Delivered to Bethlehem Baptist Church in 2004. True then, still true now.
Delivered to Bethlehem Baptist Church in 2004. True then, still true now.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “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.”
With the news this week that active NBA player Jason Collins revealed his homosexuality, a largely celebrated decision (link), an important note that cannot go overlooked is that Mr. Collins claims to be a Christian and sees no incompatibility with his homosexual sin. Largely, this is what drew the excellent response by ESPN analyst Chris Broussard (link again).
This clinging to sin while simultaneously claiming the name of Christ as Savior is not isolated to homosexuality. Just recently I watched a video of a street preacher involved in a discussion with a TV reality star, who despite her continued animosity, foul language, unrepentant sinful behaviors, and likely inebriation, continued to cling to her profession of faith in Christ, citing God’s love as evidence for it. (see post on God’s Love here). It seems like only a few years ago that the world labeled Christians most often as hypocritical because the behaviors of those who profess faith in Christ did not match the lifestyle that the Bible outlines for believers (or the worldly expectation that believers are perfect).
Now there has been a paradigm shift. Professing Christians can live any lifestyle they wish, including open homosexuality, without any fear of the hypocritical label, but are simply free to live how they want. The pendulum swing from legalism to license is nothing really new, but it is certainly something that the Church needs to address more and more.
In the verses above, the Apostle Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth, provides a series of contrasts beginning with the contrast of heaven and the unrighteous who will not enter there. Continuing his thoughts from the previous verses, Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Kingdom of God here is a reference to the kingdom which Christ has ushered in and for the sake of simplicity we can refer to it as eternal life, or heaven. So there are those who are unrighteous who will not enter heaven. The word “unrighteous” used here is the Greek word adikos (unjust, unrighteous, wicked) which we will look at again later, but for now we’ll leave it as an adjective describing a particular group of people.
The immediate question might be, “So Paul, who are these unrighteous people that will not get into heaven?” Isn’t that the ultimate question on most peoples minds, am I going to heaven? It’s almost as if Paul perceived that there are many who assume they are going to heaven, in fact most everyone you talk to will affirm that they are going to heaven. Not on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, but on their basic understanding of being “good”. It is to that line of argumentation that Paul says, “do not be deceived”. Paul then begins to color inside the lines of the picture he’s outlined for us when he used the term “unrighteous”. Here he tells us that the neither the: sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality,thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers will enter heaven. If there were any doubt that this list referred to the unrighteous who would not enter heaven, Paul began his statement in the negative “neither”, listed the people, and concluded with “will inherit the kingdom of heaven”, thus closing what Charles Spurgeon calls the “black list”. This ends the first contrast of heaven with those who will not enter.
Next, it needs to be noted that Paul is not listing sins. He’s not rattling off a list of do’s or don’ts. He has personalized this list to the individual level. Those persons who fornicate, or have sex outside of marriage, are sexually immoral and will not enter heaven. Those persons who have idols in their lives, whether it be food, entertainment, family, alcohol, drugs, name it, are idolaters and will not enter heaven. The person who has an adulterous affair is an adulterer and will not enter heaven. Men who practice homosexuality, note again it is personalized from more than just deed or actions, but it is the “men” who do the acts. (Please note: this is not excluding lesbianism from sin, see Romans 1:26-27) And so on down the list. Why is this so important to notice? Because it has to be understood that sin is something more than just what a person does or doesn’t do. If it were just a matter of cleaning up your act and “being good” then the person with the strongest willpower would win. But that is not the case. Sin is intrinsic to the nature of humans, i.e. it is a part of who we are, because we were born with a sinful nature. That is why Paul identifies a person on the basis of their sin.
This leads to the next contrast from the passage, “and such were some of you”. Here Paul has taken great aims to describe, while not exhaustively it is certainly representative, a black list of those who will not enter heaven. But in this particular sentence he contrasts the “those that will not enter” list with a phrase addressed to his audience and subsequently future readers, “and such were some of you”. The use of “were” here is the turning point. Paul points to the past of his audience in Corinth to remind them that even some of those Christians among them were once on this same “black list” that he has just described. Perhaps even some of you today who are reading this passage would be considered among the “such were some of you”. Consider how it is that God would save you from the black list of sinners. Perhaps some of you reading would still be on that list mentioned above. Consider how it is that you could get off of that list. Which begs the next question, if Paul hasn’t listed individual sins, or do’s and don’ts, then how is a person supposed to get off of the black list and into the group “and such were some of you”? How does someone make that change if it can’t be something that they just stop doing and then start being good? Well, the answer is that there is nothing a person can do to change their identity of being associated with the sin they’ve committed as a result of their very nature. But there is One who can make that change for them and His name is Jesus Christ.
