Today we begin a new sermon series called The Marriage Rules where we will examine the sixth and seventh chapters of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is worthy to note that before the apostle Paul enters into answering their questions regarding marriage, Paul first must speak about the problem of unrighteous living and sexual immorality. Before we get into marriage we need to look at our own sinful ways that cause problems in relationships. The apostle Paul opens this section with an important reminder. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (6:9). This is a straightforward directive. We cannot practice unrighteousness and belong to Christ and his kingdom. What is unrighteousness? What are these Christians doing that Paul must warned them about being separated from Christ and his kingdom? The apostle Paul now launches in to a list of sins that we need to be aware reveal that we will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Do Not Be Deceived (6:9-10)
Paul begins with the instruction: “Do not deceived.” Do not believe the lie. Do not be fooled. Do not think that the behaviors we are about to read are acceptable to God. Do not think you can do the things that are described and still remain in relationship with Christ. There was a time when these sins did not need explanation. Everyone understood these acts to be sinful behaviors. But now, with people trying to justify their lifestyles and behaviors, we must give a fuller explanation of these words so we can clearly understand what God is condemning.
Sexually immoral: The basic idea of this word is any sexual contact that is not between a husband and wife. As you can see it is a very broad word covering all kinds of sexual acts, touches, and contact. Many think they are being so smart with the scriptures to say that it does not say anywhere in the Bible that you cannot have sexual relations, live together, or have sexual contact before marriage. Yes, the scriptures absolutely condemn these actions in this Greek word that we translate sexual immorality. Sexual contact and touching of any kind before marriage is sexual immorality. This word also includes sexual contact with children, incest, and bestiality. To make the point simple, if you are not married, then any such contact is being condemned.
Idolaters: We do not think we have an idolatry problem in this country but are a bunch of idol worshipers. Christians have also been ensnared by this sin. Idolatry as anything that we place of higher importance or greater desire and value than God. Idolatry was the very first command of the Law of Moses when the 10 commandments were given. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). This is all that idolatry is: something that is before God. What desires do you place before the Lord? What is more important to you than God? What do you spend more time doing before the Lord? These are the questions we must ask to determine if we have an idolatry problem. Usually our idols are our careers, our wealth, our possessions, our family, our comforts, and our conveniences.
Adulterers: Adultery has been brought to the forefront of our society’s eyes with the Ashley Madison scandal, which is a website that facilitates spouses to have an affair. Adultery in the scriptures refers to a married person having sexual relations with another person who is not his or her spouse. God was very serious about maintaining the purity of marriage in the way we see the consequence for adultery under the Law of Moses. “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10 ESV). There are 39 million registered users of the Ashley Madison website. Under the Law of Moses there would be a different outcome than what we see today.
The point is that the gravity of the sin must not be diminished in our minds just because its practice is prevalent. Just because living together, sleeping with each other, having affairs, cheating on your spouses, looking at pornography, and have inappropriate relationships with others is all common and acceptable in our society does not change the gravity of the sin and that it is an abomination before the Lord. Do not be deceived. This is unrighteousness and those who practice such things are not inheriting the kingdom of God. You are not in the grace of God. Your soul is not safe.
Men who practice homosexuality: The translations vary on how to render these two Greek words. The NASB reads, “nor effeminate, nor homosexuals.” The NKJV reads, “homosexuals, nor sodomites.” Just as the Greek which we translate for sexual immorality refers to all sexual conduct that is not between a husband and a wife, and just as adultery refers to all sexual conduct a married person has with someone who is not his or her spouse, these two Greek words refer to all sexual conduct that would occur between two people of the same gender. One scholar writes of these two words, “They are correctly understood in our contemporary context when they are applied to every conceivable type of same-sex intercourse (Gagnon, 330). Frequently the argument is made today that the homosexuality condemned in the scriptures is if it is promiscuous. But monogamous homosexual relationships are not condemned in the scriptures. I want us to see that this is completely false. Commitment has nothing to do with this command. What is being condemned are both individuals in the homosexual act.
