Sermon: “Such Were Some of You” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Listen to the Sermon:
9 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, 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
This is the word of the Lord for us this morning.
Three weeks ago, on July 28th we dealt with this same text, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Our big idea that day was, “In Christ you are not now what you were once”. As I mentioned three weeks ago, picking up today we want to circle back around to the topic of sexual immorality through the four terms dealing with sexual immorality found in verse nine.
As we get started on this topic, I want to raise a really important point that will in some ways set the stage for what we are going to talk about today. Sexually immorality has always been a problem. Right from the very beginning, in Genesis 4:19, we read that one of the descendants of Cain (Cain who murdered his brother Abel), a man named Lamech took two wives. In the beginning God had designed sexuality to be between one man and one woman, only in the lifelong covenant of marriage. Right away, from the very beginning we see people violating that. As you read throughout the rest so Scripture you find examples of various kinds of sexual immorality. That goes all the way through the Old Testament and all the way through the New Testament. It goes through over 2,000 years all the way up to today.
Today in the broader culture we live, there is widespread sexual immorality. Pornography is rampant. Adultery is something that in our culture is legally permitted even though it’s one of the most destructive things that can happen to everyone who is touched by the relationships surrounding the adulterous act. Our country sanctions no fault divorce as well as same sex marriage. Our society is encouraging transgenderism. Even encouraging young children to take the step of very painful and very destructive, long term effect surgeries to act out those feelings of transgenderism.
Our society not only promotes but insists on the approval of sexual immorality. We have a lot of things to talk about today. Even among Bible believing Christians, a lot of the sexual revolution over the last 50 years or so has raised a lot of sticky questions, even in just the last few years.
How should we understand the sin of homosexuality that Paul addresses here? How is this the same as other sins? How is this different than other sins? How do we help those who are struggling with same sex attraction to fight for purity?
What about transgenderism? What about people who feel that they are trapped in the wrong kind of a body. We go back to the beginning and we see that God created us male and female. Why is that? What is God’s purpose in making us male and female? How do we help people who are struggling under the weight and shame and pain of these questions?
In all of this, we want to be absolutely compassionate. If you are dealing with these issues, I know that these are some of the most chaotic, painful, shame-filled questions that you would have to deal with. There’s a reason for that. God created the intimacy of sexuality to be something that is incredibly powerful, both for good and through sin the powerful nature of sexuality became something that releases a great amount of evil.
This morning I want to preach to you the whole gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. In that, it is important that we deal with the truth. We can’t merely deal with some of the truth or even just most of the truth. We have to have the whole counsel of God to know where the battle lines are drawn. If we don’t know where the battle lines are drawn, we will be devoured by Satan, a roaring lion, and we won’t even know that it’s happening.
I’ve printed out a packet of resources. I want to direct your attention to four resources that have been incredibly helpful for me as I’ve been preparing this sermon. One is a video by Kevin DeYoung, a pastor in our denomination. I would strongly encourage you watch it. There are also a couple of articles; one by Rosaria Butterfield and a few by Daniel Schrock, who is also a pastor in our denomination. I would also direct your attention to our church’s doctrinal standards. The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter six on sin and chapter thirteen on sanctification. They are providing the framework for what I will be preaching here today.
If you have any more questions, please come talk to me. These are hard issues and I want to spend time with you because I know that these are difficult things. Understand that my heart is very soft because people are dealing with things that are very hard, but we have to deal with the truth.
Our big idea today is The battle for purity is not fought only in our actions, but in our hearts.
We are going to ask three questions.
- Why is sexual immorality such a problem? The issue that we are going to deal with is our inherited sin.
- What does identity have to do with sexual immorality? The second issue we are going to deal with is our identity shift.
- How do we fight sexual immorality? The third issue we are going to deal with is our internal struggle.
Our Inherited Sin
Why is sexual immorality such a problem? The answer that the Bible gives is because we have inherited sin. Our inherited sin is what makes this so hard. Look at what Paul says in verse nine.
