Because it Seems Fitting: Various Exegetes on Romans 1:26-27

Romans 1:26–27 contains the clearest teaching in the New Testament on homosexuality. In this section Paul described the practice as “shameful,” “unnatural,” “indecent,” and as a “perversion.” By contrast, the Greco-Roman society of Paul’s day tolerated homosexuality with considerable ease. Among some advocates it was viewed as superior to heterosexuality.

Barclay notes that “fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman Emperors were homosexuals.”

In Jewish culture, however, it was regarded as an abomination. Barrett comments that “no feature of pagan society filled the Jew with greater loathing than the toleration, or rather admiration, of homosexual practices.” The Old Testament specifically prohibits homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” The penalty for both participants was death (Lev 20:13). In 1 Cor 6:9–10 Paul specifically said that “homosexual offenders” will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”

Against this background it is difficult to understand why some contemporary teachers—even some who claim to be biblical—make allowance for a practice clearly condemned in both the Old and the New Testaments. Achtemeier writes that the kind of life Paul described in vv. 26–27 “cannot be understood as an alternative life-style, somehow acceptable to God” but rather as “a sign of one of the forms God’s wrath takes when he allows us free reign to continue in our abuse of creation and in our abuse of one another as creatures.”*

And

Paul’s statement is veiled and reticent, more so about the females than about the males. The females abandoned the natural use of the female organ for the unnatural one; they violated even nature. How they did this Paul does not care even to indicate except that by speaking of females by themselves homosexuality is implied. “The natural use” disregards the question whether the legitimate use in marriage or the illegitimate use in adultery and fornication is referred to. The females viciously violated even nature in their bodies. It was bad enough to sin with males, vastly worse and the very limit of vice to sin as they did. Let us say that this and the following vileness is defended to this day as not being immoral in any way. In 1931 a book came off the press which fully corroborated Paul, for this book propounded a code of sexual ethics that was uncontrolled by God. Let go of God, and the very bottom of filth will be reached. Even the most unnatural will be called quite natural. The lie about God who made nature then lies about even this nature.+

And

This passage has become exceedingly controversial in recent years because of the movement for gay rights.  Paul does not set forth a detailed prohibition against certain homosexual acts, but rather he isolates homosexual behaviour as the supreme example of the loss of human dignity. When the knowledge of God is suppressed, the nature of man suffers, and it manifests itself in gross, unnatural acts. Homosexual behaviour is here extrapolated in the text as an example of an unnatural human relationship that brings dishonour and a loss of dignity to the human race.#

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*R.H. Mounce, Romans. The New American Commentary.
+R. Lenski, The interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
#R. Sproul, R. C. The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans.

The Importance of True Piety

Where it is absent, ruin reigns, as we can see in our society. Zwingli writes

Real piety, by which is meant true worship and prayer to God, has disappeared among us, as St. Paul writes to the Romans [Rom. 1:28–31]: “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; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.”

From these words of Paul we learn that all these evils which he enumerates arise when we desert God, do not fully recognise Him, do not look up to Him, do not place our whole trust in him, but on the contrary despise Him and regard him somewhat as we would an old sleeping dog. But I shall not now consider the question whose fault it is that we have forgotten him. That matter I shall discuss at the proper time.

Note well, worthy and beloved sirs, that wherever the above mentioned vices appear, God has been previously forsaken. And, vice versa, wherever people forsake God and trust in themselves, the vices named above are bound to follow as a punishment and penalty for the desertion from God. But whoever places all his hope in God, ascribes to him all good and worthy deeds, estimates nothing higher than the knowledge and love of God, such a one God does not allow to succumb to the numerous vices mentioned by St. Paul.