Gayness and the True Church

Homosexuality Does it Matter What Anyone Says?

The recent election of an openly gay, practicing homosexual to the office of bishop in the Episcopal Church in the U.S., brings into focus the question of meaning and membership in the Body of Christ. Can any group or organization which claims to be part of Christ's Body legitimately lay claim to be so regardless of beliefs or actions, or are there beliefs and practices which are incompatible with being part of the True Church? Is an avowed homosexual lifestyle a valid alternative life choice within the true church, or is such practice without repentance by definition a behavior of which excludes one from participation in the life of the true Church?

Definitions of the Church and the Body of Christ.
First of all, we must consider a definition of the word "church." The word "church" comes from a Greek word, "ekklesia" which means "the called out ones" or "the gathered ones and the assembly called to meet together in a public place." Specifically, in the New Testament, it means "those assembled to worship God in the Name of Jesus Christ." However, the word "church" in the NT also became a word to signify all the believers in Christ everywhere. A parallel definition for the Church is the phrase, "the Body of Christ," of which Jesus Christ is the head: Now you all together make up the body of Christ and each of your are individual members of it, (1 Corinthians 12:27). Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior,(Ephesians 5:23). The Church is not an organization, a bureaucracy, or a political caucus. It is made up of the people who are in communion with Jesus Christ and with one another by the Spirit of Holiness who lives within each of those who believe. Paul spoke of this evidence of communion manifested in the Eucharist service: The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread, (1 Corinthians 10:16,17).

Discipleship as a Requirement of Membership
You would think that simple belief in Christ, celebrating the Eucharist, and membership in a Church would qualify one as being part of the True Church regardless of one's life and practices, but while Paul makes allowances for sin and repentance and growth in the life of righteousness, he never expected authentic membership in the Body of Christ to be indiscriminate and blind towards the practice of sin. Look carefully at what he says about being in union with Christ:
If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ …if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:8-14, NIV). Paul says that being in union with Christ will have as its consequence a retreat from a lifestyle of sin because those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. In reverse, those who are controlled by a sinful lifestyle are not led by the Spirit, may not be sons of God, and may not have the Spirit of Christ within them. So belief in Christ is no guarantee that the sanctifying work of the Spirit is present in the life of the "believer." As James said: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder… For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without practice is also dead. – (James 2:19,26).

Jesus is even tougher on those who claim to be his followers:

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.' – Matthew 7:21-23, NRSV.
Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." – Matthew 12:48-50, NRSV.

Jesus says that you are not his disciple or his brother if you are not doing the will of the Father! You may not "just believe" and then do whatever you want! You don't get to choose what you want to believe or accept or do. To be a disciple, to be in relationship, and to be a member of the Body of Christ, you have to be doing what the Father says.

Being Forgiven vs. Being Perfect
This is scary counsel indeed and might send tremors of fear down every believer's spine, because we all know that we all sin and fail to follow Christ and his teachings every day. The good news is that the New Testament makes allowances for our sins and failings. We are not required to be perfect to be in fellowship – what is required of us is repentance and confession. Paul recognizes that our growth in Christ's righteousness is day by day, not immediate and perfect (Romans 6:19), and John says that by confession of sin, our sins are forgiven and we are washed and cleansed (1 John 1:9). However, the main difference between a disciple and a rebel is the act of confession and repentance. Those who refuse to admit sin put themselves outside the Body of Christ and outside Communion with Him:

 "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word has no place in our lives… And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says 'I know him' but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,". -1 John 1:10; 2:3,4.

It is not the sin that separates us from Christ, but our refusal to admit our sin that separates us from Christ. A rebellious and stubborn rejection of Christ's teaching and the Scriptures' words constitutes a break in fellowship and relationship with the Head of the Church (John 12:48). If one acknowledges one's sin, then fellowship is restored through the blood and body of Jesus' sacrifice – received as evidence of forgiveness. However, if one does not acknowledge one's sin, then the sin remains and is not forgiven (John 9:41; 15:22). We all have experienced the reality of broken relationships caused by an unrepentant attitude, especially we who have children. If one of your children has broken something, and you know he did it, but he refuses to admit it and instead blames his sister, it just makes you madder and madder. It isn't the bad deed that is so annoying, it is the refusal to take responsibility for the action and the lack of any evidence of being sorry for the behavior. Yet if the same child says, "I'm sorry Dad, I did it. I'm sorry," then your anger dissipates in a moment and your desire to punish is gone. You still may discipline, but without the severity. It is this attitude of a haughty refusal to repent that places one outside the bounds of reconciliation to God and the fellowship of Christ. It is saying in effect to God: "I'm right and you are wrong!"

The Question Before Us:
So, the question before us is not whether God loves people who claim to be homosexual, but whether homosexuality is a sin. If it is not a sin, then there is nothing incompatible with homosexual practice and membership in the Body of Christ. However, if it is a sin, then the defiant refusal to confess or admit sin, and in fact the bold and flagrant practice of sin without repentance, would put those people and their organizations outside relationship to Jesus Christ. They would not be disciples, for they could not claim obedience to the will of God, and they would not be Jesus' brothers. They would in fact be cut off from the Head, and so regardless of their claims, beliefs, or statements, they could not be part of the True Church. For to be part of the true church, they would have to be in relationship to the Head, who is Christ. They may have feelings for and about God, they may indeed believe Jesus is the Son of God, but because of rebellion against God and his Word, they have made God to be a liar and they cannot be in the Body of Christ:

No-one who lives in him {Jesus} keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No-one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. – 1 John 3:6-10, NIV.
And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. -1 John 2:3,4.
John says in effect, "Don't be deceived by a lot of crafty arguments or intellectual arguments that sound reasonable. Look at they way people behave. Sin is sin, so don't let anyone pull the wool over your eyes. If a person sins and refuses to repent and claims they do no wrong, then you know they don't know God. Their behavior reveals the truth more than their words."

Are the Scriptures Written for Everyone?
Today, we face many crafty arguments about the nature of homosexuality and Scripture's interpretation, but do you think God would make something so important as acceptable behavior and immoral sin so hard to understand that it would take a million pages of explanation by extremely difficult arguments to figure out? Would it make sense that, if God gave us his Word to teach us how to live, he would hide something so basic from us as to what is right and what is wrong? Would the Scriptures be worth anything if that were the case? Think about it. If this book is to be lived by, it must also be simple enough that we can get the basic message and meaning from it without knowing all the history of the world. In other words, we shouldn't all have to be cryptic scholars to understand its basic teachings. Jesus said as much:

At that time Jesus answered and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You did hide these things from the wise and intelligent and did reveal them to babes. "Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Your sight. – Matthew 11:24-26.

And Paul also wants to guard against substituting intellectual arguments for simple lifestyles:

Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 5:5,6, RSV.

Watch out for people who justify their sinful behaviors by covering them with empty words and excuses. The deeds are plain and the sin is evident, Paul says, and the judgment is sure.

Are the Scriptures Important?
Many of the arguments for homosexuality are based upon contemporary scientific theories, sociology, and upon a belief that the Scriptures are no longer important or relevant to our lives. We cannot deal with arguments by those who dismiss Scripture entirely. For these people, the Word doesn't matter and anything we say is therefore irrelevant. Some, who reject Scripture, reject Scripture precisely because they recognize that homosexual practice is banned and considered sinful in them. They reject the Scriptures as God's Word or as any word of importance. They at least have integrity in their views. They recognize what the Scripture actually says and then reject it for what it says. That is logically consistent. They are not trying to find some flimsy invention that will allow them to twist and distort the plain meaning of the texts to suit their likings, and for that consistency, I commend them. They are looking at the Scriptures honestly and then rejecting its teachings. Of course, they should also make no claim to belief in Christ or any other thing that the Scriptures teach since what makes the Scriptures important is that they claim to be God's Word to us and not merely men's words about God. You cannot say on one hand, "I believe the Scriptures are God revealed, supernatural Word to humanity," and then say on the other, "I choose to believe one part of it and reject another." If the Scriptures are indeed God's Word, they should have final and ultimate say so in our lives.

