What a person who reads the Bible thinks about homosexuality. Yikes, this might get me in trouble.

I don’t think I have ever covered a controversial topic on my blog. And I don’t really want to. But last weekend, I felt moved to seriously study the biblical view on homosexuality. I was spurred on by some recent conversations and by this article that is all over the news.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-adam-ackley-phd/im-transgender-masculine-a-lover-of-men-and-living-in-accordance-with-my-biblical-faith_b_4006863.html

 Honestly, my stomach was churning after I read this. I felt a bit provoked because of the misuse of scriptures (I literally was saying “no” repeatedly and out loud while I read this in a public place). I am also saddened and perplexed that a university theology professor could be so mislead.  I am not saying I am smarter than a theology professor, I am simply committed to seeking God’s perspective on all things, first and foremost. Deductive thinking goes in with a hypothesis and tries to validate or invalidate said hypothesis. Inductive reasoning goes in with the intention to cut out personal bias and lets the text or situation interpret itself. In other words, I believe we should study the Bible in its entirety and its original context, and then ask, how should we now live in response to this? We should not go to the Bible, saying “this is how I am living” and then search for whatever verses then suit our ears. We cannot have the parts without the whole.

I believe this professor went to scripture looking to validate a lifestyle choice. I would like to dwell on what scripture says about homosexuality, not what I think scripture says about homosexuality or what I have heard others say. We can deal with opinions and reactions when we have gotten truth straight from the source.

After my research, I felt like I needed to share it with you all. For this post, I feel the disclaimers should be more lengthy than the content itself. This isn’t about being right or proving a point or taking a political side.  This is about real people with real struggles that they were born with and viewing them as God views them. I will address specific scriptures, leaning on them in context, but more importantly presenting the greater story we have the privilege of being part of. I’m sharing what I have found in the scriptures using the Inductive Bible Study method mentioned above. I hope my findings are helpful to you, but most of all I challenge you to research this for yourself. Of course I cannot cover everything in one article. If you like this or it really pisses you off, please give me a call or email me. I desire to communicate clearly and with integrity, not to convince, but to lead you to make an informed decision for yourself. I acknowledge the aggressive atmosphere and mindsets around us, but assure you have nothing to fear. As Christians, we have no excuse to succumb to anything else but the victorious truth in Christ.

2 Timothy 4:3-5

4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

 

The Facts (Compiled from the IVP Book of Hard Sayings of the Bible)

In our culture speaking negatively about homosexuality pins you as hateful and judgmental. Here are some reasons why.

1. First, postmodern society believes that all personal options are equally good. Thus one should take pride in one’s ethnic background or religion or sexual preference. None is better than another and no one should judge another. This postmodern view may express a truth about our relative human judgments, but does it give God’s view? What if God really does exist and has a view by which he will judge the world in the end? Furthermore, there are limits to our tolerance of cultural diversity, for we are not very accepting of Nazi culture, for example.

2. Second, genital sexual expression is viewed as a right and even as a necessity for emotional health. This is a new view, which ignores the fact that many who cannot function sexually (such as impotent males) can and do live full and meaningful lives. Unlike food and water and shelter, sexual expression is not a need. Nor is it a right. Many people, whatever their sexual inclinations, are deprived of opportunities for full sexual expression (think of those heterosexuals who want to be married but cannot find an appropriate spouse) and, while it may not be a desirable situation for them, it is not that they are being wronged. Modern culture has made sexuality our identity.

3. Third, homosexuality has found increasing acceptance in our society. However, acceptance does not make something right. Nor does the evidence that homosexuality may be inborn make it right. Some types of personality are apparently inborn, and we think of these varieties of personality types as equally good, but alcoholism, schizophrenia and a tendency to violence may also be linked to genes, and we look at these as genetic defects. We view them as bad and try to control their expression.

4. Fourth, there have been attempts to label any rejection of homosexuality as “homophobic” and thus make a rejection of this lifestyle appear wrong. Such labeling begs the question. Is one “kleptophobic” if he or she calls theft wrong? It is not always an issue of fear (phobia) at all, but one of sober judgment about what is right and wrong based on a given standard. For Christians the standard has been the Bible, so that is why looking at this passage is so critical.

