to the obvious connotation of the combination of these terms, in contemporary Greek as in modern English, a reference to “bed” served as a euphemism for sexual activity. It was the arsenokoitēs who undertook the active or dominant role in the homosexual act. Polycarp (A.D. 80–167) echoed Paul’s sentiments in the same words, saying,
Polycarp 5:3 …. For it is a good thing to refrain from lusts in the world, for every lust warreth against the Spirit, and neither whoremongers nor effeminate persons nor defilers of themselves with men shall inherit the kingdom of God, neither they that do untoward things. ….
“Such Were Some of You”
Paul reminds the Corinthians that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11), until their repentance and conversion, having afterward laid aside participation in all such activities. While it remains that “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) and “the recompense of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), Jesus ushered in a new era of grace and deferred (rather than immediate and final) judgment for sin. In John 8:3 ff., Jesus forced those who had arrested a woman caught in the act of adultery, intent on her execution, to acknowledge that they had all sinned and needed grace themselves. In Matthew 5:27 ff. he asserted that entertaining sinful thoughts makes people as guilty as following through with sinful acts; or more specifically, a man who lusted after a woman had “already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Hence one concludes, first, that everyone is tempted, which is not in itself a sin, but one must “flee” from it (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22) rather than entertaining it; and second, that conquering temptation through faith, with a will, anyone can be saved and restored to communion with God. Jesus bestowed forgiveness upon the adulterous woman for past sins, but admonished her to “Go, and sin no more.” Likewise, Jesus told a certain man, “Sin no more, lest something worse come upon you” (John 5:14).
John 8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Matthew 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Law Is Necessary for the Lawless, 1 Timothy 1:9-10
Arsenokoitēs appears again as “them that defile themselves with mankind,” situated just after pornē (“whoremonger,” “fornicator”).
1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
Parallel Lists of Condemned Activities
Paul provides other parallel lists of grievous sins to be abandoned, but which do not include the specific terms for homosexual activity described above. Note that all sexual activity outside the bounds of lawful matrimony is classed as adultery, fornication, or some more specific variation.
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Ephesians 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Copyright © 2015 Paul A. Hughes
The Noahide Laws began with God’s proscription against eating or drinking blood, the symbol for life. Over time, rabbis added fornication and other prohibitions. Such laws forbade certain practices which Jews found objectionable when dealing with Gentiles. The laws came to form a basis on which Jews could associate with Gentiles in business, if not socially, without being offended. When Gentile converts in Antioch were being compelled to be circumcised, the Apostles at Jerusalem determined to require nothing of them but to abstain from idolatry, fornication, and eating things strangled or with the blood (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25). Presumably, these items constituted their version of the Noahide Laws of the day.
God commanded the Jews not to eat blood
- The life is in the blood, Genesis 9:4
- Eat neither fat nor blood, Leviticus 3:17
- Eat no blood or be cut off, Leviticus 7:26-27
- Eat no blood or be cut off, Leviticus 17:10-14
- Eat nothing with the blood, Leviticus 19:26
- Do not eat the blood, but pour it on the ground, Deuteronomy 12:16
- Eat no blood with the flesh, the blood of burnt offerings must be poured on the altar, Deuteronomy 12:22-28
- Do not eat the blood, but pour it on the ground, Deuteronomy 15:23
- The people corrected for eating meat with the blood, 1 Samuel 14:32-35
- Those who eat blood and worship idols shall not be blessed in the land, Ezekiel 33:25
Gentile Christians bound only to the Noahide Laws
- Paul and Barnabas at the First Jerusalem Council, Acts 15:6-31
- Paul reports back to Jerusalem, Acts 21:20-25
Fornication contrary to the Noahide Laws
- A fornicator must be disfellowshipped, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
- Fornicators have no part in the Kingdom, they sin against their own body, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20
- To avoid fornication, the tempted should marry, 1 Corinthians 7:1-2
- Avoid fornication leading to judgment, 1 Corinthians 10:8-9
© 2013 Paul A. Hughes
Paul establishes in Romans 4 the principle by which Man is saved: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3, Gen. 15:6). In response to Abraham’s imputed righteousness, God covenanted with Abraham to make his progeny a great nation, from which flows Election. The sign of Election would be circumcision. It was never circumcision but faith that saves, Paul notes (4:9-13), but circumcision is an action which those who enter into the Covenant, as a class, were required to take as a sign of acceptance and commitment. Moreover, circumcision literally marked Israel as God’s designated Chosen People.
