The Unrighteous Will Not Inherit the Kingdom (I Corinthians 6:9-11)
Back in verse 7, Paul asked the Corinthians why they did not suffer the wrong instead of going to court with a brother. The phrase “suffer wrong” is translating the Greek verb adikeisthe, which holds a range of meaning from injustice to unrighteous action. Because they didn’t allow themselves to suffer wrong, they had committed an injustice, or wrong, against their brethren. This is the Greek word adikeite, a related word to the one before, but where the one before is receiving the injustice, this word deals with giving injustice. This then serves as a lead in to the next topic. Paul asks, “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” The word “unrighteous” is the Greek adjective adikoi. It has the same root as other two words and carries a similar meaning. Thus Paul ends the current topic of injustice toward brethren while introducing other sins which keep people out of heaven.
In addition to wrong doing toward a brother, Paul lists out ten other sins which keep people out of the kingdom of God. This is by no means a complete list of every possible sin or every class of sin. Rather these are the types of sins some in Corinth had left behind to become Christians. If they understood that these are wrong, they should have understood that acting injustly toward a brother is just as wrong.
The list shows us that a variety of sexual sins were a common problem in the Corinthian society since they dominate this list. Because many worldly people wish to avoid the plain condemnation listed here, we will take a moment to define each sin. Notice that this list is an expansion of the sins Paul discussed in I Corinthians 5:10-11.
- Fornicators (pornoi) A general word for a person who practices sexual immorality. It alludes back to the man discussed at the beginning of chapter 5 and is discussed in more detail in the section following this one. When found in lists that include adultery, it is understood that fornication takes on the more narrow meaning of sex that doesn’t involve a married person.
- Idolaters (eidololatrai) A worshiper of false gods. It might seem strange that idolatry is mentioned in the middle of a list of sexual sins, but this is because the worship of false gods often included sexual acts – many of the false gods were considered to be fertility gods.
- Adulterers (moichoi) A violator of the marriage covenant. Thus, this is a person is a married person who has sex with someone who is not his spouse, or a person who is having sex with someone who married to another person.
- Effeminate (malakoi) The word literally means “soft,” such as in soft clothing, but it can refer to the person in a homosexual coupling who takes the role of the female.
- Homosexuals (arsenokoitai) This is a compound word which literally means “male sex acts.” When listed with malakoi, it refers to the person in a homosexual coupling to takes on the role of the male.
- Thieves (kleptai) Someone who steals by cunning or deception.
- Covetous (pleonektai) This is a greedy person who constantly desires more.
- Drunkards (methusoi) Someone drunk with wine.
- Revilers (loidoroi) Someone who heaps abuse on another person, speaking reproachfully of them.
- Swindler (harpages) This word refers to someone who ravenously preys on another, such as a ravenous wolf (Matthew 7:15). It can refer to someone who preys on people to steal their goods (a swindler or extortioner) or someone who spiritually steals a person's righteousness through seduction (a false teacher).
These sins were left be when they were converted. Paul lists synonymous terms: being washed, being sanctified, and being justified. Being washed (literally, “you have had yourselves washed”) is a reference to baptism and the cleansing of a person from sin (I Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5). Sanctification refers to being set aside for a special and holy purpose (Acts 26:18; II Thessalonians 2:13). Justification is a declaration that someone righteous and no longer held guilty for sins committed (Isaiah 53:11; Acts 13:39; Galatians 3:24-27; Titus 3:7). This change was accomplished by the authority of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As Jesus had said before, a person cannot enter the kingdom without the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Thus, they had entered the kingdom by leaving sin, not by bringing them along with them.
Literary Styles: Anaphora
An anaphora refers to repeating a word at the beginning of successive sentences. Doing so lends emphasis to the point being made. It is like verbal bullet points on charts. Examples can be found in Deuteronomy 28:3-6 and Jeremiah 1:18. It was used by Paul back in I Corinthians 3:9 – in the Greek “God’s” leads the three phrases. It is used in I Corinthians 6:11 with the Greek word alla (but).
- Some denominations make a distinction between sanctification and baptism. In essence they claim there are two levels of salvation. Can you name some denominations who teach this?
- What purpose is served arguing for such a distinction?
Just Because It Can Be Right, It Isn’t Always Right (I Corinthians 6:12-13)
Some people justify sin by arguing that if you can do something, then it is always right. Paul tells us differently, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful” (I Corinthians 6:12). The word translated as “helpful” in the New King James Version is the Greek word sumphero. It refers to actions that are ultimately for good, though they may not appear to be good at the present time.
As an example in Matthew 5:29-30 Jesus stated, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." "More profitable" in these two verses is the Greek word sumphero. Though Jesus is not literally advocating the removal of an eye or limb, the point is that a limitation in this life that allows us to enter heaven is far more preferable than full freedom in this life and hell awaiting us in the next. Hence, Jesus stated it is more profitable for a man to become celibate for the kingdom's sake than to insist on full sexual freedom (Matthew 19:10). This fully punctures the common argument made by divorced people who justify their remarriages by stating "God wouldn't want me to be unhappy." It is better to take on a limitation of no sexual relations than to commit adultery and lose your right to heaven.
