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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Homosexual Christians and The Kingdom

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 homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. -1 Cor 6:9-10
This commonly quoted passage in 1 Cor 6 concerning (among other things) sexual sin and "inheriting the kingdom" does not involve the free gift of eternal life. That is a dangerous path to take and I see it all the time. Do not conflate "inheriting the kingdom" with the free gift, by grace, of life through his name. If all you have is a saved/lost or a heaven/hell understanding of scripture, you will not get very far.

Just the pronouns in the verses above reveal this is directed as Christians. The whole chapter makes it even more abundantly clear that Paul is issuing this warning to Christians. Is Paul writing to unbelievers here?
Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?
Clearly this aimed at believers. Paul would never refer to unbelievers as "members of Christ." Yet despite the overwhelming evidence in this chapter (and throughout the ministry of the Lord and his chosen), men still turn this gun towards the world or they chalk it up to Paul referencing the past lives of some Christians.
In this passage we see that the members of the church at Corinth had been guilty of homosexuality as well as many other sins, but they had been converted. The homosexuality is spoken of in the past tense. 
-David Cloud (Excerpt, Way of Life Literature)
Paul does say "such were some of you" in reference to the past lives of some of the Corinthian believers, but even with that understood, why would he have need to warn them if they were never in danger of slipping back into those lifestyles? 

Leaving Sexual sin for a moment, "drunkards" is on the list of offenses. Do we believe that it is impossible for an alcoholic to find eternal life and then fall back into an old habit? Here we turn to a parallel warning in Galatians in light of "will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. -Gal 5:16-22
Again the pronouns and context and content can only lead us to see this is addressed to Christians. Unbelievers do no have a new nature (spirit) contrasted with the old nature (flesh). But believers do have this choice. Notice "drunkenness" is on this list as well. These are not "former lives" to which Paul is referring, rather he is referring to future possibilities for believers.

So just as it is possible for a Christian to walk in the flesh and fall into habitual drunkenness, so may a Christian fall into habitual sexual sin.  

Applying right division to these Acts Age passages, we see that these may lose a place in the coming earthly kingdom (which we have covered numerous times). They will not "inherit the kingdom of God." Since one cannot lose a free gift and since grace and works are mutually exclusive in terms of the gift, we must not try to equate inheriting the kingdom with having eternal life.

We briefly point you back to the Lord's warning to some of being "thrown into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Surely this is aimed at unbelievers, right? Many an evangelist will use it that way, but the Lord is clear:
And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -Matt 8:11-12
The warning of the Lord's earthly ministry, and in the Acts age, concern the earthly kingdom. That kingdom is earned. The Lord speaks of profitable and unprofitable servants. Stewardship and faithfulness are addressed. If we interpret all these as simply "saved or lost," we end up in great fear and confusion. We are forced to mangle the Lord's clear words to make them fit the free gift of Life.

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth helps us understand these passages and helps us understand things such as the assumed contradiction between Paul's teachings on justification and James' teaching. Paul argues from scripture that the free gift of life is by grace alone. It excludes all works. The two cannot co-exist. However, James teaches that works must accompany faith in justification. They both point to Abraham.
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” -Romans 4
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. -James 2
There are many parallels between the Book of James and the Sermon on the Mount. This is because both are ministering to Israel. Both concern the promises and hope of Israel (the kingdom). Note that James points to an event in Abraham's life which occurred long after the event to which Paul refers. It is not simply that faith results in works (it may or may not), but that justifying faith, in light of the Kingdom, must be made perfect (mature).