9 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, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV
It’s the unrighteous that will not inherit the kingdom of God. The unrighteous will not receive all the blessings that God wants to bring into this world when he remakes this world to bring the power of the victory of Jesus Christ over the sin, death and the devil when Jesus Christ returns again. But the warning here is that if you are not among the righteous you will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s a serious warning that we have to take seriously.
What does it mean to be unrighteous? You notice that Paul goes on to give a few categories of people characterized by their actions. None of the people who practice those kinds of sins will inherit the kingdom of God. We might be tempted to read this and think that is the “no-no” list. If I can refrain from doing those things, then I will not slip into unrighteous. I won’t fall into that category of unrighteous and I will be saved. That is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. The Bible doesn’t teach that we are born righteous until we sin and then we become unrighteous because of the sins that we committed. The Bible says the exact opposite.
We are born unrighteous. We are born with inherited sin from our first father, Adam. It’s because of this original unrighteous that we do sinful things; Unrighteous people do unrighteous things. What we do flows out of a deeper spiritual issue that effects our hearts and souls and minds. All of our behavior flows from that. You go to the beginning of the Bible and what do you see? God creates man and woman, Adam and Eve, and he tells Adam in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:16-17.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17, ESV
But Adam disobeys God’s very clear commandment and eats of the fruit that God had forbidden him from eating. Because of that he sinned. Because he sinned, we read in Romans 5:12.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—Romans 5:12, ESV
So, this death spread to all men because all sinned. What Adam did didn’t just remain in Adam’s life. What Adam did descended to all of his children who were born after normal reproduction. Of course, that doesn’t include Jesus Christ who was born by the miraculous conception of the virgin Mary. For the rest of us, who are born according to ordination generation, we inherit this original sin of Adam which corrupts every part of us. As the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter six, paragraph two says, “this corrupts all the parts and faculties of soul and body.”
If you are familiar with the term original sin, you probably have too small an understanding of it. If you know anything about original sin you know that this is the thing that makes me guilty before God. Let me give you two illustrations to show the difference between what I mean.
Sometimes when we think about original sin, we start off by thinking, “I’m actually a pretty good person but there has been something of an identity theft. I’m trying to be responsible, work hard, maintain a high credit score so I can qualify to enter the kingdom of heaven. But some jerk, all the way across the world a long time ago, somehow cosigned me onto the debt that he incurred. So, I’m saddled with a debt that I could not possibly repay. Yeah, maybe I’ve sinned here and there, but I need a savior because of what that jerk did six thousand years ago. I can’t pay that debt, so I guess I need a savior.” That’s too small of a view of original sin.
Here is a better illustration. Now this has some flaws so let me work through this with you. Imagine what would it be like if you had been born blind and deaf? In a situation that Helen Keller had to live with most of her life. She was born with her normal faculties but lost them fairly early through a childhood illness. But imagine not being able to see or to hear. In the darkness of your world you would have no way of understanding what it means to communicate with the outside world.
You wouldn’t have a picture of what exists outside of you and you would have to make up something happening around you. But all of your perceptions would be flawed. So, if you know anything of the story of Helen Keller, she was a terror growing up because she lived according to the darkness of what she couldn’t see and couldn’t hear.
Here’s where the analogy breaks down, of course there is nothing sinful about being physically blind or physically deaf. But the Bible says that there is something sinful about being spiritually blind and spiritually deaf.
We are born with a sin that manifests itself by blinding us from seeing the goodness of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are born with ears that are shut up with our sins so that we can’t hear the word of God. Which declares God’s holiness, righteousness and the salvation he provides through his son. Not only is it a sin to be spiritually blind and spiritually deaf, but sin manifests itself as spiritually blindness and spiritually deafness.
So, original sin effects every part of us. Because we can’t spiritually see God or spiritually hear God, we are left blind and deaf. Feeling our way through this world trying to do whatever it takes to make us feel good, without a real accurate understanding of what is actually happening spiritually.