There are several passages in the New Testament that refer to homosexual genital sexuality: Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10 and Jude 7. These build on the Old Testament attitude toward homosexuality found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.

What conclusions can we draw from these texts?

First, all of these passages condemn particular sexual acts. None of them speak of homosexual desires. In the Scriptures it is not homosexual temptation that is wrong, but the actual acts themselves. This is an important distinction, for it reminds us that the Scriptures honor people successfully struggling with temptation rather than condemning them for their temptations. The man who has never been tempted to commit adultery is not more virtuous than the man who has successfully resisted repeated significant temptations. The first man is only untested in that area.

Second, we recognize that while homosexual practice does not appear to have been common in Palestine, it was a significant feature of the Greek culture. It is not that Greeks were exclusively homosexual, for in fact the general practice was bisexuality, with wives being necessary for procreation, but the use of prostitutes and boys also being more or less accepted. It is also not true that all Greeks equally accepted homosexuality. One form of it, pederasty, was debated by Greek thinkers.

Third, we notice that the explicit rejection of homosexuality is found mostly in Paul’s letters, for he was the Christian writer most in contact with the Greek world. Romans was probably written from Corinth and 1 Corinthians was, of course, written to Corinth. It is sometimes argued, then, that Paul’s concern was only with pederasty, that he was entering one side of the discussion which was common in the Greek world. However, his language in this passage is not a description of pederasty. A case can be made for making 1 Corinthians 6:9 refer to that vice, but such a case is not totally convincing to scholars in this field. What it looks like is going on in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is that Paul, living in the Greek world, needing an example of vice to use in his letter, used the vice that he found close at hand, homosexual practice, which included, but was not limited to, pederasty.

In other words, homosexual practice was not a major problem within the church. It was a problem in the Gentile world around the church. Why was this the case? Probably the reason is that the church taught fidelity to one’s wife. For example, look at the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19. When in Matthew 19:9 Jesus prohibits divorce, the disciples respond in shock that it would be better not to marry than to be stuck forever with a single woman. Rather than softening his statement, Jesus comments that it might be good not to marry and distinguishes those who cannot marry due to sexual dysfunction from those who choose not to marry because of “the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, he gave people only two alternatives: faithful marriage (and he has already made it clear in Mt 5:27–28 what he means by faithfulness) or celibacy. While Jesus does not appear to have been married, Simon Peter was. It would be Paul who would follow the route of celibacy.

Turning to Paul, we find the same alternatives offered. In 1 Corinthians 6:9–20 he rules out “sexual immorality” by which he means sexual intercourse with a person who is not one’s spouse, especially a prostitute. He makes the alternative clear in 1 Corinthians 7:9: if one does not have the gift of celibacy, then one should marry. For the same reason married couples should practice regular sexual intercourse (1 Cor 7:2–5). One can read through the whole of the rest of 1 Corinthians 7 and find only two options: celibacy or faithful marriage. These same two options are offered to the widow and to the never-married, to the old and to the young.

As we noted above, in the Greek world as in the world today there were very few who were exclusively homosexual. Most men married out of duty to their family, if for no other reason. The church had only one instruction to such men and women: your wife or husband is to be your exclusive sexual focus. Satisfy one another. There is no option of a homosexual relationship on the side. For the few who were not married the church had two options: remain celibate or marry. Again homosexual sexual intercourse is not an option. By stressing these two positive options (rather than ranting against homosexuality) the early church appears to have had little problem with the practice of homosexuality, despite its being in the world around them.

Does the Bible really condemn homosexuality? The answer is yes, it does. In every place it mentions any homosexual practice it roundly condemns the practice. In no place does it speak positively of homosexuality. Does the Bible dwell on the issue, especially since parts of it were written in a world full of bisexuality? No, it does not. Instead the Bible focuses on its alternative. It encourages sexual expression in the context of a faithful marriage, and it exalts celibacy for those who cannot or choose not to marry. Both are honorable lifestyles. There is no third way.

