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Dealing today with the biggest question of all: Who qualifies for entrance into God’s Kingdom and enjoyment of all Kingdom Blessings?  There was much fuzzy thinking and denial of reality among the Corinthians just as there is much fuzzy thinking and denial of reality in our culture today.  Paul was urging the Corinthians to take sin seriously.  It was unthinkable that a converted believer who was now consecrated to the Lord Jesus Christ could persist in the types of sins mentioned here.  When one sees clearly the distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous, why would one ever consider submitting conflicts between believers to the adjudication of the unrighteous?

How does this section mesh with the overall context?

Ray Stedman:  What ties this section with that which has gone before is found in the word in Verse 8, “But you yourselves wrong,” and the word in Verse 9, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Those are the same basic root words. What Paul is really saying is, “Look, when you are so aggressive in defense of your own rights that you take another brother to law before a secular court, you are wronging that brother. Even though you may be right in your cause, you are wronging your brother, and that wronging, that unjust action, gives rise to the question, ‘Have you yourself ever been justified before God?'” That is what Paul is saying. To treat another unjustly makes one ask if you have ever been justified, and he says the unjustified, the unrighteous, the unregenerate cannot inherit the kingdom of God if they are committed to these things that he lists as a lifestyle.

Now he surely does not mean that those who have been involved in these things cannot be saved, for he goes on to say, “such were some of you“; they have come out of it. But what he is saying, very clearly, is that these things cannot be continued as a lifestyle for Christians. Conversion makes a visible difference, and if it does not, there is room to question whether there has ever been a conversion.

Robert Gundry: “Don’t be deceived” suggests that the Corinthians have been deceived, or are in danger of being deceived, into thinking that their conduct doesn’t matter to their inheriting God’s kingdom. So Paul lists various sorts of unrighteous people who won’t inherit it. The Corinthians can then judge for themselves whether their conduct rules them in or out of the inheritance.

David Garland: The implication is that Christianity not only offers a completely new sexual ethos and a new ethos regarding material possessions but also brings about a complete transformation of individuals. God’s grace does not mean that God benignly accepts humans in all their fallenness, forgives them, and then leaves them in that fallenness. God is in the business not of whitewashing sins but of transforming sinners (Fee 1993: 39).

William Barclay: Here Paul breaks out into a terrible catalogue of sins which is a grim commentary on the debauched civilization in which the Corinthian Church was growing up.  There are certain things which are not pleasant to talk about, but we must look at this catalogue to seek to understand the environment of the early Christian Church; and to see that human nature has not changed very much. . .

The proof of Christianity lay in its power.  It could take the dregs of humanity and make men out of them.  It could take men lost to shame and make them sons of God.  There were in Corinth, and all over the world, men who were living, walking proofs of the sheer re-creating power of Jesus Christ.  The power of Christ is still the same.  No man can change himself, but Christ can change him.

Richard Hays: We should remember, however, that Paul’s present purpose in 1 Corinthians 6 is not to set up new rules for sexual behavior but to chastise the Corinthians for taking each other to court. All the items in the list of verses 9–10 are merely illustrations of what the Corinthians used to be prior to their coming into the church. But a life-transforming change has occurred: “you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). In light of this transformation, they ought to stop acting like adikoi by taking their property disputes into courts where the powerful can take advantage of the less influential members of the community. Unless we keep this basic aim of the argument in view, our reading of and preaching on this text will become severely out of focus.

Andrew Noselli: Paul’s warning supports the main charge (vv. 1, 4) – wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Paul basically is saying to the believers, “Do not think you can get away with an unrepentantly sinful lifestyle.  You are acting like the unrighteous.  Do not think you can live that way and still be a citizen of God’s kingdom.  Unrepentantly sinful lifestyles do not characterize citizens of God’s kingdom.”




A.  (:9a) General Characterization of Who is Excluded from God’s Kingdom

  1. No Surprise

Or do you not know

Common expression in 1 Corinthians – cf. our similar expression to our children: “Don’t you know any better?  Of course you do!”  Gil Rugh

  1. Universal Standard – Stated in General Terms

that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

Charles Hodge: The tendency to divorce religion from morality has manifested itself in all ages of the world, and under all forms of religion.

David Prior: This inheritance is here likened to (and contrasted with) the Promised Land which awaited God’s people under the old covenant. That earthly inheritance was subject to natural disasters, invaded by hostile enemies, marauded by wild beasts, and generally something of a problem for the people of God to contain, let alone fully to enjoy.