Similarly, Jesus did not look forward to His death on the cross, but He argued that it was for greater good. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you." (John 16:7). Caiaphas unknowingly made a similar prophecy when he said, "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish" (John 11:50).
The writer of Hebrews used this word in reference to discipline. "Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:9-11). No one enjoys discipline at the moment it is received, but we understand that it leads to a greater good.
Paul understood this view of life demanded by expedience. "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (I Corinthians 6:12). By this statement, Paul is not stating that he can do anything that he pleased. Just prior to this statement Paul listed several sins that would keep a person out of the kingdom of heaven. Stating that they were washed, sanctified, and justified Paul was expecting his list of sins to be met with the argument: "There is no law against ..." To prove it wrong, he temporarily grants the argument credence to show why it will not work. In I Corinthians 6:13 the argument is present that God made our desires, so it cannot be a sin to satisfy those desires.
Let us assume for the moment that everything is lawful. You and I must admit that every action is not to our best interest. Food is lawful, as Paul argued in I Timothy 4:4-5, but this does not mean that I can eat anything without harm. Would anyone care for a toadstool and poison-ivy leaf salad? Nor could I indulge in as much food as I wanted to consume; such would be gluttony as well as unhealthy for my body. If my appetite becomes my goal, I will soon discover that instead of exercising a liberty, I have placed myself under an exacting taskmaster (II Peter 2:19). We cannot use personal liberty to justify fleshly living (Galatians 5:13). And we must not forget that God has declared that consuming some foods is sinful (Acts 15:28-29).
This world is temporary and the desires we have within this world are temporary as well. Things which are temporary should not be put in control of the lives of people who wish to live eternally. We were placed in this world to serve God (Ecclesiastes 12:13), not to serve ourselves or our appetites.
While some actions can be right in certain contexts, it does not imply they are right in all contexts. There are times when sex is proper, but there are times it is wrong (Hebrews 13:4). God did not give us bodies to be used for sinful actions (I Thessalonians 4:3-7).
- Give some examples some things which can normally be right, but be wrong in some contexts.
- How, then, can we ever know that we are doing right?
- Have you ever heard someone argue “I have a right to ...”? What prevails over our “rights?”
We Belong to God (I Corinthians 6:14-20)
God raised Jesus Christ from the dead; thus, we have the expectation that God will also raise us up on the last day. But when we are raised, it won’t an earthly body filled with worldly desires. We will be raised to be like Christ (Philippians 3:21). Since Christ is pure and sinless, that demands of us to be the same (I Peter 1:13-16).
Paul then applies this line of reasoning to one specific sin: sex outside of marriage. Can sex be indiscriminately indulged without harm? Solomon argued against it. "Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away" (Proverbs 6:32-33). Can I indulge in it at any time or with anyone? A woman's husband would disagree (Proverbs 6:34-35). But most importantly, can I take the body God has given me to use for a holy purpose and join it to someone living a life of sin? (I Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Paul proves that sex binds the participants. It is not a permanent or stable bond, but it is a bond nonetheless. Those who engage in sexual sins are physically coupled during the act. They become for the moment one body (the Greek word soma). This is different from sex in marriage where the two become on flesh (the Greek word sarx). Illicit sex is just a joining of bodies, which is unstable. Marital sex is the joining of two human beings into one life. And our joining to the Lord is an even greater bond, being a spiritual fellowship. Marital sex is compatible with our spiritual bond because the Lord blesses it (Hebrews 13:4). Illicit sex is not compatible with our spiritual bond with Christ.
Why should we take what God has freed from sin (Romans 6:1-7) and then bind ourselves to sinners, even on a temporary basis? We are a part of Christ (Ephesians 5:30) and when we sin, we are attempting to force sin to join with Christ through us. It won’t work because what is flawed is cast off. Our reaction to sins, such as fornication ought to be run away from it as far and as fast as we can.
In general, when a person commits a sin, he harms other people. When you steal, you are taking property that belongs to someone else. When you lie, you cause people to act incorrectly because they didn’t have the truth. But sexual sins are crimes against the individual. Such appears strange since two people are involved in sexual sins. Even in sins, such as drunkenness or gluttony, things outside the body are being used to cause harm to oneself. Yet, in the case of consensual sex, both individuals are agreeing to do an act which harms their relationship with God (Proverbs 6:30-32; 7:24-27). In sexual sins, a person is using his body as an instrument of sin, which in turn harms itself.
We belong to God. The Spirit of God dwells in us; that is, His presence is seen in our lives, just as the presence of God was seen in the Tabernacle and Temple of the Old Testament (Exodus 33:12-16; I Kings 8:22; Psalm 100:2). In the New Testament, we realize that God dwells with us (II Corinthians 6:16). Purity of where God presence is seen is the same point God made to the Israelites: “Say to them: 'Whoever of all your descendants throughout your generations, who goes near the holy things which the children of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off from My presence: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 22:3). But instead of holy objects, we realize that we ourselves are the holy things.
Christ redeemed us from sin; thus, we were bought at a great price (I Peter 1:17-19). We no longer belong to ourselves but to the one who bought us (Revelation 5:9). Therefore God should be honored by what He purchased (Romans 12:1; Philippians 1:20).