YOUR SPIRITUAL HERITAGE

1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-11

One of the most colorful individuals in all of history was Alexander the Great. He only lived to be 32 years old, but within that short period, he completely changed the face of the world. He conquered races, built cities and created an empire. From his earliest childhood, Alexander seemed destined for greatness. He was imbued with a sense of purpose.

The story is told how, when he was only seven years old, a delegation of Persian envoys came to his fatherís palace in Macedonia. To everyoneís surprise, the young Alexander met them and immediately began to cross-examine them about the size and morale of the Persian army, the distance to the capital city and the condition of the roads leading there.

From where did this sense of purpose come? I think that there can be no doubt that his parents bred within his young spirit this sense of purpose and this sense of heritage. They made him realize that he was not as other boys. He as different than they were. Therefore he must live in a way that a king ought to live.

Christians also have a heritage. It is a spiritual heritage. When we came to Christ, trusting in Him as our Lord and Savior, we became members of Godís Forever Family. We are no longer ordinary people. We are now sons of the living God. We are the royalty of the universe. We have a great heritage. Because we have such a heritage, we ought to live accordingly.

6:1-8

6:9-11

6:12-20

Legal Lawsuits that called for church oversight

A reminder of how we were and how we are to be

Lustful temptations that called for a connective reminder

Notice that this section serves as a bridge between the previous verses and those which are to follow.

 

THE WAY WE WERE

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Throughout this epistle, Paul has been contrasting two groups of people. Everyone who lives on planet earth comes under one of these two categories. You can be classified under one of these two groups. Either you are a believer or else you are an unbeliever. Either you are a Christian or else you are not a Christian.

Unbeliever

Believer

Sees the message of the cross as foolishness.

Sees the message of the cross as the power of God.

Those who are perishing (1:18).

Those who are being saved (1:18).

Tried to come to know God through its wisdom (1:21).

Came to know God by the preaching of the cross (1:21).

The wisdom of men (2:5).

The wisdom of God (2:5).

The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (2:14).

But he who is spiritual appraises all things (2:15).

Must have a diet of milk (3:2).

Able to receive solid food (3:2).

Produces wood, hay and straw (3:12).

Produces gold, silver, precious stones (3:12).

Now we see a return to that contrast. The contrast is still between believers and unbelievers. It is between those who shall inherit the kingdom of God and those who will not be heirs of that kingdom.

Not everyone is going to be allowed to enter into the kingdom of God. Heaven is not for everyone. There are certain types of people who are not welcome there. Paul says this when he says, Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? (6:9).

There is one basic requirement for entrance into Godís kingdom. It is the requirement of righteousness. You must be RIGHTEOUS.

This is not a new truth. This is not something that Paul dreamed up one day and decided to include in the Bible. This was clearly taught in the Old Testament.

For the LORD is righteous;

He loves righteousness;

The upright will behold His face. (Psalm 11:7).

O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent?

Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?

He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,

And speaks truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1-2).

The Jews understood this basic truth. They understood that righteousness was required to enter into Godís kingdom. This would naturally bring them to the next question and they would ask, "How righteous do you have to be?"

This is where they often went wrong. They though that they could be righteous enough through the keeping of the law. They had come to the point of building up a whole system of rules around the law to help them to keep it better. It wasnít enough for them to say, "Keep the Sabbath." They had drawn up a whole list of ways that the Sabbath could be broken and they figured out what you were allowed to do and what you were not allowed to do and they filled their traditions with legal loopholes.

They thought that they had righteousness down to a fine art. Chief among them were the scribes and the Pharisees, for these were the keepers and the guardians of the traditions.

Jesus said that it wasnít enough. The standards that were raised by the scribes and the Pharisees were not high enough.

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20).

The righteousness that God demands of one who would enter into His kingdom is greater than that to which the Jews ascribed. Their standard was not enough. Their standard was too low. Jesus set the standard much higher. He said that the standard is perfection.

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

God is perfect. His righteousness is a perfect righteousness. He is satisfied with nothing less. If you are to enter the kingdom of God, then you must possess this perfect righteousness.

This is why Jesus came to the earth. It was to die for our sins and to provide a perfect righteousness for us. He accomplished this by becoming a sacrifice for our sins. He died the death that we deserved and, when we believe in Him, His perfect righteousness is credited to us.

Paul repeats this basic principle that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God (6:9). He states this for a reason. Rather than being a spiritual parenthesis, this is a major part of his argument. The reason that Paul makes this point is that there are members of the church at Corinth who have been living their lives in a way that can be characterized as unrighteous. This means there are one of two possibilities.

Either these people are not a part of Godís family and are not going to enter into the kingdom of God, or else they are rebellious children who are acting in a manner that is inconsistent with who they really are.

Paul warns them -- Do not be deceived (1 Corinthians 6:9). He says this for a reason. Apparently there were some of the Corinthians who were in danger of being deceived. They were in danger of falling into the trap of thinking that God does not care if you sin. Perhaps they assumed that, since God forgives sin, it is okay to sin a lot. Such thinking is a deception.