In spite of all the difficulties facing the people of Israel in claiming their promised inheritance, they were under a divine obligation to exterminate every alien influence both in the land and in their own community life. The same summons comes to the people of God under the new covenant: our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading: there is nothing inherently corrupt or corrupting in the kingdom of God: nor will anything of that nature be allowed to enter it. The two cannot mix. The unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God, because God is altogether righteous. The unrighteous actually exclude themselves from the kingdom of a righteous God. They exclude themselves by their own chosen behaviour. Because God’s kingdom reflects his own character of righteousness and compassion, those who insist on living by different standards will not be there. Paul is not talking about isolated acts of unrighteousness, but about a whole way of life pursued persistently by those who thus indicate that they would be aliens in the kingdom of truth and light.

a.  Definition of “the unrighteous

described earlier in 6:1 as those contrasted with the saints;

contrasted with believers in 6:6;

only 2 groups of people

Leon Morris: Unrighteous is without the article in the Greek, the stress being on the character of these people, and not on the unrighteous as a class.  People of this kind are excluded from the kingdom.

b.  Concept of “inherit

(Error of Joseph C. Dillow in The Reign of the Servant Kings – See below in the Notes section)

Inheritance derives from family relationship – not meritorious works.

c.  Identification of “the kingdom of God

Gil Rugh: The kingdom that Christ will establish on earth when He returns; new birth is requirement for entrance (John 3) – We are not yet in the kingdom physically.  Destiny of unbelievers is the eternal fire of Matt. 25:41.

B.  (:9b-10) Specific Characterization of Who is Excluded from God’s Kingdom

  1. Danger of Deception

Do not be deceived

Do not presume upon the doctrine of God’s grace and wink the eye at sin;  Do not water down the impact of what God says in this passage.  It is difficult for us to explain some individual case testimonies . . . but here is what God says about who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul Gardner: Herein lies the power of Paul’s argument. It is possible for people to be deceived about their status. Paul’s command to these church members is brief and to the point: “Do not let yourselves be deceived!” (μὴ πλανᾶσθε; also 15:33). They should know that their life and works provide an important indicator to them of their community status. The holy distinctiveness of God’s people must be clearly evident to all. Paul laid the groundwork for this particular point about the danger of self-deception back in 3:18: “Let no one deceive himself ” (ἐξαπατάω). There, like here, the issue concerns their standing in the community and what is needed to survive on the last day (3:12–15). They deceive themselves by relying on their (worldly) wisdom, which is foolishness with God (3:19). Here, their lack of wisdom has led them to be worldly in their approach to all that is “unrighteous.” After listing some of the behaviors that may be apparent among those who are unrighteous and repeating that they will not inherit the kingdom of God (vv. 9c–10), Paul argues that Christians should be changed people because of the work of Christ in their lives (v. 11).

  1. Universal Standard – Illustrated by Ten Specific Sinful Practices

Reveals who are the unrighteous by position and practice

a.  Neither fornicators

James Boyer: one guilty of any sexual immorality

John MacArthur: by unmarried persons in particular

Gil Rugh: There is no safe sex outside of marriage because God will call you to account for it. ..  The real problem is not AIDS, but Hell – fear God!

b.  Nor idolaters

Idolatry and immoral sex very closely related in Corinth

Daniel Akin: “Idolaters” refers to those practicing perhaps the most basic and fundamental of all sins (see Exod 20:3-6). They give status and position to people and things that rightly belongs only to God. Schreiner points out idolatry is repeatedly addressed in the New Testament (Rom 1:18-25; 1 Cor 5:10-11; 10:7,14; Gal 5:20; Eph 5:5; Col 3:5; Rev 21:8).

c.  Nor adulterers

James Boyer: a particular kind of fornicator, referring to infidelity within the married state

Heb 13:4 – God will judge fornicators and adulterers – make no mistake

d.  Nor effeminate

James Boyer: probable that it is used in the technical sense of a man who submits to homosexual relations, a passive homosexual

Daniel Akin: “Males who have sex with males” refers to both passive homosexual participants (Gk. malakoi) and active homosexual participants (Gk. arsenokoitai). In spite of cultural accommodation and liberal reinterpretations, the Bible is consistent in its condemnation of homosexuality as sinful and contrary to the design and plan of God (see Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Tim 1:10; Jude 7-8). Jesus spoke to this issue as well in Matthew 19:4-6. (For an excellent treatment of the issue, see Gardner, 1 Corinthians, 264–69.)

e.  Nor homosexuals

James Boyer: abusers of themselves with mankind (KJV) . . .  The vividly descriptive term which Paul uses in the original Greek (“one who goes to bed with a male”) makes the meaning distinct.