So original sin corrupts our desires. Our desires don’t instinctively lead us to what is good. Since our desires are corrupted, we want sin. Our emotions are corrupted, our hearts are corrupted. We are happy about what should grieve us, and we are angry about what should cause us to rejoice.
Our minds are corrupted too. God gave us this wonderful tool of reason and logic and the sin dwelling in us twists our minds, hijacks our minds, toward the task of justifying our sin so that we can justify even more sin. You want proof of this? Listen to someone else rationalize their sin. If you listen to someone else rationalize their sin to understand why this evil thing they are doing is justified and actually okay, you know that they sound like a crazy person. What are you talking about? This is clearly sin, how do you not understand this?
Friends, whey you rationalize your sin you sound the exact same way. But your mind is so twisted that either for big sins or in a thousand subtle ways, this original corruption twists our minds to justify what we do.
Notice that all of these things are internal, spiritual realities. I haven’t even begun to talk about the behaviors that we do, as Paul talks about in the second half of verse nine and verse ten. Of course, this original inherited corruption from Adam extends to our bodies and what we do.
In the ways that we use our bodies, especially in sexual sins. In all forms of sin, our bodies act out the sinful desires in our soul that is cheered on by our sinful emotions and is rationalized by our sinfully twisted minds. Our bodies act out these sins in according to the corruption of our original sin. We do unrighteous things because we are unrighteous.
There are two reasons why this is so important. We’ve got to start with an understanding of original sin. If you don’t struggle with same sex attraction and you don’t struggle with questions of gender confusion, you may look at this list and think, “Hey I’m not on here, I’m free and clear!” The exact opposite is true. Your unrighteous may not take this form, but all of us are unrighteous because of the sin we inherited from Adam. This sermon is for your too.
Secondarily, if you do struggle with these issues, you’ve got to understand this doctrine helps you to make sense of what you are feeling. I understand this feels like life or death. Of course your corrupted heart has twisted how to live them out. The strength of your feelings doesn’t mean what you are desiring is righteous before God. There is a sense that you were born this way, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay or righteous. We were born with a corruption that twists us toward unrighteousness, whatever form that may take.
So, what this doctrine helps us to do is to see that the internal working of our desires, emotions and minds are twisted by sin and there is something we need to repent from and to look to Jesus for forgiveness according to what he promises in the Gospel.
Why is sexual immorality such a problem? It’s because of our inherited original sin. This internal sin that leads to more acted out sins. The question is not whether we act on sins, but even whether our original sin condemns us before God, which it does. So, the questions are what hope do we have? What do the gospel actually promises us. The gospel promises us an identity shift.
Our Identity Shift
God doesn’t promise that in this life people who cannot physically see will necessarily be enabled to see. It may happen and it may not, it’s not a promise of the gospel. God doesn’t promise that physical deafness can be overcome. It may happen and it may not, it’s not a promise of the gospel.
God does promise in the gospel, the point of the gospel, is that God will begin to heal our spiritual blindness and our spiritual deafness. What this constitutes is nothing less than a shift in our identity. Our identity is the most important question we will ever ask. A lot of times in our culture we talk about identity and again there is this thrilling idea that we can make myself whatever I want to be.
The Scripture ask a different question. Not, what are you going to construct yourself to become, but the question is; whom are you identified with? Are you identified with Adam or are you identified with Christ? Earlier I said we do unrighteous things because we are born unrighteous. But another way of saying this is that we do unrighteous things because we are identified with Adam. We are in Adam.
Paul makes this point in a couple of places. He will make the same point later on in this very same letter, 1 Corinthians 15:22.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.1 Corinthians 15:22, ESV
All those identified unrighteous in Adam, will die because of their identification in Adam. But all those who are in Christ, identified with Christ, shall be made alive. Look the distinction that Paul makes in our passage. Paul talks about theses unrighteous people, the people who are unrighteous and act according to their identification in Adam.
