26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
1901 ASV Translation:
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due.
There are no textual variations in verses 26-27 between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26.
I. The word translated "vile" is everywhere else translated by a more subdued word choice (dishonor, shame, reproach) and is, thereby, probably over-kill as a translation. It is interesting how violently men react to sexual perversity (they cannot even translate Holy Writ properly when confronted with it) and how often it is met with physical violence. This word means "without honor" and refers to a person or thing that is held in very low esteem.
A. In addressing the female perversion, Paul uses "passions of dishonor" to describe that to which God gave the women over. The terminology, properly translated, is relatively mild and typical of the New Testament.
B. In addressing the male perversion, Paul uses "burned in their lust" to describe that to which God gave the men over. The terminology is intense.
1. The word "burned" is used only here in the New Testament in this form. It is an intensified variation of the word "to set on fire" and is a deliberate attempt on the apostle's part to picture man being "consumed".
2. The word "lust" is atypical for the New Testament treatment of "lust". It is used once as a noun and three times as a verb. Invariably, it refers to a "completely dominating desire".
C. Clearly Paul wanted to maximize the male distortion without leaving the female distortion out. Just as clearly, Paul wanted to bring the "sexual" issues to the front burner.
II. The words "natural use" raise some interesting issues.
A. At what point does "natural use" become a basis for theological correctness? Is it always/ever a "sin" to contradict "nature"? It is "natural" for disease to attack our bodies. Is it a "sin" to attempt to create medicine to oppose what is "natural"? At what point can the apostle summon "nature" as a witness against mankind?
1. This same apostle, without explaining how in any sense, says that "nature" teaches us that it is a "shame" for a man to wear long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14). He does this in the face of the Nazarite requirement that a man not cut his hair as long as he is "dedicated to God" (Numbers 6:5).
2. What is the "theology of nature" and how do we discern what is "right" from it?
a. "Nature" is mostly "illustrative"; it simply gives an illustration of cause and effect that must be determined to be "righteous" or "unrighteous" based upon the deletorious impact of the "effect".
b. "Nature" probably needs to be differentiated from "fallen nature" in the sense that "good Theology" probably will not arise from that which arises from the presence of sin in the creation...in other words, if we can discern what "nature" was created by the Good God of Genesis 1-2, that "nature" may well be useful to us to discern what is good and what is not. Disease is a matter of the judgment of God in the reality of sin; it was not "created as a part of the original creation of the Good God". Thus, to work against "fallen nature" is not an error. But, the question then becomes, when is it an error to work against original creation? How is cutting one's hair a "good" for a man and a "shame" to a woman?
3. The apostle's argument is not that "nature" establishes what is "right"; rather, he says that "nature" illustrates the futility of man's methods.
a. The "big issue" in Paul's argument is that man abandoned the God of Life for a host of substitutes that promote great evil.
b. The "argument" of man in his "wisdom" is that his "life" is tied up in the benefits that come to him for his worship and service to these substitutes.
c. Paul's counter argument is that man's "most obvious" foolishness is in the realm of his sexual life where he, having abandoned God and being abandoned by God, "worships and serves" sexual pleasure in ways that are so obvious in their inability to "produce life" that there should be no argument.
1) The women abandoned the "natural use" and "exchanged" it for a practice that is "against nature" -- a practice that cannot ever bring life into being.
2) The men also, burning in lust, turned against "nature" and not only began futile sexual perversions, but also received in their own bodies a recompence that was "due" their behavior -- so that not only did their behavior show the inability to produce life, it actively set about to destroy them.
3) There is this question: did Paul address the sexual perversions because this is an area where man is "fixated", or did he address these perversions because they are the most difficult to hide? The answer is probably "both". Sooner or later, a man's theology will show up in his "sex life" and, sooner or later, a man's "sex life" will show up in public.