Matthew Vines on Romans 1:26-27

by Matt Slick

  • "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." (Rom. 1:26-27, NASB).

Mr. Vines says, "Because of this [referring to their idol worship], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error . . . How we understand this passage hinges in large part on how we understand the meaning of the terms 'natural' and 'unnatural' . . . First, the passage’s context. In 1:18-32, Paul is making a larger argument about idolatry . . . They started with the knowledge of God, but they chose to reject Him . . . The idolaters are without excuse because they knew the truth, they started with the truth, but they rejected it. Paul’s subsequent statements about sexual behavior follow this same pattern. The women, he says, 'exchanged' natural relations for unnatural ones. And the men 'abandoned' relations with women and committed shameful acts with other men. Both the men and the women started with heterosexuality—they were naturally disposed to it just as they were naturally disposed to the knowledge of God—but they rejected their original, natural inclinations for those that were unnatural: for them, same-sex behavior.”

Mr. Vines changes the focus of the text away from God's design and function to what is "natural" for a particular person.  This way he can get "orientation" inserted into the text and change its understanding.  He says that "they rejected their original, natural inclinations for those that were unnatural: for them, same-sex behavior."  Notice the shift of focus from "natural function" (Romans 1:26, 27 NASB) to "natural inclination."  Function deals with biological design.  "Orientation" deals with internal subjective preference.  Let's take a look at the word "function" in the Greek.

  • χρῆσις chrḗsis; gen. chrḗseōs, fem. noun from chráomai (5530), to use. Use, the act (usage) or manner (use) of using (Rom. 1:26, 27 of the use of the body in sexual intercourse).
    • Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. electronic ed. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000.
  • χρῆσις [chresis /khray·sis/] n f. From 5530; GK 5979; Two occurrences; AV translates as “use” twice. 1 use. 1a of the sexual use of a woman.
    • Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G5540). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
  • χρῆσις chrēsis; from 5530; use (as in a sexual sense):— function(2).
    •  Thomas, R. L. (1998, 1981). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition (H8674). Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
  • χρῆσις (chrēsis), εως (eōs), ἡ (hē): n.fem.; ≡ Str 5540—LN 23.65 sexual function, carnal relations (Ro 1:26, 27+)
    • Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.) (GGK5979). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Okay, so we can see what the word means.  Let's also see how different Bibles render this into the English.

  • "Function", NASB, ISV
  • "Use", Darby, KJV, NKJV, ASV, GNT, YLT
  • "Relations", ESV, NIV, RSV
  • "Intercourse", NRSV
  • "Sexual relations", God's Word, NET
  • "Sexual intercourse," HCSB

Clearly, the word deals with biological function that occurs during sexual intercourse.  There is nothing here about "orientation."  Mr. Vines is simply mistaken.  He has read into the text that which is not there and in so doing has failed to properly understand the original.  He has altered the focus of the text to suit his pre-conceived ideas.  This is the wrong way to examine the word of God.



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About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.