“Can a practicing homosexual be saved and continue to live that way?”
That’s a popular question, and Free Grace theology has an unpopular answer.
That question is a great litmus test to see whether someone believes (1) in salvation by grace, through faith, apart from works, and (2) in Biblical sexual morality.
The popular Evangelical answer is no; a homosexual cannot be saved if he or she continues in sin. So you’ll hear statements like this:
“The kind of trust in Christ which saves is the kind that comes from a living, active faith which will produce good fruit and will not produce continuation in sin.”
“Salvation does depend on believing, and truly believing will result in sanctification.”
“There is a non-separable relationship between believing and behaving. Behaving is the evidence of what you truly believe, not just what you profess to believe.”
Why can’t practicing homosexuals be saved? According to some, belief always results in a change of behavior. Hence you cannot be saved and still be a practicing homosexual. If you continue, you must never have believed or been saved.
In Free Grace circles, we call that “backloading” the gospel.
Front-loading the gospel means explicitly teaching that salvation depends upon faith and works. Some churches explicitly teach that salvation requires both faith and works. That’s wrong, but at least it’s clear.
Backloading the gospel means subtly redefining “faith” to include doing good works such as obedience, commitment, allegiance, or submission to Christ. People who backload the gospel can then profess to believe in justification by faith apart from works while still making works a requirement. That’s wrong and sneaky.
Whether you require faith plus works, or faith that works, you still need works for salvation, making it a false gospel.
How would Free Grace people answer that question?
Simple. The only way to be saved is by grace, through faith, apart from all works (Eph 2:8-9). When a Free Grace person says that, there are no gimmicks, fine print, or loopholes. That promise means what it says. Sinful people are saved simply by believing, not behaving. That’s good news because the only kind of people are sinful (Rom 3:10). God doesn’t justify the better-than-average, but the ungodly (Rom 4:5), which means there’s hope for everyone.
That means someone who struggles with same-sex attraction can believe in Jesus for eternal life, have it, and be secure forever, even if they struggle with same-sex attraction until death. Acting on those temptations will negatively affect many areas of their life (both now and in eternity), but their salvation will remain secure.
That kind of grace may seem outrageous. And it is!
And that brings me to the hypocrisy of the typical Evangelical answer.
If you were to ask a typical Evangelical if he sinned every day, he would admit he did. And if you asked whether he will keep sinning until the day he dies, he would agree. But if you asked if that proved he doesn’t have living faith or isn’t really saved, he would deny it. For some reason, his lifelong struggle with sin isn’t as bad as struggling with same-sex attraction. Too often, people believe in grace for their “respectable” sins but not for others.
That attitude is both profoundly hypocritical and demonstrates a shallow understanding of the sinfulness of all sin. Practicing homosexuals can be saved despite their sins, just like anyone else.
However, I need to emphasize (as Paul did) that grace is no excuse for sin. While sanctification isn’t guaranteed in this life (contra the Calvinistic doctrine of the perseverance of the saints), practical growth in holiness is both possible and expected.
Paul imagined the following objection to preaching grace:
“What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2).
Of course, grace will multiply over every sin, but does that mean it should encourage you to disobey God? No! When you believe in Jesus, you become united in His death and resurrection, which permanently changes your relationship to sin so that you no longer need “to let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires” (Rom 6:12). You can and should be free. Grace ends the rule of sin over you: “For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace” (Rom 6:14). Grace doesn’t teach us to sin, but to be godly: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). By living in complete dependence upon Christ, you can receive victory over every sin.
If you want to help someone with their lifelong struggle with sin, preach grace, not condemnation.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.