Such Were Some Of You.

Or 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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 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

Throughout his letter so far, Paul has been emphasizing the kind of conduct or behavior that believers should model. Their unique status as children of God came with non-negotiable expectations that their life should reflect His character. They had been “called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:9 ESV), and had been given the Holy Spirit to live within them. And as Paul had mentioned in the opening of this letter, as the body of Christ, they lacked none of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:7). All of these factors should have resulted in true life change, and it had. But they were still struggling with pride, jealousy, and a tendency to view life from their former perspective as unbelievers. Their new natures in Christ had not yet replaced their old tendencies. Which is what led them to settle their disputes in court rather than within the body of Christ. They were thinking more like pagans, than believers. Their focus was on this world instead of the next. They were motivated more by selfishness than selflessness. At this point, their faith in Christ was little more than an add-on, a convenient option that provided them with forgiveness of sins and eternal security, but did little to change the way they lived their lives in the here-and-now.

This is what leads Paul to remind them, “that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9 ESV). He then describes the unrighteous as “Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT). These behaviors are characteristic of the lost. And this list should have resonated with the believers in Corinth, because Paul immediately reminds them, “And such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11a ESV). Paul speaks in the past tense, emphasizing that this was their former condition. It was how they used to live. But something had happened. Their old way of life had been radically changed when they placed their faith in Christ. Paul tells them that as a result of God’s gracious gift of salvation made possible through His Son, “you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11b NLT). Again, he uses the past tense, indicating that these things have already happened. They had been cleansed by God from their former sins, declared to be righteous before Him, and set apart by Him for His use. This is exactly what Paul had written to them in the opening chapter of his letter: “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT).

But their salvation was not yet complete. God’s work in them was not finished. God had declared them to be righteous because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, now they needed to live righteously. God had made them holy, setting them apart as His possession, now their lives needed to reflect their holy standing. He had cleansed them from sin, forever delivering from the penalty of death under which they had lived. But through His Holy Spirit, God had given them the capacity to live free from the power of sin in their daily lives. While they were still fully capable of greed, envy, idol worship, sexual immorality, theft, drunkenness and virtually any and all of the sins listed by Paul in these verses, these sins were no longer characteristic of who there were. They were sons and daughters of God. They had been redeemed. They were new creations. They had new natures. As Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). This message of new life was a recurring them for Paul. He told to the believers in Rome, “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives” (Romans 6:4 NLT).

Salvation not only offers a future reward, it guarantees a real and radical transformation in the here-and-now. Our sanctification or growth in holiness is ongoing. We are constantly dying to our old way of life and being reformed into the likeness of Christ. And this will continue until, as Paul puts it, “Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19 ESV). It will not stop until we are “mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NLT). And this transforming process will continue until we are glorified by God and given new bodies, free from sin and no longer held captive to the threat of death. The apostle John encourages us with these words: “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). In the meantime, we have been given the privilege, power and responsibility to live our lives in keeping with our standing as God’s children. We are to lead lives worthy of our calling by God (Ephesians 4:1). We are to live in a way that honors and pleases God (Colossians 1:10). “So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9 NLT). We were once sinners. Now we are saints. But we must learn to live like what we are. Our lives must reflect the true nature of who we have become in Christ.

Advertisements

A Loving Father.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. – Hosea 11:1-4 ESV

Sometimes, because God is transcendent and invisible to our eyes, we can see Him as distant and difficult to comprehend. After all, He is the creator of the universe. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is sinless and perfect in all His ways. So we find it hard to relate to Him. While we speak of His love and rely upon His grace and mercy, it’s not always easy to feel those things in daily life. After all, we can’t experience a hug from God. We have never been able to talk a walk with Him and have Him put His arm on our shoulder to encourage us. There is a sense in which His transcendence makes Him unapproachable and somewhat aloof to us. But God would have us see Him as our Father. In fact, He uses the imagery of fatherhood throughout the Scriptures. And Jesus Himself encouraged His disciples to approach God in prayer with the word, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9 ESV).