However, “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6). “They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7, see Rom. 9:8). “But they have not all obeyed the Gospel” (Rom. 10:16). Since national Israel on the whole rejected Christ, the “branches” of unbelief have been “broken off,” leaving only the “root,” which nevertheless remains “holy” (11:16-20). Gentiles who are of Abraham-like faith now benefit from Israel’s present loss by being “grafted in” to the elect “root”; whereas Jews, if they believe, can be “grafted in again” (Rom. 11:23-29). Since Christ has now fulfilled the Law (Rom. 8:3 f., 10:4), believing Gentiles, who have not literally replaced Israel, have yet been added to the class of the Elect through faith. Circumcision, originally an act of commitment to the Covenant, has been nullified through Israel’s unbelief and breaking of the Law (Rom. 2:25, 1 Cor. 7:19, Gal. 6:13). Now all those who through faith are “circumcised in the heart and spirit” (i.e., converted) may enter into the Covenant (Rom. 2:26-29, 3:30, 4:11 f.; Gal. 5:6, 6:15; Eph. 2:11; Php. 3:3; Col. 2:11), and be saved, whether Jew or Gentile (3:21-31, 9:30). Just as Abraham received the Covenant through faith, those who believe enter in by faith, which is by nature an exercise of free will: having heard the Gospel preached, they have believed, and called on the Lord to be saved.
God made a covenant with Abraham, confirmed by circumcision
- The covenant made, Genesis 17:9-14
- Abraham circumcises his household, Genesis 17:23-27
- Isaac circumcised, Genesis 21:4
Circumcision continued in Moses’ Law
- Gershom threatened because he was not circumcised, Exodus 4:24-26
- God confirms circumcision in Moses’ Law, Exodus 12:43-50
- Circumcision commanded on the eighth day after birth, Leviticus 12:1-3
- God will circumcise the people’s hearts in restoration after judgment, Deuteronomy 30:1-10
- The people circumcised before entering Canaan, Joshua 5:2-9
God considers true circumcision to be “of the heart”
- Circumcision of the heart, associated with the “Great Commandment,” Deuteronomy 10:12-22
- A call to repentance, circumcision of the heart, Jeremiah 4:3-9
- Israel is uncircumcised in heart, Jeremiah 9:26
- God will give Judah a heart to know him, then shall they return to him wholly, Jeremiah 24: 7
- God will take Israel’s stony heart and give them a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 11:19
- Israel called upon to make themselves a new heart, Ezekiel 18:31-32
- God will take Israel’s stony heart and give them a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26-27
- No one uncircumcised in heart shall enter God’s sanctuary, Ezekiel 44:6-9
- Tear your heart, not your garments, Joel 2:12-13
Circumcision not required for Gentile Christians
- Paul and Barnabas dispute with those who teach circumcision as required for salvation, Acts 15:1-5
- Peter argues against burdening Gentile Christians with circumcision, Acts 15:6-11
- James proposes compromise: to abstain from idolatry, fornication, and blood (Noahide Laws), Acts 15:13-31
- Paul opposes compliance with circumcision in favor of “a new creature,” Galatians 6:12-16
- True circumcision is of the heart, Romans 2:25-29
- Do not be circumcised, for it means nothing, 1 Corinthians 7:18-20
- The main advantage in Judaism is that they received God’s revelation, Romans 3:1-2
© 2013 Paul A. Hughes
The Law of Moses incorporated the Noahide Laws and the law given to Abraham (circumcision).