 

My Experience

I have had the privilege of working with YWAM schools these past couple years. With that, I have picked up some counseling skills and experiences I never thought I’d have. In every DTS, we typically have 1-2 people who at one point in their lives struggled with homosexual thoughts. During what we call “Plumb-line” week, the students receive a teaching on forgiveness, both for others and themselves. Individually, they take the week to pray and see if God wants them to be set free from anything. They have the opportunity to stand before the class and bring these things to the light. Typically, this is the most powerful week where the students experience freedom and grace for the first time.

Those 1-2 students share their shame or struggle with homosexuality, but also share an experience of past physical abuse or disassociation with one or both parents. I want to briefly address my thoughts on whether homosexuality is either “nature” or “nurture”. My answer? Both. None would deny that from an early age, they found themselves struggling with these thoughts. But also, none would deny that the abuses or disassociations from the past largely informed their decisions to feed those desires towards homosexuality.

The point is we have to choose what we are going to conform to; the way of the world or God’s will?  Something happened when Adam and Eve committed the first sin. From that point on, we have all been born sinful and in need of grace. But God has provided that grace and redemption in Jesus Christ and we have the option to choose salvation. If we think human beings are born “good people” and naturally will make “good decisions”, we negate the entirety of the good news.

We must have an understanding of what sin actually is and how it works. Paul expounds on these concepts in Romans 5. Here are some questions the following piece about Romans 5 will answer (Compiled from the IVP Book of Hard Sayings of the Bible):

Why should the sin of the first human being become the downfall of the entire race? Why should all subsequent human beings stand under God’s judgment against a basic sinfulness for which none of us is ultimately responsible? How, in the face of such claims, are we to believe that God is just?

This text has provided the basis for commonly held doctrines about the nature of the human predicament. Many of the questions and problems that arise from it are in fact the result of improper interpretations or misunderstandings of the text itself.

The word sin (and its synonym, trespass) is the key word in Romans 5:12, just as it is in Paul’s description of the human condition in the first three chapters of this epistle. How are we to understand what Paul means by that term? What is his understanding of the origin of the human situation which he describes with this term?

Paul’s understanding of human sinfulness is expressed in two phrases: (1) “they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (Rom 1:28) and (2) “you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God” (2:17). Sin is seen as refusal to accept our creatureliness, to acknowledge our dependence on our Maker, to recognize our limitations. “We are sinners” does not mean, primarily, that we have moral problems, but that in the deepest and final sense we are severed from relationship with God because of refusal or bragging.

Sin is not a genetic defect. The idea that sin is passed on genetically and thereby becomes the property of each individual through heredity ultimately led to a low view of sex. Sex came to be seen as the prime locus of human sinfulness—tolerated for the purpose of procreation, but not celebrated as a part of God’s economy for human wholeness and fulfillment.

Nor is sin a perverted inner nature. The problem with this understanding of sin is that it divides the individual into a number of separate boxes. It arises from the idea that the Fall resulted in the perversion of one essential part of ourselves. A number of candidates for this part have been proposed. For some, the perverted part is the will. For others, it is the emotions or passions. For still others, it is reason. The pervasive mood of anti-intellectualism in some Christian circles is traceable to such an understanding. Since the mind was affected by the Fall, our reasoning capacity is perverted and depraved and the quest of the mind cannot be trusted. But such a view does not do justice to all the biblical data. As total persons we are fallen and stand under the judgment of God. Both our heads and hearts stand under the signature of death. Both are dust.

From the biblical point of view, the term sin designates a particular kind of relationship between the creature and the Creator. And a relationship cannot be inherited; it can only be established or destroyed, affirmed or denied. Sin is thus a relational reality.

We are sinners insofar as we are unrelated to God. The questions raised by that statement are: Why are we that? Why is that our condition? Why do we find ourselves in such a dilemma? Paul’s answer to such questions is found in Romans 5:12–13.

This text has traditionally been seen as the biblical foundation for the Christian doctrine of original sin: “We all stand under the Fall of first man; that is why we are in the mess we are in!” But this view is inadequate. For Paul does not say that we sin because Adam sinned. He does not say that we die because Adam sinned. What he does say is this: Sin (alienation from God) entered the stage of history in the first man’s rebellion (“sin entered the world through one man”). The result of that separation is disintegration and death. But the universal penetration of that condition is due to the fact that all persons have sinned; all persons have become revolutionaries against God (“because all sinned”).

There is a two-sided perspective here in Paul that must be taken seriously if we wish to understand him adequately. On the one side of this dual perspective is the Hebrew idea of human solidarity, the recognition that each individual shares in a common humanity. On the other side is the recognition of individual responsibility. By virtue of the former, we are in bondage; by virtue of the latter, we become responsible for participation in that bondage.

Human solidarity. Paul was heir to a tradition concerning the human condition that was deeply rooted in Jewish beliefs. That tradition recognized the intimate interdependence of individuals and the effect that such solidarity could have, both positively and negatively. The Old Testament concept that the sins of parents would have their effect down through several generations reflects the Hebrew idea of corporate solidarity.

Adam, the typical representative and first human being, yields to the temptation to determine his own existence and his own destiny (that is, he sins). The result of that self-determination is death. Death is the condition of separateness, since the creature apart from the Creator does not have life. Physical death is clearly a part of this picture in the Hebrew-Pauline understanding. Separation from the source of life results in decay and disintegration.

But both for the Old Testament and for Paul, death is also an existential reality, a real condition of life. Thus Ezekiel receives a vision of “dry bones” that are representative of the failure of Israel to be and remain God’s people (Ezek 37). Hosea can speak of the resurrection of Israel from the grave of its national downfall (Hos 6:2). And Paul can speak of Christians as those “who have been brought from death to life” (Rom 6:13). The uniform affirmation of this biblical tradition is that there exists a mysterious relationship between human self-determination and death and between the first man’s self-determination and our own death. We belong to one another, and the condition of one has inevitable consequences for others.

Sociological and psychological studies have confirmed that scriptural understanding of human solidarity. We have been shown how heredity, upbringing and environment play major roles in the formation of our personalities. I am, to a large degree, the product of my world. What I am in the present is a continuation of all that I have assumed—consciously and unconsciously—from my past. Thus the child raised in an environment with violent models is more likely to be involved in violent behavior than those not raised with such models. The child of psychologically disturbed parents is more likely to become neurotic than the child of mentally healthy parents. The child who grows up in a broken home is less likely to become a whole, healthy person than one raised in a home with genuine love and caring from both parents in a consistent and stable relationship.

All of us are born into a human community that is overshadowed by the cumulative weight of human sinfulness, oppressive structures, prejudices and injustices. We are, all of us, more or less affected by the shadows that these clouds cast over our motives and orientations, our attitudes and priorities.

Individual Responsibility. In Romans 5:12–21, Paul not only reflects Jewish religious thought that we share a common humanity and that we are affected by that interdependence, but also reflects the Jewish belief that as individuals we are responsible and held accountable for the way we relate to that common humanity.

At the time of Ezekiel a protest was raised against the ancient Hebrew idea that the sins of parents will be visited upon the children and that the children will be held accountable for their parents’ transgressions. In Ezekiel 18 the prophet speaks the decisive word of God for individual responsibility:

Yet you ask, “Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?” Since the son has done what is just and right, … he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father. (Ezek 18:19–20)

This concept of individual responsibility made itself increasingly felt and is clearly enunciated in Jewish writings close to the time of Paul. In the Wisdom of Solomon, which dates from the first century b.c., the author discusses the presence of evil in the world in clear allusion to Genesis 2:

Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death. … But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death. (1:12–13, 16 RSV)

The parallel between this understanding of individual responsibility and Paul’s statement in Romans 5:12 is unmistakable. Paul also affirms that each person continues the rebellion and self-determination of Adam in his or her own life. It is in that sense that each of us becomes a part of that fateful history that stands under the signature of death. Each individual participates in the Adamic humanity and becomes accountable for that participation. Death marches across the pages of human history because humans in their own individuality have sinned. They do what Adam did. And the attempt to determine our own existence, however that may work itself out in everyday living, leads to separation from God.