It is true that God loves you just the way you are. But God also loves you too much to leave you the way you are. If you are one of His children, He will not leave you in your sin. The reverse is also true. If you have been left in your sin, perhaps it is because you are not one of His children.

R.C. Sproul suggests that there are found kinds of people in this world:

Sproul said that there are four kinds of people in the world, but really there are only two. There are those who are saved and there are those who are not. Paul describes one of these groups by giving a list of characteristics that we could title, "The Marks of the Unsaved Man." The list is given in verses 9-10.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

There are ten characteristics listed here. The striking thing about these ten characteristics is that they were all evident among the normal citizens of the city of Corinth. They are equally evident in our world today.

1. Fornicators (6:9).

This describes those who engage in sexual immorality in general. Paul is going to deal at length with this problem at the end of this chapter.

2. Idolaters (6:9).

This describes those who worship false gods. Perhaps today we should apply this to people who put material things on a higher priority than God. Anytime you consider something to be more important than God, you are guilty of idolatry.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

Do you see it? Paul says that greed is a form of idolatry. Greed is the consuming desire for that which you do not have. It involves putting something into the position of first place in your life. God wants to be first place in your life.

3. Adulterers (6:9).

This looks specifically to married people who engage in sexual activity outside the bonds of their marriage. Like our society today, the Greek society of that day thought that it was stylish to have an affair or two.

4. Effeminate (6:9).

The Greek word here is malakoV and literally describes that which is "soft," though in this case it seems to describe that which is feminine. There is nothing wrong with women being feminine, but men were not created to be that way. It is a blasphemy to try to reverse the sexual roles.

5. Homosexual (6:9).

There have been a number of interpreters of the Bible who have tried to teach that the Greek arsenokoithV is descriptive only of casual relationships between the same gender as opposed to more permanent commitments. But the Greek word does not allow for such an interpretation. ArsenokoithV is a compound word coming from the joining of two Greek words:

The resulting compound merely describes one who takes a male to bed. It is a euphemism for homosexuality. Paul speaks expressly against the homosexual lifestyle in Romans 1.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (Romans 1:26-27).

Homosexuality was rampant in the Greek and Roman world. Both Socrates and Plato are reported to have engaged in a homosexual lifestyle. This was also common among some of the Roman emperors. Nero, the emperor who would eventually condemn Paul to death, had a boy castrated so that he could become the emperorís "wife."

6. Thieves (6:10).

The thief is one who tries to take that which does not belong to him. You might say to yourself, "I would never do a thing like that!" But is the reason you do not steal because it is wrong or because you are afraid of being caught?

It is possible to be a thief at heart without being a thief in action. If you are not an outward thief, then perhaps you are one inwardly. That is the case if you are guilty of covetousness.

7. Covetousness (6:10).

While the thief takes that which belongs to another, the covetous man only wishes that he could take it. He has committed the same sin in his heart, but merely lacked the opportunity to carry it out.

8. Drunkards (6:10).

Alcoholism had reached epidemic proportions in Corinth. It is just as serious a problem today. Along with its modern counterpart, drug abuse, it involves an addiction to a substance that impairs your normal reasoning ability and that lowers your inhibitions.

You might think to yourself, "Whatís wrong with that? It allows me to have a little fun and it doesnít hurt anyone." Let me tell you about yourself. You have inhibitions and those inhibitions are good. God gave you those inhibitions. They stop you from doing things that are harmful to yourself. One of the key problems of alcoholism and drug use is that it removes the protecting influence of your inhibitions. God wants you to be in control of yourself. If your life is to be filled with something, then He wants it to be filled with His Spirit.

9. Revilers (6:10).

There are people who attack others in a verbal manner. They speak with cutting words and they are always out to try to bring you down a notch.

God does not consider the sins of the tongue to be unimportant. He says that they characterize the unbeliever and His children ought not to be acting that way. We ought to speak in such a way as befits the kingdom.

10. Swindlers (6:10).

A swindler is someone who gains your assistance as he steals from you. You might think of him as a thief who doesnít want to get his hands dirty, so he uses yours to do his stealing.

Just as God gave Ten Commandments to His people, so Paul gives ten characteristics of the people of the world. Which list best describes you?

 

THE WAY WE ARE

And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Paul contrasts the characteristics of his list with the present condition of the Corinthians. He says, "That list describes the way you used to be. But then something happened. You heard the message of the gospel and you believed it and your life was changed."

Do you see what Paul has said? He says that if you are a Christian then you are not that way anymore. Now Paul has a new list. These are things that have happened to the Christian. They tell us WHY the Christian is different.

1. You were washed (6:11).

The old filth of your past life has been washed away. As a result, you have been made clean. You are no longer a dirty person.

2. You were sanctified (6:11).

What does it mean to be "sanctified?" The word comes from the same root in the Greek as the words for "holy" and "saint." It describes one who has been "set apart for a special use."

