A reader sent me an article which appeared in the February 2019 edition of Decision Magazine from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He writes, “Can I get your take on it? I wrestle with the matter because my wife and I know several gay and lesbian folks and, while we don’t agree with their lifestyle choices, we don’t think they’re instantly condemned for being homosexual (although clearly to us, it’s not pleasing to God). It’s particularly disturbing that MacArthur includes repentance with faith in salvation, but that’s part of what he’s known for.”
I found the article under a slightly different name: “God’s Plan for the Gay Agenda.” You can read it here. MacArthur argues that homosexuals can be born again, but only if they stop practicing homosexuality.
Here is how he explains it: “1 Corinthians 6 is very clear about the eternal consequence for those who practice homosexuality—but there’s good news. No matter what the sin is, whether homosexuality or anything else, God has provided forgiveness, salvation, and the hope of eternal life to those who repent and embrace the Gospel…Like anyone else, homosexuals gain salvation through repentance and faith.” He suggests that when we interact with homosexuals about being saved, we should “confront [them] with the truth of Scripture that condemns homosexuality and promises eternal damnation for all who practice it…and point [them] to the hope of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.”
MacArthur is correct when he suggests that the same requirement, or in his case, requirements, for everlasting life are there for all people. The requirements are not different for homosexuals. In his view, sinners of every type must stop practicing their sinful ways and must believe in Jesus in order to be born again.
What MacArthur does not say, but certainly implies, is that one must stop practicing all of his sins. No one is guilty of only one type of sin. Homosexuals also have problems with all the sins everyone does. Say a homosexual is also a gossip, a cheat, a liar, and an alcoholic. Then to be saved he must not only become celibate (or marry someone of the opposite sex and remain faithful), but he must also cease gossiping, cheating, lying, and drinking.
The same is true for the heterosexual, though MacArthur does not bring this out. Many heterosexuals under thirty today have sex outside of marriage. For them to be saved, they must become celibate too, or they must marry someone of the opposite sex and remain faithful to that person. But in addition, they must stop practicing all their sins.
Of course, can you see how this gets tricky? It is possible to stop practicing homosexuality. It is possible for heterosexuals to stop sleeping with people they are not married to. The alcoholic can indeed stop drinking.
But can the jealous person entirely stop being jealous? Can the angry person cease all outbursts of anger? Can the liar stop all lying?
To put it another way, can any unbeliever stop practicing sin? If so, how?
Basically, what MacArthur is doing is avoiding a major problem with his theology. He focuses on one sin, homosexuality, not all sin.
If what he says is true, then when we evangelize, we need to go through a list of everything that is sinful so that the person can stop practicing all those things. It would not be enough for the homosexual to stop practicing homosexuality. He needs to stop getting drunk, stop lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, fighting, etc.
Here is how the late Dr. James Montgomery Boice put it in his 1987 book Christ’s Call to Discipleship: “What must I pay to become a Christian…I must pay the price of those sins I now cherish. I must give them up, every one. I cannot cling to a single sin…” (pp. 112-13).
As the reader suggests, the problem is that MacArthur, Boice, and all Lordship Salvation preachers say that believing in Jesus Christ is not enough. One must also stop practicing sins. Not just his known sins. All his sins.
The result is a saving message that cannot save anyone. The only truly saving message is salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. Add any other condition(s) to the new birth beside faith in Christ and you have proclaimed a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9).
MacArthur and Lordship Salvation folk mean well. They want people to live godly lives. That is a good thing. But we must do God’s work God’s way. We cannot change the saving message in a misguided attempt to help God out. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what He was doing when He proclaimed the faith alone message (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35; 11:26).
Homosexuals can be born again just as they are. So can heterosexuals. So can liars, gossips, and cheats. Everyone is born again the same way. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). It is a simple message for all. Keep it simple, saint.