As a family, we have sat around and discussed the issues in our society/world today and our tragically skewed view of sin not only in the secular world, but in the church world as well. It has been my belief for a while that our c'est la vie mindset of what God calls sin - and other tongue-in-cheek sayings that we've come to be OK with in the church today like "I love Jesus, but I cuss a little," - have been one of the causes of the downfall of The Church in modern times.
A friend of mine, Dr. James E. Cossey, who has served as a pastor, evangelist, church administrator, as editor of two denominational journals and as Editor In Chief of his denomination’s publications, recently penned an article with a burdened heart for the same issue I've struggled with lately - our faulty view of the doctrine of salvation and sin. In our world today, you are rarely going to find something as deep as this issue that you agree with 100% of what the author is stating. Don't get caught up in the minors like we are so prone to do in today's world. Focus on the majors. These are the things that we need to begin to understand that the enemy is hijacking as we argue over carpet color and music style. Ali called that a rope-a-dope and destroyed opponents with that style! Satan's done it for over 5000 years and we continue to buy into it. We must stop! This is a good place for that to happen.
Please take a moment and read this wonderfully painted picture and cry for The Church to return to an understanding of being who and what Christ called us to be and what/who He died for.
Gays in Full Acceptance in Church Life and Ministry
is the Obvious, Inevitable Conclusion
of Faulty Soteriology and Hamartiology
Multiple representatives at the recent United Methodist General Council and other similar venues present to us the heart-rending photos of practicing homosexuals and transgenders who quite sincerely are asking why they are being excluded from the life of the church. Some will suggest that the Bible never prohibits such practices, while others, while acknowledging the Bible’s obvious stated prohibitions, posit that those taboos are outdated, based on cultural interpretations peculiar only to that day, and should be overlooked. Still others, as well as many straight people who sympathize with them, contend that even if homosexuality is sin, we are all sinners saved by grace and that the church is classifying some sins as being more forgivable than others. Therein lies the problem, and thus, many people who have been deceived by our false interpretations of salvation and sin are sometimes as much victim as villain.
For generations since John Calvin, there are those within Christendom that espouse a Soteriology (doctrine of salvation) that suggests God’s forgiveness and covering of sin, but not His ability to provide deliverance from sin. Together with a messed-up Hamartiology (doctrine of sin) this faulty Soteriology suggests terms such as “sinners saved by grace,” “saved sinners,” and “forgiven sinners.” None of these can be found in the Word of God. Jesus did not come to save sinners in our sins, but from our sins. “And she (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and you shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Those who propose that there is no sin too hard for God to forgive including homosexual sins are exactly right, but please recall the admonition of Jesus to the woman taken in adultery. When Jesus forgave her sin, she was instructed to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). It’s as if the Lord told her, “change the way you’re living.” Jesus also healed a man of a debilitating illness by the Pool of Bethesda, after which He instructed the man to “sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14-15). What his sickness was is not fully explained. Some suggest that his sickness was an affliction that came as the result of something sinful that he had done, but that is mere speculation. The best explanation is that Jesus both healed him of his sickness and forgave him of his sins. To paraphrase the instructions of Jesus, He told him, “change the way you’re living!” Remember that although Jesus delighted then and He delights now to heal, the Son of Man did not come primarily to heal, but “to seek and to save that which was lost” (John 19:10).
Faulty Soteriology and Hamartiology has convinced an alarming multitude that we are all just sinners saved by grace, and therefore we cannot live without practicing sin. Consequently, all believers are mere sinners and the only difference between us and the lost is that they are “lost sinners” and we are “saved sinners.” Such has no foundation in scripture. I have reached the point of having to suppress the urge to gag when theologically incorrect preachers including pastors preach and teach, “we are all sinners.” We are not! Born again believers are saints of God, not sinners! Don’t jump to conclusions now, read on!
The first argument in defense of the “saved sinner” concept is to ask the question, “So, are you suggesting that Christians do not sin?” Further, “Are you trying to say that you have never committed a sin since you were converted to Christ?” The answer to both questions is a resounding NO. No, I am not suggesting that Christians never sin, nor am I proposing that I have never sinned since my conversion to Christ. What I am suggesting is that there is more than one definition of sin, and that while a Christ follower may sin, he or she will quickly (because of the conviction of the indwelling Holy Spirit) fix that matter with God, and cease from that sin. Further I suggest that a believer does not continue to practice the ways of sin after experiencing the sanctifying Word and grace of God together with the cleansing of the blood of Jesus.
Sin may biblically be defined as “missing the mark.” When imperfect human flesh compares itself to impeccably holy God, it is impossible but that we miss the mark. We do not in this life attain a level of perfection that renders us incapable of falling short. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Greek word here, emarton, meaning to miss the mark, is a derivative of the word, hamartia, used at least 174 times in the New Testament and thus the most often used Greek word for sin in the original language (thus Hamartiology—the doctrine of sin). In light of God’s infinite holiness and man’s finite weakness, who among us would dare suggest that we have never missed the mark. I contend, however, as do many others, that missing the mark and dealing with it does not make one a sinner. Rather, it makes one human. From this and numerous other passages it is clear that the true meaning of the word in Romans 3:23 is to miss the mark or to fall short of the goal. This usage of the word does not always involve moral guilt or ethical failure.