John MacArthur: Effeminate and homosexuals both refer to those who exchange and corrupt normal male-female roles and relations.

Scripture could not be clearer that such practices are immoral – not some type of alternative lifestyle that should be accepted and accommodated by society.

f.  Nor thieves

James Boyer: those who steal by stealth, the sneak-thief, as compared with a robber who steals by force

g.  Nor the covetous

James Boyer: a greedy, grasping person, one who is always after more.

h.  Nor drunkards

By inclusion in this list it is obvious that Scripture treats alcohol and drug addiction as sinful behaviors rather than medical disorders.  Despite any amount of genetic predisposition, the individual is viewed as accountable for his choices leading to whatever degree of bondage is experienced.

i.  Nor revilers

James Boyer: one who speaks harshly, reproachfully, uses abusive language

Daniel Akin: “Verbally abusive people” (ESV, “revilers”) are those who use harsh and abusive language to mock or scoff or even slander others.

j.  Nor swindlers

John MacArthur: Swindlers are thieves who steal indirectly.  They take unfair advantage of others to promote their own financial gain.  Extortioners, embezzlers, confidence men, promoters of defective merchandise and services, false advertisers, and many other types of swindlers are as common to our day as to Paul’s.

  1. Exclusion from God’s Kingdom

will inherit the kingdom of God

Again, this is a blanket statement – no exceptions.


A.  Pre-Conversion State

Such were some of you

Gordon Fee: The structure of the sentence seems certain. It begins with three verbs, each introduced with the strong adversative “but,” which gives additional force to the “once you were, but now you are not” emphasis of the sentence. As before (1:30), the three verbs are primarily metaphors of salvation, each expressing a special facet of their conversion in light of the preceding sentences: they had been “washed” from the filth of their former lifestyles expressed in the preceding list; they had been “sanctified,” set apart by God for holy, godly living that stands in stark contrast to their former wickedness; though formerly “unjust,” they had been justified, so that now being right with God they may inherit the kingdom that before they could not. Each of the verbs is thus chosen for contextual, not dogmatic, reasons; and their sequence is theologically irrelevant.  “Washed” probably comes first because it most naturally follows the “filth” of the vice catalogue. Finally, since the three verbs refer to the same reality, and since each of them has “God” as the implied subject, the two prepositional phrases are to be understood as modifying all three verbs.  Paul’s understanding of the living God as Triune found in these sentences is therefore difficult to escape, even if the explication of that reality does not appear until later. Indeed, along with the implicit theology found in John’s gospel, passages like this one are the “stuff” out of which the later articulations are made. For Paul, God has effected salvation “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit.”

B.  Process of Conversion – What Happened? Tremendous Transformation

  1. Cleansed and Forgiven of Your Sins

but you were washed

There was a lot of filth and defilement and guilt associated with our sins;

This washing was pictured in baptism.

Gil Rugh: Don’t you feel like you need a bath after you go through the listing of these sins?

Isaiah 1:18

John MacArthur: Refers to new life, through spiritual cleansing and regeneration (cf. Jn 3:3-8, 2Co 5:17; Eph 2:10; Tit 3:5).

  1. Consecrated to God

but you were sanctified

Set apart from our sins and this evil world and Satan and consecrated as clean vessels to the Lord.

John MacArthur: This results in new behavior, which a transformed life always produces.  Sin’s total domination is broken and replaced by a new pattern of obedience and holiness.  Though not perfection, this is a new direction (see Ro 6:17, 18, 22).

  1. Considered Righteous

but you were justified

Imputation of the righteousness of Christ

Should these three actions be taken as generally synonomous or be treated with individual significance?  While all wrapped together in the process of conversion, it seems best to give each term its specific emphasis.

John MacArthur:

  • Washed speaks of new life, of regeneration . . .
  • Sanctified speaks of new behavior. . .
  • Justified speaks of new standing before God.

C.  Powerful Agency of the Triune God

  1. Redemption Accomplished by Christ

in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

On the basis of His authority and work

  1. Redemption Applied by the Holy Spirit

 “and in the Spirit of our God

The Spirit is the one who has baptized us into the body of Christ

Charles Hodge: These clauses are not to be restricted to the preceding word . . . they belong equally to all three of the preceding terms.