Paul, in this text, affirms both parts of Jewish teaching about the origin and nature of sin: we stand in mysterious solidarity with Adam (Eve and Adam) in sin; we are also individually responsible. There is a sense in which we are determined; there is another sense in which we are absolutely free. But since we are both, neither the one nor the other is the final word.

This Pauline understanding of sin as dynamic, relational reality leads directly to what is his final word; namely, that this paradoxical reality of our bondage to, and freedom from, sin is overcome in a new relationship—one with Jesus Christ. Through that relationship, we are reconciled to God, and in Christ we become members of a new humanity.

Every student that has come through Plumb-line had a deep revelation of their own depravity, but an even greater revelation of what Jesus did on the cross for them. The focus was not on the specific sin of homosexuality. The entire class unites under grace and the Holy Spirit moves them to freedom from sin and restoration of their hearts. During Plumb line weeks, I’ve heard everything you could imagine confessed to the class. Looking back on it, I cannot remember who said what or who struggled with what. I just remember that every single person who stood before the class acknowledged their desperate need to be transformed by the love of Christ and renewing of their mind. They could choose to conform to Christ or cling to their sins of momentary pleasure but devoid of everlasting joy. We all face that choice, no matter what the sin is.

More stories:

In Thailand, I met a transgendered man who was now a female. She had lived for 30 years as a women and prostituted herself on the streets. But she met someone who started taking her to church. She got a revelation of the love of Christ. As she drew closer to God, she found his love to be more like a devouring flame, destroying any thoughts or actions that did not align with His holiness. She stopped living a transgendered lifestyle. That being said, she had lived for the past 30 years as a woman. In this moment, I was incredibly challenged on my notion of change. Was complete transformation to go back to being a man because that is how she was born? No, it wasn’t. She had experienced a genuine change of heart and that meant not changing back into a man. She is now celibate and running a home in Thailand ministering to those dying of aids. She was “born” with a transgendered desire, but now understands that desire had to be crucified on the cross with Christ. She is being transformed by the renewing of her mind and not embracing her “transgendered” identity. Her identity is in Christ. The APU professor seems to be doing the opposite. Embracing the way she was born and twisting scripture to suit her needs. This is exactly what the Bible warned us against.

There are two teachers in YWAM that speak in various Counseling Schools and DTS’s worldwide. Pat Caven got saved the night before her scheduled sex change. Now she is happily married and a great speaker and proponent for healthy relationships. I got the privilege of meeting Pat at the YWAM conference in Mexico. Dee Barnes has a similar story. Here is a short video of her testimony.

How It Feels to be Free – Dee Barnes from Johnson Ferry on Vimeo.

In this life, we are either moving towards God, or away from God and each choice we make points us in a direction. It doesn’t matter where we start, only the direction we are moving in. Even if there is still an internal battle, their is a big difference between having homosexual thoughts and feeding those desires and rationalizing them in your head. Despite what we may hear in the media, there are cases probably too numerous to count of people feeling inclined towards homosexual thoughts, but who overcome them through the power of Christ. I’ve met these people and it’s genuine, beautiful change. The kind that reminds you that nothing is impossible when God is involved.

 

The Greater Story

Homosexuality is not the only gray area in the Bible. The Bible is the story of the world divinely pieced together and we are not just to focus in on one verse, but take in the whole story of God redeeming humankind. If God wanted to, he could have included a Bible verse that said something like, “Hey world, thou must not carry out acts of the homosexual nature because that’s not what I intended for you guys (yes, you too people in the year of 2013.)” Maybe I am being facetious, but I feel strongly that God leaves those gray areas because he is pushing us to know the greater story and leaving us to make informed decisions about our life. We have all the information we need to walk humbly, live justly, and to love mercy.