If I neglect my spiritual disciplines and fail to pray as I should, I have missed the mark and have therefore come up short. If I push my body when I know I should rest and refresh myself, I have come up short. If I speak harshly without justification to my spouse or child, I have come up short. If I speak a word in haste that I should not speak, I miss the mark. I am admonished in such cases that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17 NIV). This is the sin of missing the mark. It isn’t a moral or ethical failure, but it is to come short.
Sin is defined secondly as “the transgression of the Law of God.” Listen to John: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (1 John 1:3-6). The context of John’s writing makes it clear that he is speaking to something far greater than our missing the mark. He is speaking here to transgression of God’s Law as contained in the Bible—specifically in the New Testament. Why did John say Jesus was manifested? Not to forgive us and allow us to continue in our sins, but to “take away our sins.” He further states that believers do not sin (practice lawlessness) and that those who persist in sins of disobedience to God’s Word do not know Him. Thus, you see that while believers will miss the mark, a born-again Christ-follower does not continue to practice those things that constitute disobedience to God’s Word.
The subsequent verses of the above-mentioned passage greatly illuminate the message by reading it from the New American Standard Bible, which many conservative scholars believe to be the nearest of our current English versions to the original texts. “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 1:4-10).
What is the conclusion then? That Christians miss the mark, but that Christians do not make it a practice to continue to practice those things that are contrary to God’s Word.
See, here’s the problem with the “We are all sinners” doctrine. If we are all sinners, society (and some in the church) concludes that we are thus judgmental if we prohibit someone who’s sin is different to ours from being involved in the life and ministry of the Church. If we are “all sinners,” then the drunken, the adulterer, the fornicator, the thief, the tax evader, the homosexual, the transgendered, and the gambler must be allowed full participation because “sin is sin” and who is to say that their sin is worse than mine. If sin is only defined as missing the mark, and if Christ-followers can never cease to practice those things that transgress God’s law, this argument is a logical conclusion. In fact, it is the ONLY logical conclusion to the “we are all sinners saved by grace” argument.
Today’s church is merely reaping what it has sown. Generations of believing that we are all sinners and cannot stop practicing disobedience to God’s Law has made us sow to the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind.
While all believers have missed and will miss the mark, the true body of Christ is composed of those who in the words of John Newton once were lost but now are found; were blind but now can see. The Church is made up of forgiven, transformed men and women who choose to no longer practice sin. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
I purposely used the KJV in the above passage because newer translations use the term “homosexuals” and “sodomites,” and many liberal writers argue that scripture doesn’t condemn homosexuality because these words were non-existent when the Bible was written. Yes, the New Testament was written in Greek and these modern terms were not then prevalent. However, the Greek word for “effeminate” is malakos, the noun of which refers to “the passive male partner in homosexual intercourse ”homosexual.” The Greek for homosexual in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is arsenokoites, the noun of which refers to “one who takes the active male role in homosexual intercourse.” Thayer states, “One who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite.”
You see, the beautiful, redemptive truth about Jesus Christ and the Church is that God’s Church is composed of a bunch of “has been’s.” The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of people who have been fornicators…who have been idolaters, who have been adulterers, who have been homosexual…who have been sodomites…who have been thieves…who have been covetous…who have been drunkards…who have been revilers…who have been extortioners…people who were disqualified to “inherit the kingdom of God.” But…and this is shouting ground! “We have been washed…we have been sanctified…we have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Those who continue to practice sin (disobedience to God’s Word) do not know Him—homosexual or heterosexual. They are not of Him. They are spiritually deceived by their father the devil. Please don’t debate that with me. Take it up with the Holy Spirit who inspired John to write it. As you see, this is not HATE speech, this is LOVE speech. “Such were some of you, but…” Believers miss the mark because we are human. Sinners are sinners because they choose to sin. Saints are saints because they received Jesus Christ and are redeemed and transformed by His grace! The grandiose argument that so many homosexuals and transgenders commit suicide because of the hate and rejection they feel from society and from the church is deceptive bunk. They feel the disconnect that they feel because they are men and women loved by God, created in His likeness, with a God-shaped hole in their hearts that can only be filled by Him. The emptiness isn’t because society has rejected them, it is because society has allowed them to be believe a lie that they are born this way and can never change (read Romans Chapter 1). Good news! “But such were some of you!” You can be rid of that pain! You can shed that guilt! God can fill that void! God did not make you that way! Telling one this truth is the greatest act of love, not hate.
The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. It always refers to the people who make up the body of Christ, the Church. Not once is it ever used of a special group of Christians who have somehow served God better than the others. No church leader, Catholic or Protestant can confer sainthood. God gives that label to every blood bought believer—not because of our righteousness, but because of His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Conversely, the words “saved sinner,” and “sinner saved by grace,” or the idea that we are “all sinners” is never found on the pages of scripture. Never once.
Pastor, teacher, evangelist, professor, please stop it! Stop telling people that “we are all sinners.” We are not! Believers miss the mark, but we do not practice disobedience to God’s Law or the precepts of His Word. If you keep preaching this erroneous Soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and Hamartiology (doctrine of sin), you need to be ready to accept anyone and everyone who is just another “sinner saved by grace” and allow them full participation in the life and ministry of the church. That would be a mistake. You have no defense against their arguments which have tremendous validity under this false teaching. Such is the logical conclusion of this doctrinal error. But it should not be.
Republished With Permission
Originally written by Dr. James E. Cossey - www.jecossey.com