Origins of Moses’ Law
- Began with the law of the Passover and the Firstborn, Exodus 12:40-13:16
- Continued with commandments regarding manna and the Sabbath, Exodus 16:4-36
- Elders appointed to help Moses render judgments, Exodus 18:13-26
- Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God, and instructions for the Tabernacle, priesthood, and feasts, Exodus 24:12 – 34:28 (discontinuous)
- Moses receives further commandments and ordinances, especially those regarding sacrifices, Leviticus – Numbers
Acceptance of Moses’ Law by the People
- The people swear to obey the Law, Exodus 24:3-8
- Moses calls the people to choose obedience and life, Deuteronomy 30:15-20
- Joshua calls the people to confirm acceptance of worshiping God, Joshua 24:14-25
- God rested on the seventh day and sanctified it, Genesis 2:2-3
- Basic law of the Sabbath, Exodus 20:8-11
- The law concerning resting on the Sabbath, Exodus 23:12
- The Sabbath is a sign and holy, Exodus 31:12-18
Jews Blinded by the Letter of the Law
- The Jews are blinded by the “letter” of the Law to its deeper meaning, 2 Corinthians 3:14-15
The Letter of the Law kills
- The Law works a consciousness of sin, and its judgment, Romans 7:8-14
- The Law administers death, the Spirit administers life, 2 Corinthians 3:6-11
One cannot be saved by Moses’ Law
- Whereas the Law failed to justify sinners, Christ has provided a new solution, Acts 13:38-41
- Israel failed to be justified by faith, and has rejected their Messiah, Romans 9:31-33
- Moses’ Law required the letter of the law, but Christ brought salvation through faith, Romans 10:4-5
Those who rely on the Law will be judged by it
- Romans 2:12-13
No one can be justified by the Law, since all have sinned
- All have sinned, but God has provided grace through faith in Christ, Romans 3:19-31
- Grace overcomes the Law of Sin and Death, Romans 5:20-21
Under the Law man is powerless to overcome sin
- We cannot do the good we want to do, due to the sin nature, Romans 7:15-25
The Law is meant for sinners, not the righteous
- 1 Timothy 1:3-10
Those who keep the Law are bound to it
- Romans 7:1-6
Those in the flesh cannot please God
- The carnal mind is the enemy of God, Romans 8:5-8
- The Spirit makes us children of God, Romans 8:15-22
Circumcision is a different Gospel
- Circumcision is a different gospel, Galatians 1:6-9
- Paul opposes Peter in keeping the Law rather than living by grace, Galatians 2:11-21
- Abraham was justified by faith, before the Law, Galatians 3:1-26
- The Law was a disciplinarian until the fruition of full heirship, Galatians 4:1-10
- The Law is bondage, those of faith are free, Galatians 4:21-31
- Do not return to bondage, Galatians 5:1-13
- Beware those who lure you back into bondage, Galatians 6:12-16
- Consider yourselves dead the commandments of the flesh, alive to God, Colossians 2:10-17, 20-23
Prohibitions on fornication, incest, etc.—parts of Moses’ Law still valid?
- Taking your father’s wife, Leviticus 18:8; Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
- Laws concerning marriage and divorce, Romans 7:1-4, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40
© 2013 Paul A. Hughes
The Law of Faith
Within the sphere of Paul’s of Natural/Moral Law lies the Law of Faith. Paul derives the Law of Faith directly from the example of Abraham: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). Paul notes that Abraham was declared righteous by God, though faith alone, even before being given the sign of circumcision (Rom. 4:9-12). Therefore, on questions of circumcision, Paul insists that the Gentiles are justified by faith, apart from circumcision. He declares that not only is circumcision rendered void by the grace of Jesus Christ, but those who rely on it for entry into the Kingdom of God, after receiving Christ, are “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). Paul adds to his moratorium all the rituals, sacrifices, ordinances, and commandments exclusive to Moses’ Law. Nothing but faith is required for salvation, since it is by grace. Thereby the Gentiles who by faith fulfill the spirit of the Law, are saved without the letter of the Law (Rom. 2:14-29). By the Law of Faith, “nothing is unclean of itself” (Rom. 14:14), believers are guided not by the letter of the Law but by a Spirit-guided conscience (e.g., Rom. 2:15), and can arguably do anything not forbidden by the Spirit. However, whatever cannot be done in faith, believing, is sin (Rom. 14:23).
