In a conversation with a friend today he had asked me several questions in which I was not sure how to answer. The letter below comes from a pastor friend of mine and I felt it was worth posting.
I believe the scriptures are pretty clear on this subject.
We do believe when an individual GENUINELY repents of his sin and places his complete trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; he is saved forever. John 3:16 expresses this truth as numerous other passages do as well. An interesting study is to go through the scriptures and find all things that take place at the moment of salvation, that we have no control over. These things take place as a declaration of God, they are never felt –no nice fuzzy experience to validate their reality – only the truth of scripture. These things are also based on the work of Christ which has eternal ramifications. And nowhere in scripture are these ever revoked.
Just for an example: an individual is justified – this is God’s eternal judicious declaration that a sinner can now stand before Him based on what Christ did – another would be redemption – a sinner is bought out of the slave market of sin (never to be sold back into it) – another – we are made the righteousness in Christ, we are adopted into the family of God, Jesus becomes our propitiation, we are now accepted in the Beloved, etc… there are some 33 things that take place the moment a sinner genuinely repents and trusts exclusively in the gospel of Christ.
Now with that said – can a born-again believer continue to live in sin? – of course Romans 6:1- answers this question…no he cannot continue to live in sin, as a matter of fact, Hebrews 12:5-8 – indicates that if a believer starts to become “comfortable” in his sin (meaning he will not confess it and get it right before God) that the Lord will chastise Him – God will not tolerate His children continuing in sin. And if a professed “Christian” can continue comfortably in their sin (like your example of a homosexual – if they persist in this, living a continued habitual lifestyle, a lifestyle characterized by homosexuality) – and they do not get the chastening of the Lord, the Bible uses a strong word and calls them “bastards” meaning they have never truly been saved.
We are all growing at different rates in our spiritual walk –this is based on our submission to the Word of God as empowered by the Holy Spirit to change us into the image of Christ (II Corinthians 3:18). However, there are a number of passages that refer to carnal Christians – these are Christians that are not living for the Lord (at that time) but are living for the flesh. These Christians have their growth stunted and cannot be used the way the Lord wants to use them. Hebrews 5:11-14 are a great example of this. They should have been teachers but because they became dull in their hearing – they were not growing in their relationship with the Lord and the writer states he needed to teach them the “milk of the word” all over again. This makes it difficult on our human end to determine whether a person is truly saved, we are to inspect the fruit, but we are only given a snapshot in time. Can a saved homosexual fall back into homosexuality – yes, he can – but he will not be able to remain that way for long (how long, I can’t answer that question, only the Lord knows how He is dealing with that person)without the chastening of the Lord. However, if they brazenly flaunt this lifestyle and rationalize it, chances are they are not saved.
This is another reason why church membership is so important. Matthew 18:15-20 deals with church discipline. If a believer, is living in sin, there is a biblical approach to this – the final step being to discipline them out of the church so that Satan can have his way with them (I Cor. 5). Hopefully, if the person is saved – he should repent and be restored into fellowship for that is the goal of church discipline (Ii Cor 2:1-8). To stay away from this fellowship is very destructive because the scriptures say that the local church is the pillar and ground (or the support structure) of the truth (I Timothy 3:15).
If this person is unsaved – well, he will have no desire to get back into fellowship with a local church for the scripture is clear in I John 2:18,19.
So in basic conclusion – can a truly born again believer sin – yes, of course he can. Can a truly born again believer continue in certain sins – yes, for a short period of time and this individual should incur the chastening of the Lord. Can a truly born again believer continue (make a lifestyle characterized by that sin) in his sin without repentance and chastening of the Lord – no, this would indicate that he has never been saved in the first place.
I hope this helps.