Then in verse eleven he says, such were some of you. Your old identity was in Adam, in his sin. You used to take part in those things because that is what your heart lead you to do and you didn’t know anything different because you were blind and deaf to the gospel.
But something has happened. A shift has happened in your identity. No longer are you associated in Adam, but you are identified in Christ. You were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are in Christ by the Spirit of our God.
So, there are two classifications, two kinds of identities. There is the old identity of Adam and the new identity of Christ. This is where once we understand some of these things, we can start to deal with some of the things that Paul says about sexual immorality.
In verse nine Paul uses four terms that deal with sexual immorality. He first talks about the sexual immorality. This is a word that refers to fornication, those who are unmarried who commit sexual sins. But it also serves as a catch all term for those who practice any kind of sexual immorality. The idea is that God has a purpose and a place for sexuality and any perversion of what God wants is unrighteous.
The second term is adulterer. This is married people who engage in sexual immorality outside of their marriage. They betray someone to whom they made a vow in marriage by committing adultery outside of their marriage.
The final two terms are the most complicated. This is where we need to stop and pay attention. These terms are translated in the ESV into one phrase. “Nor men who practice homosexuality.” If you are looking at the ESV you will see a footnote. If you read the footnote you will see, “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.”
The first word is the word malakos. This word means soft or effeminate. The idea is that this is an effeminacy that is most explicitly acted out by playing the passive role in male homosexual acts. This word deals to some degree with homosexuality. The second word is more about homosexuality as we think about it today. The issue here has more to do with gender identity, questions of transgenderism. Paul is saying that the righteous standard is for men to identify as men and to act as men.
Understand that I’m not talking about men as defined by Hollywood or romance novels or any other worldly definition. I’m talking about being identified with, living a life that looks like the man, Jesus Christ. A man who was a leader and yet who lived in submission and obedience to his heavenly father. A man who was strong and yet absolutely meek. A man who turned over tables in the face of unrighteousness and yet someone who protected the vulnerable. The issue here is that God has a purpose in creating men as men.
He also has a purpose in creating women as women. All of us need to be studying Scripture and repenting for where we fall short. Even if you don’t feel like you were born so much identifying as a man, if God created you biologically to be a man, then you need to look at God’s word to define what that would mean. The same is true for women. We need to be studying the Scriptures, seeing what God provides for us as the standard. Repenting for wherever we fall short and praying for the grace we need to obey that purpose, just as we would in any other area.
Women you need to get your cues from the Scriptures as well. And I want to get this point across because it is so confusing for women. Not from women’s magazines, not from pornography, not from all of the things that the world says women ought to be, but from the Scriptures.
We are going to come back to this point in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 where Paul says that God has created men and women for different kinds of glory. Both are glorious. Men are glorious and women are glorious and God who made male and female has glories that he wants us to be pursuing by repentance and faith. He holds that out to us. We need to pursue these by repentance and faith.
The last term here is arsenokoitēs. This is a compound word, basically Paul looked at verses Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Leviticus 18:22 says “do not have sexual relations”, that’s one of the words in this compound word, “with a man”, that’s another word in this compound word, “as one does with a woman”. Paul took both of those terms, “man” and “sexual relations” and put them together to form this compound word. A lot of people thing that Paul actually coined this word because it doesn’t appear anywhere else. But he is clearly referring back to the Old Testament Scriptures that forbid acts of homosexuality. Again, this is word that refers to the issues of homosexuality and acted our acts of homosexuality.
When we look at what this is saying, and we understand that this original unrighteousness directs us to various kinds of acting out our sins. Whether it’s to idolatry or it’s to greed or to thievery or to drunkenness or to rivaling or to homosexuality. We have to understand that the inclinations and feelings, the attractions we have in that direction are not morally neutral.
This is part of our internal spiritual corruption that bends our minds towards committing sin. Which means that to fight sin, part of what this means is that we have to recognize that these inclinations are something we need to repent of. Same sex attraction is not morally neutral. It’s something we have to repent of in our overall fight against sin.
