"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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 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.”
-I Corinthians 6:9-11
When a home catches fire, no matter how small the blaze, the effects can be devastating. A fire destroys everything in its path. Nothing is immune. But even when the fire is safely extinguished, extensive damage from smoke and water often remain. If the fire is extinguished quickly, the home can be saved. However, everything that has been exposed to the fire, smoke, and water, must be extensively cleansed in order for the home to be livable once again.
|Photograph by Hollyn Johnson, The Bay City Times|
This is analogous of sin, which, much like fire, consumes everything in its path. Its pervasive flame cannot, and will not, be stopped unless extinguished by Christ.
Paul therefore rhetorically asks the Corinthians if they understand that no unrighteous will be in heaven. He then lists a number of sins that are grotesque to God: sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft, greed, drunkenness, and others. Apparently someone had been intentionally misleading this group of Corinthian believers by telling them that they could still partake in these sins, while claiming to have salvation, and receive the kingdom of God. However, Paul’s point in writing this is to say that those who continually commit sin without conviction and repentance have no righteousness within them. They are merely posing as believers. There are always times when we struggle with certain sins, but the mark of true faith in Christ is the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which causes repentance in our hearts and forgiveness by God. Just as a home that has suffered extensive fire damage is unlivable for human beings, so a soul that continually commits sin without repentance is unlivable for the Holy Spirit. A person cannot truly be a believer while engaging in these destructive sins.
However, Paul follows this warning with words of hope. Prior to their faith, the Corinthians had been dead to righteousness. They were engulfed in the pervasive flames of these particular sins. But Paul says that Christ has extinguished that unrighteousness, washed their souls, and provided a clean place for the Holy Spirit to reside where it could do its work of sanctification. With that cleansing, His people have been justified by the name of Christ and by the Spirit of God.
The Lord can cleanse a heart that has suffered from the pervasive effects of sin. He can save His people from these horrendous sins. A believer may have a relapse from the past life every now and again, but true faith always yields conviction and repentance. Let us strive to have a repentant heart, seeking to do all that is necessary to eliminate temptation to sin.