Sadly, many in circles of Christendom have embraced behavior and practices which the Bible clearly condemns. Some have the mistaken notion that Christ in his matchless grace came to save us in our sins, not deliver us from our sins. Christ didn’t come so that we could continue in the same destructive lifestyles, but to deliver us that we would walk in newness of life. The Savior’s words to the woman caught in the act of adultery to who He had extended forgiveness was, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Grace didn’t free her to continue in her sin, but grace freed her from her sin. The Church has lost its witness and has become weak because it has in many instances become a “sanctuary city” for sins which the Bible warns those who persist in such lifestyles “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11).
In Corinth we find a church that was abusing grace. Paul in writing to the chaotic church at Corinth pens these inspired words, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the LORD Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 9-11).
The Apostle is rather clear in his denouncing certain behavioral lifestyles which characterizes a person’s life which disqualifies them from entrance into the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at the lifestyles which Paul mentions in verses nine and ten which will find one standing outside the doorway to the Kingdom of God.
Fornicators – The Greek word is πορνοι (pornoi), which is a general term for all kinds of sexual vices and behavior. Paul puts it at the head of a shameful list of sins. Sexual practices and perversion was rampant in the city of Corinth and abounds in our culture of today, as well.
Idolaters – The Greek word is ειδωλολατραι (eidololatrai) which means an image worshipper. Corinth was flood with idol worship. Idolatry and immorality are usually Siamese twins, they exist side by side. An idol doesn’t have to be a marble statue, but anything that takes the place of God in our life is an idol. Men today worship the idol of sports, money, jobs, status, power, etc. Anytime the God of heaven is replaced with an idol one is susceptible to the chronic danger of a life devoid of the Creator God and is subject to living without restraints which leads to immorality.
Adulterers – The Greek word is μοιχοι (moichoi) which is a primary word for one unfaithful and literally means a male paramour; figuratively it refers to an apostate. The word is only used four times in the NT and is used in the context of unfaithfulness to a spouse or unfaithfulness to God.
Effeminate – The Greek word is μαλακοι (malakos), which literally means those who are soft and effeminate, those who have lost their manhood. James Macknight writes that this word is translated from a Greek word meaning “catamite,” the technical word for “a boy used in a sexual relationship between an adult man and a preadolescent or adolescent boy. Catamites were the passive partners in sodomy” (Macknight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), 88).
Abusers of themselves with Mankind – The Greek word is most interesting, it is (arsenokoitai – are-sen-o-koy-tai) which became a generic term for all homosexual practice. Arsenokoitai is a compound word: arseno is the word for “a male,” and koitai is the word for “mat” or “bed.” Put the two halves together, and the word means “a male bed”—that is, a person who makes use of a “male-only bed” or a “bed for males.” The word is only used twice in the NT, the other in I Timothy 1:10 and clearly refers to two people of the same sex having sexual relations. New Testament scholar and former dean at Catholic University of America, Raymond F. Collins, in his book Sexual Ethics and the New Testament: Belief and Behavior (2000), writes that Paul probably coined the word arsenokoitai and etymologically means “bedding down with a man,” as it is not found in any other Greek literature before Paul uses of the term. According to note 70 (p. 99) the Liddell-Scott Greek lexicon indicates that this coined word of Paul’s seems to be a Greek translation of the Hebrew used in rabbinic texts based on Lev 18:22, “lying with a man as with a woman.”
Roman and Greek culture was given over to homosexuality, which helped led to their demise. All cultures that have given themselves over to such an unrestrained lifestyle find themselves in the closing stages leading to the eventual collapse of its civilization. Regarding those engaged in the active lifestyle of such behavior, it should be remembered that the Apostle of Jesus Christ condemned such persons in judgment that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And what is to be thought of churches which not only condone this sin, but in widely publicized cases have ordained to the ministry those who live in such a lifestyle? This writer agrees with James Burton Coffman who writes, “It is the judgment of this writer that churches exhibiting such a total disregard of the New Testament have, in so doing, forfeited all identity with Christianity.” (For a treat of the prevalence of such a lifestyle, see William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), 60.)
Thieves – The Greek word is κλεπται (Kleptai), from where we get our word kleptomaniac. It refers to one who is continually taking from other what is not rightly theirs.
Covetous – The Greek word is πλεονεκται (pleonektai) and it describes “the spirit which is always reaching after more and grabbing that to which it has no right.” It is aggressive getting. It describes one whose aim is to get in order to spend, so that it can live in more luxury and greater pleasure; and it cares not over whom it take advantage so long as it gets what it wants.
Drunkards – The Greek word is μεθυσοι (methusoi) which means uncontrolled drinking. Normally the Greeks were sober people, for their drink was three parts of wine mixed with two of water. However, in luxury-loving Corinth uncontrolled drunkenness abounded.
Revilers – The Greek word is λοιδοροι (loidoroi) meaning abusive, railer, reproach; used of injuring another’s reputation by denigrating, abusive insults, a rude or unscrupulous person, a person who uses foul or abusive language.
Extortionists – The Greek word is αρπαγες (harpax) which meant grasping; it is used for a certain kind of wolf and also for the grappling irons by which ships were boarded in naval battles. It is the spirit which grasps that to which it has no right with a kind of savage ferocity.
What a shameful list of destructive behaviors Paul says excludes one from entering the Kingdom of God. Yet the Good News is that one doesn’t have to be trapped in the persistent grip of such lifestyles, for Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:11. “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the LORD Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Paul acknowledges that many in Corinth had been delivered from such lifestyles. No matter the destructive behaviors, lifestyles, attitudes that are in one’s life, Paul proclaims that the Good News of God’s grace in Christ one can be cleansed and forgiven from their sins and set on a new path which will find the unfolding of God’s intended purpose for which one was created.
We live in a day when sin is dismissed as an antiquated word and any behavior regardless of its destructive consequences personally or socially, is deemed as acceptable. The fallacy of such thinking is visible in the chaos and collapsing of our society and the destructive consequences that we see in the lives of individuals. Paul is clear that one need not remain bound in behavior that will exclude them from the Kingdom of God, but there is deliverance in Jesus Christ. And it is Paul’s insistence that as Christians, if we name His name, that we are to not persist in such behaviors but forsake destructive lifestyles, realizing we are not our own and are called to glorify the One who has transformed our lives.
Let us not embrace or follow lifestyles which society or apostate churches endorses yet which the Bible condemns, but let us forsake those lifestyles which are destructive to our individual lives and detract from bringing honor and glory to the One who gave His life to redeem us from our sin. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20). Amen.