Everything else pales in comparison to what God accomplished through Jesus Christ on the cross. He made a way for us to be holy. Being a Christian means laying down our arms and submitting our whole selves before God. It is the start of a process. It is saying yes to making every future decision through a biblical worldview. We will never “vibe” our way to intimacy with God. Nothing about the Christian life is natural. It’s not easy. We must choose Christ in every moment.

I think homosexual thoughts are just one of the things that you don’t have to be ashamed of, but that you have the privilege to bring before God and experience transformation in. It is a clear opportunity to truly experience what it means to be transformed by the renewing of your mind in Romans 12. When you rationalize and embrace homosexuality you deny Christ the opportunity to restore a very obvious area of your life. This is why we are not being judgmental by saying homosexuality is wrong. We simply want ALL people to experience the freedom and the love of Christ. AND there IS a right and wrong. There is a standard by which God will judge the world. Our hope and joy can only be rooted in the fact that God is eternal and sovereign, and we are eternal beings. What we bind on earth will be bound in heaven. This earth isn’t all their is, but what we choose here matters. We have an incredible opportunity but relatively short window of time to choose God for eternity.

 

A message to the Church

It worries me when I hear of people embracing a homosexual lifestyle being put in leadership positions in the church. I would like to express my thoughts on this. Of course, the Church should be a place where all people should feel welcome. Anybody and everybody is welcome to walk through those church doors, but with the knowledge of Christ loving us enough to not leave us where we are at. When we are seeking Christ-like community and studying the scriptures how they were meant to be studied, you cannot help to be changed from the inside out.

The Church has to be an example of how God intended life to be lived. Sin, like wounds, should not be left festering, rather bandaged with the truth amidst godly relationships.

Within our Christian communities, we have the authority to confront someone claiming to “love God” yet still embracing their homosexual acts. But the church has grown insecure in our definition of love. We want to be liked more than we want to actually disciple people and address hard questions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when it comes to people who don’t claim to be Christian, we have no authority to convict them on a specific sin. We need to work on letting go of our agendas and start being real people that start real friendships. I don’t know about you, but if someone I didn’t know came up to me and told me I was doing something wrong, I wouldn’t listen. But if a friend told me the same thing, and I knew that friend cared about me, maybe I would probably listen. That’s just common sense, people.

I think many churches go to far with “bringing the truth” and spend all their time politically campaigning against the gays. That is wrong. The Church is responsible for itself.  In the early church days they did not have much of an issue with homosexuality within the church, yet it was completely normal in the Greek culture. What was Paul spending his time on? Preaching against homosexuality? Attacking the government? Nope, he was focused on morality within the church walls. Challenging them to accept the gospel. Challenging them to know grace. Challenging them to know holiness. Challenging them to love each other and keep the church as God’s light to the world.

Today, the church needs the same challenge and we need to stop wasting time fighting battles we were never meant to fight. Theocracies as governments do not work and that has been proven through history. Are we distracting ourselves with debates like gay marriage and not addressing our own hearts? What about issues of pornography and divorce in the Church? As the church, we must stand for holiness. We must know God’s word inside and out. We must be the most loving and most generous. We must understand that we are surgeons bringing wounds initially, yet with the master plan for healing and vitality always motivating our actions.

Here’s how the church is going to see revival within it’s own walls. When we start thinking critically, seeing the world as it is, and picking up a Bible. The greatest expansion of the church and the greatest explosion of creativity and technology and education and human rights this world has ever seen came when the Bible was put into the hands of the people, not just their religious leaders. That was the Reformation folks. I believe the church is due for even greater things than that. These great things will be ushered in by our hearing (or shall I say studying/reading/meditating/discussing) of the word and our doing of that word (James 1:22). We have the incredible opportunity to know truth! Let’s start seeking it.

 

Conclusion

I want conclude with what I deem to be a summary of everything I was trying to convey in this article. I would also describe it as my prayer, my plea, my story, my opinion, my focus, the central point of any debated issue today. Hopefully you picked up a theme through all this information. It’s not about any specific sin, it’s about the realization of a need of a deep transformation of our hearts in every sense imaginable.

Ephesians 2:1-22

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.