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Message # 22 | 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 | August 28, 2016


What are we as Americans afraid of?  Alexandra Sifferlin of Time Magazine offers us a list which comes from a recent survey by researchers at Chapman University. The researchers asked a random sample of 1,541 adults to rate the level of fear in a number of different areas. Based on their findings, here were the top 10 fears for 2015:

  • Corruption of government officials (58.0%)
  • Cyber-terrorism (44.8%)
  • Corporate tracking of personal information (44.6%)
  • Terrorist attacks (44.4%)
  • Government tracking of personal information (41.4%)
  • Bio-warfare (40.9%)
  • Identity theft (39.6%)
  • Economic collapse (39.2%)
  • Running out of money in the future (37.4%)
  • Credit card fraud (36.9%)[1]

I would imagine that none of us are surprised by that list. In fact, we all would probably have included some of those items on our own list. You know what wasn’t on the list?  People don’t fear God’s judgment over their sin. You might say, “little tricky!”  That’s probably not a fair assessment, and I might agree with you. Probably the questions were asked in such a way as to not really open up the door for people offering God’s wrath as one of their options.  But that’s kind of the point.  That which we ought to be most fearful of, doesn’t even make the list. This is quite different than the picture that is painted for us by John Bunyan in his book Pilgrim’s Progress.

As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do?” . . .

Now I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was . . . reading in his book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, “What shall I do to be saved?”

I saw also that he looked this way, and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still because (as I perceived) he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him, and he asked, “Wherefore dost thou cry?”

He answered, “Sir, I perceive, by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment; and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second.”

Then said Evangelist, “Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils?” The man answered, “Because, I fear that this burden that is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave, and I shall fall into [hell]. And Sir, if I be not fit to go to prison, I am not fit to go to judgment, and from thence to execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.”

Then said Evangelist, “If this be thy condition, why standest thou still?” He answered, “Because I know not whither to go.” Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, “Fly from the wrath to come.”

The man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, “Whither must I fly?” Then said Evangelist, (pointing with his finger over a very wide field,) “Do you see yonder wicket-gate?” The man said, “No.” Then said the other, “Do you see yonder shining light?” He said, “I think I do.” Then said Evangelist, “Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.” So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door when his wife and children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on crying, Life! life! eternal life! So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the plain.[2] . . . [On his journey to the yonder wicket-gate, the man came to the Slough of Despond.]

“This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arise in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place: and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.[3]

[Being released from the Slough of Despond by the man called Help, Christian arrives at the gate and the Interpreters house.  The next day the Interpreter sends him along the highway.] Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back. He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.[4]

“Thus far did I come laden with my sin,

Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,

Till I came hither. What a place is this!

Must here be the beginning of my bliss?

Must here the burden fall from off my back?

Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?

Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be

The Man that there was put to shame for me!”[5]

In just a few quotes from the Pilgrim’s Progress we see the transition of the man called Christian from a place of being burdened by the weight of his sin and the fear of judgment to a place of bliss. This is always the case. The most encouraging passages in Scripture often deal with God’s grace extended to us in our salvation, but at those same moments, those passages usually reveal and discuss man’s sinfulness.  Many of the sweetest and encouraging passages of scripture are in the midst of passages of condemnation and acknowledgments of man’s sinfulness.  That’s what we find in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  We come to realize that we can never truly appreciate the grace and love of Christ’s salvation if we have not yet acknowledged and felt the dreadful weight, shame, and guilt of our sin.  Our ability to enjoy grace is due to our awareness of what we are being saved from – that being our sinfulness.

Last week we connected these three verses to the context. The truths of these verses were to motivate the Corinthian believers to holiness.  Their actions towards one another were harmful, sinful, and not the appropriate conduct of brothers and sisters in Christ. They were taking each other to court and in so doing shaming the name of Christ and defrauding and wronging their brothers. Paul reminds them that while this is the conduct that once characterized them; because they had been saved, it was no longer the conduct that should characterize them.

