In 2009 the American Psychological Association released a two-year study that concluded there is insufficient evidence to determine whether or not conversion therapy works. Put another way, this study concluded that it may be possible for a person to change his or her sexual orientation—there simply is not enough evidence to be certain.
The findings of scientific studies such as this are in harmony with the Word of God. Long before scientific task forces and psychological associations, the Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to teach that no person must remain enslaved by homosexual passions. First Corinthians 6:9–11 says:
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 (emphasis added).
This Corinthian congregation sounds like something we might find in any given prison, not within the walls of a church. Yet the Apostle Paul reminded this congregation that they were no longer identified by their past sins. In God’s eyes, the sexually immoral person is no longer identified by his illegitimate child, his sexually transmitted disease, or his tally of one-night stands. In God’s eyes the idolater is no longer identified by his obsessions which consumed his time and attention. In God’s eyes the adulterer is no longer identified by the relationships he destroyed through his infidelity. In God’s eyes the thief is no longer identified by the objects of which he has deprived others. In God’s eyes the greedy person is no longer identified as a workaholic, or by his stinginess. In God’s eyes the drunkard is no longer identified by his foolish and shameful acts while under the influence of alcohol. In God’s eyes the reviler is no longer identified by his tirades and by those he has verbally abused. In God’s eyes the swindler is no longer identified by his victims and by ruined lives. Regardless of the sin, and regardless of the effect of that sin on the life of the individual and the lives of others, God is both capable and willing to offer forgiveness.
Therefore, it is not surprising to find within this list the sin of homosexuality. In God’s mind the homosexual is no longer identified by his sexual orientation. He, like the others in this church, had been forgiven of his sins. By applying the ministry of Jesus Christ on the cross to his own heart in belief and repentance, his spirit had been washed by the Holy Spirit, as Titus 3:4–7 says:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Because of passages like 1 Corinthians chapter 6, some people accuse the Apostle Paul of being homophobic. The Apostle Paul was not homophobic. Rather, he recognized the enslaving power of homosexuality and its ultimate reward of death and destruction. Having been personally enslaved by sins that haunted him throughout his life, the Apostle Paul was intimately familiar with the guilt and despair that can come from one’s past. Yet he was also intimately familiar with the forgiveness and hope that can come from Jesus Christ, and he devoted his life to sharing this truth with others. It is precisely because the Apostle Paul had himself sinned beyond measure that he spoke so boldly about the sins of others—not to condemn them but to point the way to forgiveness. In 1 Timothy 3:12–17, the Apostle Paul wrote:
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Scripture is filled with examples of God not only forgiving people, but of God transforming lives. The Apostle Paul is quite possibly the best example of this. God took Paul—a blasphemer and one of the most ardent persecutors of the Christian church—and transformed him into one of history’s greatest Christian missionaries who could instruct the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Moreover, God used the Apostle Paul to pen 13 books of the Bible. Similarly, God took Jacob—a liar and a cheat who deceived his father into giving him his brother’s birthright—and transformed him into a man of faith who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel. Throughout Scripture, God refers to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Another example would be David who not only committed adultery, but engineered the death of the woman’s husband in order to hide his sin, and yet God promised David that his lineage would reign eternally in the Millennial Kingdom and that Jesus the Messiah would come from his line. We could continue and look at Moses, a murder whom God used to free His people from slavery and lead them to the Promised Land; Gideon, a coward whom God used to defeat an oppressive army as numerous as the sand on the sea shore; Peter, a man who denied Jesus, and yet Jesus gave him the keys to the Kingdom; or any number of other examples in Scripture.
God is in the business of transforming lives. The church is filled with ex-sinners. There are ex-liars, ex-cheats, ex-addicts, ex-adulterers, ex-gays, ex-you-fill-in-the-blank. Given that man is naturally bent toward doing evil, it is probably true that none of these would have overcome their temptation in their own strength. It is only through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that anyone is capable of overcoming his greatest temptations. It is only when a person relinquishes his sinful identity and turns to Jesus Christ in humble repentance that the power of sin is truly broken in an individual’s life. No longer must he be identified by his sin. Instead, he is identified as a child of God. This is the good news of Jesus Christ!
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:4–7).
Be sure to read Timothy Zebell’s book Laid Bare: Uncovering the Relationship Between Homosexuality & the Gospel.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.