Faith is the basis of salvation and righteousness before God
- The just shall live by his faith, Habakkuk 2:4
- The just shall live by faith, Romans 1:17
- The just shall live by faith, and the law is not of faith, Galatians 3:11
- Whatever is not of faith is sin, Romans 14:23
- Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, Genesis 15:6
- Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, Romans 4:3
- Abraham did not stagger at the promise of God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, Romans 4:19-22
- Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness, Galatians 3:6
- Old things are passed away, Christ has reconciled us, He does not impute our trespasses to us, 2 Corinthians 5:17
Salvation is of faith, apart from works
- Gentiles apart from the Law are justified by conscience, Romans 2:14
- Circumcision does not make one a Jew in spirit, Romans 2:26-29
- All have sinned, the Law of works cannot save, but the Law of Faith justifies, Romans 3:21-31
- Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, Romans 4:1-3
- Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness before the sign of circumcision, Romans 4:9-15
- Faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness, Romans 4:20
- Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Christ, Romans 5:1
- Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Christ, Romans 5:9
- Sin is not imputed when there is no law, Romans 5:13
- Gentiles need not submit to Moses’ Law, Acts 15:6-11
Anything which cannot be done in faith is sin
- Anything not of faith is sin, Romans 14:23
- No one can be justified by the Law, but can become Abraham’s children by faith, Galatians 3:6-11, 24-25
- Righteousness is “of God by faith,” not by the Law, Philippians 3:9
- Those who are of faith are children of Abraham, whereas the Law is a curse, Galatians 3:5-14
The Law of Moses is not of faith
- “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified,” but by faith in Christ, Galatians 2:9-21
- “The just shall live by faith,” but would be cursed by the Law, Galatians 3:1-29
- Those who rely on ordinances and rituals are in bondage to them, Galatians 4:1-10
- Those who keep the Law are symbolically bondservants, Galatians 4: 21-31
- Reliance on the Law is bondage and powerlessness, contrary to Spirit life, Galatians 5:1-25
- Paul did not rely on his own credentials under the Law, Philippians 3:4-9
- Ordinances are contrary and cannot save, but spiritual circumcision can, Colossians 2:10-17, 20-23
The Law of Faith is contrary to the Law of Works
- A legal issue such as diet is a matter of conscience, and believers ought not judge one another, Romans 14:1-23
Salvation is by grace, good works follow after
- God calls whom He will, Romans 9:11-18
- Israel failed to attain righteousness, not seeking it by faith, Romans 9:31-33
- Righteousness is through Christ, not the Law, Romans 10:4-5
- The Law is fulfilled in love, and breeds good works, Romans 13:8-14
- We are made alive by Christ, from which flows good works, Ephesians 2:1-10
Those who are of faith are delivered by Christ
- Nothing will separate the elect from God who justifies, Romans 8:33-39
- Christ has broken down the barrier and brought the elect near to God, Ephesians 2:13-21
The Law of Faith empowers by the Holy Spirit
- The Spirit enables deliverance from works of the flesh, Romans 8:1-14
- The real warfare is waged in the spiritual realm, 2 Corinthians 10:3-7
By the Law of Faith, every Christian will be responsible for his own works of faith
- The works of those who have the Spirit will be judged accordingly, 1 Corinthians 3:13-18
- Those called of God are judged by him, not by human parameters,1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Those called to preach may live off the Gospel
- 1 Corinthians 9:1-23
Those who are of faith are transformed by God
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-20
Those who are of faith are guided by an enlightened conscience
- Gentiles apart from the Law are justified by conscience, Romans 2:14-16
- The testimony of a pure conscience, 2 Corinthians 1:12
- “Unto the pure [of conscience] all things are pure,” Titus 1:15-16
Those who are of faith are at odds with the world
- The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and not for sin, 1 Corinthians 8:13-20
- The believer must be separate from sin and sinners, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Those who are of faith should judge matters amongst themselves
- 1 Corinthians 6:1-7
Those who are of faith purge contrary sin from their lives
- Believers should cleanse themselves of sins of the flesh, unto holiness, 2 Corinthians 7:1
- “Godly sorrow works repentance,” 2 Corinthians 7:8-12
Those who are of faith should deal justly in marriage
- The married should be faithful and render due benevolence, 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
- Singleness is beneficial to those who are so called, and use it honorably, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40
© 2013 Paul A. Hughes
The Law of Christ
Also within the sphere of Paul’s of Moral/Natural Law is the Law of Christ, which is intended to guide the motives of the believer in “that which he allows” (Rom. 14:22). Paul considers that all the moral commandments of the Law oblige the believer to act in love, regarding the welfare and edification of others above his own. The Ten Commandments, as well as the Second Great Commandment (“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” (Rom. 13:9, Gal. 5:14), are fulfilled by acting in love (Rom. 13:8-10). Again, whatever cannot be done in faith, believing, is sin (Rom. 14:23).