Here in chapter 11, God addresses the people of Israel as a father would speak to his child. He reminds them of their past and jars their collective memory in order to get them to recall what their relationship with Him used to be like. He had been like a father to them. They had been like a helpless child, trapped in the bonds of slavery in Egypt. They were oppressed. They were crying out in pain and suffering. And God had heard them. When He had called Moses, God had told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8 NLT). And that is exactly what He had done. He had rescued them, set them free and led them to the land of Canaan, just as He had promised to Abraham hundreds of years earlier.

God had shown the people of Israel unconditional love. He had rescued them, not because they deserved it, but because of His love for them. And yet, their response to His love had been to refuse it. The failed to recognize and appreciate the incredible miracle that the God of the universe had chosen to shower His love on them. He had adopted them as His own and yet, they had treated His love with contempt. The prophet Isaiah recorded these indicting words from God against the southern kingdom of Judah.

Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the Lord says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. – Isaiah 1:2-4 NLT

They were corrupt children who had rejected the love of God. And God uses the imagery of a father teaching his child to walk to illustrate just how painful their rejection of Him was. He had held their hand and lovingly, patiently guided their every step. He had walked alongside them, steadying their way and ensuring their safety. And then had inevitably fallen, He had lovingly healed them. Just like any earthly father would have done. It was Jesus who said of His heavenly Father, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 ESV). God is a faithful, loving Father. And yet, Israel, His adopted children, had forsaken Him for false gods. He had “led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love” (Hosea 11:4 ESV), but they had chosen to reject His love and come out from under His protection. Those cords of kindness and bands of love, portrayed through His holy law, had been intended to provide them with loving protection. Like a father’s rules for his children, God’s law was meant to provide appropriate boundaries and protective guidelines for their lives. But they had repeatedly broken God’s laws. They had seen them as oppressive and overly restrictive. But now they were going to understand what the yoke of oppression was really like. The generation to whom Hosea spoke had long ago forgotten the trials and tribulations their ancestors had gone through in Egypt. Slavery was not something to which they could relate. They had been born free and had enjoyed the privilege of growing up in a powerful, successful nation where problems were few and the blessings of God had been many. But the love of the Father had not been enough to hold their attention or keep them faithful.

When we fail to recognize God’s love, His fatherly care and protective presence in our lives, we find it easy to walk away from Him. Like the prodigal son who only saw his father as a source of financial blessing, we can overlook and take for granted our heavenly Father’s unceasing, undeserved love, care and protection. We can end up wanting what we can get from Him more than we want Him. We can treat Him as some kind of genie in a bottle, obligated to grant our wishes and fulfill our every self-centered desire. But God would have us realize just how much He loves us. The apostle John reminds us, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NLT). And God demonstrated just how much He loved us in a powerful and very costly manner. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 ESV). The Father’s love for His children is real. It is boundless and tireless. It is patient and unceasing. And Paul would have us come to grips with the startling reality that nothing can separate us from God’s love. “If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself” (Romans 8:31-33 NLT).

In the Fullness of Time.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. – Galatians 4:1-7 ESV

Here in chapter four, Paul continues to contrast law and grace. More specifically, he will show how faith alone is the means by which men must be saved. And to make his point, he uses yet another analogy. He has already compared the law to a jail, imprisoning everything under sin (Galatians 2:22). He also referred to it as a guardian, watching over us and managing our affairs until Christ came. The Greek word he used was παιδαγωγός (paidagōgos), which “was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class” (“G3807 – paidagōgos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). Here in chapter four, he uses the term, “guardian” again, but it is a different Greek word. It is ἐπίτροπος (epitropos) and it referred to “one to whose care or honor anything has been instructed” (“G2012 – epitropos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It was commonly used to refer to a steward or overseer of one’s estate or children. Paul also compares the law to a manager. He uses the Greek word, οἰκονόμος (oikonomos), which referred to a steward, manager or superintendent, who was responsible for overseeing the affairs of another (“G3623 – oikonomos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible).

