The Unrighteous will not Inherit the Kingdom of God6
The Bible is unmistakably clear that unrepentant sexual immorality excludes one from the kingdom of God. Continue reading . . .
The Bible is unmistakably clear that unrepentant sexual immorality excludes one from the kingdom of God. We see this most clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
The word translated “sexually immoral” here and also in Hebrews 13:4 (“for God will judge the sexually immoral and all adulterers”) is the same: pornos. In both places it refers to anyone, male or female, who engages in any form of illicit sexual behavior outside of marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual. You can be single and guilty of sexual immorality: it’s called fornication or pre-marital sex. You can be married and guilty of sexual immorality: it’s called adultery or extra-marital sex.
The phrase “men who practice homosexuality” in v. 9 is actually two terms in Greek. One refers to the active or more aggressive and masculine partner in a same-sex relationship and the other refers to the passive or less aggressive and overly-feminized partner in a same-sex relationship. The point is that all same-sex intercourse is forbidden. Contrary to what some revisionist interpreters have suggested, there is nothing in these words or in the context of 1 Corinthians 6 or in the cultural setting of the ancient world that would lead us to believe that these terms refer to homosexual exploitation or homosexual rape or the abuse of a younger man/boy by an older one. The terms quite simply forbid all homosexual intercourse.
Paul isn’t saying that if you ever commit a homosexual act you are forever excluded from the kingdom of God. He isn’t saying that if you were ever guilty of idolatry or ever committed adultery or ever swindled someone or ever got drunk, even if only one time, that you are excluded from the kingdom of God. Quite clearly many of these Corinthians had lived for lengthy periods of time in such behavior. “But,” says Paul in v. 11, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” In other words, he has in mind unrepentant immorality and drunkenness and idolatry. He’s not talking about people who sin, but of people who relish their sin and are proud of it and have given themselves over to it and refuse to repent and turn away from it.
Men and women who sin, and all do, but are broken and grieved by it and seek God’s help to forsake it are not in view in this passage. Both Paul and the author of Hebrews are talking about those who sin defiantly, persistently, as a matter of course, as an uninterrupted habit for which they feel no remorse or regret or pain of conscience. And these, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual, will come under God’s judgment.
So let me be perfectly clear about this. Men and women who struggle with same-sex attraction are not excluded from the kingdom of God. Rather, Paul and the author of Hebrews have in mind men and women who persistently and unrepentantly indulge in same-sex activity.
All of us are broken and disordered because of the fall of the human race into sin. All of us are born with a sinful orientation. We are conceived in unbelief and rebellion against God. But the mere fact that we are by nature sinners does not mean that we are absolved of guilt for the acts of sin we commit.
The question of whether or not people are born gay is irrelevant to the question of whether or not same-sex intercourse is immoral. I was born with a disposition to lie. It comes quite naturally to me. No one had to teach me how to lie. I was born with an orientation to steal what doesn’t belong to me. I was born with an inclination to lust after women. I was born with a nature that hates God. But that doesn’t mean I can lie and steal and lust and hate God and not be held morally responsible for my actions.
The primary issue when it comes to homosexuality isn’t attraction but action. It isn’t primarily about the bent of your soul but the behavior of your will. Men and women who are attracted to members of the same sex are not for that reason excluded from the kingdom of God. Men and women who repeatedly act on that attraction and engage in unrepentant same-sex behavior are.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that one should simply resign himself or herself to this struggle with same-sex attraction. I do believe the Bible affirms what I call redemptive transformation. By this I mean the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification by which he changes and transforms and renews and heals the sinful bent of our souls.
That being said, we must not forget that same-sex intercourse, not same-sex inclination, is the focus of Paul’s condemnation when he threatens exclusion from the kingdom of God as well as the focus of the author of Hebrews when he says that God will judge the sexually immoral and all adulterers.
To stand resolutely in opposition to same-sex intercourse and so-called same-sex marriage and to clearly denounce heterosexual immoral behavior such as pre-marital sex and adultery, as well as drunkenness and idolatry and a host of other sins is the “second” most loving, kind, compassionate, and merciful thing you could ever do.
I’ll explain in a moment why it is only the “second” most loving thing you can do. But for now, recall that in Hebrews 13:1 we were told to “let brotherly love continue.” Whether someone is our Christian brother or not, we are called to love them. And one of the most loving things you can do for a man or woman is to warn them about the certainty of divine judgment against unrepentant sexual immorality (Heb. 13:4). There is not to be found the slightest tinge of genuine love when you encourage a person to engage in behavior that puts their soul in eternal jeopardy.
Both the Apostle Paul and the author of Hebrews (whoever he was), together with every other biblical author, is calling us to stand firmly in opposition to the world when it comes to matters of sexual morality. The world now celebrates pre-marital sex. The world now rejoices in adultery. The world now embraces so-called same-sex marriage. And the world insists that if you don’t celebrate and rejoice and embrace such sexual behavior, but rather insist that it will most assuredly bring eternal judgment, you are hateful and bigoted and blind and on the wrong side of history.
I’m appealing to all of you that you take your cues on marriage and sexual morality from the Bible, not from TV, no matter how funny or entertaining the show may be, or from the Internet, no matter how commonplace this new morality is, or from Facebook, no matter how many of your “friends” may think otherwise, or from Oprah or Rob Bell or our President or any Hollywood celebrity, no matter how influential and powerful he or she may be.
So what is the “first” most loving, kind, compassionate, and merciful thing we could ever do? It is to introduce people to the Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom there is forgiveness for all sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Look closely again at 1 Corinthians 6:11 - “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This is the hope that the gospel of Jesus Christ provides for any and every form of sin, whether racism or same-sex intercourse or idolatry or drunkenness or theft or fornication or hatred or adultery.
God offers to us in Christ the hope of being “justified” or declared righteous by faith in Jesus! No matter how defiled you may have become because of whatever sin you indulged, you can be “washed” clean and entirely forgiven for every sin, past, present, and future, through faith in Jesus! No matter to what or to whom you have previously given yourself, you can be “sanctified” or set apart unto God as his precious son or daughter, through faith in Jesus!
Just think of it: through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance from sin God can release into your life the power of the Holy Spirit that can swallow up your disordered desires in something greater and more beautiful and more desirable so that you can live each day in a way pleasing to God, even in the midst of on-going struggles and brokenness.
To introduce a man or woman to this gloriously great news of freedom and forgiveness is the single most loving thing you can ever do for another person.
I will conclude with this simple but pointed statement from John Piper. I completely concur with his sentiments, and I hope and pray you do so as well:
“God's judgment on homosexual and lesbian relationships is not because he is a killjoy, but because he is opposed to what kills joy. And our opposition to such partnerships is not because of some knee-jerk homophobia, as they say again and again, but because of a settled and reasonable conviction that God knows better than anybody what is good for us and for society” (Piper).