Let us examine how Jesus and the writers of the NT view the Word of God:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, – 2 Timothy 3:16-4:3, RSV.

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers, – 1 Thessalonians 2:13, RSV

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?- John 10:34-36, RSV.

We see here that Jesus' view of Scripture is that the Scriptures are God's Word and cannot be wrong. He submitted to this Word as Truth. The NT writers believed that the Word is inspired by God and bears divine approval, and is therefore a matter of revelation, ultimate truth, and the final authority for all matters of faith and practice. Any other attitude towards Scripture reveals that one does not take the Word seriously and that one has in effect rejected the God who breathed it. To pick and choose, or reject certain teachings of Scripture simply because we disagree with them is to set ourselves above God; for we are. in effect, saying to God, "Sorry God, you say this, but you are wrong!" This is the primal sin. It is what Adam was said to do in the Garden as his first act of rebellion. God said, "don't eat this fruit," but Adam decided he knew better and chose to eat. Anyone who rejects God's Word is in rebellion and outside of fellowship with God and the True Church. He has set himself up as his own authority and made his own opinion his god, which is the definition of idolatry.
Jesus revealed the consequence for this rejection of God's Word:

He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. – John 12:48,49, RSV.

So, we see that if one rejects God's Word one is also rejecting God; that a rebellion against God's Word and a rejection of Jesus' teachings contradicts a claim to discipleship [for one must obey to be a disciple]; and that being cut off from the Head of the Church means that one is severed from the rest of the Body, and therefore any person or organization which is cut off by rebellion cannot be part of the True Church. They may believe themselves to be part of the True Church, but their beliefs are only a reflection of a guilty conscience, deception, and the confusion of those who think they can believe and do whatever they want and still be disciples of Christ.

The Interpretive Argument
The other argument for homosexuality has to do with a crafty argument. It is claimed that the Scriptures do not actually teach homosexuality is wrong or a sin, but that either the Scriptures are only talking about a certain type of homosexuality that is forbidden [pedastry or cult prostitution, e.g.], or that the laws against homosexuality in the Old Testament were culturally conditioned, specific applications of Mosaic Law [like Kosher food laws] and no longer apply in the NT. This type of argument reveals an inherent tension in the one who makes it. The person is basically saying, "I believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God and therefore authoritative and true, but I don't believe that it teaches anything about homosexuality per se and so I accept that behavior as not being sinful. I have found a way of interpreting the Scriptures in such a way that they allow for homosexual behavior."

There has been two longstanding principles of scriptural interpretation to deal with each of these objections. One is that you must look at any Scripture's teaching in context with the verses around it to discover its meaning, intent, and purpose; the second is that there is a difference between civic laws which are specific to a particular social setting, time and place — and moral laws, which, because they reflect God's character, cannot change over time . If we use the first principle to see a verse in context, we can then determine if that verse is ritual, civic, or moral in nature; and if moral, then we can apply it in the present. For example, idolatry is always considered a sin in both the Old and New Testament, but the OT punishment for idolatry [stoning to death] is a civic application of punishment of the moral law and, as such, the specific punishment may not be applicable to the present time. It doesn't change the fact that idolatry is sin, but the NT prescription for the sin of idolatry is repentance, not stoning. The underlying principle or moral teaching does not change over time, just the prescription for punishment.

The Context of the Condemnation of Homosexuality
We can see in several passages in the OT that homosexuality is condemned in context with other moral crimes of illicit sexual relations: bestiality, adultery, incest and child sacrifice. No one is arguing that adultery, bestiality child sacrifice and incest are civic or ritual laws that are outdated, so why should homosexuality be given special privilege?

