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Sam Storms

Enjoying God Ministries

Romans #7

December 6, 2020


“Contrary to Nature”

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality and Transgenderism (Part One)

Romans 1:24-27

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I face an immediate and unavoidable challenge in talking about homosexuality. In Romans 12:9 Paul exhorts us to “let love be genuine.” And in Romans 12:10 he commands us to “love one another with brotherly affection.” Here is the challenge. He also says in our passage in Romans 1 that some expressions of human sexuality are impure, dishonorable, contrary to nature, shameless, and deserving of eternal judgment. So, how can one be loving and yet say such things about homosexual conduct?


I suspect that many people in our society, perhaps even most, would insist that it is impossible to consistently embrace both positions. They insist that to tell someone that his/her sexual behavior is dishonorable and shameless is not loving. And if we are to love someone, we must affirm their choices and never suggest that what they are doing is morally impure or wrong or sinful.


As you have heard me say before, I will say yet again: To tell someone who is living in unrepentant homosexuality that his/her behavior is dishonorable and morally wrong and puts their soul in jeopardy of eternal damnation is the most loving thing you could possibly say to them. I know that this runs counter to our world today, but I don’t regard the world or its opinions as authoritative. Only God’s written Word is authoritative. Only Scripture is decisive in telling me what is right and wrong and what are the eternal consequences of both.


And that leads me to what may well be the most important thing I will say in these two weeks on the subject of homosexuality and transgenderism. The entire debate and the division that this issue creates boils down to a question of one’s ultimate moral authority. You have a choice to make. It’s a choice I made when I first became a Christian. You have only two options.


Either you acknowledge and submit to the authoritative statements of the Bible or you acknowledge and submit to the passions and feelings and opinions of your own soul. Either God defines your identity in his Word, or you define it according to your good pleasure. Either God decides what is true and good or, conversely, what is false and evil, or you do.


Either you believe that your personal identity is self-chosen, self-constructed, based on your personal preferences and desires, or you believe that it is God-given, stated clearly by him in Scripture. Either the God of the Bible is your God, or your own autonomous self is your god. Paul has already made it clear in Romans 1:18-25 that when God ceases to be the center of our souls, self takes his place.


So, when the Bible says that sexual relations between two people of the same gender is sinful, either you embrace that as morally definitive because the Bible is authoritative, or your reject it because your own soul is authoritative. So, what is it going to be: Self, or Scripture? Who or what is your final authority? Once that is decided, the rest of what lies before us is quite simple. Once that is decided, the meaning of true and genuine love is quite simple.


We face numerous other obstacles in addressing this issue.


For example, to believe what the Bible says on this subject is to open yourself to the charge of homophobia. Although that word literally means “a fear of homosexuality,” it is used today as part of a strategy of intimidation to silence Christians and belittle dissent to the mainstream view. You will also be charged with being intolerant and bigoted. Others will accuse us of being opposed to diversity and guilty of discrimination. We will be mocked and ridiculed for holding to what they insist is an outmoded, outdated, primitive understanding of human sexuality. Others insist that to speak critically of homosexual behavior is to incite violence against people who are attracted to someone of the same sex.


So what are we to do? The answer, at least to me, is obvious. We humbly search out Scripture to determine what it says about human sexual behavior and we then embrace it and submit to it, no matter the social or personal cost that may entail.


“But Sam,” some will say, “why is it important for us to address this topic? Why can’t we just skip over Romans 1 and move on to more important matters?” The answer is obvious. We must address this issue, (1) because the Bible does! Our primary commitment is to truth and this must take precedence over all other considerations. (2) We must address this issue and this text of Scripture because a person cannot fully follow Christ if his/her sexuality is out of harmony with God’s design for us. (3) We cannot avoid this topic because the urgency of our specific time and place in history demands that we speak out. (4) And perhaps most important of all, we must speak biblically and honestly about homosexuality because unrepentant homosexual conduct puts a person’s soul in jeopardy of eternal damnation.


Now, let me say three more things before we start. First, we must denounce any tendency by anyone to undermine the true humanity of homosexuals or to suggest that they are made less in the image of God than are heterosexuals. People who struggle with same-sex attraction are just as human as you and deserve no less than you to be treated with dignity. Second, our attitude toward those who identify as homosexual or who struggle with same-sex attraction must be one of loving concern, compassion, and a desire to help. Third, my prayer is that what I say about homosexuality and transgenderism, together with the way that you, Bridgeway Church, interacts with and responds to people who struggle in this regard will make them want to stay, not run away. We should all labor and pray to speak and act in such a way that all people, regardless of their sexual conduct, will find in us a loving and helping and compassionate church.