As we noted that the NASB reads “effeminate.” This is probably not a helpful translation because it has caused people to think that any man who acts soft in his demeanor or is soft spoken is condemned by this command. That could not be any further from the truth. “Effeminate” has nothing to do with demeanor or being soft spoken, but refers to the passive male partner in homosexual relations. This is why some translations read, “male prostitutes.” The two words describe the two different individuals: the first word is for the man who is receiving like a woman (thus, “effeminate” in the NASB) and the one who is acting as the male in the act. Both behaviors are condemned by God. Unfortunately we have to go through these words carefully because we live in a society that wants to tell us that we are wrong to teach that these behaviors are condemned in the scriptures. But Paul says to not be deceived. Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I want us to see that God is condemning all of these sexual behaviors. Homosexuality should not be isolated while adultery and heterosexual promiscuity run rampant. All these sins are equal in separating us from God.
Thieves: This one should be easy for us to understand. If you take something that is not yours, you are a thief. Stealing is also a sin.
Greedy: A person who is not satisfied with their income and possessions. The scriptures call for us to be content with what we have and to be content in our circumstances of life.
Drunkards: Becoming drunk is also a sin those who become drunk will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Revilers: This is a verbally abusive person. Slandering and railing on someone is another picture for what this sin is talking about.
Swindlers: This refers to indirect stealing like extortion and embezzling. You are cheating another out of something. I believe most gambling would fit into this category as two people are agreeing to try to swindle each other’s money from the other.
The reminder and warning is that we must not be deceived about these activities and behavior. No one who does these things is going to inherit the kingdom of God. Now verse 11 gives the hope that we need to hear.
Who You Were (6:11)
That is who you used to be. The issue is not that you used to do these things. That is not the problem. You do not have to be clean to come to the Lord. But to belong to the Lord you must stop doing these things. You cannot continue in these behaviors. Why must we stop doing these things? Paul is telling us that you have a new identity. That is who you were but that is not who you are now when you come to Christ. You used to be an adulterer. You used to be a fornicator. You used to be a homosexual. You used to be an idolater. You used to be a thief. You used to be greedy. You used to be a drunkard. You used to be a reviler. You used to be a swindler. But that is not who you are now. God has given you a new identity.
Let me stop here and note how sad it is that we are trying to find our identity in our sinful behaviors. This is so sad. In sinful and in non-sinful acts we are trying to find our identity. We make our identity our sexuality. We make our identity how rich we are. We make our identity how successful we are. We make our identity by what career we have. This is sinful, idolatrous thinking. This is the thinking of the world. But you have been given a new identity. What happened to change us? Listen to verse 11.
“You were washed.” Look at what God has done for you. You had your sins washed away! You stopped living this way because you were washed clean from your sins. Washing away our sins is one of my favorite pictures in the scriptures. Ananias speaks to Saul, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16 ESV). We are all ex-sinners. But that is not who you are. That is not what you do now. You have been washed clean. Your sins were taken away when you submitted to Jesus in the waters of baptism.
“You were sanctified.” Sanctified is not a word we really use today. To state this idea simply, “You were made holy.” Look at what God has done for you. You were given a new nature for a new life of holy living. You are not to give yourself to these sinful behaviors. You were washed and you were made holy. Holiness means that you were set apart for service to God. God has given you a new identity that has set you apart to belong to him and his service. You belong to the Lord.
“You were justified.” Look at what God has done for you. You have a new standing before God. Condemned sinners, people who did all the things that were listed in verses 9-10, are coming to Jesus and he is cleansing them, setting them apart for the Lord’s service, and declaring them not guilty of the sins they have committed. This is why we stopped being sexually immoral, idolaters, greedy, revilers, and the like: Jesus has saved us from the condemnation that comes to us for doing these things. Washed, sanctified, and justified. In short, the transformed life must produce transformed living. Do not be deceived. You have been called to a different life with a new identity in Christ. The old life stops with Christ.