The next contrast that we see is again the list of sinners and their identity with sin now contrasted fully with the “and such were some of you” and how they’ve obtained their new identity. “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.” Three particular actions were performed on behalf of those who used to be among the homosexual, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, etc. – washed, sanctified, and justified. While not particularly in chronological order, nevertheless, the list is significant. To this washing, Charles Hodge writes, “to wash means to purify, and is frequently used in Scripture to express moral or spiritual purification.” John Gill comments on the meaning of washing to refer to that
“which is not to be understood of external washing, of corporeal ablution, or of their being baptized in water; so they might be, and yet not be cleansed from their filthiness, either by original or actual transgressions; nor of the washing of regeneration, which more properly comes under the next head; but of their being washed from their sins by the blood of Christ, through the application of it to them, for the remission of them”
While there may be some debate on the application of washing in this passage, there is absolutely no reason here to assume the physical method of baptism, instead it should refer either to the “washing of regeneration” or the “washing by the blood of Christ” and I tend to take the reading of Matthew Henry who writes, “The wickedness of men before conversion is no bar to their regeneration and reconciliation to God. The blood of Christ, and the washing of regeneration, can purge away all guilt and defilement.” Here we see that both applications (though the latter will be spoken of next as Gill pointed out) of washing are necessary to purge the sin and guilt of believers. (see also 1 John 1:7, Rev. 7:14, Ephesians 5:26, Ezekiel 36:22-32)
Next, those who were formerly marked as the guilty sinners from Paul’s list have been sanctified. Again, it’s important to realize that this mention of washed, sanctified, and justified is not a chronological list, but is provided to point out the absoluteness of the work of God in the life of a believer. Sanctified always refers to being made holy or set apart. So those among the “such were some of you” in contrast to their prior sinful defilement, have been sanctified. This is a work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer and it occurs at regeneration, the moment the Holy Spirit takes out the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh, or what is commonly referred to as being born again. In this sense sanctification is complete although the process of progressive sanctification (or being made holy unto perfection) is an ongoing work by the Spirit in the life of a believer and is not completed this side of heaven.
Finally, we see Paul saying that the “such were some of you” have been justified. This is the Greek word dikaioo and it is the positive counterpart to the word for unrighteous, adikos, used earlier in the passage, providing again another contrast. Justified is a legal term referring to the believer’s positional standing with God the Father and it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that it can happen, “you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Because of Christ’s perfect righteousness, those who have repented and placed their faith in Him can stand before God with confidence that they have been made righteous, or justified, on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. A person, regardless of their sinful past can be washed, sanctified, and justified by repenting of their sin and placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
From this short passage, we can see the Lord makes absolutely clear that for the believer in Christ, identification with a sinful behavior is simply incompatible. For those who do will not enter heaven. That doesn’t mean that the believer will be sin-free, but it does mean they can no longer be identified on the basis of their old sinful nature. As it relates to homosexuality, even in the case of Jason Collins, it is incompatible to claim Christ as Savior, to have been washed, sanctified, and justified and still be identified as one from the “black list”. What a glorious gospel truth that Christ saves the vilest of sinners such that we can claim, “and such was I”, because I have been washed by the blood of Christ and the water of purification, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and justified by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yesterday was a pretty significant day for the sports world as Jason Collins, NBA veteran and Stanford alumnus, announced that he was coming out as homosexual. Collins becomes the NBA’s first active player to identify themselves as an open homosexual. In fact, Collins becomes the first active player to do so for any of the 3 major sports, NFL, MLB, and NBA. His decision certainly will have a long-lasting affects going forward on those who decide to make a similar admission. Following his announcement, Collins received support from former President Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, NBA Commissioner David Stern, tennis star Martina Navratilova, former NFL star Michael Strahan, and fellow NBA players, Kobe Bryant, Baron Davis, and Steve Nash, among others. Each of these and a list of many more, offered their encouragement to Collins most of which included worlds of admiration and praise for his bold and courageous decision. These actions by Collins’ supporters are what I’d like to focus on by looking at what Romans 1 addresses within the context of God’s wrath against unrighteousness. Note the following:
“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
Notice here in Paul’s opening discourse of Romans, he states fully God’s displeasure against sinful behaviors which flow out of the idolatrous heart. Following the idolatry of the heart, “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” God gives the idolater over to the thing that they most desire and in the end, it is this lust and desire for sin over desire for God that leads to their ultimate destruction. Again, in verse 26 Paul says that, “God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” It is here in this 3rd level of manifested debauchery that Paul highlights God’s judgment of homosexuality. As a side note, so many people think that homosexuality will lead to judgment, i.e. that a nation who gives into homosexuality will be judged. God clearly states here that HOMOSEXUALITY IS JUDGMENT. It is the fruit of the idolatrous heart that worships the creature rather than Creator. So when you see a nation, such as America, giving itself over to the acceptance of homosexuality you don’t need to look for the coming judgment, for the judgment has already come.
As Paul progresses through a list of sins, he concludes with the following, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” This is where the Jason Collins story ties in. All those who have given their approval and commendation to such a “bold” and “brave” act have done nothing but condemn themselves by giving acceptance to the very thing that God hates, namely sin, and they show their delight in that which He abhors.
It should be stated also that this decision by Collins was not without its detractors; including several outspoken Christians from the NBA such as Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson,
“As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and I’m certainly praying for them at this time.”
Also, NBA analyst Chris Broussard,
“Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”
Here’s the full clip from Broussard on ESPN:
Before I conclude let me be clear to say that homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin. It is not the bottom of the barrel of sins, so to speak. It’s more like the outward manifestation of the inward condition of an idolatrous heart. As wisely pointed out by Mr. Broussard above and certainly as can be seen in the verses from Romans, those who commit sins of any kind are in open rebellion to God. Paul’s concluding statements include such sins as disobedience to parents and lying in the same paragraph as homosexuality and murder. Far from “picking on homosexuality” God’s Word gives an equal opportunity objection to all sin, including homosexuality.
Some will say that it is unloving to not accept a person for who they are. But that’s the wrong response. The real response is, how unloving is it to allow someone to continue down a path that dishonors God and will ultimately lead to eternal death and separation from Him by doing nothing but saying “I’m proud of you”. God’s forgiveness is available to all those who seek Him in repentance and faith, regardless of the sin.