Envy, classes, and divisions are contrary to the Law of Christ
- Those who are at odds with brethren are carnal, 1 Corinthians 3:3-4
- Division among brethren breeds pride, 1 Corinthians 4:6-8
- A self-serving attitude even at the Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
- The parts of the Body meant to serve one another, 1 Corinthians 12:13-31
Let all things be done out of love
- No gifts or good works matter unless done in love, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
- Be strong, faithful, and do all things in love, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Those who love one another do not judge brethren in practice
- Neither judge nor tempt brethren in regard to disputed matters of conscience, Romans 14:1-23
Those who love the brethren seek to edify one another
- Support the weak and give freely, Acts 20:35
- Support the weak and edify one another, Romans 15:1-7
- Seek others’ welfare, avoid offense, 1 Corinthians 10:23-33
- Let all spiritual gifts in the church edify others, 1 Corinthians 14:1-40
- “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:1-10, 15-16
- Love one another, be likeminded and unified, watch out for each other, Philippians 2:1-4
Do all things out of love and gratitude for Christ
- Christ’s love compels us to minister, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
- The law of love toward one another, Romans 13:8-14
- Walk in love and in the Spirit, not the flesh, Galatians 5:6, 13-17
- Walk in love after Christ’s example, Ephesians 5:1-2
- Let your love more abound, Philippians 1:9
- Prayer for unity in love, Colossians 2:1-2
- You have been taught to love one another, 1 Thessalonians 4:9
- God has given a spirit of love, 2 Timothy 1:7
© 2013 Paul A. Hughes
During Paul’s ministry, Roman government represented a stabilizing and equalizing element which afforded Paul, as a Roman citizen, ample opportunities to travel freely, and a certain amount of protection from abuse. Caesar, as well, he saw as “not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Rom. 13:3), ready to punish the lawless and unruly. At the same time, Paul bridled at abuse of his rights, under Jewish as well as Roman law. One may only speculate that he might have professed, with Peter, the mandate to “obey God rather than men” if it suited his purpose. Nevertheless, Paul did not perceive the government, apart from the Jewish authorities, as an obstacle to the furtherance of the Gospel and growth of the Church.
Obey civil authorities, with qualifications
- Paul objects to violation of his rights (but yielded to Exodus 22:28), Acts 23:2-5
- Paul asserted his citizenship rights, Acts 21:39, 22:25-29, 23:27, 25:1-26:32, 28:17-19
- Earthly rulers are allowed by God to keep order and punish wrongdoing, Romans 13:1-8
- Pray for rulers and conduct yourself honorably, 1 Timothy 2:1-3
- See also 1 Peter 4:15, do not commit crimes and improprieties that incur just punishment
- Compare: Acts 4:19-20, 5:29 (Peter), “obey God rather than men”
Cultural Mores & Customs
The Apostle Paul was not in favor of license or Libertinism which in the name of grace flaunted the customs and mores of societies in which he ministered, see Romans 6:1, 1 Corinthians 8:9, Galatians 5:13. Rather, he upheld the best conservative moral ideals and traditions of the Jews as well as Gentiles. His views on the rights and comportment of women, while informed by the principles of Original Creation and Moses’ Law, also appear to reflect the influence of strongly patriarchal societies, especially that of observant Jews of the day.
