Surely one of the most hope-filled verses in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 6:11, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (emphasis added). The word were emphasizes what some of the members of the church at Corinth used to be; it mentions some of the kinds of sins they had been rescued from by God. In the verses that precede this gospel-saturated declaration it is clear that some—before being transformed by the gospel—had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers.
Let’s consider the meaning of two terms used by Paul to denounce homosexual sin and explore what Scripture says concerning the freedom provided by God in His Son. Effeminate literally means “soft” and refers to the passive partner in homosexual relations. Simon Kistemaker says this word denotes “passivity and submission,” and in Corinth probably referred to the male prostitutes who made themselves available for “worship” in the temple of Aphrodite. Homosexual, however, refers to the active, recruiting partner. Together, the terms describe same-sex behavior and undoubtedly condemn related sins such as cross-dressing, sex-change operations, and the blurring of gender roles so prevalent today.
The Scriptures unanimously condemn homosexuality as an abomination, a detestable thing to God, that defiles individuals and nations (Lev. 18:22, 30). Rus Walton explains, “Sodomy promotes idolatry, invites false gods, and nurtures apostasies. It spawns additional perversions; it gnaws at the vitals and rots the soul—first, the souls of those who indulge in its lusts and evils and, ultimately, the soul of the nation which permits it to continue unchallenged.” God gave His law to protect His people from the destruction of sin and to expose the wickedness of man’s heart, thus ushering in the hope, freedom, and forgiveness found only in His redemption. When homosexuality is redefined as a disease or genetic disorder instead of sin, hope is stolen from those who need it most, because it is not always God’s will that we be healed of diseases, but it is always His desire that we be delivered from sin. Homosexuality is unnatural, being the result of one’s rejection of the Creator and His natural order. The first chapter of Romans describes the degeneration of man, the downward spiral people naturally descend when they forget God; specifically, when they know God, but do not honor Him as such (Rom. 1:21–27). Rejection of God produces a darkened mind, which leads to idolatry. As a result, God pulls out all the stops and lets them become in their lives what they already lust for in their hearts: “for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Rom. 1:26–27).
The good news is that, like other sin (remember there are many other sins mentioned here too), homosexuality is forgivable, and homosexuals, like other sinners, are sought after by the Redeemer. The Bible brings hope to the homosexual by honestly naming his or her lust and behavior “sin,” thus opening a door for the gospel. Jesus died for sinners in order to cleanse us, break us free from the grip of sin and make us right with God. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matt. 9:13). Biblical counselors, therefore, must believe in the power of the gospel to truly deliver people from homosexuality so that we may lead them out of bondage into freedom in Christ.
We must also realize that the struggle to overcome these temptations may ensue for a long time, as it did in Corinth. Targeted discipleship will not only seek to reach sinners but, once they are converted to Christ, it will also teach them how to live out their new walk of holiness and equip them to war against indwelling sin. By calling sin “sin,” we offer the hope of deliverance to unbelievers and we assure Christians who have been delivered, but remain tempted, that God’s grace will continue to empower them for lives of obedience as they daily submit to the Word of God. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24–25).
For additional help: HELP! My Teen Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction