For a Christian homosexual to announce a never changing sinful desire is to place himself outside the covenant of grace. The promises of the new covenant cannot be broken by God, and no person can belong to Christ without receiving the Holy Spirit. The minister must not be simply a communicator of this gospel but an embodiment of it, a public example of how God in the new covenant has transformed him from the sinful passions of “the old man.”
Part 5 in a series on homosexuality in the PCA.
The heart is an incubator of sin, thus the heart producing sin is as sinful as the sin it produces. The lust often called same-sex attraction (SSA) is simply homosexual sin in the heart. These days it is not cricket to call it an abomination, even though the Lord does.
His name is Jesus, because he saves his people from their sin. The Lord does not save people in sin but from it, reaching into the depths of a sinner’s heart. In every person who has trusted in Jesus Christ, the Spirit tackles sin of every kind. The Savior so reorients the heart that it is impossible for a converted sinner to live and think as he once did.
Conversion includes more than forgiveness. Every new believer receives the Spirit as a gift from God who goes to work to destroy our sinful nature and write God’s law on our hearts, even leading us to walk according to it. So no one can be gay and Christian without an unrelenting battle. The Holy Spirit does not quit, and he does not seek to reform our old nature. In his patient way and at his sovereign pace, he produces holiness with the goal of full likeness to Christ in every son and daughter God has adopted. Without exception, this deliverance begins in this life. If the Lord lets sin sit comfortably in anyone, it is proof that such a person has never been admitted into the family of God. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons (Hebrews 12:8).
In the Presbyterian Church in America we lack full agreement whether same-sex attraction is deadly sin. There are many who profess to be homosexual Christians who think that same-sex lust may persist for a lifetime without relief, and that that is not so bad as long as the person is celibate. There is such little apparent need of repentance in homosexual circles that the need to renounce this sin is muted (ever hear of a call to repent of SSA at a Revoice conference?)
Instead, “homosexual Christians” are announcing when they should be renouncing. What is expected of those who oppose this movement is that we should, in good Christian charity, simply leave things alone, for there is no real sin being committed. It is only desire, and we all have temptations, don’t we? The testimony of gays who have the PCA’s ear is that this desire is permanent, and they do not want us to leave out that science agrees.[i] Supposedly, God has salvation and change from this sin on hold – if indeed it can even be called sin at all.
Meanwhile the Scriptures keep sounding away on the natural condition of our hearts: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person …” (Matthew 15:19,20). We are to put off our former manner of life, which is corrupt through deceitful desires, including sexual appetite for those of the same gender. And in its place we are to be renewed by putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24). Such a change of heart is the promise of the gospel. Holiness comes to us graciously when we believe in Christ and thereby enter a new life to love God from the heart.
Sexual immorality, in fact any impurity, must not even be named among us. In the “opinion” of the apostle, no one who is sexually impure has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ. Let no Revoice conference deceive you with empty words; because of such impurities the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Don’t join them in darkness; we are light in the Lord (see Ephesians 5:3-8). Though none can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin” (Proverbs 20:9), God loves purity of heart (Proverbs 22:11) and urges us to keep our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23), while all along he fosters purity in us.
The New Covenant
We are compelled to take a good look at how the truth of sanctification vigorously confronts the claim of unchanging homosexual desire within a professing Christian. This brings us to the gospel promises of the New Covenant and whether God is merely urging change in our hearts or announcing the kind of change he is determined to produce. A change in our very nature is necessary to know the Lord, for without holiness no man shall see him (Hebrews 12:14). If such a change is absent, the damning news is that salvation is absent also. If there is no connection to Christ, any soul lacking moral transformation is still in his sin; eternal destruction awaits. Surely to be in a Christian pulpit one must be saved with evidence that the desires of the flesh have given way to desires that please God such as faith (Hebrews 11:6) – not merely change in external behavior.
In the new covenant God makes bold assertions. He promises: 1) a status of forgiven, and 2) a continuing infusion of righteousness in those who are being sanctified. Note we “are being sanctified” progressively (Hebrews 10:14; Ezekiel 36:24-27; Jeremiah 31:31-34). The condition is simple: only faith in Christ for all the Lord promises in the covenant. God did not provide one benefit without the other. Because God covenants, he promises. If he promises, he delivers, and he delivers to all who believe.
Thus, no Christian enjoys one feature and lacks the other. In one act, sin is remitted (justification); in the other feature, sin is being replaced with the law written on the heart. In sanctification God works to overcome sin, so it is rendered less and less effective. What used to rule us has lost its tight and ugly grip. We have been joined to Christ so that greed, vindictiveness, idolatry, deceit, and covetousness have been delivered a setback, even though all our former vices stick around tempting and seeking another opportunity in us. We may still commit and wrestle with them, but we never accept and become comfortable with our old favorite sins.
