Lately, I’ve been enjoying a new podcast put out by Warhorn Media entitled, “The World We Made”. The first season features Pastor Tim Bayly discussing the sin of homosexuality, and how it should be thought about and addressed by the church.
Bayly examines part of 1 Corinthians 6:9 in this week’s episode, well worth your listen. “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).
Specifically, he examines Paul’s warning that effeminate men will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, it is likely that you own an ESV, NIV, or HCSB as your main reading Bible. They are popular. But if you open up one of those versions, you’ll notice that the word “effeminate” doesn’t make an appearance. If you weren’t exposed to another translation, you wouldn’t think twice about it. But in the NASB, quoted above, “effeminate” is there. Go look in the KJV or another older version, and you’ll see it there as well. The phrase upon which the translation is based is, “μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται”. The phrase is part of a series of damning sins Paul lists. “If this marks you, you ain’t going to heaven.” Oo-tay (how you say the middle word) just means “nor”; it is part of the list’s negation (neither this, nor that, nor etc.). Arsenokoitai (ἀρσενοκοῖται) communicates the idea of men in bed together, and so is appropriately translated “homosexuals”, men committing homosexual acts with one another. Malakoi (μαλακοὶ) is the word translated differently in different Bibles, with the NASB, KJV, and other, older translations using something like “effeminate”, and the ESV, NIV, and other, newer translations just lumping it in with ἀρσενοκοῖται, assuming that it communicates the idea of the passive male partner in a homosexual action.
Due to the grammar of the sentence, and the use of the word elsewhere, it is best to understand μαλακοὶ as meaning effeminate, or soft, or, as Martin Luther translated it, sissy. Grammatically speaking, the whole sentence is a list of distinct sins condemned by Paul. Fornicators, thieves, adulterers, idolaters, homosexuals, and sissies. How is the word used elsewhere? In Matthew 11, Jesus is speaking to a crowd about John the Baptist, the hide-wearing, honey-dipping, paint-peeler. And he asks them, “Did you go out to see a man in soft clothes? Men who wear soft clothes are in the kings’ palaces!”
So, to go back to Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9, “If you’re a silky, satin, sissy, you won’t inherit the kingdom of God.”
“In the ancient world, this Greek word “malakoi” has a long and well-documented history of usage. The “malakoi” were not simply those who were passive partners in sodomitic intercourse, although that meaning is clearly among those sins condemned by this usage of “malakoi” here in the text of 1Corinthians 6:9. This sin list is not just about sex, and “malakoi” is not simply one of the two partners in homosexual intercourse. Beyond homosexual intercourse, “soft men” are those men, both homosexual and heterosexual, who refuse to bear responsibility and whose moral firmness does not match the sex God made them. Just as the “covetous” will not inherit the kingdom of God, “soft men” or “effeminate” will not inherit the kingdom of God. The “malakoi” are men who turn and flee in battle, men who have been softened by the music they listen to, men who indulge in luxury of food, drink, and clothing and whose manly principle has been destroyed by these indulgences. The malakoi shave their beards and cut their hair from vanity and their desire to attract a partner for sexual sin.”
The older Bibles get it right; and the newer Bibles flub it on this one.
In Bayly’s discussion of this verse on the podcast, he spoke on an idea to which I had never before given thought. God is a genius in his design of the male body, in that man is meant by God to live like his developed male organ. When a boy becomes a man, responsible to meet all of God’s expectations for men, his male organ becomes hard and firm. And so he is to live, hard and firm. He is to be the opposite of a soft sissy. In all he does, he is to act in firmness, hardily carrying responsibility wherever possible, doing so for the glory of God and the good of others.
My grandpa served in England and France in World War Two. While in France he met a French woman whose husband had died during the Nazi occupation. This single mother had two children, and was having great difficulty preventing them from going to sleep every night with empty stomachs. What did my grandpa do? He acted with manly firmness. Grandpa gave out of his own rations to this family, that the woman and her children could eat. An opportunity presented itself for my grandpa to carry responsibility. And he took it on. He was no sissy.
When Lord Errol arrived at what would become Longleaf Manor, it was wilderness, full of thistles and thorns. So he worked; and he sweat; and he cultivated the land, such that, by the end of his life, Longleaf Manor had provided food, work, and income not just for his wife and sons, but also for the families of the nearby village, Hustingreen. Errol charged head on at sweaty, calloused responsibility. He was no sissy.
If reading attentively, I hope Paul’s condemnation of effeminate men concerns you, for when confronted with God’s holiness and high standard, we ought to know just how far we fall short. If reading with eyes to see, every day that we read the Bible we will encounter this reality. God is better than us, and demands that we be better than we are.
The gospel alone is the hope for effeminate men, and men recovering from lifetimes and patterns of soft effeminacy. We fall short of the glory of God. God put forward Jesus, his Son, as a propitiation by his blood to be received by grace alone through faith alone. Jesus died and rose again, and sits on the heavenly throne. Repent and believe in him as Savior and King, knowing that in him is forgiveness for all effeminacy and eternal righteous life.
Again, go listen to this week’s episode; and feel the weight of your sin.