Homosexuality Was Sinful before the Old Testament Law

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Dr. John Corvino is well known for his lecture titled “What’s Morally Wrong with Homosexuality” in which he concludes with the challenge that people ought not to question whom someone loves but whether someone loves. Similarly, gay activists such as Matthew Vines present heart-rending appeals to their opponents asking that homosexuals simply be permitted and encouraged to love the person of their choice. It would appear that God strongly disagrees with these appeals because Romans chapter 1 teaches that God views homosexual love as “dishonorable passions” and “shameless acts.” The King James Version of the Bible translates this as “vile affections.” According to God, homosexual love is not true Biblical love:

  • Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
  • Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
  • Romans 1:24–27, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:9–10, “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.”
  • Jude 1:7, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”


Because of the clear teaching of these passages, they have come under assault by those who support homosexuality. Largely, these prohibitions are touted as irrelevant vestiges of the Law of Moses. However, we need not fall into these semantic quagmires. Instead, most of such arguments against these passages can be avoided by recognizing that the immoral nature of homosexuality transcends the Law of Moses. Homosexuality was considered to be a sin by God before the giving of the Law, and it remained a sin after the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ.

In the giving of the Law in Leviticus, homosexuality was grouped with a number of sins, including:


God declares homosexuality to be one of the sins that caused God to abhor the nations who inhabited the land before Israel and to cast those nations out of the land. Leviticus 18:22 and 24–30 says:

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” … “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

Also, Leviticus 20:13 and 23 says, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. … And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.”

Not only was homosexuality a sin prior to the issuing of the Law but God judged entire nations for this sin, among others. However, these nations did not have God’s Law to know what is right and wrong in the eyes of God. How then could a righteous God judge entire nations for a sin against which there was no commandment? According to Romans 2:14–16, God has placed His Law within the hearts of men:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.


This is often termed “natural law.” This is why every civilization has had laws against such things as murder, stealing, adultery, etc. Written within man’s heart is an inherent understanding that the acts listed in Leviticus chapter 18 are immoral. According to Romans chapter one, homosexuality defies what mankind innately knows to be natural and right. This is why God could justly abhor the nations who practiced these activities and could justly judge them.

Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 are important passages because they reveal that the immoral nature of these acts are universal in scope and eternal in time. Their sinfulness preceded the giving of the Law, and they have remained sinful acts since Christ’s fulfillment of the Law. As such, these particular acts cannot be compared against other portions of the Law of Moses which were given only for a time and primarily for the purpose of illustration, such as the dietary laws.

Be sure to read Timothy Zebell’s book Laid Bare: Uncovering the Relationship Between Homosexuality & the Gospel.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.