Such Were Some Of You

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It is written:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11-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, 10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  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.

It is not uncommon to hear some Christians make the claim that 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 references the idea that some homosexuals at Corinth had had their sexual orientation changed when they obeyed the Gospel. After all, the Bible says, “such were some of you,” and includes homosexuals in the list of those converted.

However, is that what this passage is saying?

Let’s study.

First, it is significant that Paul lists both “homosexuals” and “sodomites” in the category of sins that if a person practices without repentance will lead him to condemnation. There are many who want us to believe that homosexual practice is acceptable to God: yet the Bible here (and elsewhere) teaches the opposite.

Second, it is noteworthy that Paul here is condemning actions, not attractions. The words here translated “homosexual” and “sodomite” in the NKJV had reference to transgressions, not temptations: deeds, not desires. Indeed, these words had reference to both the active and passive participants in the homosexual encounter. This passage is not condemning a person for their sexual orientation.

Third, Paul includes these actions in a list of other deeds he categorizes as sins, showing that they are not considered the “worst” sins that a person can commit. Remember here that all unrighteousness is sin in God’s eyes (1 John 5:17).

Fourth, nothing here speaks of God changing a person’s sexual attractions. When Paul says “such were some of you,” he simply means that they were no longer living those sinful lifestyles. Did God take away the desires of a person who was intoxicated to stop becoming intoxicated? Does God remove normal heterosexual desires when fornicators are forgiven? Of course not!

Lutzer has noted:

“Several important points must be made about this passage: First, that all the sexual sins that we have in our culture were rampant in ancient Corinth; also present were the contemporary sins of slander, thievery, and greed. Second, we learn that the gospel changed these people. A gospel that does not change the basic aspirations of the human heart is no gospel at all. However, is Paul saying that homosexuals can be changed into heterosexuals? He does not say that Christ took these people who lived the homosexual lifestyle and transformed their sexual desires so that now they could be happily married. He simply says, “And that is what some of you were.” And now they are washed, sanctified, and justified. What Paul might have meant was that these homosexuals now lived their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit and were committed to a life of chastity. 8 In the same letter, Paul discusses marriage, but also singleness, which he holds in high regard. He discusses various situations in which people find themselves, arguing that the married should stay married, but the singles should be free to stay single. At the end of a rather lengthy discussion, he concludes, “So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better” (1 Corinthians 7: 38). Paul himself, it is believed, never married. He did not deem singleness as a lifestyle to which one is condemned, but rather a unique opportunity to serve the Lord. As all of us know, there are many heterosexuals who are denied marriage, either because they have not been able to connect with an ideal partner, or because they are committed to other interests. There is nothing in the Bible about marriage being a “right” that people can demand. We are not asking more of single homosexuals than we ask of single heterosexuals when we insist on chastity. Jones and Yarhouse write, “It may be that the church can no more guarantee healing to homosexuals than it can guarantee marriage to disconsolate single heterosexuals. There are many more single Christian heterosexuals ‘doomed’ to sexual abstinence by the church’s ‘narrow’ sexual morality than there are homosexual persons similarly constrained.” 9 In other words, it would be eminently possible, as many testify, to be committed to chastity even while struggling with homosexual desires, just as heterosexuals can be committed to chastity while struggling with their desires. Paul says that the interests of married people are divided, but that those who are single can live with “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7: 35). Chaste homosexuals (ex-gays), like chaste heterosexuals, must be enfolded within the community of the church. They need the support of the wider Christian community, and the larger family of God. Singles, I’ve learned, can serve the Lord in many ways that we as married people cannot.” (Erwin W. Lutzer, The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage: 6 Things You Need to Know About What’s Really at Stake, 1077-1100 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Publishers)

Finally, it may be that some people will have their sexual orientation changed over time as they seek God. While this idea is taboo in our culture, there are organizations that report such changes within some homosexuals. Even secular non-Christian practices discuss this. Sprinkle has a noteworthy example:

“I have a friend who is part of this snuffed out minority. He is a licensed psychologist with a PhD and works for a secular practice that helps gay men change their orientation. Please note: this is not Exodus International; it’s not even a Christian practice. At least half of the men who come to him are not religious. This is quite different from most ex-gay ministries, who hire nonprofessional counselors to help Christians crucify their same-sex attraction. I asked him about the success rate of his practice. And he said that approximately 50 percent of the gay men that come to him experience full, ongoing change in their sexual orientation, and another 25 percent experience a significant degree of change, while 25 percent experience little to no change. I literally laughed out loud in Starbucks when he told me this. “What? There’s no way that’s possible!” I had been reading a lot of books that mocked reparative therapy and celebrated the death of Exodus, waving the banner that change is impossible and devastation is likely. My friend said, “Look, I know what all the websites say. But I can only tell you what I’ve seen in the hundreds of clients that have come to me. I didn’t get this from books; I got it by dealing with real people.” Again, my friend’s practice is secular; many of his clients aren’t Christian. He has no theological investment for needing these men to change, and he doesn’t go around trumpeting the claim that “change really is possible.” He’s just telling me what he has observed through his medical practice. And he’s not shocking anyone’s genitals or “praying the gay way.”” (Preston M. Sprinkle, People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue, 159 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)

There is no guarantee that God will make the gay person straight, but there is a guarantee that He will forgive and make you a new person (as this passage demonstrates). You do not have to become straight in order to be saved, as this passage also shows: but you do have to repent and obey God’s plan of salvation before you can be forgiven (cf. Acts 2:38).

Why not obey Him today?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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