In Paul’s day, this guardian or overseer was appointed by a father and given the responsibility to care for his child and oversee his well-being and manage his inheritance. This, as Paul points out, was to be the arrangement “until the date set by his father” (Galatians 4:2 ESV). In a sense, the son was no different than a slave as long as he was under the responsibility of his guardian or steward. He was expected to do exactly what the guardian told him to do. He had no access to his inheritance, except through the guardian, who managed all his affairs. He was under the watchful eye of his guardian at all times, until the day set by his father arrived.

Paul tells his readers that this was their former situation. They were under the guardianship of the law until faith came (Galatians 3:23). Up until the time that Jesus came, they had been “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:3 ESV). Paul does not explain what he means by this phrase, but it most certainly conveys the idea of the limited understanding available to men without the help of God. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV). Without the Spirit of God in them, men cannot understand the truths of God. They are incapable. Paul went on to say, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV). Those without Christ are limited in their understanding. They are stunted in their understanding, incapable of grasping the truth about God or the mysteries of spirituality. In speaking of the coming Holy Spirit, Jesus told His disciples, “He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him” (John 14:17 NLT). Paul also said that “God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:21 NLT).

Man, no matter how smart he may be, cannot understand or comprehend the truth regarding God. He is “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” But Paul reminds his readers that, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4 ESV). At just the right time, according to His eternal plan, God sent Jesus “to redeem those were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5 ESV). The amazing thing is that God, in His mercy and kindness, chose to adopt those who were not even His own. The audience to whom Paul was writing was made up primarily of Gentiles. They had not been part of the chosen people of God. They were outsiders, aliens and strangers to the family of God. Paul told the Gentile believers in Ephesus, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12 ESV). But he went on to tell them the good news that “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 ESV).

The amazing thing, Paul tells his readers, is that they were now sons and daughters of God. Because He had sent His Son into the world, “born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4 ESV), and His Son had kept the law to perfection, He had qualified Himself to be the sinless substitute to die in the place of sinful men. He took our place on the cross and died the death we deserved, so that we might be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with God. And those who place their faith in Christ become sons of God and receive the Spirit of God, which gives them the right to call on God as their Father. They are miraculously transformed from slaves to sons. They become princes, instead of paupers, and heirs of all the riches of God’s grace. But Paul’s point was that none of this was possible through the keeping of the law. Sonship was not achievable through hard work. The inheritance was not accessible through diligent rule-keeping. It was the gift of God made possible through faith in the Son of God and His sacrificial death on the cross. Man cannot earn a right standing with God. He cannot merit God’s favor through hard work. In fact, Paul will go on to say that, before placing their faith in Christ, his audience didn’t even know God (Galatians 4:8). They had been incapable of knowing God. They were enemies of God. And so were we. You cannot pursue that which you do not know. Natural man cannot know the things of God. Sinful men cannot seek the things of God. But God, in His great mercy and kindness, sent His Son to make Himself known.

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. – John 1:18 NLT

 

 

Case Closed.

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? – Romans 8:33-35 ESV

Not guilty! That is the verdict. Let the magnitude of that statement sink in. In these verses, Paul provides us with a stunning reminder of the staggering reality of our status as completely innocent and totally righteous sons and daughters of God. As he stated when he began this chapter, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave them unbelievably good news. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 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). At one time, we were all guilty before God, condemned and deserving of His just judgment: Death. But how we stand before His presence not only forgiven, but sinless in His eyes. We have been justified. So not only have we had our sins forgiven and removed, we have been given the righteousness of Christ. And as a result, no one can condemn us. No one can bring a charge against us. Our debt has been paid. Our death sentence has been commuted. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). We have received the righteousness of Christ. He took on our sin and we took on His righteousness.