Simply put, I want Bridgeway to be a church where those who experience same-sex attraction can find the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome their sinful desires and change, or if not, can find the strength and courage and help and love from us to live a joyful and triumphant life of celibacy.


Homosexuality according to Paul in Romans 1


The place for us to begin is by noting the many things Paul says here that indicate he believed all homosexual activity to be sinful and contrary to God’s design in creation.


But first let me remind you of the context. Paul made it clear in vv. 18-25 that it is idolatry that leads to immorality. But why? Simply because once a person denies and turns from God and his moral law, he is subject to no one other than his own impulses. Whatever he feels is right, whatever brings personal satisfaction is his to pursue because he refuses to acknowledge God’s sovereign right to establish morals of right and wrong. Thus, the exchange of God for idols leads to an exchange of heterosexual relations for homosexual relations. A dishonoring of God leads to a dishonoring of oneself.


Why does Paul focus on homosexual relations here? “Probably because it functions as the best illustration of that which is unnatural in the sexual sphere. Idolatry is ‘unnatural’ in the sense that it is contrary to God’s intention for human beings. To worship corruptible animals and human beings instead of the incorruptible God is to turn the created order upside down. In the sexual sphere the mirror image of this ‘unnatural’ choice of idolatry is homosexuality” (Schreiner, 94). In other words, the sexual perversion of humanity is God’s judgment for people having exchanged him for an idol. When people exchange the truth of God for a lie, they often end up exchanging God’s design for sexual pleasure for a perversion. Disordered sexuality is often the consequence of disordered worship.


It may also be that the reason Paul uses homosexuality as the prime example of human sin is because it “represents one of the clearest instances of conscious suppression of revelation in nature by gentiles, inasmuch as it involves denying clear anatomical gender differences and functions” (Gagnon, 264). In other words, God’s existence and nature and design for humanity is revealed in the natural creation, and that would include human beings as well. When you look at the physiology of human beings, you can clearly see which is a male and which is a female and how they complement one another.


Once you reject the one true God as God, the only god left for you is yourself. And when “self” becomes the decisive judge of what is good and true, or bad and false, anything is possible. There are no limits or boundaries to what one can do.


(1) Notice that he first says that God has given up people to “impurity” (v. 24). This word is often used in Paul to refer to sexual sin (see 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:7). And the word translated “relations” in vv. 26-27 was commonly used in the ancient world for sexual relations (some translations render it “use”).


(2) I’ve already explained why Paul chose to focus on same-sex relations and not other expressions of sexual sin. But let me say it again. The answer comes from the context. He has been describing the nature of idolatry which is spiritually unnatural. Idolatry is clearly contrary to God’s design and desire for human beings. Homosexual behavior is the best illustration of what is unnatural in the sphere of sexual conduct. It is contrary to God’s design and desire for human beings. “Just as idolatry is a violation and perversion of what God intended, so too same-sex relations are contrary to what God planned when he created man and woman” (Schreiner, 102).


(3) In v. 26 Paul refers to women who “exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature” and we know he has in mind same-sex relations because that is what he immediately describes in v. 27. Notice that he says that men “likewise” gave up what is natural for what is unnatural. Thus, the sin of v. 26 is the same sin described in v. 27.


(4) The words “contrary to nature” are nowhere used in the Bible or in other literature of the day to refer to heterosexual sin, but only to sexual sin with those of the same gender. Neither is it that “contrary to nature” means contrary to the prevailing customs or social norms of that day and age. Paul is not talking about what may be “contrary” to your preferences or your feelings or your desires or inclinations. He is talking about what is contrary to God’s original design in creation.


There is nothing in the passage that would lead us to believe that by “nature” (physin) Paul means “my” personal, individual nature or inclinations, whatever they may be. “Nature,” here, does not mean “what seems or feels natural to me.” It means the way God intended things to be by virtue of creation. Thus to act “against nature” is to violate the order which God established for human behavior in general, not for your behavior in particular.


Contrary to nature could also be a reference to the obvious physiological complementarity of male and female and their ability to reproduce in having children, while male to male and female to female sexual contact produces nothing. It’s as if Paul is saying, “Can you not see that a man’s genitalia are meant for intercourse with a woman’s and vice versa, and that male genitalia are not designed for another man, nor female genitalia for another woman. “For Paul it was a simple matter of commonsense observation of human anatomy and procreative function that even pagans, otherwise oblivious to God’s direct revelation in the Bible, had no excuse for not knowing” (Gagnon, 256). Just as God’s existence and nature are clearly seen in the creation, so also the natural relation of male to female is seen in the way God has constructed the human body.


