Such Were Some of You

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.

1 Corinthians 6:9–11

This was the scripture I read this morning for my devotions.

Who needs a cup of coffee after reading something this jolting.

Paul wrote this to a Church that was dysfunctional. There was fighting among Christians about which gift of the Holy Spirit was more important than the others; about which preacher was better than the others, all the while, turning a blind eye – even encouraging – sinful behavior to continue in the lives of members of the Church. Moreover, Christians were taking each other to civil court over their disputes, putting themselves under the authority of the unrighteous worldly judges. When Christians wrong and defraud each other, they are behaving like the ungodly, unrighteous world around them, and this is not who you are.

Paul makes his point abundantly clear, and we should not deceive ourselves:

  • Sexual immorality is a sin
  • Idolatry is a sin
  • Adultery is a sin
  • Homosexuality is a sin
  • Stealing is a sin
  • Greed is a sin
  • Drunkenness is a sin
  • Reviling (abusive, angry, critical language) is a sin
  • Swindling others is a sin

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Paul has other such lists in Galatians 5:19-21 and Romans 1:18-32, but the point is clear: these are all sinful behaviors, and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. I may lose my audience, get removed from the blogosphere and social media for saying this, but it must be said, these things are sinful, and those who make a practice of unrighteousness will never enter in the kingdom of the righteous God.

But here’s the point of Paul’s message: “such were some of you.” Paul is writing to the redeemed, to those who have been called out of sinful living and into the righteousness secured for us in the righteousness of Christ. Those who are in Christ have been washed of the sin, cleansed from the filthiness of it. Those who are in Christ have been sanctified, set apart as holy for God. Those who are in Christ have been justified, declared righteous because of the righteousness of our mediator, Jesus Christ.

You were once defined by your unrighteousness, but now you are defined by your new life in Christ. Once you were marked by the division and animosity between God and man, and man and man, that comes about because of sin. Now you are marked by the peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness of our gracious God, and that grace permeates all our relationships.

I think the reason this passage reaches out and grabs us by the collar is because it does the two things that any presentation of the gospel ought to do: 1) It hits us with the condemnation of sin, of which we are all guilty and liable to judgment, and 2) It declares the salvation and redemption that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit.

There is great hope in this passage, for while it does not excuse any sin, it does offer forgiveness in Jesus Christ for every sin. As the Spirit leads you to see the sinfulness of your sins and your desperate need for a savior, may you turn from your life of sin and come to rest in this assurance, that by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, you have been washed, sanctified, and justified in Jesus.

SDG

Wash Your Hands!

Wash your hands, you sinners!
(James 4:8)

The Sayler home has a sign hanging in the main-floor bathroom that says, “Wash your hands and say your prayers, because Jesus and germs are everywhere.”  It’s cute.  And now more than ever, a very timely reminder.

We’re well on into our 5th week of “social-distancing” due to the spread of the Coronavirus.  There are all sorts of community, state, and national efforts to help slow the spread of the infection, but one of the simplest and easiest things each one of us can do is wash our hands.  

I found this picture that shows the effectiveness of handwashing: 

hand washing

My boys and I also enjoyed watching this video on hand-washing:

In short, 20 seconds of hand-washing with warm soapy water is the best way to help prevent getting and spreading viral infections.  While you’re washing your hands, sing a song (Amazing Grace) or recite Scripture or catechism questions, which you can put on index cards and tape to your mirror.

But all of this begs the question, were people not washing their hands before this?  I’m reminded of my favorite quotes of R.C. Sproul, “What’s wrong with you people?”

The fact that we needed to be reminded to wash our hands is bad enough. Then there was a run on soap and hand sanitizer, so that you can hardly find it in stores today. This tells me that some of you weren’t washing your hands like you were supposed to.  What’s wrong with you people!

It has always bothered me that we have to have signs in the bathrooms of restaurants and stores that remind employees they are required to wash their hands. This should just be a given. But then I’ve watched in amazement as people come into a bathroom, do their business, then leave without even approaching the sink. They’re out touching the groceries – argh!

Sorry – Where was I? Oh yeah, hand-washing.

While the text above from James reminds us to wash our hands, we have to remember that’s not really what James is talking about. James wasn’t worried about the spread of a virus. Instead, he was pointing us to a deeper sickness that had infected the Church. James was addressing a worldliness that had crept into the Church, and still lurks in the heart of the church today.  In his letter he comments on an arrogant, selfish, and quarreling spirit that all stemmed from unchecked pride.  This is not what the Church is meant to be, and James unequivocally calls the Church out on it.

Sproul’s video that I shared early relates to this as well.  We tend think so little of the holiness of God that we think his punishment for sin too severe. We then think the peccadilloes that we harbor in our hearts are inconsequential and will be overlooked in the end. What’s wrong with the church if this is our attitude?

James is calling the church to repentance. “Draw near to God” – you’ve been distant from him because of your sin – “and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands” – they are covered in sin – “purify your hearts” – for your love for God has been mixed with worldliness.  

How do we come clean? There’s no amount of hand sanitizer or pumice soap that will clear the stain of your sin. James is pointing us to something else. “Humble yourselves before the Lord,” he says, meaning: repent. Confess your sins to Christ, come clean. Look to Jesus alone for your salvation, your hope, and your peace.  Be obedient to him, for He is your Lord. Let his grace cover you, but also humble you, so that you can love, forgive, and be forgiven.

James is calling us to wash our hands of the stain of sin, that we would live as the true Church of God in Jesus Christ. That is what the world needs now more than anything else: A Church that will live and proclaim the Gospel clearly. The worst part about this viral epidemic is not that so many people are dying (that is tragic enough indeed), but that they are dying in their sin, not knowing the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. May they come to know that grace through the witness of the Church today.

SDG