Christ Chapel of the Valley, North Hollywood, Calif.
Whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be saved. (John 3:16)
This is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, yet there are churches that add ‘except’ to it.
Various churches are so protective of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they excluded people for whom Jesus died. Contrary to Scripture, the thought is portrayed that God prefers married couples. While these churches make an attempt to discourage divorce, even the couples who choose to divorce and re-marry are welcomed into their congregations. It seems that the only people who have no place in the Kingdom of God are the ones who didn’t choose their orientation – the homosexuals. The basic Biblical principle in John 3:16 is that God accepts all of us as we are!
Even the early church had a problem believing “Whosoever” meant everyone especially Gentiles. Gentiles was used of anyone that was not a Jew and were considered pagans, much of the same reaction that gay Christians are feeling today from several fundamental churches. It took a vision from God before St. Peter would believe that salvation included Gentiles (Acts 10). But through the vision of the events that followed, Peter discovered that God is accepting of all people. His fellow believers in Jerusalem were not so willing to accept this new truth. In Acts 11:1-8 Peter had to defend his new found belief to the church.
Even well-meaning Christian people have a difficulty accepting the fact that God is opening up doors to groups of people that have been previously labeled as unclean. Several Judaizers (those who tried to impose the law of Moses on Christians) would not have anything to do with Peter after his return from this meeting with the Gentiles. All Gentiles were considered unclean people according to Jewish law, therefore, Peter too was unclean by association! This was Peter, a leader in the early church that was about to be excommunicated. If this could happen to Peter why are we surprised when it happens to any of us. This has happened to several gay and lesbian Christians as well as ministers of the gospel that have reached out to this community. Peter’s response is almost humorous when the Holy Spirit has fallen on the Gentiles and Peter acknowledges how God feels about the Gentiles in Acts 10:35:
I perceive that God is no respector of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
God did not simply decide that on that day he would choose to love the Gentiles. He always loved them, but it took direct action from God for the church to realize this. It will also take divine intervention in all churches.
Since the beginning of time, God has always loved His creation and desired to have fellowship with them. However, when sin entered the world and in our lives He was not able to have the fellowship he so desired. That is why God sent His only son, Jesus, to die for our sins. It was God who raised him from the dead so tht we could again have fellowship with Him. God did all the work and is still searching and reaching out to everyone. When a person realizes it is God himself that accepts that person as a “Whosoever,” then the un-acceptance of other believers can be dealt with a little easier because we all know that God’s acceptance is more valuable than man’s! Another verse that confirms God’s acceptance of all is Romans 10:13. It reads:
Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This verse says nothing about race, color, or sexual orientation, but “Whosoever.”
Peter had been devoted to the Jewish faith. He knew the Levitical Law. The sheet that was lowered to him in Acts 10 was full of unclean animals that were an abomination for the Jews to eat. Then a loud voice told him to kill and eat. Peter was hungry, yet in spite of his hunger he would not defile himself with anything unclean. God let him know that He had cleansed the most unclean thing. Once God declares something or someone clean, who are we to declare it unclean! It was because of the stereotype of the Gentiles hygiene and sanitation that caused them to be declared unclean. Because of stereotypes, the gay community has also been declared unclean by some. There are segments of the community, as in any community who are not following Christ, that are unclean. But, “Whosoever” accepts Christ as Lord and Savior are declared clean through Jesus Christ. Sexual orientation is not the issue, believing is!
God told Peter to go to the Gentiles, doubting nothing. That term is diakrino in the Greek. It connotes a conflict with oneself in the sense of hesitation, heavy misgivings or wavering between hope and fear.
Those times when knowing what God is saying and yet also knowing what people will say causes fear, anxiety and frustration. No one wants to be ostracized especially for serving God. But when God sends someone out He reminds that person to have faith in Him and not fear people. If God be for us who can be against us. God will further prove himself to us by sending us evidence of the Holy Spirit. No one can deny those results!
Looking again in Acts 10, Peter began to preach Jesus and as the Gentiles heard the word, the greatest thing happened. The Gentile Pentecost took place. Before Peter could finish his sermon the Holy Spirit fell on them with the evidence of speaking in tongues. They had not been taught regarding the Holy Spirit, yet were filled.
The Holy Spirit brought power to the early church and that same Spirit was given to the Gentiles and is the same Spirit that empowers us today. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is one of the many ways we know God has placed his stamp of approval on us and is proud to call us His! It is that Holy Spirit power that brings each of us the personal edification we need to move on in Christ which is also for public exhortation for the entire body of believers.
The Christian brothers that went with Peter when the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles were amazed that Gentiles are considered “Whosoever.” Once people get over their initial shock that God accepts gay people as a “Whosoever” can they begin to glorify God realizing that he loves and accepts all His creation.
This story in Acts 10 &11 demonstrates that it matters not what men think about us, it only matters what God thinks of us. God accepts you just the way you are and wants to become involved in your life. As the Holy Sprit takes up residency in your heart, he will continue to confirm that God has not cast you out, but rather sought you out.
You are a “Whosoever.”
A native of northwest Texas, Rev. Jerrell Walls founded Christ Chapel of the Valley in 1992. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from L.I.F.E. Pacific College and is a senior pastor of Christ Chapel Association of Churches.