And you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife, and defile yourself with her. You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any beast and defile yourself with it, neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it: it is perversion. "Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves; and the land became defiled, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for all of these abominations the men of the land did, who were before you, so that the land became defiled); lest the land vomit you out, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For whoever shall do any of these abominations, the persons that do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs which were practiced before you, and never to defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God. – Leviticus 18:20-30, RSV.

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed incest, their blood is upon them. If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is wickedness; they shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. If a man lies with a beast, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the beast. If a woman approaches any beast and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. "If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a shameful thing, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people; he has uncovered his sister's nakedness, he shall bear his iniquity. -Leviticus 20:10-17, RSV.

The world is saying there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. The only thing wrong is backwards, bigoted Christians who think it is wrong. But Jesus said that if the world hates us, remember it hated him first and that the world hates us because they hate him also, (John 15:18-20). We are not to seek the world's approval but God's, even if the world calls us all sorts of names. Our minds are to be guided by God's Spirit and his Word, not by contemporary social trends:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2, NRSV.

God has called us to holiness and a lifestyle that is separate from the immorality of this world. This call is a call away from fornication, adultery, lustful abandon and homosexuality:

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, – 1 Thessalonians 4:2-4, RSV.

Paul calls homosexuality the last rung on the downward ladder leading to total moral depravity and degradation:

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. – Romans 1:22-27, NKJV.

To promote homosexuality or any other sexual sin as a form of liberty and license is to pervert all of God's teaching to justify a rebellious immoral abandon. In fact, if Paul is correct, homosexual license is a symptom of self worship and an expression of the judgment of God. Homosexuality is a punishment for the sin of self worship and idolatry. Because of this rebellion, God gives them up to sexual perversion. (Note that in Paul's view, this punishment falls upon a culture, a community, and a nation. It is not necessarily punishment of an individual person for his or her own idolatry. Sin in the Jewish view is corporate; so, one of the signs of a nation in rebellion is an increase in homosexuality in the populace. But just as divorce and adultery may increase as part of this effect of being 'given over' to perversion, those individuals who engage in sin are still guilty and need to repent of it.)

Is There Hope for the Homosexual?
In short, yes; but little hope for the one who refuses to admit and confess it as sin. For those who acknowledge the Scriptures' teaching and confess their sins, even those trapped by homosexual passions can be forgiven and cleansed. The sin is no worse than any other. The problem with the homosexual movement is that it compounds sin with a defiant refusal to admit or acknowledge the sin. It is like calling cancer an alternate healthy lifestyle. It is like the alcoholic saying, "I don't have a drinking problem." Without confession, there is no healing – only the threat of death and eternal rejection of God. Paul sees the act of repentance in Christ no different however for homosexuals than for any other depraved practice:

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. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NKJV.

The Episcopal Church USA has divorced itself from Christ through its rebellion and rejection of the Scriptures and of God who inspired its teachings. Fine arguments of emotion, urging compassion, have not changed the basic meaning of the Scriptures. Many who advocate homosexuality recognize that fact and just choose to ignore the Scriptures. But as we have shown, their attitude is different than Jesus' towards the Scriptures, and they have put themselves in a position of greater knowledge and spiritual wisdom than Christ himself, and so claiming to be wise in their own right, they have become slaves of unrighteousness. Having renounced Christ's teachings and his example, they have cut themselves off from their Head and so severed from Christ, they cannot be part of this genuine Body. They are a false church and a counterfeit. Because of these facts, they are not part of the True Church and cannot be, no matter what they say or how they protest. They are apostate, or worse, agents of Satan claiming to be children of light.

For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much sensuality, they entice those who are just escaping from their sins. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the slaves of corruption: for whatever overcomes a man, by that he is bound. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled, and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned again to his own vomit; and the sow that was washed only to wallow in the mire. -2 Peter 2:18-22.

So children, don't be deceived by empty words, but prove the acceptable, good, and perfect will of God that you may not likewise be misled. But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. – 1 Timothy 1:8-11, NASB.

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