Is “Homosexual” a Noun or an Adjective and What Difference Does It Make?


volume 18, number 20, May 16, 2019

. . . realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” 1 Timothy 1:9,10

Is “Homosexual” a Noun or an Adjective and What Difference Does It Make?

In the Greek text listed above the following words are adjectives-righteous, lawless, rebellious, ungodly, sinners, unholy, and profane. As you know, adjectives modify or further explain nouns. So, we could speak here of a righteous man, a lawless man, a rebellious man, an ungodly man, a sinful man, an unholy man, or a profane man. We can further say that the modifier of “man” helps further explain the actions or character of the noun “man.” The identity of the one being described here as lawless, rebellious, ungodly, or sinful is the noun “man” (a person, place, or thing). The adjectives tell us something about the “man”.

In the rest of the verse these words are nouns-immoral men (Greek word porneia, sexual sin), homosexuals, kidnappers, and liars. Again a noun is a person, place, or thing. So a noun defines or describes one’s identity. 
So, what’s the point? Revisionists in the evangelical world today want us to call “homosexual” an adjective, but not a noun, as in homosexual behavior, homosexual desires, homosexual thoughts or affections. This notion that the word “homosexual” is not a noun seems to come from John Stott. In his 1984 book Issues Facing Christians Today, which has been revised, updated, and extended, Stott makes this astonishing and blatantly unbiblical statement, “As far as the Bible is concerned, there is no such phenomenon as a ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual’: there are only people made in the image of God.” 

What’s wrong with that? After all, people can have homosexual thoughts, desires, affections, or behavior. Here’s the problem. Revisionists[1] like Mark Yarhouse, Wesley Hill, Greg Coles, and Nate Collins, who are all speaking at the Revoice 2019conference in St. Louis, are allowing sociology and psychology to drive their teaching on the topic of homosexual inclusion in the church. They want us to believe that homosexual desire is sexual orientation, and though it is “of sin” due to Adam’s sin, it is not sin in and of itself. In other words, they equate sexual orientation with the eunuch in Matthew 19 and the man born blind in John 9, just unfortunate results of living in a fallen world. So they are saying that just as we would not ask a eunuch nor a blind man to repent of their conditions, so we ought not to expect those with a homosexual orientation to repent of their condition. These revisionists tell us that rarely does a homosexual man or woman change their sexual orientation. You will note that I am not using the word “same-sex attraction” because that is not a Biblical category. I am not willing to give them that word in the discussion. 

As always, however, we must begin and end with Scripture. In the only other passage in the New Testament (1 Cor.6:9) which uses the Greek word arsenokoitai(homosexual) the word form is a noun.[2] In other words, Scripture teaches that homosexual is not merely a modifier which helps explain a person’s actions, thoughts, desires, or affections. In I Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 6:10 arsenokoitai is a word of identity. Literally the word arsenokoitai means a man lying in bed with another man, as with a woman. A homosexual is someone who engages in homosexual actions or desires. This noun homosexual is listed right beside other nouns which explain what we would all, without hesitation, call ungodly behavior-immoral men, kidnappers, and liars. 

The revisionists want to drive a wedge between our words lust and desire. Why? Because they want us to accept into the church those who admit homosexual desires but claim that since they are not acting upon those desires then they have not fallen into lust. However the Greek word epithumia makes no distinction between lust and desire. Clearly in Romans 1:24, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,” Paul uses the word in a negative or pejorative sense. But epithumia is used in Luke 22:15 in describing Jesus’ strong desire, “I have earnestly desired (epithumia) to eat the Passover with you before I suffer.” In other words, lust and desire mean the same thing in Scripture.

Homosexual actions, desires, thoughts, and affections are all sinful and therefore unacceptable to God. One who is tempted in this area must repent and run to Jesus for sanctifying grace. Do we not already say the same about the other nouns in the text of 1 Timothy 6:10? Immorality or sexual sin, kidnapping, and lying are all sin. 

So, what happens when a Christian has adulterous thoughts about someone? He is to mortify those thoughts. He is to pray and run for his life from the temptation before him. He is to hate and forsake his sinful thought or desire. No doubt all of you who are believers in Jesus have battled this mightily. And you may very well fall into adulterous thoughts or even into the actual act of adultery, but if you are a true believer in Jesus, then God will sooner or later discipline or chastise you and bring you back to Himself in repentance. The same is true with the a kidnapper. A father who has lost custody of his child in a divorce proceeding may be tempted to take matters into his own hands and kidnap his two year old daughter in hopes of keeping her away from her mother whom the husband knows to be a drug addict. But the father must repent of his sinful desire to kidnap his daughter, no matter how justified he believes he is in the matter. And the same is true with the liar. When asked by his boss if he has followed through on the assignment given him a month ago, knowing he has not finished the project, fearing that he may be fired for his slackness, he may be tempted to lie and say, “Yes, I finished it and I will have the report on your desk tomorrow.” He must resist his temptation to lie. He must mortify it.

How is the issue of homosexual attraction any different? If one is born again, why would he ever use the adjectival modifier “homosexual” to describe his identity? Why would he say,”I am a homosexual Christian. I am a same-sex attracted Christian.” 

The problem is not necessarily with those who have homosexual desires or thoughts any more than the problem is with those who have desires to kidnap, fornicate, or lie. The issue is identity. If you are born again to a living hope through Jesus Christ then you are a Christian, period. You are not a lying Christian, nor a fornicating Christian, nor a kidnapping Christian, nor a homosexual attracted Christian.


1. Revisionists are those who wish to change the long standing theology and culture of the Biblical church on the issue of homosexuality, pushing for the inclusion of homosexuals into the church as full members with the privilege of receiving the sacraments and becoming church officers. 
2. I find it very interesting that the King James Version published in 1611, in translating arsenokoitai renders it “abusers of themselves with mankind”, no doubt keeping with Paul’s admonition, “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret,” (Ephesians 5:11,12). 

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