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‘You once were, now you are not’

February 2019 | by Don Haddleton

Practising homosexuals who profess to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are demanding that they should be welcomed as equals in faith into the mainline denominations.

They also argue they should not be excluded from enjoying the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as heterosexual believers, including the role of pastoral leadership within the local church.

‘Our faith’ they say ‘is a real faith in Jesus’. How should the local church of Christ respond to such statements?

Firstly, local congregations, generally speaking, will welcome all persons who attend their Sunday worship services without distinction of age, ethnicity or gender, in the hope that those who may not know Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour would be saved through the preaching of the gospel.

Secondly, no individual can become a full member of, or take a pastoral leadership role in the local congregation who has not professed saving faith in Jesus Christ and who has not been baptized as a public witness to their new life in Jesus.

The emphasised part of that last sentence is crucial. The true Christian is not just someone who has taken up a particular philosophical or religious position on life, however worthy that position may be, but is a person who has been ‘born from above’ (John 3:3,5-7).

Regeneration (2 Corinthians 5:17) leading to the profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour will be evident by a life in which those practices which God declares as sinful are being overcome in the believer’s life.

Although never perfect or sinless in this life, the professed ‘born again’ believer will have a desire to live according to the moral commandments of God. Although many times the believer in Christ might fall into sin — which by definition is a failure to keep God’s moral law as revealed in the Scriptures — the true Christian will repent and confess that sin, seeking God’s forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ, and the aid of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to God the Father.

The Bible clearly teaches in Paul’s letter written to the Roman believers that ‘There is no distinction for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’(Romans 3:23). Thus the Bible sees all persons regardless of age, gender or ethnicity as sinners before a holy and righteous God.

However, homosexuals and many of the gay rights and transgender movement who profess to be believers in the Lord Jesus, claim that their sexual orientation is not sinful but natural, and therefore they should not be prevented from assuming roles of leadership and authority in the local church.

What is the biblical response to that claim? The Bible clearly teaches that those who have been brought to conviction of sin, leading to repentance and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, are thereby bound to accept that the Scriptures are their only rule of life and faith, a life which is to be lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of Christ Jesus their Lord.

Therefore, for all believers, it is what the Scriptures say about sin and not personal lifestyle preferences or natural inclinations that determine what is and what is not sin.

Paul writing to the Corinthian church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:8-11) states that those who practise — note the word practise — homosexuality, or who are adulterers, thieves, sexual immoral, (Leviticus 18 details the sexual activities which are condemned by God) idolaters, the greedy, drunkards, swearers, or swindlers; such persons will never enter the kingdom of God, unless they confess and turn away from their chosen sinful life style.

Thus the Bible classes homosexuality as sin. Sin as noted before, being a want of conformity to God’s moral law. But the important point for practising homosexuals, adulterers, fornicators, thieves, swindlers, etc. is what the apostle Paul writes to the the Corinthian believers.

Having listed the sins and lifestyle which will bring people under God’s judgment, Paul then continues; ‘And such were some of you’. The membership of the church at Corinth, as is the membership of churches today, was composed of former sinners who had lived in all manner of sin and rebellion against God, but now through repentance and saving faith in Christ Jesus no longer practised the sins they once freely indulged.

True Christians are those who have become new creatures in Christ Jesus and now having been born again they repent, turn from, and no longer desire to live in the sin in which they were once submerged. They no longer desire to practise sin as defined by God’s Word.

Sinful urges and temptations will occur in a believer’s life, and some Christians will in unguarded moments fall victim to such urges and temptations. But the person who has been truly saved, and has a real saving faith in Jesus Christ, will not desire to, nor continue to live in or practise sin as a way of life, thus proving the reality of their rebirth, repentance, and faith.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote about the inner change that comes to new believers in Jesus Christ, noting that for them ‘sin will become something hateful to them, something abhorrent, something quite incompatible with their Christian position and their Christian relationships … sin is, therefore, something which the Christian must renounce completely’.

To profess saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and at the same time to desire to continue to live a life not in conformity to God’s moral will, principles, precepts and commands declares that such a person regardless of claims, feelings or experiences is still an unregenerate person. He is untouched by the Holy Spirit and thus not a true believer in Christ Jesus as set forth in the New Testament.

Therefore, although practising homosexuals, together with practising liars, practising cheats, practising thieves etc., are welcome to attend the worship services of the local Christian congregation, such people, on biblical grounds, cannot become formal members of the church, nor can they take on positions of pastoral leadership and equality in matters of faith in the evangelical church.

It can truly be said of all former sinners who now are believers in Jesus Christ that ‘they once were, but now are not’.

Don Haddleton