Someone might say, “But my homosexual desires feel so natural. I’ve always had them. So they must be morally ok.” I could as easily say, “My greed and envy and heterosexual lust and anger and jealousy feel natural. I’ve always had them. But that doesn’t mean they are inherently good.” We are all born with distorted desires. But that doesn’t mean it is permissible to indulge them.


(5) That Paul has in view a deviation from God’s original creative design is evident from the words he uses for “women” and “men”. These aren’t his normal terms (typically he uses gunē for woman and anēr for man). But here he uses thēlys for woman and arsēn for man. These are the words used in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) of Genesis 1:27 where it says God created “male and female”. This is confirmed in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 where Jesus uses these same two terms in quoting from Genesis 1:27. Paul is obviously drawing specific attention to the creation account in Genesis to emphasize the sexual distinction between male and female and that same-sex intimacy is contrary to God’s original creative design.


(6) That the phrase “contrary to nature” refers to same-sex relations is also confirmed by the fact that in v. 27 Paul explicitly says that this entails men giving up natural relations with women in order that they might engage in sexual relations with other men. This is confirmed yet again when Paul says in v. 27 that men who act “contrary to nature” “were consumed with passion for one another.” One more confirmation that this is the meaning of “contrary to nature” is that Paul describes such behavior as “shameless acts” (v. 27).


(7) Some who believe homosexuality is entirely good and permissible argue that Paul is describing what happens when a person who is heterosexual commits homosexual acts. He is “naturally” heterosexual and thus acts “contrary to nature” when he/she engages in homosexual activity. But everything that I’ve already mentioned above argues against this view. Furthermore, all Jewish literature of the day, together with the entire OT, speaks unanimously and with one voice that homosexual conduct is always wrong and sinful, regardless of who engages in it or for whatever reason. Paul says that what is “shameless” is “men committing” sexual acts “with men.” He nowhere says that these are heterosexual men committing homosexual acts. Greg Bahnsen explains:


“Homosexuals exchange the right way to gain sexual gratification for one which is in itself against nature; what males are said to abandon is not their own personal customary sexual activity but rather the natural use of the female. It may be in some sense individually natural for someone to be a kleptomaniac, but it is nonetheless a perversion of God's will for man's prescribed manner of obtaining things. Likewise, to say that heterosexual desires and acts are not natural to those individuals who are (allegedly) constitutionally homosexual plainly suppresses Paul's point. Homosexuality per se is always unnatural” (57-58).


In vv. 24 and 27 Paul says that such behavior is dishonoring to themselves. “That is why it is wrong for people to think that opposition to homosexuality is a violation of the homosexual's dignity as a person. It is precisely because of his dignity as a person that we must disapprove of homosexuality as unworthy of him as God's image” (Bahnsen, 60).


(8) Others in the homosexual community contend that what Paul is condemning is pederasty, a word that refers to adult men having sexual relations with young boys. That, they say, is what Paul opposes, but not consensual same-sex intimacy by consenting adults. But note well that Paul’s wording in vv. 26-27 is not restricted to a specific kind of homosexual act but is a general prohibition and denunciation of all homosexual activity. It is men engaging in sexual activity with men that he declares is contrary to nature and shameless. Nowhere does he mention sex between men and boys. In addition, there was a particular Greek term that refers to pederasty (paiderastes), and Paul nowhere makes use of it. Furthermore, “the idea that pederasty is in view is contradicted by the reference to the homosexual acts of women in verse 26,” and there is no evidence “that women regularly engaged in sexual activity with girls” (Schreiner, 105).


(9) Could it be that Paul is only condemning homosexual acts but not homosexual desires? No. Back in v. 24 he referred to “the lusts of their hearts” that leads to “impurity.” And again in v. 26 he refers to these desires for sexual relations with a person of the same gender as “dishonorable passions.”


(10) The “due penalty” for this error is being handed over by God to a deeper and more widespread and more intense cultivation of their sinful behavior. Some have argued that this is a prophetic reference to the emergence of HIV and AIDS in our day, but that is unlikely.


Thus, to make Paul a champion of homosexuality you would be forced to conclude that when he speaks of “impurity” in v. 24 he really means “purity.” When he speaks of “dishonoring” of the body he really means “honoring” of the body. When he speaks of “dishonorable passions” he actually means “honorable” ones. When he speaks of something being “contrary to nature” he really means “perfectly in harmony with nature” and when he mentions “shameless acts” what he really means is “good and honorable acts.”