What I’d like to look at this morning is the beauty of these three verses, but to get there we have to wade through the Slough of Despond and get to the other side. Once we do we will see and cherish a beautiful truth.

Purpose Statement: My eternal position is not rooted in what I’ve done but in what Christ has done in me.  Let’s work our way to this beautiful truth . . . let’s trudge through the Slough of Despond . . . let’s take a look at sin.

Message Outline

Don’t Be Deceived; Sinners will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

A command to not be deceived points to our tendency and ability to be deceived. Paul is acknowledging that the truth he is about to present will be taken, twisted and falsely represented to the point of people not accepting it as truth.

What is that truth?  That sinners will not be part of the kingdom of God.  Some have rejected this truth as they hold to Universalism. Universalism accepts the truth that God is love and that he desires all men to be saved, but they wrongly conclude that as a result, all men will actually be saved. They have been deceived into thinking that God will not really judge sin. Others are deceived into thinking that the sins listed in this passage are not truly sinful. They have recrafted what adultery or greed are. They may have redefined homosexuality or dismissed it as cultural taboo of a more conservative era.

πλανάω.  Verb, present passive imperative, second person, plural. (1) active lead astray, cause to wander; figuratively mislead, deceive, cause to be mistaken (MT 24.5); (2) passive; (a) literally go astray (MT 18.12), wander about (HE 11.38); (b) figuratively, as blameworthy and mistaken evaluation be deceived or led astray, be mistaken, be deluded (1C 6.9; GA 6.7); as abandoning what is true and committing oneself to error err (in heart) (HE 3.10; JA 5.19)[6]

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s specific to the struggles for the Corinthians.  By the way they happen to be pretty universal struggles. Paul could have placed in this list numerous other sins. He just wanted to give them a spattering of the sins that were present within them.

The list of sins in chapter 6. Here he first mentioned sexual sins: (1) the sexually immoral, those who are involved in any kind of premarital or extramarital sexual relations; (2) idolaters, mentioned here because of the close association between sexual immorality and many pagan religions; (3) adulterers, those who break the sanctity of marital sexual exclusivity; (4) male prostitutes, those who served in pagan religious sexual rituals, and (5) homosexual offenders, those who practice homosexual relations in general.

The second grouping of sins deal with social sins. In a general way, these are the sins by which we abuse one another. (1) Thieves are those who steal as a way of life. Interestingly enough we find its root word to be kleptes which we draw our word kleptomaniac. This is what they do. This is what identifies them.  (2) The greedy are those who have “an unquenchable desire to possess for themselves.”[7]  The word translated as greed “has the connotation of grasping more and more, being totally unsatisfied with what we already have.”[8]   And as for (3) swindler, this word carries the ideas of not just a robber but vicious and destructive, “to tear apart.”  Greed is the internal motivation and “swindler” is how it can present itself in its most destructive external form.

ἅρπαξ, gen. αγος    (1) vicious, ravenous, destructive, like a wild animal (MT 7.15); (2) violently greedy (LU 18.11); substantivally robber, swindler (1C 6.10)[9]

(4) Drunkards are those who consume alcohol to excess. (5) Slanderers are those who falsely accuse others. They intentionally abuse others with their speech.  They are revilers, slanderers, and abusive people.[10]

Except for the addition of thieves and the expansion of the sexually immoral into subclasses of adulterers, male prostitutes, and homosexual offenders, this list is identical to the list in 1 Corinthians 5:10–11. [11]

A side note on the sin of homosexuality. Due to the fact that this is a hotly debated subject in our time and because there have been a number of evangelicals that have come out offering different interpretations of this passage in favor of a monogamous and loving homosexual relationship, I thought it best to take just a moment to offer a little more insight into this particular area. The ESV translates two different words when it offers the phrase “men who practice homosexuality.” The first word is malakos and the second is arsenokoitai. Malakos is used a couple other times.

