Turning from Our Ungrateful Ways

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” (v. 11).

- 1 Corinthians 6:9–11

Good works, Scripture tells us, cannot get us into the kingdom of God. All our righteousness is no better than a polluted garment (Isa. 64:6). The Lord demands perfection of us if we try to justify ourselves by our obedience (Gal. 5:3). Since we cannot hope to render perfect obedience, we must trust in Jesus alone to “become the righteousness of God,” to be declared righteous before the Father’s judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:21). Believers certainly must do good works (Eph. 2:8–10), but these good works follow and prove the faith by which we are justified; our good works are not added to our faith as the basis for God declaring His people righteous.

Despite our inability to do enough good works to earn the Father’s favorable verdict, we must recognize that our failure to do good merits God’s wrath in the first place. In other words, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all those who do evil—all those who refuse to honor Him and break His commandments enthusiastically (Rom. 1:18–3:20). God’s wrath, therefore, remains on all naturally conceived descendants of Adam until they turn from their sin unto Christ.

Repentance is required for salvation, as question and answer 87 of the Heidelberg Catechism proclaim. As we have said in the past, the demand for repentance by no means takes away from the fact that we are justified by faith alone. In fact, repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin, for we must turn from trust in ourselves and our idols if we are truly to trust in Christ alone.

Today’s passage reveals that we cannot be redeemed as long as we love our sin. When Paul says that idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, revilers, the greedy, and the sexually immoral cannot inherit the kingdom, he does not mean that the Lord is incapable of saving anyone who has committed these sins (1 Cor. 6:9–10). Instead, the Apostle means that God will not receive as His children those who remain impenitent. First Corinthians 6:11 actually tells us that there are people in God’s kingdom whose past lives were characterized by the sins Paul mentions in verses 9–10. But these people are in the kingdom because they have turned from their evil ways and have rested in Christ. Those who deny that they have broken God’s law, however, remain citizens of the kingdom of darkness.

Coram Deo

Paul’s teaching in today’s passage actually leads us to expect that there should be former adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, blasphemers, alcoholics, and others in our congregations. The church of Jesus Christ must not close its door to any sinner who repents and rests in the Savior, for the kingdom of God is open to all who truly repent and believe. Let us proclaim that all who repent and believe are welcome in the kingdom of heaven.

Passages for Further Study

Numbers 21:1–9
Jeremiah 36:1–3
Ephesians 5:5–6
Revelation 21:1–8

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