Why Does the Church Focus on Sexual Issues?

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“Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty!” splashed across the front pages of The New York Daily News in 1952 when George Jorgensen Jr. returned home from a sex-reassignment surgery in Sweden as Christine Jorgensen. Six decades before Caitlyn Jenner, and among the first to undergo such a procedure, Christine Jorgensen was America’s original transgender sweetheart.[1] Crowned Woman of the Year by the Scandinavian Society, she sparked a new phenomenon.[2] In fact, People Today stated in 1954, “Next to the recurrent hydrogen bomb headlines, reports of sex changes are becoming the most persistently startling world news.”[3]

King Solomon declared nearly 3,000 years ago that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). Certainly, within the United States, even transgenderism and sex-reassignment procedures are nothing new. Instead, it is merely the latest alternative lifestyle to receive public attention. Why then is the church concerned by the transgender community? How is the matter of how a person chooses to present themselves sexually, significant for the church? Likewise, how is the matter of when and with whom a person engages sexually meaningful to the church?

The prevalence of all forms of 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 contradiction to God’s will (1 Thess. 4:13) which results in judgment (Jude 1:7; Rev. 2:20–22). The Christian is told to flee from sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18, to put to death this carnal impulse in Colossians 3:5, and to refuse to indulge in sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 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 1 Corinthians 6:9 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 (NASB). The word translated “effeminate” is the Greek word malakoi, which means “soft to the touch,” and “Figuratively it means effeminate or a person who allows himself to be sexually abused contrary to nature.”[4] 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.”[5]


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—those for whom it is 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.

Transgenderism, homosexuality, polygamy, adultery, pre-marital cohabitation, and any other form of sexual immorality is significant to the church because Christians understand that this behavior prevents people from experiencing the transformative power of God. Christians do not “target” sexual immorality out of fear and hatred; rather, they address it out of love. In Christ, nobody must be a slave to their passions and desires. The incredible teaching of 1 Corinthians chapter six is that God offers every person a new identity in Christ, regardless of their past!

This article is excerpted from the book Transitioning: A Biblical Understanding of Transgenderism.

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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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1. Meyerowitz, Joanne. “America’s Original Transgender Sweetheart.” Politico magazine, June 16, 2015. Accessed May 13, 2016. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/caitlyn-jenner-was-not-americas-first-transgender-sweetheart-christine-jorgensen-119080.

2. Long, Tony. “Dec. 1, 1952: Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty.” Wired magazine, December 1, 2010. Accessed May 13, 2016. http://www.wired.com/2010/12/1201first-sex-change-surgery/.

3. Hadjimatheou, Chloe. “Christine Jorgensen: 60 years of Sex Change Ops.” BBC magazine, November 30, 2012. Accessed May 13, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20544095.

4. Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Revised Edition, G#3120, 939. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1993.

5. 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.

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