And nothing can change our forgiven, guiltless, uncondemned, fully righteous status. We are completely covered by the unfailing love of Christ. Even at this moment, He intercedes on our behalf. His very presence at the side of God the Father is a constant reminder of the payment that was made and the complete satisfaction of God’s justice that was supplied by His death in our place. And Paul would have us consider the fact that nothing can separate us from that love. He rhetorically asks, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?” (Romans 8:35 NLT). And the answer is: Nothing. Absolutely, positively nothing. Even when things appear to be less-than-perfect in our lives or it feels as if God is not there, Paul asks us to consider: “Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” And again, the answer is, “No!” Christ died for us, as a payment for our sin. He was resurrected by the Spirit as a confirmation that His sacrifice was acceptable to God. And He ascended to the right hand of God, where He intercedes on our behalf. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV). We must always remember that our salvation will not be complete until we experience glorification – our finalized adoption as sons and daughters and the redemption of our bodies. Until that day, we must not let the troubles and trials of this life tempt us to doubt God’s love, Christ’s work, or our status as God’s children.

Our case has been completely settled. Our sentence of innocence has been pronounced. Our debt has been settled and our future is secure. Nothing can change that. No one can do anything to reverse God’s declaration of our guiltlessness. Not even us. There is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let that sink in. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t treat it lightly or flippantly. As the old hymn says, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

What Shall We Say?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 ESV

God’s redemptive plan is perfect and complete. Paul reminds us that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). In spite of all of the suffering, heartache, difficulty or pain we may see or experience in this life, God’s purpose regarding our salvation and ultimate glorification will be done. He has given us His Spirit as a guarantee and as a constant reminder of His love for us and constant presence with us. He is in the process of transforming us into the likeness of His Son. He is using the presence of His Spirit within us and the constant pressure of difficulties that are always around us, to mature and perfect us. 

So Paul asks us a question. What shall we say to these things? To what “things” is Paul referring? Most likely he is pointing back to all that he has discussed in the verses that have preceded.

•  We have been set free from the law of sin and death
•  We now walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh
•  We are putting to death the deeds of the flesh with the help of the Spirit
•  We are led by the Spirit
•  We are adopted sons and daughters of God
•  We are children of God and fellow heirs of Christ
•  We experience suffering in this life just as Jesus did
•  We have our future glorification to look forward to
•  We have the Spirit to help is in our current weakness
•  We have the Spirit’s assistance even when we pray
•  We have the assurance that God’s plan for us is perfect
•  We can know that all things really do work together for our ultimate good
•  We can rest in the fact that we will one day be glorified

So how should be our response to all of “these things”? With an awareness that God is for us. That He is on our side and in complete control, regardless of what we may see going on all around us. If God is for us, who can be against us? Even Satan himself can’t stand against the purposes of God for our lives. He can’t thwart the plan of God. Jesus made that point clear when He said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). Satan will attempt to steal our joy, kill our faith and destroy our hope in God. He will bombard us with reasons to doubt. Just as he did with Eve in the garden, Satan will whisper in our ear, “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). He is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). But Paul started out this great chapter with the reassuring words, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV). Satan can attack us. He can accuse us. He can attempt to demoralize us and distract us from our God-given purpose. He can try to derail God’s plan for us. But if God is for us, who can be against us?

Paul gives us undeniable proof of God’s unwavering love for and commitment to us. He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us. Earlier, in chapter five, Paul wrote, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). Jesus, the Son of God, “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25 ESV). “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 ESV). If God was willing to give His own Son as the sacrifice for our sins, “will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV). God WILL conform us to the image of His Son. God WILL supply all our needs. God WILL answer our prayers. God WILL work all things together for our good. God WILL one day redeem our bodies. God WILL one day give us our full inheritance as His sons and daughters. God WILL one day complete His purposes for us by glorifying and perfecting us. So what should be our response to these things? Gratitude. Obedience. Praise. Joy. Peace. Hope. Trust. Contentment. Faith. Boldness. Fearlessness. If God is for us, there is no one or nothing that can stand against us. I am reminded of the words from an the old hymn, Leaning On The Everlasting Arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.