Matrimony is holy and honorable
- One is bound in marriage till released by death, Romans 7:1-4
- Marital bonds, cares, and obligations, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40
- Those who wish or need to marry are free to do so, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, see also Matthew 19:10-12
- Marriage ought not be forbidden, 1 Timothy 4:1
Marital faithfulness demonstrates worthiness of honor and responsibility
- “Espoused to one husband,” 1 Corinthians 11:2
- “Husband of one wife,” 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6
- “Wife of one man,” 1 Timothy 5:9
Families are responsible to care for their own elderly and destitute
- 1 Timothy 5:4-8, 16
Men chosen for leadership should be faithful husbands and fathers
- 1 Timothy 3:1-13
- Titus 1:5-9
The deportment of women compared to men
- It is seemly and comely for women to wear their hair long, and to cover their heads during worship; but unnatural for men to wear long hair, and inappropriate for them to cover their heads in worship, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
- Women are not allowed to speak publicly in church, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
- Women are not allowed to teach publicly, or oversee a man, 1 Timothy 2:11-12
- Women are admonished to dress and act modestly, 1 Timothy 2:8-11
- Only elderly widows of good report deserve church financial support, younger widows should remarry, raise children, and work in the home, 1 Timothy 5:4-15
Incest disreputable even to the Gentiles
- 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Referring to the diagram, as supported by Scripture passages, one sees that God’s eternal will and plan for man, as created, falls within God’s moral and natural law, represented by the large yellow circle. Elements of Moses’ Law, and cultural mores and customs, are overlapped by God’s eternal will, to the extent that those spheres ratify, or rather are ratified by, God’s plan. Noahide Law, originally limited to a symbolic reverence for blood as life, remains valid in principle, though not in letter of the law. Later additions regarding fornication and idolatry, besides being integral with Moses’ Law, can be said as well to be valid as part of God’s original, revealed will. (Therefore, those circles partly overlap.) The Abrahamic Covenant, which featured only one law, that of circumcision, has been transcended by the Law of Faith, which was the effective element all along (circumcision being the seal and testimony of the Covenant, the theological equivalent to Christian water baptism—as is, arguably, the Lord’s Supper). Moses’ Law, which incorporated in totality the laws given to Noah and Abraham, was “fulfilled” by the work of Christ by several standards, including the fulfillment of Law’s overall prophetic, moral, and salvific purpose. Therefore, those who by faith have entered “into Christ,” while bound to God’s eternal moral law, are free not only from the letter of Moses’ Law (the temporal rituals, ordinances, observances, and strictures external to God’s eternal law), but from the “Law of Sin and Death” that Moses’ Law actuates (Rom. 7:1‒8:4, 10:4, Gal. 3:19-26, et al.).
Therefore, the elements of Moses’ Law, apart from God’s moral and natural law, are rendered irrelevant and non-binding to the Christian, just as they remain ineffectual to observant Jews, who are unable to “keep the whole law” (Rom. 2:12-29, Gal. 5:3, 6:13, see also James 2:10). Thus the Christian reverences life, but is not forbidden from eating meat containing blood. The Christian honors the Creator for the Sabbath, as suggested in Genesis 2, but is not prohibited from work or travel on the Sabbath, a commandment added by Moses’ Law. The Christian is forbidden no food, “for every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
Those elements of civil law and culture which do not violate Biblical faith or a pure conscience are acceptable to the Christian. Governments in general “are not a terror to good works, but to bad ones” (Rom. 13:3), though just rights can be claimed and abuse of rights disputed. Christians must not participate in ungodly pagan practices, though innocuous differences may be overlooked if not made an issue.
One concludes that the laws for which Christians are responsible are those which make for peace and godliness, and which edify the brethren (Rom. 14:19, 1 Tim. 2:2, et al.), all of which surely fall within the sphere of God’s moral and natural law. Christians are saved, like Abraham, by the Law of Faith, not by external laws or rituals. All that is not done in faith being sin, a Christian ought to do nothing which cannot be done in faith, in the sight of God—not in unbelief, by which some imagine that they will escape judgment. The ultimate criterion for all we do must be the Law of Christ, which is love and gratitude for Christ’s work displayed not in self-actualization or self-motivation, but in serving to edify, profit, and benefit others.
© 2013 Paul A. Hughes