Please begin with prayer for an open heart, before you read the passage below. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. 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.
Well, how are you feeling after reading this? Condemned? Questioning your salvation and standing before God? Did verses 9-10 hit you so heavily that you missed verse 11?
The Corinthians were a troubled group---they lived wrecklessly and Corinth was sort of a Las Vegas on the coast. It was a large port city that provided ‘entertainment’ for the sailors passing through. Paul was one of the pastors that helped plant the church(es) in Corinth and is responding with multiple letters to them addressing issues. These were non-Jewish people that had very little religious background, as well as tremendous exposure to idol worship and Greco-Roman pantheism.
Paul’s letter has encouragement, but also a lot of rebuke and admonishment and this is what we see in Chapter 6. The letter up to this point has been an admonishment for a variety of reasons. (Read Ch. 5 & Ch. 6 to gain a context---he drills them regarding sexual immorality and wants them to take sin seriously) Chapter 6 begins with the church’s wickedness and failure to resolve disputes among believers. How dare the believers, take legal/personal issues against other believers, all in front of unbelievers?? Paul has a theme of set-apartness throughout the letter and a call to a lifestyle that is counter-cultural. So, he sets up verses 9-11 with examples of their sinful behavior and failure live as Christ-followers.
For me, the word ‘were’, in V.11, is the key in this passage. The first section creates condemnation and my guess is that we all saw how many categories we fit into and there was a temptation to question our standing before God. Then, Paul reminds the Corinthian church of their identity---you ‘were’ this way!! Paul could have said stop sinning and act right, but he points the believers to a much deeper motivator---IDENTITY!! Delton told a story Sunday about him cussing in the car at 16ish and his father saying something like, ‘we don’t talk that way!’ His dad was bringing him back to his identity and Paul is bringing his church and each one of us back to our identity in Christ. We are followers of Jesus---we were washed, we were sanctified, and we were justified, so we live out of that identity!
Our sequencing of how this identity thing works is crucial for our faith. We are sometimes misled and believe that we must first clean up, before God will have anything to do with us. This promotes legalism and condemnation and will only motivate someone for so long before they give up. The Bible shows the exact opposite---God initiates the relationship with broken people and then calls us to obedience. Notice in Exodus 19 & 20---did God interact with the Israelites before or after the giving of the Law? BEFORE!! God intervened, saved Israel, liberated Israel, and provided for them---He didn’t say, well, I hear your cries, but you are pretty jacked up---so, clean up as much as possible and then I might help you if your performance is good enough! The latter is how we typically see God and it plays out in how we live. We see that identity is given by God and then we are called to respond from that identity. God gave the Israelites identity and then asked for obedience.
Last thought and I will wrap it up---my experience is that all our crises in life and faith boil down to identity, or the failure to believe it. Anxiety/Fear?? We don’t trust God and who we are in His eyes. Discontent?? We don’t rest in our identity and have to find other things to try and bring contentment. I think whatever negative emotion we have relates to an unbelief in the promises of God and our identity in Christ. So, the call of Scripture is to check our identity, because true identity in Christ will always produce life, fruits of life, and obedience anchored in love. The flipside is true and that’s another facet of what Paul is warning them about---we cannot be misled by identity and then think we can live however we want to. New identity always leads to new actions!!
What was your response to the passage? Do you believe your obedience gives you identity or does your obedience flow out of your identity? What negative feelings do you have (anxiety, fear, discontent, selfishness, unhappiness, etc.) and can you trace that to an unbelief in the Gospel message? I would love to hear your journey and how this passage impacted you.