For a “Christian homosexual” to announce a never changing sinful desire is to place himself outside the covenant of grace. The promises of the new covenant will not be broken by God, and no person can belong to Christ without receiving the Holy Spirit. A ministers must not simply be a communicator of this gospel, he must be the embodiment of it; a public example of how God in the new covenant has transformed him from the sinful passions of “the old man.”
We have now gotten down to basics. To say, “It does not work for me, because my dominant attraction is for sex with my own gender,” is to say, “God has not kept such a covenant in my case,” or “I am not in such a covenant.” Does any PCA minister say such a thing? No. But if a minister claims persistent illicit desires even if bridled, he loses his claim to being a Christian. He insults the Holy Spirit as unable to save from some special sin, or that God the Holy Spirit, in shocking ungodliness, has broken covenant with him. This is the chief error of homosexual Christianity. This covenant, called new in Jeremiah 31, fits the healing of an incurable condition in 30:12, 15 & 17. In sanctification God commits to do the impossible. He heals the incurable.
It is time to recognize and refer to the surpassing contribution of Walter Marshall, a Puritan who in 1692 wrote The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification [ii]. We are sanctified only in union with Christ with notable results. Marshall explains:
Our lusts and pleasures in sin are not only restrained, but taken away in Christ; and pleasures in holiness are freely given to us, and implanted in us (Rom. 8:5; Gal. 5:17, 24; Joh. 4:34; Psa. 40:8; 119:14, 16, 20). We have a new taste and savor, a new love and liking, by the Spirit of Christ. And we look at the law not as a burden, but as our privilege in Christ (chapter XIV).
Love to God must flow from a pure heart (1Tim. 1:5), a heart cleansed from evil propensities and inclinations. And reason will tell us that the first motions of lust, … [such as same-sex desire], cannot be avoided without a fixed propensity of the heart to holiness (chapter II).
If we are joined to Christ, our hearts will no longer be left under the power of sinful inclinations; they will be powerfully endowed with a power, bent, and propensity to the practice of holiness by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, and inclining us to mind spiritual things, and to lust against the flesh (Rom. 8:1, 4, 5 ; Gal. 5:17) (chapter III).
Opposed to Walter Marshall’s gospel clarity is the “homosexual Christian” notion that some sins are so deep, that Christian homosexuals have no choice in their passions. These desires cling so closely they cannot be rid of them. Considering their sexual desires as incurable in this life is rejection of the covenant with terrible personal consequences.
Frustration and Failure
The talk today is of sexual orientation. The basic assumption the world teaches us is that a person has a fixed sexual inclination. This thinking is applied everywhere, becoming its own “gospel truth.” But in Christian doctrine, regeneration is a radical change from a fleshly proclivity over to a heart turned to God. In salvation, it is the heart that is reoriented. The homosexual appeal is that we must recognize that their desire remains. After all, it is what they are. For some there may be change, but in homosexual Christianity the assumption is that same-sex attraction is ordinarily very unchangeable, a claim made in spite of numerous testimonies to the contrary. Their doctrine overturns the Christian faith. Regeneration is forced to bow to a persistent sexual orientation, a viewpoint in place before the Word of God is even opened. With this false premise as the starting point, the homosexual gospel is a patchwork of excuses and arguments without deliverance, transformation or hope. And the Church is supposed to accept this view and allow those who hold to this other salvation reality to flourish in pew and pulpit.
Walter Marshall knew trying to restrain sin is not a solution. He had pointed things to say about missing the gospel and the unhappiness that ensues. He anticipated the movement that naturally takes place from Side B to Side A. Not knowing about us in 1692, he still addressed our current problem.
If these legalistic zealots are forced by strong conviction to endeavor to practice spiritual duties [such as celibacy] in order to quiet their guilty consciences, they may be brought to strive and labor earnestly, and even to hurt their bodies with fasting, in order to kill their lusts. But their lusts are still alive, strong as ever, and these lusts show their enmity against the law of God by inward fretting, repining, and grudging against the law as a grievous taskmaster, even if a slavish fear restrains their gross outward actions (Chapter VI). They labor in vain to reform their natural state (Chapter V).