The issue that Paul is making here is that to remain in these identities is wrong. There are some professing Christians, for example, who say that as long as you remain celibate you can identify as a gay Christian. What the Scriptures say is no you can’t. That may have been who you were, but it’s not who you are now. You are not now who you were once. It’s not morally neutral.
If that isn’t something you struggle with, I want to tell you don’t look at this and say this is a sermon for someone else. Understand that the original corruption that others have is also what you have. The proclivities that you have to disobey parents, to violate the Sabbath, to kill, to commit lust against people of the opposite sex, to want to see. All of these are proclivities that you need to repent from. This is a sermon for all of us.
In fact, there is a reason that throughout the Bible God describes all sin as sexual immorality. We were created to be the pure spotless bride of Christ. The whole reason that the institution of marriage was created was to give us a picture of what it looks like to be untied to Christ in faith. So, any kind of faith against that is a sin against our bridegroom. It’s sexual immorality. We are all sexually immoral because we have committed adultery against our bridegroom.
So, what does identity have to do with sexual immorality? Well, if we are in Christ, we have undergone an identity shift. We are no longer associated with the unrighteousness of Adam’s original sin, but instead we are associated with Christ.
Look at anyone who has fought for sexual purity in any form, anyone who has fought against desires that are themselves sin know that this is hard. This is painful and part of what makes this so painful is because so much of this is wrapped in such a thick layer of shame that it’s even hard to talk about.
How do we fight sexual immorality?
Our Internal Struggle
“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11, ESV
This is an accounting term; you no longer reckon something to be true. You are thinking, there is an intellectual component to this. You are recognizing that what you used to think and feel, what you though were you part of your identity is no longer true. You have a new identity. You have to consider yourself dead to what’s old and alive to what’s new in Christ. That’s a painful progress but God promises that you will overcome. Let me sketch this out in a few more details with three applications.
- Repent from your sins and your sin and turn to Christ in faith.
- You need to reckon yourself dead to sin.
- Reckon yourself alive to God in Jesus Christ.
Repent from Your Sins and Your Sin and Turn to Christ in Faith.
If you are just looking at the individual things, like I just have to clean up this or that and then I’ll be back to my righteousness and I’ll be prepared to stand before the throne of grace. That is a lie from the pit of hell. You cannot be self-righteous on your own. You have inherited original sin that defiles you so much that your only hope is in Jesus Christ.
The way that this defilement plays itself out is that you don’t even realize it’s happening. You are blind and deaf and are interacting in the world in ways that you think are right. Yet you don’t realize that you are a terror. You are acting contrary to the word of God and you are storing up for yourselves wrath in the day of judgement.
We have to repent of this internal sin that causes desires to spring up from the pits of our souls that are corrupt and sinful. Don’t wait to repent from the acted-out sin, repent now from the desires as you feel them arise. The reason that this is so hard is because in our flesh this is entirely unnatural.
The first thing you have to do is to repent from your sins and your sin and look to Jesus in faith. You have no hope in this battle unless you are trusting in Christ. All of this that I have been describing today about the path whereby we grow in grace. Where the holiness of Christ overcomes the old nature, this is not possible for you if you are still in Adam, if you are still in unrighteousness. If you have not repented from your old sins, confess that they are evil and wicked and turned to Christ in faith. You have no hope until you do that.
Here is the hope of the gospel. This is why this is such good news. As bad as you are, even if you recognize some of the bad things that you do and something of the corrupted nature of your soul, you don’t know the half of it. You don’t know even a little bit of how deep the sin goes in your human person. You have no idea how sinful you are.
Yet as sinful as you are, so much greater abounds our savior Jesus Christ, in his ability to save. So much greater is the purity that he will wash you with by his blood. So much greater is his ability to credit you his overwhelming infinite righteousness, where you have only unrighteousness to defend yourself before the throne of God.