Let us quickly look at a popular passage in Hebrews 6 (note, we are addressing Hebrews in the Acts age, just as James addressed "the twelve tribes" in his epistle). Paul urges the Hebrews "to go on to perfection."
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection... But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation... And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. -Hebrews 6:1,9,11-12
These Hebrews had salvation, but they needed to continue on in good works (listed in the chapter) and move on to perfection (maturity). They are warned not to become lazy. They are warned not to stay on the elementary things of the faith lest the continue to crucify the Lord, as it were. Paul again uses Abraham as his model.
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. -Hebrews 6:13-15
Abraham obtained one promise, but he accepted the cross so he could achieve another.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. -Hebrews 11:8-10
This chapter also speaks of those who sought a "better resurrection." These had the free gift of resurrection life by faith, but they sought a "better" resurrection. We have a similar admonition in our calling. We must strive for a "better resurrection." We must "obtain" a prize through suffering and maturity.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the out-resurrection from among the rest of the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. -Phil 3

Does Paul doubt his free gift of life? Never. Paul is addressing those things which lie beyond the free gift, things earned, things attained. 

Christians can lose reward. Christians can be murderers (1 Peter). Christians can walk in the flesh (Gal 5). But we are not our own saviors and if you hold 1 Cor 6 to mean eternal life, you are essentially saying we must maintain the free gift ourselves.

There are dire warnings for Christians all through scripture. Too often some warnings, given to Christians, are attributed to unbelievers. But God has but one message to unbelievers: God has been reconciled to you, you just need to be reconciled to God (1 Cor 5:17-18).

Passages like "the enemies of the cross of Christ" and those "whose god is their belly," refer to Christians just as 1 Cor 6 and Peter's admonition not be charged as a murderer, thief, or evil-doer refer to Christians. Those who abandoned Paul in Asia were Christians (2 Tim 1:15).

If you want to argue that 1 Cor 6 concerns unbelievers, you are dangerously close to denying Christ. The context is clear. Paul is admonishing Christians. After the list of disqualifying sins, Paul writes this:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
Who says those things? Christians. Whose body is meant for the Lord? This can only mean Christians. We can be disqualified from rewards, the prize, and crowns. We may "become disqualified" (1 Cor 9:27). We may make a "shipwreck" of our faith (1 Tim 1:19).

Ministries like "Way of Life Literature" make a huge error in simply assigning works of the flesh to the past without understanding the possibility that a Christian can choose to walk in the flesh (hence the repeated warnings). So, yes, there are Christians who practice homosexuality. They are in disobedience, they may lose rewards, but they have not forfeited eternal life.

Those who understand the free gift, yet teach that one cannot be both a Christian and practice sexual immorality have a problem on their hands. Do we become incapable of sin? Is it impossible for a Christian to walk in the flesh? Of course not. And if we walk in the flesh, we can horrible things and we will not grow in the faith. To continue in sin is to silence the voice of the Spirit and suppress the new nature. Without the influence of the Spirit, we cannot be taught. We will fall back to perdition instead of going on to perfection.

We warn Christians about walking in the flesh and according to its lusts. We can't tell unbelievers to walk in the new nature (spirit), because they don't have a new nature.

Ironically, many Christians become puffed up in the flesh because they use passages like 1 Cor 6 to teach that they are either incapable of such sins or they are somehow maintaining their salvation by not falling into "habitual sin." Pride is a sin as well.

Paul warns Timothy when he is appointing elders that he should avoid novices, "lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil..." (1 Tim 3:6).  The same condemnation as the devil? Yes. But since this is clearly for believers and involves pride and not sex (so we can't point fingers), this verse is not taught in the same way 1 Cor 6 is taught.

Have you ever heard anyone teach that an elder who falls into pride was never really a Christian? No, it's too hard to manipulate that passage. However, teachers who don't want to acknowledge other sins of the flesh simply assign most of those sins as signs someone is not really a Christian. But if someone who has the "same condemnation as the devil" can be a Christian elder, so can any Christian fail to "inherit the kingdom of God." And neither of these lose the free gift of eternal life or it is no longer free.

Those who profess to understand the "free gift" are left with the only alternative, wrenching the sins listed there from the context and assuming these never truly had life. But that's rather difficult task in light of Galatians 5 and 1 Timothy 6.

For those struggling with any sin, please see our series on Walking in the Spirit and its parallel study on Walking Worthy.