Homosexuality in the Old Testament

Genesis 19


The most well-known text in the OT concerning homosexuality is, of course, Genesis 19. You will recall that two angels, in the appearance of men, came to the city of Sodom. Lot invited them to stay in his house:


But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.


Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” . . .


The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground (Genesis 19:1-13, 23-25).


According to many in the gay movement, the men of Sodom were simply anxious to meet and interrogate these two visitors to find out if they were spies. When they demanded of Lot that he bring out the two men in order that they might know them, their desire was to get better acquainted, to examine their credentials, as it were. Their sin, therefore, for which they were punished, was little more than a lack of hospitality and kindness. By treating these visitors with suspicion and demanding that they subject themselves to inquiry and investigation, the men of Sodom were being unfriendly and inhospitable.


There are numerous problems with this interpretation. First, whereas the Hebrew verb yada means “to know” or “get acquainted”, on ten occasions in the OT it refers to sexual relations. Of those ten occurrences, five appear in Genesis. Surely it is not far-fetched to conclude that Moses used the term with sexual connotations. Second, this view asks us to believe that because the men of Sodom lacked love and social courtesy, God reduced the entire city and its inhabitants to ashes! God incinerated Sodom and every living creature within its boundaries because the men violated some ancient law of etiquette! Please!


Third, it is unlikely that Lot would have referred to a breach of etiquette as wickedness (v. 7). Furthermore, if the verb yada means no more than “to get acquainted with” in v. 5, it must mean the same thing in v. 8, where it is used yet again. But does Lot mean to say that his daughters were not acquainted with any man? Was not Lot himself a man? Furthermore, even if yada means no more than “to get acquainted with”, how could Lot's offer of his daughters “to get acquainted with” the men of Sodom compensate for their breach of hospitality toward the visitors? If it is admitted that yada (to know) in v. 8 refers to sexual relations (and even most homosexual scholars admit it does), it must refer to sexual relations in v. 5. Thus the sin of the Sodomites was not social, but sexual, in nature.


Fourth, let us suppose, solely for the sake of argument, that the verb yada means two entirely different things. In v. 5 it means “to get acquainted with” and in v. 8 it means “to have sex with”. If that were the case, Lot is offering his two daughters as a sexual bribe in order to prevent a breach in the law of hospitality. That is psychologically ludicrous and absurd. Would a father propose the heinous violation of his own daughters simply to avoid the breach of a minor social custom?


Admittedly, Lot's decision to sacrifice his daughters is itself difficult to understand. Perhaps he knew more than he let on of the divine origin of the visitors and felt it would have been worse for them, than for his daughters, to have been subjected to such barbaric treatment. Perhaps he hoped that because the men of Sodom were homosexuals that they would not seriously harm his daughters. Perhaps he thought that no matter how bad heterosexual rape was, homosexual rape was worse. Perhaps he reacted impulsively, not thinking. We just don't know.


Fifth, if the only thing the Sodomites wanted was to investigate the visitors' credentials, why didn't Lot simply comply? Why didn't he just introduce his guests and demonstrate their good intentions and put a swift and easy end to the matter?


Sixth, the breach of hospitality interpretation would call for serious injustice. For “if the problem at Sodom was that the hospitality code was broken, it was Lot who broke it, not the inhabitants of Sodom. But then, Lot should have been the one judged. Instead, Lot and his family are the only ones who escape while Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed” (Feinbergs, 193).


Seventh, Jude 7 confirms that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was sexual in nature. There we read, “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.” The words “unnatural desire” are more literally, “other flesh,” that is, flesh of a different kind from that which God had ordained for us. Some argue that this refers to the men of Sodom wanting to have sex with angels. But the men of Sodom didn’t know that Lot’s guests were angels. Also, Jude says that “the surrounding cities . . . likewise” committed sexual immorality. Are we to believe that those in other towns all wanted to have sex with angels? By having sex with “other flesh” Jude clearly refers to homosexual activity.


Eighth, those who wish to uphold the morality of homosexuality try to argue that Sodom's sin was not homosexuality per se, but homosexual rape. The sin of rape, so they insist, lies not in the fact that it is homosexual or heterosexual, but in the fact that it victimizes a non-consenting partner.


However, “nowhere does the text even slightly hint that what the men of Sodom wanted to do would be permissible if only Lot's guests had consented. Moreover, this interpretation does not account for the fact that God's judgment fell upon two entire cities. Was homosexual rape a common practice and thus brought the judgment of God?” (Feinbergs, 190).


