1 CORINTHIANS 6:9–14 (NIV-2011)
October 13-15, 2012
20th Weekend after Pentecost – Family and Marriage – Weekend #2
Pastor Tim Smith
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. 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.
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (NIV-2011)
Part 1 – The context 1 Corinthians is a letter that can be difficult to outline, primarily because Paul is partly correcting errors that he sees and partly answering questions from the Corinthians. After talking about divisions in their congregation, Paul talks about moral and ethical problems in their congregation: they haven’t practiced discipline when it was needed, they’ve been bringing lawsuits—and Paul implies that this has happened more than once—lawsuits against each other before pagan judges when that wasn’t necessary, and there is sexual immorality within their group.
That’s not the only problem in Corinth. Besides immorality, there was idolatry, homosexuality, kleptomania, greed, people who abused alcohol, people who abused their money—all kinds of sinfulness. And Paul brings a strong message to sinners: “Don’t you know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?” The list he gives of every kind of sinner from idolater to swindler reminds each of us that we stand condemned before God in our sins, but also this: That those who walk in a sinful lifestyle, flaunting a sin as if it’s not a sin—they are slapping God in the face and challenging Almighty God to judge them. And he does: “They will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
There are those in our nation right now who do exactly that. A person doesn’t become right before God just because they talk the loudest, or just because they paint themselves as martyrs, or just because they’re in your face about it all the time. A marriage isn’t an acceptable marriage before God just because people are in love and are committed to one another. There are other requirements for marriage, and Pastor Sutton spoke about marriage specifically last week. We’re here talking about God’s gifts within marriage this month. You may have learned these in your Catechism days as the “Three C’s” – Companionship, Chastity, and Children. Last week’s focus on the companionship of marriage will lead into next week’s focus on children and our roles as parents for our children. But this morning/evening, we focus on the middle “C,” which is Chastity, or Faithfulness.
Chastity is not the same as Celibacy. Celibacy is a lifelong commitment not to be married, and therefore to turn away from God’s other gifts of marriage. A person who is single their whole life, a person who is celibate, is a person to whom God gives special challenges and special opportunities that he does not give to those who are married. A celibate person has time and freedom from family commitments that may open up a more involved service to the kingdom of God in unique ways.
But let’s move on to Chastity. Chastity is faithfulness, faithfulness to your spouse. Chastity takes on the form of Celibacy before marriage—and crassly we could put this way: “If you’re not married to them, don’t have sex with them.” But it also means more than intimate or sexual faithfulness after marriage. Chastity, true chastity, also means that there will be openness, honesty, and encouragement within that marriage. That the marriage will be for life; that the marriage will reflect the will of God.
Paul doesn’t address one sin in this passage, but a whole list of them, and all of them can break into the love, trust, and faithfulness to a spouse and obedience to the will of God. Now, one of those sins—and the new edition of the NIV accurately and boldly translates this as “men who have sex with men,” is a sin very much in the news and before us all the time in our culture. This sin is called a sin in the Old Testament, and we see it called a sin still here in the New Testament as it is in Romans 1 and other places. It isn’t as if this was a command which Israel was to obey in their Old Testament Covenant relationship with God and is no longer in place anymore. No—this is still a sin against the Sixth Commandment still today. It always will be.
Part 2 Why are we talking about sex and marriage? I want to briefly address this issue, but I want to begin by saying that it is not the place of a Christian pastor to tell his congregation or anyone else how to vote, or whether to vote in an election or for an elected official. However, the Marriage Amendment before us in Minnesota is not about a candidate for office, nor is it about what political party will govern or even what candidate’s ideals or morals are those for which you or I might approve. This is an opportunity to express your agreement that God’s will for marriage is that it will be for one man and one woman—as Pastor Sutton laid out for us according to the text of Genesis 2 last weekend. And I want you to understand especially this: That if you, in your understanding of civic duty, if you choose to vote in the upcoming election, and you do not vote yes in the Marriage Amendment, then your “non-vote” will be counted as a “no-vote,” as it always is with Constitutional Amendments. If you vote, you can’t abstain from this question. You must vote “yes” if you agree with it—anything else is a “no” vote.
Part 3 Sin and grace But let’s return to our text, which speaks to all sins against the intimacy of marriage. Immorality, adultery—we could add other sins the Bible condemned elsewhere like prostitution, incest, polygamy—these are things that happened in history, and even among some of God’s people, but that never, ever means that God approves of that kind of sin, or that God changes his mind or evolves or changes I any way. He says: “I the Lord do not change (Mal. 3:6).” It isn’t as if this is just an ancient point of view that modern mankind can re-interpret.
But modern mankind sure can fall into new ways of sinning. Computers probably create more opportunities for sexual sins and sins of unfaithfulness. A member of our staff did some research a whole ago and found that two years Facebook was listed as one of the contributing factors in something 75% to 80% of all divorces in America. Does that mean that we should forbid our children and ourselves from using computers or Facebook? We need to be careful about that. Movies and magazines and books make more opportunities for sins of unfaithfulness—should we forbid our children from seeing movies, looking at magazines, or reading books? Obviously we need to guard, protect, and guide and direct our children—and we need to talk to them about God’s will concerning marriage and intimacy and what the dangers are before and after marriage in our temptation-filled world.
Right in the middle of our passage, Paul reminds the Corinthians: All these kinds of sinners? That’s what some of you were. And by the way—sinners? That’s what all of us were. Whatever kind of sins we have committed; we lay them before Jesus, and we know that in him there is forgiveness. Was there a sin that you were walking in once in your life? If forgiveness possible?
What do think—is forgiveness and membership in the Holy Christian Church—even membership here at St. Paul’s—possible for someone who is gay? Is there forgiveness?
Let’s take a different sin from this same list. Let’s take the word “thieves” from verse 10, and imagine that there’s a kleptomaniac who wants to be a member. Now, some might argue that a person can be born with kleptomania, or that their environment contributed to it. Or, that there may have been some genetic predisposition towards kleptomania, and it just so happened that the opportunity to steal and a society that is increasingly tolerant of theft has made it easier to succumb to the temptation to steal. In the end, none of that argument is very important. What’s important is that once the sin is exposed, and once the thief is led to confessing the sin of stealing, then there is forgiveness. But if they weren’t just curious about stealing, but became a kleptomaniac and lived in that sinful lifestyle for a long time, it will take time, and it may take counseling, and it will take a lot of patience and encouragement to overcome that temptation, which that person will always live with. But is there forgiveness? Yes. Is there forgiveness if the person stumbles from time to time? Yes.
Even if there were an amendment to re-define the meaning of “stealing” or “ownership,” we would still acknowledge that God’s will under the Seventh Commandment is that we don’t steal. And God’s will under the Sixth Commandment applies in exactly the same way.
It’s the forgiveness of Christ that we must focus on. When someone doesn’t believe that he or she has sinned, then the law must be proclaimed and in some cases explained. But when there is repentance for that sin, then the gospel must be offered in all its joy and all its purity. For the same blood of Christ washes us all clean, leads us to live a godly life, and promises to bring us into God’s glorious righteousness and purity forever. Amen.