Jesus is a far greater savior than you could possibly imagine. As bad as you are, you have a better savior.
You Need to Reckon Yourself Dead to Sin
There is a theologian named John Murray, he is quoted in the article by Daniel Schrock that I’ve included in that packet I mentioned earlier. John Murray writes this, “We’re not commanded to become dead to sin and alive to God. These are presupposed. It’s not by reckoning these to be facts that they become facts. These are presupposed for all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ by faith. The force of the imperative is that we are reckon with and to appreciate the facts which are already obtained by virtue of our union with Christ.”
We have a new nature. We have to realize that we are no longer identified with sin, but we are now identified with Christ. There was actually in the secular world a study that came out a few years ago, I find it fascinating, that for people who are trying to overcome bad habits like trying to stop overeating or smoking. If you say, “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t”, it seems like the sin in you reaches up and says, “I should be able to do whatever I want to do”. If instead you say, “I don’t”, you’re making a claim on your identity, “I don’t do that anymore, it’s not my identity”, you stand a far better chance of breaking bad habits.
That’s following the logic of Scripture. Although that’s just humanly speaking. We are talking about something that has the power of God’s Holy Spirit behind it. We are called to reckon with the fact that we don’t do those things anymore. It’s not in conjunction, it’s not following after the new identity we have. We have to consider ourselves dead to sin.
Reckon Yourself Alive to God in Jesus Christ.
I’m just quoting Romans 6:11 here. There was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor who lived in the 19th century, a man named Thomas Chalmers. He preached a famous sermon, get ahold of it if you can. It’s called, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In this sermon he says that there are really two ways to get rid of sin in your life. The first way is by saying, boy that is really bad, and I don’t want that. Think about all of the bad things that will happen if I commit that sin. I need to get rid of that bad thing. Eventually if you say, “I can’t do that”, the vacuum of your soul is that you are trying to fill it with something. Eventually you will fill it back with that sin or another sin, unless you do what he calls to develop a new affection.
He says the second way to get rid of sin is to develop a new affection, a new love, a stronger love and this new stronger love has the power to expel old affections. You used to love sin, your task now as you consider yourself alive to God in Jesus Christ is to cultivate a new love for God in Christ Jesus. In Ephesians four, it’s describing that you have to put off the old man and put on Jesus Christ. You have to put off what you used to have, not just by trying to get rid of your things and your sin in life, but by actively expelling those old loves with a new love for Jesus Christ.
The best advice I can give you is to saturate yourself in the Scriptures. To pray to God that by his Spirit he would give you grace to love Jesus so much that your sin becomes increasingly repulsive, whatever shape it takes and whatever form it takes. Reckon yourself alive to God in Jesus Christ. Learn to love Jesus so much that you don’t want your sin anymore. That’s the Biblical model of how to expel old sins from your lives. To consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This is difficult sermon, thanks for hanging with me as we survey a lot of complicated ways that our hearts subtly twist Biblical theology. We have to know where the battle lines are drawn because so often Satan devours us, and we don’t even know that a battle is being fought.
Let me plead with you. If you need to talk more about this, come talk to me. If you need to have someone who’s praying with you, if you need to have someone who will hold you accountable. The elders and I would love to help you with that.
Together, all of us are pursuing purity. All of us have this corruption of unrighteousness that all of us have to be repenting from as we look to Jesus together. That is a battle that we have to fight together because we consider ourselves dead to sin and alive in Jesus Christ.
If you are struggling under the weight of shame, remember the promise of the gospel that for all those who are in Christ Jesus, your old identity was what you were. But if you are in Christ you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God.
Father we pray that as we work through this text you would help us to see Jesus Christ and him crucified. To love him, to seek after him, to put all of our hope and joy and affection in him. That through Christ you might expel our old desires of sin. Father this is something that only the power of your Spirit working in the gospel of the word of Christ can accomplish. We pray that you would do this for Christ’s glory and our good. Amen.