And Such Were Some of You
And Such Were Some of You
9 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.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
Everything from alcoholism to homosexuality to zoophilia is blamed on human genes today. Sociologists Dorothy Nelkin and Susan Lindee have observed that “genes appear to explain obesity, criminality, shyness, directional ability, intelligence, political leanings, and preferred styles of dressing. There are selfish genes, pleasure-seeking genes, violence genes, gay genes, couch-potato genes, depression genes, genes for genius, genes for saving, and even genes for sinning.”1 While Christians should be appropriately dubious about all their vices being attached to their genes, sinfulness is part of the universal human condition. Thankfully, it does not have to remain that way.
Corinth was a notoriously wicked town. Because it was the capital of the province and a major commercial center, people of all sorts traveled through Corinth. Additionally, as many as a thousand temple prostitutes held their “worship services” at Corinth’s Temple of Aphrodite. To call someone a “Corinthian” was an insult of huge proportions.
Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. So it should not be surprising that God used the Apostle Paul to plant a church in Corinth (Acts 18:1-11). Likewise, with this kind of background, it is not surprising to find that the believers in Corinth had a hard time maturing in the faith. Both of Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth are mainly aimed at helping the church get itself sorted out. There were major divisions in the church (1:10ff.), sexual immorality among its parishioners (5:1ff.), and believers taking fellow believers to court (6:1ff.), among many other problems.
Paul warns the Corinthians not to deceive themselves into thinking that things will turn out well for those who persist in disobedience. The “wicked” (adikoi) will not inherit the kingdom of God, even if they profess to know Christ. Those who practice sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality,2 thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, slander, or extortion will by no means enjoy God’s heavenly kingdom.
“And such were (past tense) some of you,” Paul declares to the Corinthians. This is a glorious exclamation. The list of unrighteous lifestyles indicates the kinds of backgrounds from which the Corinthian believers came. But they had been transformed! Paul explains the transformation in three different aspects. They were “washed” from the filth of their former lifestyles, “sanctified” by being set apart for holy living, and “justified” so that they now had the forensic standing in Christ necessary to inherit the kingdom of God. Moreover, this transformation was the gracious act of the Trinitarian God; they were put right with God through the salvific work of Christ and the regeneration wrought by the Holy Spirit.
This passage is an astoundingly encouraging word for those who feel trapped in sinful lifestyles. In God, there is hope for transformation. No matter what one’s sinful practice, miraculous change is possible.3
Paul’s example of offering hope immediately on the heels of warning is a helpful reminder that preaching about sin must also be accompanied by preaching about the glory of regeneration by the Holy Spirit in Christ. It takes a whole gospel to redeem the whole person.
|1||Dorothy Nelkin and Susan Lindee, The DNA Mystique: The Gene as Cultural Icon (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004), 2.|
|2||All of the terms Paul uses here are fairly straightforward, but due to the inordinate controversy over the meaning of terms for homosexuality in the biblical text, a brief commentary on the words used here seems to be in order. The ESV elides two words into the one phrase “men who practice homosexuality” while the NIV more technically translates both words: “male prostitutes” (malakoi) and “homosexual offenders” (arsenokoitai). The best recent scholarship is found in Robert A. J. Gagnon’s encyclopedic work, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001). Gagnon maintains that malakoi—literally “soft ones”—refers to those who commit same-sex intercourse. “Furthermore, the epithet “soft” itself suggests males playing the female role in sexual intercourse with other males” (308). Arsenokoitai literally means “bedders of males, those [men] who take [other] males to bed” (312, brackets original). By pairing malakoi with arsenokoitai, the Apostle Paul underscores the fact that every kind of homosexual behavior is included. After extensive lexical comparisons, Gagnon concludes: “First Corinthians 6:9 confirms that Paul’s rejection of homosexual conduct is just as applicable for believers as for unbelievers. Paul’s warning in 1 Cor. 6:9-11 is to the believers in Corinth to remember that those who live their lives under the control of sin will not inherit the kingdom of God” (330-331).|
|3||See Kairos Journal articles, "Can Homosexuals Change Their Ways?" & "The Church's Ministry to Homosexuals."|