We in the PCA have been introduced to a remedy which aims to tame the flesh as Marshall puts it below. We are tempted to say “good luck” to the taming. Do we forget that sin is alive in us and needs death rather than restraining? Homosexual lust lately has been getting a new suit of clothes. It is looking pretty good, trotted out as celibacy. It is even portrayed as a benefit since celibate homosexual Christians are models of obedience, though a fleshly mind finds submitting to God’s law unnatural (Romans 8:7). This homosexual flesh-taming has presented itself as costly sacrifice to be admired. Imagine Aunt Tillie telling us she sacrifices for the Lord every day by not lying. Not lying is neither expensive nor time consuming. It is not sacrifice, but we now are hearing that staying out of gay bars and resisting whatever goes on in there is sacrifice on a scale close to heroic. Taming the flesh has churned up many arguments. Marshall is clear:
You must despair of purging the flesh or natural man of its sinful lusts and inclinations, and of practicing holiness by willing and resolving to do the best you can in your own power, and by trusting in the grace of God and Christ to help you in such resolutions and endeavors. Rather, resolve to trust in Christ “to work in you to will and to do by His own power, according to His own good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Those who are convinced of their own sin and misery, commonly think first to tame the flesh, and to subdue and root out its lusts — to make their corrupt nature into a better nature, and more inclined to holiness, by their struggling and wrestling with it (Chapter XII).
The Way Out – Faith in Christ
The wise Puritan continues:
The way to get rid of your raging lusts is by faith that “purifies the heart and works by love” (Acts 15:9; Gal. 5:6). The soul must be brought to take pleasure in God and Christ by faith, or else it will lust after fleshly and worldly pleasures. And the more you strive against lusts without faith, the more they are stirred up, even if you prevail so far as to keep from fulfilling them. Beg for a holy fear of God, with fear of coming short of the promised rest because of unbelief (Heb. 3:19-4:1) (chapter VII).
Now, mark well the great advantages you have, to attain holiness by seeking it in a right Gospel order. You will have the advantage of the love God manifested towards you in forgiving your sins, receiving you into favor, giving you the spirit of adoption and the hope of His glory freely through Christ. These will persuade you to love God in return, who has so dearly loved you; and to give yourselves to the obedience of all His commands out of love to Him. You will also enjoy the help of the Spirit of God to powerfully incline you to obedience, and to strengthen you to perform it against all your corruptions, and the temptations of Satan (chapter VIII).
For He died, not that the flesh, or old natural man, might be made holy, but that it might be crucified, and destroyed out of us (Rom. 6:6). He died that we might live to God — not to ourselves, nor by any natural power of our own resolutions and endeavors, but by Christ living in us, and by His Spirit producing the fruits of righteousness in us (Gal. 2:20; 5:24-25) (chapter XII).
It is because the Father chose us that we “are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Christ is as much our sanctification as he is our justification. We receive these by faith, and if we are in Christ, we receive both – finished justification and sanctification underway.
The means … by which the Spirit of God accomplishes our union with Christ, and our fellowship with Him in all holiness, are: 1) the gospel (by which Christ enters into our hearts to work faith in us) and 2) faith, by which we actually receive Christ Himself, with all His fullness, into our hearts. And this faith is a grace of the Spirit, by which we heartily believe the Gospel and also believe in Christ, as He is revealed and freely promised to us in it, for all His salvation. (Chap. IV)
Marshall warns further of a faith in which the hope is only for forgiveness and an escape from hell. Since God’s salvation is a package of forgiveness, adoption, and cleansing, one must believe him for all that is promised. To trust God only for selected parts means a soul with selective faith has believed in a partial Savior, who fails to deliver all he has promised. We must not suppose we can trust God for preferred blessings and pass over ones God has tied tightly together. The PCA constitution says that sanctification is inseparably joined to justification (WLC 77).
The new covenant is gospel promise from first to last. A promise can only be received by faith. To opt out of any holy benefit by unbelief is to fail to accept the gospel as God designed it. We must believe that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). To live without the Spirit replacing fleshly lust, convicting us, wooing us, holding Christ before us, humbling, and chastening us to agree with his holy law written in our hearts – to live without the Spirit is to live in the flesh as one who has never come to Christ at all.
No sin is too deep or too difficult for God. What he begins in our union with Christ shall continue until we are fully in his holy likeness, but in every believer sanctification is underway. No sin gets a pass. A person who supposes he can be a Christian with lifelong lust for a person of the same sex has deluded himself. He should tremble at the deceit gripping his mind and flee to Christ. “Christian homosexuals” are playing with fire – hellfire. Hebrews 12 reminds Christians that our God is a consuming fire. The Lord is a fire that purifies or a fire that destroys.
I urge prayer with the promises of the new covenant before us. The fear of God and repentance before him is needed. Faith will bring relief, delight, and life in Christ. Gospel washing does not happen somewhere over the rainbow, way down the road. No, the washing of regeneration is at the outset of the Christian life and cleansing continues throughout. The gospel is violated by Revoice’s revision of this work of grace when they appeal with “a come-as-you-are-and-flourish-as-you-are” message. If Christ does not wash us, we have no share with him (John 13:8). If he is truly our God, he is the Lord who sanctifies us now (Ezekiel 20:12). Those who opt out of sanctification have opted out of salvation.
