“AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU, BUT…”
By Wayne S. Walker
“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 Corinthians 6:9-11). This article focuses on verse 11.
Some of these Corinthians had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners. But notice the past tense. Paul wrote, “Such were some of you”—not “are” but “were.” These Corinthians had been among the unrighteous who would not inherit the kingdom of God, but no more. What stood between what they had been before and what they were now when Paul wrote? We shall find the answer as we consider what Paul meant when he said, “And such were some of you, but….”
They were washed. All of us know what it is like to get physically dirty while working in the garden or on the car so that we need to be cleansed or made clean. We also become soiled spiritually and need to be washed because of our sins. David had sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed to cover it up, so he prayed, “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me….Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:3-7). This “washing of regeneration” is made possible by the grace of God (Titus 3:5-7). The agent by which this washing is accomplished is the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5). But when are our sins washed away? “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Once the sins which separated them from God were washed away, they were sanctified. This means to be set apart. These Corinthian “saints” made up “the church of God at Corinth” because they had been “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). They had been set apart from sin to belong to God. How are people sanctified? Regarding the apostles, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Those who obey the truth are separated from this world of sin to be identified as God’s people. Thus, the result of this sanctification, according to Paul in 2 Timothy 2:19-22, is that “The Lord knows those who are His,” because everyone who names the name of Christ must depart from iniquity. These are those who become vessels for honor, “sanctified and useful for the Master” by all fleeing worldly lusts.
Then, when they were set apart from sin to God, they were justified, which means being made right in the sight of God. Paul said, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). The basis for being justified is not doing the works of the old law but the grace of God (Romans 3:20-24). The means by which it is accomplished is the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9). However, it is also “by faith” (Romans 3:28, 5:1). The faith by which we are justified is not a passive or dead faith but one that is demonstrated in doing the works of God (James 2:21-24). This involves being buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-4).
As we consider being washed, sanctified, and justified, we must understand that these are not three separate processes but just three different ways of looking at the same thing. Remember Paul’s list. “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.” So it does not make any difference what we have done or how “bad” we have been. If we are willing to turn our lives over to God in faith, genuine repentance, and obedience, we, like these formerly unrighteous Corinthians, can be washed, sanctified, and justified—or in other words, we can be forgiven and saved.
—in Search for Truth, 7/19/2015 (Vol. VI, No. 50)