By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:9-11).
When Paul tells us that “such were some of you,” he tells us something about several people. He tells something about some of the Christians at Corinth their past and their present. He tells something about those who converted these people. He tells something about the brethren who were willing to receive these people.
Someone had made pro-found changes. When Paul said, “such were some of you,” he means that they were no longer “fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners.” They had been cleaned up. They had been forgiven and no longer practiced their former sins. The adulterers (married or unmarried) who had been committing adultery no longer did. The homosexual was no longer a homosexual because he no longer practiced homosexuality. The drunkard was no longer such because he did not still get drunk. The fornicator had quit his fornication. One apparently did not quit his fornication or else he took it up after becoming a Christian. Paul told the Corinthians what they needed to do about him (1 Cor. 5:11-13).
Someone had convened these people. Some one was willing to reach out to these people with the gospel. It is one thing to boldly preach against the fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness and such like, warning that such “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” It is another thing to be willing to take the time and expend the effort to teach a fornicator, a homosexual, a thief, or a drunkard. Could our problem be that really, deep down in our hearts, we would prefer not to have people with such unsavory backgrounds as members of the church where we attend? We had rather reach those folks across the street who are well-respected people in the community or that nice couple who would not really have to make too many changes in their life-style. But that woman down the street who entertains men regularly, would not make “us a good member.” Nor would that man we see staggering home almost every week-end. Nor would that fellow that everybody in town knows to be “gay.” Nor would that woman who has been married five times and presently living with a man who is not her husband (cf. John 4:17, 18). No, they would not be “good members” without changes in their hearts and life styles, but, should we assume that the gospel will not touch their hearts and change their lives without even trying to approach them with it?
If someone had not been willing to reach out to these people at Corinth, Paul would have had to say “such are” instead of “such were.” The gospel is not just for those good neighbors who only need some minor doctrinal or moral adjustments it is also for those who are steeped in the vilest of sins.
Someone had received these people. They were part of the local “church of God which is at Corinth.” Not only had someone reached out to convert these people, after they were converted the brethren at Corinth had received them into their fellowship. Notice Paul said, “such were some of you.” This means that not all the brethren had such vile backgrounds. Yet, they were willing to receive those who had been of such unsavory character. Today, if we are not careful, those of us who have been given a proper Christian upbringing may become rather smug and self-righteous, finding it hard to accept with open arms those who were formally of such “low character.” Oh, we give lip service to the power of the gospel to save sinners all sinners but still find it hard to unconditionally accept those with backgrounds described by Paul in our text even after it can be said “such were some of you.” This writer has known preachers to get in trouble with congregations for their efforts to study with and convert such “low life.” After the studies produced results, these brethren let it be known that they had rather not have people with such backgrounds as members. No matter that the gospel had reached them, changed their hearts and lives and lifted them to a higher plane the fine cultured (?) brethren with good backgrounds (at least in their own eyes) could not bring themselves to fully accept them as members of the congregation. They are often allowed to be members but not really “received” because their every move is watched for any signs of their former life that might be used to discredit them and those who were willing to reach out to convert them.
Brethren, we all need to remember that “while we were still sinners” that Christ died for us. He died for every man regardless of his previous record. When any person will hear and obey the gospel of Christ the Lord will save him.
Let us not forget that we were ourselves sinners some guilty of the same sins listed in the text, while some did things not considered as vile by good people but all guilty! The same grace that saved us will save any sinner. The Lord accepted us when we turned from our sins and obeyed his terms of pardon. The Lord will accept the fornicator, the homosexual, or the drunk when he turns from his sin and obeys. We need to reach out and try to convert them. When they are converted, we had best not only accept them, but accept them with the joy that befits rejoicing over one who was lost and is found. (Read Luke 15.) Our Lord said for us to preach the gospel to “every creature” (Mark 16:15). Let us not pick and choose our creatures, let us try to reach every creature possible regardless of his background. Who is wise enough to know, in advance, who will or will not be changed by the gospel?
Guardian of Truth XLI: 16 p. 12-13
August 21, 1997