Grace for Gays?

Let me start by being perfectly clear. Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is clear on this teaching. There is nothing intolerant or discriminatory for a church to call homosexuality a sin. So, given that homosexuality is a sin, what is necessary for a practicing homosexual to be saved? Which of the following descriptions do you think best fits salvation for a homosexual?

  • They need to believe in Jesus Christ and become a heterosexual.
  • They need to believe in Jesus Christ and, if they have true faith, they will no longer have or act on homosexual desires; if they continue to have or act on these desires it indicates that their faith wasn’t real.
  • They need to believe in Jesus Christ and while they may still have homosexual desires they must no longer act on these desires.
  • They need to believe in Jesus Christ and try hard not to act on their homosexual desires.
  • Or maybe it is something else.

 I have been disappointed by the typical church responses to homosexuality. I believe that our response to the process of salvation for a homosexual reveals a great deal about our practical theology of grace. Not the doctrine that is in our belief statements, but the teaching that is in our heart.

 One approach taken  by the “dreaded liberal” churches has been to quit calling homosexuality a sin. According to them, it is a lifestyle choice based on the way we were born. They would say we can’t help the way we are born; we aren’t responsible for our desires. I believe that this teaching is minimizing the concept of original sin and the depravity that all humans inherit. We are all born in sin, with the desire for sinful things. The resulting sin is not excused just because we are all born that way. That sin requires a Savior. And the desire for this Savior requires God to draw each of us to Him through His Spirit. Minimizing sin minimizes Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

At the other end of the spectrum are the common conservative Evangelical responses described in the bullet points above. All of these suggest that, if you are a homosexual, salvation requires you to believe and to change your desires and/or actions. Each of these viewpoints is adding our works, or at least the works of the homosexual, to the free gift of salvation.

 If we must become something else in order to be saved, like changing from a homosexual to a heterosexual, doesn’t this really say that we must do something in order to merit our salvation? If heterosexual sinners can be saved on faith alone, but homosexual sinners need something more, have we made sexual preference a merit? Is it something that we can boast about? Salvation is a gift to sinners, not to reformed sinners.

 What about the “true faith” argument? Isn’t it true that we are a new creature in Christ when we have been born again? We most certainly are. But there are still two important points that must be considered in this.

First, salvation is what creates the change to the new being, not the other way around and that new being still lives with sinful flesh. We are given a living spirit and a new heart, but these still reside in the old flesh until the day we are glorified. So the struggles, and failures, with sin remain. As Paul describes, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” – Rom 7:18b-19

 Second, salvation is not becoming righteous, it is being counted as righteous even though we aren’t righteous. This is not denying sanctification, it is making clear the important distinction between justification and sanctification. We are counted righteous based on the righteousness of Christ credited to us, nothing else. The degree of sanctification present, or lacking, in our daily lives does not alter this declaration. It is important not to confuse justification and sanctification as I pointed out in an earlier blog.

 Why does this matter? Because salvation for the glutton, the gossiper, the blasphemer, the fornicator, the liar, you, and me is no different from salvation for the homosexual. If we add some element of our efforts in one of these cases, then we must add our works for all cases.

 In order to be saved, we don’t need to believe in Jesus Christ AND

  • Become a saint; nor
  • Provide evidence of that faith by no longer having or acting on sinful desires; nor
  • Have refrained from ever acting on our sinful desires; nor
  • Have tried our hardest not to act on those sinful desires.

 It is something else.

 It is faith alone; faith that is a gift from God. Salvation is the same for Jew or Gentile, male or female, young or old, and straight or gay. 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://blog.lifeassuranceministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Rick_1_5x2.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He serves on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.[/author_info] [/author]

Rick Barker

Rick Barker

Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. More information on this study group can be found at www.gracediscovery.org. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He previously served on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.
Rick Barker

4 comments

  1. Excellent, Rick.

    Salvation is by grace through faith,which is a gift. Praise God that this is the way it is given to each of us. None of us is “more worthy” …. In fact, none is worthy at all!

    Like you, I believe that homosexuality is sin. This is the same thing that believe about gossip, lying, pride, envy +++. I *live in* many sins. I am more than grateful that salvation is not allotted by merit. “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift…” ~ Romans 4:4a

  2. First off Rick I would like to thank you for your insights on this and many other subjects. I Have a brother who is homosexual, so this hits very close to home. I have not witnessed to him, aside from my lifestyle, due to what I believe are major obstacles between his choices and the gospel. I guess my question to you is: What about repentance, and what about Paul’s many lists of sins, that will keep those who commit them out of the kingdom? I am sorry if you covered this in another blog as I am new here. Thanks again.

  3. Carpenter, Thanks for the kind and encouraging words. Witnessing to family can be one of the hardest things you can do. Without belief in Jesus, any sin keeps us from heaven. I don’t believe that Paul’s lists are meant to be understood as “these are the only sins that would keep you from heaven” I believe that they are example.

    I believe in repentance as well. But it isn’t a matter of getting your act together so that you can present yourself worthy to God for acceptance in order to be saved. If we had to be worthy in order to come to God, no one could ever become a Christian. God works the miracle of faith in us, through His Spirit, through the Word and the Gospel proclaimed to us by others, through whatever means are necessary. All of us when we are apart from Christ, from the “best” to the “worst”, are described by Paul in Romans 3 as ““None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”

    So if this is how we are “apart from Christ” how does one “abide in Christ”? No by the works that we do. This is a relationship that is based on something totally different than obeying laws and doing the right things (or stopping doing the bad things). It is based on only one thing. Faith, a belief, a deep trust in Christ. The very faith that God Himself builds in us.

    So when we witness, it isn’t to convince another person of some facts, or some actions they must do. It isn’t really to convince them at all. It is to describe Christ and Him crucified. It is to describe His love for all of us. Let God work the convincing, we are only asked to talk about Him and sow the seeds of His kingdom. When we know this pressure is off of us, it makes witnessing a great deal easier.

    Back to the main point, through faith we are saved. There is nothing that we do, or that we can do, in order to contribute to that salvation. It is Faith Alone. And once we have been adopted by God, He places the Holy Spirit in us as a seal guaranteeing (Eph 1:13-14 & 2 Cor 1:22) that we will receive the inheritance promised to us (eternal life with Him). This is a guaranteed promise from God, how much more secure can you get than that?

    AFTER, God has given us faith and saved us through through that faith, He also works to change us. He also promises to finish what He started in us. Saved people still sin, but God continues working to produce the fruit that brings glory to Him. But all of this occurs AFTER salvation, not before. And the pace at which it happens, the degree to which we fight God (not a fight we are ever going to win by the way) in this process never change His guarantee to us. We ultimately repent because God is changing us, not as a means of coming to God.

Leave a Reply