King Solomon declared nearly 3,000 years ago that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). Transgenderism is no exception. Even among the gods of ancient civilizations, gender fluidity can be found. Therefore, it should not be surprising to discover that the Bible addresses gender dysphoria.
This rise in sexual confusion is concerning because sexual confusion makes one vulnerable to sexual immorality. The Bible repeatedly condemns sexual immorality as sinful behavior (Matt. 15:19; Gal. 5:19) in rebellion to God’s will (1 Thess. 4:13) that results in judgment (Jude 1:7; Rev. 2:20–22). The Christian is told to flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), to put to death this carnal impulse (Col. 3:5), and to refuse to indulge in sexual immorality (1 Cor. 10:8). The Bible clearly identifies sexual immorality as harmful behavior which is offensive to God, as our Creator.
Although it does not bear the modern title of transgenderism, behavior associated with gender dysphoria is identified in the Bible as sexual immorality, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9 , NASB).
The word translated “effeminate” is the Greek word malakoi, which means “soft to the touch.” According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary, “Figuratively it means effeminate or a person who allows himself to be sexually abused contrary to nature.” Associate professor of theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and expert on Pauline theology and sexual issues in the Bible Dr. Robert Gagnon observes:
In 1 Cor. 6:9 malakoi are sandwiched in between adulterers (people who commit an act of immoral sexual intercourse) and arsenokoitai (people who have something to do with an immoral act of same-sex intercourse). Immoral sexual intercourse, then, would appear to be an identifying mark of the malakoi. Furthermore, the epithet “soft” itself suggests males playing the female role in sexual intercourse with other males.
These suppositions are confirmed by reference to the views of another first-century Jew, Philo. Philo twice uses the word malakia (“softness, effeminacy,” alongside of the term anandria, “unmanliness”) in his discussion of homosexual behavior in Spec. Laws 3.37-42 to refer to the behavior of passive homosexual partners (hoi paschontes) who cultivate feminine features. He describes men who braid their hair and who use makeup and excessive perfume in an effort to please their male lovers. He does not limit himself here to “call boys”; the effeminate partner could become the active partner’s mistress or even wife. … Some of these … Philo says, have mutilated their genitals in a desire to be permanently transformed “into women.” … Indeed, his critique focuses … on the deliberate effacement of the masculine stamp by these male-females, first by allowing themselves to be penetrated as women by other men, second by taking the further step of feminizing their appearance. They are those “who, accustoming themselves to be infected with a female disease, drain away both their souls and their bodies, leaving no ember of the male gender to smolder. . . . and with devotion practicing as an art to transform the male nature into female, they do not blush.” The law sentences to death this “male-female (androgynon) who counterfeits the coin of nature.”
In 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, the Apostle Paul teaches that those men who embrace the appearance, behavior, and sexual role of women are committing sexual immorality. Moreover, those who are defined by this behavior—it serves as their identity—will not inherit the Kingdom of God. As such, the matter of how an individual chooses to present themselves sexually is of paramount importance. The transgender lifestyle is a lifestyle that prevents people from receiving the transforming salvation of God.
Far beyond any social implications, there are eternal consequences to this lifestyle. Fortunately, the Apostle Paul does not conclude his teaching in verse 10. Instead, 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, “And such were some of you. 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” (emphasis added). Some of the members of the church at Corinth had rejected their biological sex, but God transformed their lives so that they were able to live in accordance with God’s intended plan for them. The incredible teaching of 1 Corinthians chapter six is that God offers every person a new identity in Christ, regardless of their past.
Be sure to read Timothy Zebell’s book Transitioning: A Biblical Understanding of Transgenderism.
1. Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Revised Edition, G#3120, 939. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1993.
2. Gagnon, Robert. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, 308–309. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.
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.