This word occurs in Matt 11:8, and Luke 7:25, where it is applied to clothing, and translated “soft raiment;” that is, the light, thin garments worn by the rich and great. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except here.[12]

In this verse the word is being applied to morals and is in the context of a list of sexual sins. Even in Greek culture, it would have been undesirable and culturally inappropriate for a man to place himself in a subjected sexual role. He was to be the dominant partner.  This word carries the idea of the sexually passive homosexual partner. All the Corinthians would have looked on poorly to this type of role.  On the other hand, Paul as well condemns the other homosexual partner by using the word arsenokoitai. There is really little to no debate that this word refers to the active homosexual partner. This would have been the dominant partner. This word is only used here and in 1 Timothy 1:10. It appears possible that Paul took two different words, found in Leviticus 18 and 20 which are condemning homosexuality, and made them the one word we find here in 1 Corinthians. Paul also mentions the sin of homosexuality in Romans.

Romans 1:27 (ESV) and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

The concept of ‘natural’ has as well gone through quite a bit of debate. ‘Natural’ does not refer to what we personally sense about ourselves or desire within ourselves, but instead refers to what was intended by God at creation. It is true that it is now natural for sinful people to want to sin, but that wasn’t the case at the point of creation.  Paul is referring to the natural created order. So then the question remains, what was natural at creation?

Genesis 2:18–24 (ESV) 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” . . .  21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

As Creator, God established for us what was natural.  He determined that marriage and appropriate sexual relations was between a married man and woman. He is then consistent throughout the Bible in declaring that any violation of that created order is a sin, whether it’s homosexuality, adultery, fornication, or any sexual behavior outside of marriage between one man and one woman.

A caution. Don’t pick the sins in this list that you want to focus on.  This is one of those passages which we will often go to establish the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. We are right in doing this. Sometimes in the process, though, we tend to lift specific sins up as more perverse than others in the same list.  Is homosexual behavior sinful? Yes!  But so is greed.  So is heterosexual lusts. We can tend to emphasize the sins that we don’t connect with and gloss over the sins that find a home in our lives.

There’s the Slough of Despond. That’s what we were. But wait!  There’s more.

Be encouraged; God washes, sanctifies, and justifies sinners.

Position not action. I’m going to argue that these people, characterized by these particular sins, are referring to unrepentant sinners, not a believer who sins in this way.  Therefore, my logic would require that committing these sins does not of necessity identify you as that type of sinner.

So then, to whom is this referring? These people are participants in these actions and are not characterized by repentance of sin.  And yet, some of you may say, “but I keep committing the same sin over and over again.” Let me ask you this, “are you characterized by repentance?” If you are characterized by repentance, then you are not identified by one of these sins.  Why can I say that?  Because in the same way that we are commanded to forgive a continual offense, God does the same with us.

Luke 17:3–4 (ESV) Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Notice how the command in this scripture demands that we are to forgive numerous times for the same sin within the same day.  Do you ever feel like that is a reality for you?  Do you sin multiple times in the same way within one day?  God directs us to forgive each time, which then implies he does the same.

Washed, sanctified, and justified. There are three important and beautiful words that we find in these verses. Verse nine and ten discuss actions (or sins) that we are characterized prior to salvation. Now there is a transition in verse eleven. There are three things that are done to us.

The first work done to us is that we are washed. This word is in the middle tense. For those of you who did good in your English classes – you may remember what a middle tense reveals.

The middle voice emphasizes the subject’s own involvement in the action of the verb and/or in the resultant benefits arising from the action of the verb.[13]

This is the only of the three words that is in the middle tense.  The other two are in the passive.  The action is being done to them.  They are in no way performing the action.  But in this case – with washed – the subject is involved in the action.  How might that be?  How are we involved in our washing? Let’s look at Acts 22:16 to better understand how this might work.

