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Editor's note: Nate graciously wrote two blog posts this week and offered for me to choose which one to post. I decided to post both! -Josh
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (ESV)
One of the things I love about the Apostle Paul is how blunt he is. He doesn't tend to beat around the bush. This text is a classic example of this. You don't need to know Greek or read five commentaries on 1 Corinthians to understand this passage. It's crystal clear.
There are two things I'd like to look at in this passage. I believe that it is both a warning to false believers and an encouragement to true believers. First, it is a warning to false believers. As we saw in 1 Corinthians 5, there were members in the Corinthian congregation who thought that because they were saved by grace, they no longer needed to obey God's law. They treated grace as a license to sin. Of course, this mindset is not exclusive to the Corinthians. We are prone to doing the same thing. The fancy theological word for this is "antinomianism". It means to be "anti-law". When we think and act with an antinomian mindset, we think we can live however we want because God will forgive us regardless. This text is a strong rebuke to that way of thinking. Paul is telling them not to kid themselves. A person that is living in unrepentant sin without conviction is not a Christian at all.
That's not to say that Christians never sin. There's an important distinction to be made between living in unrepentant sin and struggling with confessed sin. Every believer will struggle with sin for the rest of their lives. Perfection is unattainable in this life. But the life of a person who has truly been born again by the Spirit of God will not live a life of habitual sin. First John teaches both of these concepts within a few verses of each other. First John 1:8 says that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Five verses later John writes, “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).
One of the evidences of a true believer is that the Spirit uses the Word to convict them of sin and cause them to repent.
So this text is a stern warning that we all need to feel the weight of. If you claim to be a believer but are living in unrepentant sin, such as any that Paul has listed here, you have every reason to question the legitimacy of your salvation. Holiness is not an optional add-on for the believer. Without it you will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Scripture is clear that there will be many people who have had spiritual experiences but aren't truly saved (Matthew 7:21-23, Hebrews 6:4-6). Don't base your assurance of salvation on some past event, like raising a hand or repeating a prayer. Ask yourself honestly- Am I following Christ by pursuing holiness? Am I living in unrepentant sin? Do I feel conviction when I sin?
The second thing about this passage is that it is a deep source of encouragement to true believers. I love that phrase right in the middle, "and such were some of you." All of us were dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). But because of Jesus Christ, we are no longer defined by our sins and failures. If you are in Christ, you are no longer labeled by your sin. Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:2) is now simply Rahab (Matthew 1:5). If you are in Christ, you are clothed by His perfect righteousness. You have been washed and regenerated by His Spirit. You have been adopted by the Father because He chose you in eternity past.
If you are in Christ, your sins have been cast as far as the east is from the west. You will still struggle and stumble, but you will get back up by His power. By God's grace you will persevere until the end (Romans 8:30, Philippians 1:6).
And now, our response to the adulterer, idolater, homosexual sinner, heterosexual sinner, drunk, self-righteous religious person, or anyone else is not, "straighten up your life and be more like us." We can look at them and say, "such were some of us. But we were washed, we were sanctified, we were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." And you can be too.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)
In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul is dealing with sexual sin and the overly lenient attitude that this congregation had toward it. He appeals to their union with Christ as the reason for why sexual sin is so heinous. He concludes this section by reminding them of the gospel. "You were bought with a price." You must honor your body because it doesn't belong to you anymore. It belongs to Christ. Although the immediate context of this passage is sexual sin, this principle has a broader application that extends to every aspect of our lives. If you belong to Jesus Christ, you are His. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price.
Another way to put it is this- Jesus is Lord. As Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), Jesus has all authority. Therefore, if we are His, we must submit to His authority in every area of our lives.
This does not come naturally to us. By nature, we want to be our own lords. We don't want someone else telling us how to spend our money, or how to spend our time, or what's right and wrong in regards to sex. We daily believe the lie of Satan that God's rules restrict our joy (Genesis 3:4-5). Yet the great irony of the Christian faith is that true freedom is found in submission to Christ's lordship, whereas true slavery is rebellion against it (John 8:31-36). In seeking freedom from Him, we become slaves. In becoming His slaves, we find true freedom.
Jesus is clear that we must submit to His lordship or we cannot be His disciples. There is no neutrality. Jesus will not be an accessory. We must be willing to follow Him anywhere, with crosses on our backs (Luke 9:23). We must be more devoted to Him than we are to our own families (Luke 14:26). But He is not a harsh taskmaster like Pharaoh. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28). In His presence there is fullness of joy.
Therefore, let us daily resolve to follow Him with all of our hearts. Let us daily examine ourselves and ask how we are resisting His lordship and are trying to be our own lords. And when we are tempted to sin, let us remind ourselves that we are not our own. We have been bought with a price.
In his classic work, "Institutes of the Christian Religion", John Calvin writes beautifully about the implications of this verse.
"The great point, then, is that we are consecrated and dedicated to God, and therefore, should not henceforth think, speak, design, or act, without a view to his glory...But if we are not our own, but the Lord’s, it is plain both what error is to be shunned, and to what end the actions of our lives ought to be directed. We are not our own; therefore, neither is our own reason or will to rule our acts and counsels. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make it our end to seek what may be agreeable to our carnal nature. We are not our own; therefore, as far as possible, let us forget ourselves and the things that are ours. On the other hand, we are God’s; let us, therefore, live and die to him (Rom. 14:8). We are God’s; therefore, let his wisdom and will preside over all our actions. We are God’s; to him, then, as the only legitimate end, let every part of our life be directed."
In Tenderness (1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 5:8)
Bound For Glory (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17)
All I Have is Christ (Philippians 3:8)
How Deep the Father's Love For Us (Ephesians 3:16-19; Hebrews 2:9-10
Sermon: One: Big Picture Unity (1 Corinthians 6)- by Pastor Shaun
Closing Song: Bound For Glory