Some push back by pointing to Ezekiel 16:49-50. Certainly it is true that Sodom was guilty of ingratitude and greed and a cold-hearted refusal to share her abundance with those in need. But that was not their only sin and certainly not the one for which they were judged. The word “abomination” in v. 50 is used in Leviticus for homosexual intercourse. It is also used of a wide variety of vices and abuses, including social injustice.


Leviticus 18:22; 20:13


“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22).


“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” (Lev. 20:13).


Whereas all the acts denounced in Leviticus 18 and 20 are “abominations” (plural), only homosexual intercourse is singled out for special mention as “an abomination” (18:22; 20:13). There is nothing to suggest that if the sexual activity was consensual it was morally ok. There is nothing to suggest that Moses was talking about sex between an older man and a young boy. The only relevant consideration is the gender of those involved, regardless of age or desire.


People push back and say that we are no longer obligated to live under the dictates of Leviticus or other commands in the Law of Moses. But we cannot simply sweep away the entirety of the OT as if it has no relevance for us. Each command or law in the OT has to be examined in the light of what Christ accomplished and what the NT teaches. And the NT is clear that homosexual conduct is still viewed by God as an abomination.


Also, when Paul spoke of “men who practice homosexuality” (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10) he used two words that are found in the LXX of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Virtually everyone agrees that Paul coined these terms based on their appearance in Leviticus.


Did Jesus ever Denounce Homosexuality as Sin?


Although Jesus never explicitly mentions homosexuality, he never explicitly mentions bestiality or pedophilia or rape or child abuse or incest or necrophilia. But no one would argue that he therefore approved of such behavior.


It makes no sense to think that Jesus would have adopted the opposite view of the OT on the subject of homosexuality. The universal condemnation of homosexual conduct within ancient Israel and the Judaism of our Lord’s day and time largely explains why Jesus never mentioned it. He didn’t need to. Everyone assumed it was sinful. Also, Jesus clearly and explicitly affirmed the exclusive nature of marriage as being between one man and one woman, appealing to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24.


Also, it isn’t precisely accurate to say Jesus never mentioned homosexual behavior. In Mark 7:21-23 he specifically listed things that defile a person and included was porneia, a reference to all forms of sexual misconduct that in the minds of everyone living at that time would have included homosexuality along with pre-marital and extra-marital sex.


Denny Burk has pointed out that Jesus’ alleged silence versus Paul’s explicit statements regarding homosexuality is completely understandable given their different contexts. Jesus lived and ministered in and around Judea primarily among Jews where there was basic agreement on the Torah’s prohibition of homosexual behavior. That is not to say that there were no homosexuals in Judea. It is to say that there was no great debate at the time about what the Bible taught about it. The apostle Paul, however, lived and ministered among Gentiles scattered throughout the Roman Empire. In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s mission, the Torah was not the norm, and people by and large accepted homosexual behavior. It is no wonder, therefore, that Paul would have mentioned it explicitly (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:10). Jesus’ alleged “silence” on the issue is evidence of his Jewish context, not of his endorsement.


Homosexuality elsewhere in Paul’s Letters


Paul mentions homosexuality in two additional texts.


“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. 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” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).


“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, . . .” (1 Tim. 1:9-10).


In 1 Cor. 6:9-11, the ESV renders two words with one phrase: “men who practice homosexuality” (v. 9). The first word, malakoi has the basic meaning of “soft” and thus came to be used as a pejorative description of a man who assumed the role of the passive partner in a homosexual relationship. Robert Gagnon says the term was used to refer to “men who deliberately feminized themselves, sometimes to attract male sex partners, through dress, mannerisms, [or] hairstyle” (


The second word, arsenokoitai, used also in 1 Timothy 1:10, is a compound of the words “male” and “intercourse” and is generally understood to be a reference to the active partner in a homosexual relationship. Clearly, Paul declares that those who live in this unrepentant lifestyle will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”




The purpose of this first message in Romans 1:24-27 was to articulate the biblical perspective on homosexuality. In the next message we will explore the many practical implications, such as whether or not you should attend a same-sex wedding, what happens when your child tells you they are gay, is it possible for a person with same-sex attraction to be delivered from such desires, is there a genetic cause of homosexuality, and numerous other questions.


So let me close with this brief word of encouragement to those who experience same-sex attraction. We love you and care deeply and sincerely for your spiritual, physical, and eternal welfare. We want you to find in Bridgeway a spiritual family where you will not only hear the truth of Scripture concerning this matter but also where you might receive the support and strength that you need to walk in holiness and sexual purity.