When Marshall speaks of something being a necessary part, he means it is essential to, or “without which you do not have.” He asserted sanctification is a necessary part of salvation, then if absent, so is salvation. This should alarm anyone who harbors unchanging sexual lust.
We must put off the “old man” and put on the “new” (Ephesians 4:22-24). However, the drift now in the PCA is that peace loving souls with sensitivity and understanding should just accept the condition, celibacy, and improvement of the old nature. All we have to give up is the Bible’s teaching on the Christian life.
Imagine someone in hell reviewing his arguments, trying to figure out where he went wrong and remembering, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7,8).
Gay Persuasion at Work
The “Christian homosexual” notion has an array of spins and arguments to defend this false teaching. Here are some:
Fallacy: It is not really sin; the Lord does not really change our orientation; this desire endures a lifetime; nevertheless, we are saved.
Euphemism: Rather than “sin,” say, “a result of the Fall.” This assertion throws people off. Weeds, warts, and tornadoes are a result of the Fall, yet are morally neutral; and we are expected to think this assertion applies also to same-sex attraction.
Spin: It is not lust, just an attraction, a different orientation. Wherever “lust” appears, auto-correct to the less sinfully offensive word “attraction.” “You don’t like my orientation; do my freckles also bother you?”
Spin: Cleansing? Well, by the power of the Spirit we are celibate; what more do you want? And say, “We have cleaned up our act.” This is expected to turn our attention away from the importance of the new covenant’s change of heart.
Strategy: Preach the pleasing grace of acceptance; avoid repentance themes, deliverance language, and the necessity of a transformed heart. Just claim that all is covered by justification.
Spin: Make gay sin distinct. The sinfulness of a man looking lustfully at an ineligible woman is an issue of sin, so we can use it to show how the straights have their wrong attractions, too. Let them know they cannot judge us.
Argument: Paul used the present tense: “… sinners, of whom I am chief.” Note the present tense of “am.” We are all saints who sin; nobody’s perfect. [This distorted interpretation of 1 Timothy 1:15 deserves a very stiff rebuttal.]
Argument: “I have prayed a thousand times without any change.” Note how a prominent Revoice apologist states their case:
In God’s providence and according to all the statistics, prayerful healing from terminal cancer and prayerful healing from same-sex attraction in this lifetime are both quite rare. This does not mean that the person praying for healing is any less faithful, or any more flawed, than the rest of us (emphasis in the original). [iii]
My reply to the Revoice apologist: So we know from the statisticians of social science how poorly God’s covenant works. Oh, really! Since healing is taken to be rare for this unique group in spite of being united to Christ, two basic truths crash: 1) Sola Scriptura, and 2) the integrity of God in the new covenant where he promises to lead and cause us to walk in his statutes (Ezekiel 36:27).
The Chief Error of “Homosexual Christianity”
This changed view of God downplays the Lord as sanctifier; it does not rely on his commitment to his own promises in the new covenant. Naturally, this false teaching neither calls for nor expects transformation of homosexuals who, ostensibly, are in union with Christ. Thus same-sex sin sits unchallenged in the heart, which is just another way to say it still reigns within. Christians have been set free from the power of sin (Romans 6:22), but not its temptation.
Flee to Christ and embrace him in his power, promises, and forgiveness. With that mercy, the gift of the Spirit is included. He will wage war successfully in your heart and fill it with the better things of the Lord. To have a God less than this is to bow before an idol seeking the throne of God.
The “Homosexual Christian” movement, already among us in the PCA, needs to be repelled and repentant homosexuals welcomed through the gospel into the loving embrace of Christ and into the fellowship of his holy church.
Rev. David H. Linden is a retired Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America; he lives in Las Cruces, NM.
[i] A legislative bill in California [HR 3570] is being considered because “sexual orientation cannot change, and therefore because it cannot change, any suggestion or encouragement to pursue change should be considered fraud.” Decision Magazine, January 1, 2020. See www.changedmovement.com
[ii] Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=NRhMAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_similarbooks Modernized, formatted, annotated, and corrected by William H. Gross www.onthewing.org Nov 2019. If this version is used, kindly recognize Mr. Gross’s website: www.onthewing.org. I, too, am grateful to my friend. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification has 14 directives. Marshall calls them “Directions” using Roman Numerals. Since the pagination is not uniform, so I will simply identify chapters, e.g., (Chapter VIII).
[iii] Rev. Scott Sauls, Thoughts on Revoice, Unnecessary Division, and the PCA, June 21, 2019, p.6.