We have a small measuring cup in our kitchen that we use only for that purpose. It sits in the same cupboard with all of the other cups, but it has a special use that none of the other cups in the cabinet have. It has been set apart for measuring.

Do you remember when God completed His creation? He finished His work and then He took the seventh day and He set it apart. He made it special. He sanctified it.

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:3).

The seventh day did not become substantially different than the first six days. The sun does not shine any brighter on the seventh day and the hours are not any longer. Yet it has been set apart for a special purpose.

Our sanctification is much the same way. As such, it has both a negative as well as a positive aspect.

This brings us to a question. Who does this work of sanctification? Is it accomplished by our work? Is it brought about by our endurance? What does the Bible say about it?

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:25-26).

Notice who is pictured as doing the work of your sanctification. It is God who does the work. God saved you. He began doing the "good work in you." He will also go on to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Just as God saved you apart from your works, so also He will set you apart and bring you to completion. It is God who works in you, both to work and to will. He says, "I now pronounce you to be sanctified. Now go out and live like what you are."

3. You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (6:11).

What does it mean to be "justified"? Many well-meaning Christians have said that it means "just-as-if-Iíd never sinned." This may be a nice memory tool, but it isnít completely accurate.

The word "justify" is taken from the Greek root word for "righteousness. This gives us a clue as to its meaning. It describes the act of declaring that a person or thing is righteous.

This is important. The act of justification does not MAKE a person righteous. It is merely a declaration that he IS righteous. For example, the same word is used in a context describing Godís righteousness.

And when all the people and the tax-gatherers heard this, they ACKNOWLEDGED GODíS JUSTICE, having been baptized with the baptism of John. (Luke 7:29).

This phrase should be literally translated, "They justified God." They were not doing anything to make God more righteous than He already was. They were merely declaring that God was righteous.

This concept of justification was commonly used as a legal term in which a court of law might officially declare that a man was righteous; that he had not broken the law. This is different from being pardoned. A man who had been pardoned might be released even though he was a guilty criminal worthy of death. However a man who was justified was being declared innocent of any wrongdoing.

Paul says that the Corinthian believers have been justified. They have been declared to be righteous.

How can this be? He has just pointed out that they used to live a lifestyle that was characterized by sin and disobedience. How can they now be declared to be righteous? How can God declare a man to be righteous when that man, in reality, is a guilty sinner? The answer can only be found in the imputation of righteousness.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This verse pictures two different aspects of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

Jesus became sin on our behalf. This does not mean that He actually became a sinner or that He began to sin. He has lived through all eternity without sin and He will always be perfect in His righteous character. How did He become sin on our behalf? What really happened at the cross?

Our sins were put to His account. He was credited with our sins. While He was on the cross, God the Father treated Him as though He were a guilty sinner. Jesus was judged in our place. The wrath of God was poured out on Him. In the midst of this condemnation, He cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"

The sinless Son of God was judged as though He had committed all of the sins that have ever taken place throughout the entire history of mankind. He was judged in our place. Our sins were imputed and credited to Him. But this is not all.

Just as our sins were put to His account while He was on the cross, so in the same way, the righteousness of Christ is put to our account when we believe in Him. We are credited with the righteousness of Christ. We are reckoned to be righteous. It is on this basis that we are justified -- declared to be righteous. For all eternity, God will treat us as though we were as righteous as Jesus Christ.

This does not mean I actually become experientially righteous when I believe in Christ. If that were true, then no believer would ever commit a single act of sin and this is not the case. Rather it means that I am legally credited with the righteousness of Christ so that I can be legally declared to be righteous.

This brings us to a question. If justification merely points to a legal truth rather than to an experiential reality, then what is the significance of Christís righteousness being credited to us? Is it merely another doctrine to be tucked into our spiritual notebook and quietly forgotten? Or does it have some practical value in how I am to live for today?

It certainly does.

a. It means that God has accepted me.

We are living in a society where people want to be accepted. People are crying out for acceptance. There is good news for you. God has accepted all who have come to Him. No one who comes to Christ will ever be turned away.

b. It means that my life now has purpose.

We have all heard of the "mid-life crisis." It is that time when a personís entire life seems to come under examination and question. Having gone through that stage of life, I have become convinced that what we call a mid-life crisis is actually a crisis of purpose. It comes when you reach the conclusion that everything you have been working toward isnít really all that important. It is the story of the man who climbed the ladder of success only to find that it was leaning against the wrong wall.

But if I have been declared to be a righteous son of God, then my life now has the most important purpose of all. I am in the service of the most important Being in the universe. He has a significant role for me to play in His plan. My life now has supreme purpose.

God tells me that, since I have been declared to be righteous, I am to live in accordance with that righteousness. I have a model. He is Jesus Christ. I am to be bringing my life into conformity with His life. I am becoming like Jesus. Iím not there yet. But with Godís grace, Iím closer than I was.

_____________________________

About the Author

Return to the John Stevenson Bible Study Page

Have a Comment?