Acts 22:16 (ESV) And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

There are three imperatives in the verse . . . (1) Rise (2) Be baptized and (3) Wash away sins.  It is only the third that has a qualifier with it, that being “calling on his name.”  Therefore . . . Ananias tells Paul, “Rise, be baptized based on this new identification with Christ, and have your sins washed away by calling on the name of Jesus.  The New Living Translation offers us a helpful wording.

‎Acts 22:16 (NLT) What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’

This passage in Acts is the only other time this word is used in the New Testament.  It offers us a great way to assess how we are part of our washing.  We call on the name of the Lord Jesus. When we do, we are washed by the Holy Spirit.

The second work done to us is that we are sanctified. We usually define sanctification as that work of the Holy Spirit whereby he conforms us more and more to the character of Jesus Christ.  It is a process which only ends when we see Christ. Our usual definition views sanctification as a journey.  In 1 Corinthians 6, the emphasis is not on the process or journey.  The focus in this passage is on the work of God in setting us apart for a purpose. We have been dedicated or consecrated by God for a holy purpose.

ἁγιάζω make holy, consecrate, sanctify; (1) of things set apart for sacred purposes consecrate, dedicate (MT 23.19); (2) of God’s name treat as holy, revere (MT 6.9); (3) of persons; (a) objectively, of Christ and his church acknowledged as being God’s own possession set apart for a holy purpose, dedicate, consecrate (1C 6.11); (b) subjectively, of spiritual and moral preparation sanctify, make holy, purify (1TH 5.23) . . .[14]

Not only are we washed and sanctified, we are as well justified. We have been declared righteous.  A pronouncement by God has been made. He declared sinful people righteous.

Romans 3:24–28 (ESV) 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.


It is well for Christians to look back on what they once were. It will produce: (a) humility, (b) gratitude, (c) a deep sense of the sovereign mercy of God, (d) an earnest desire that others may be recovered and saved in like manner . . . The design of this is to remind them of what they were, and to show them that they were now under obligation to lead better lives – by all the mercy which God had shown in recovering them from sins so degrading, and from a condition so dreadful.[15]

Purpose Statement: My eternal position is based on what Christ has done not on what I’ve done.  My identity is not rooted in what I’ve done but what Christ has done in me. This is not meant to allow the unrepentant sinner to live in comfort without fear of God’s judgment – this is intended to encourage the repentant sinner that your position in Christ and your identity is not so flimsy as to rest on your ability to stop sinning, but instead on the rock of Christ’s eternal salvation.

To argue that one need not be changed from a life of moral pollution disregards the objective of Christ’s death. To argue that one cannot be changed from these pollutions cast doubts on the power of the Spirit. Even if Christians face temptations to continue in these past sins, the Spirit can empower them to resist. Only God can untwist twisted perversions.[16]




[1] Alexandra Sifferlin, Times Magazine, Accessed August 25, 2016.

[2] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

[3] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

[4] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

[5] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

[6] Timothy Friberg, et al., Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 314.

[7] Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, 89.

[8] Martin Luther (1483-1546), paraphrase from “Sermon on Psalm 110” [1518], WA, 1:696, quoted in Life Together [1954], Dietrich Bonhoeffer & tr. Daniel W. Bloesch & James H. Burtness, Fortress Press, 2004, p. 27

[9] Timothy Friberg, et al., Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 75.

[10] Timothy Friberg, et al., Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 248.

[11] Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, 89.

[12] Barnes, Barnes’ New Testament Notes – Enhanced Version. 1.0 edition. Notes from 1 Cor 6:9.

[13] Fredrick J. Long, Kairos: A Beginning Greek Grammar (Mishawaka, IN: Fredrick J. Long, 2005), 25.

[14] Timothy Friberg, et al., Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 31.

[15] Barnes, Barnes’ New Testament Notes – Enhanced Version. 1.0 edition. Notes from 1 Cor 6:11.

[16] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 217.

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