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“Such were some of you”

July 15, 2010

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians had to be one of the hardest ones he ever wrote to one of his churches.  Fractured by divisions and infighting, completely misunderstanding God’s gift of sexuality and therefore misusing it, bedeviled (literally: see 10:14-20), by serious issues with idolatry, wielding their spiritual gifts like clubs upon one another, taking one another to court, and in great confusion about the nature of the Resurrection, the place was a colossal mess.

But in the midst of the mess, Paul saw signs of hope in some of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:7-11):

“Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?  On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  The hope and expectation of the Gospel is that saving faith in Jesus will result in a changing life.  Dr. Gordon Fee drives this home when he writes

For Paul there is to be the closest possible relationship between the experience of grace and one’s behavior that evidences that experience of grace. Paul himself is as concerned as anyone that the latter (right behavior) should not be perceived as coming first or as leading to the former (the experience of grace). But those who concern themselves with grace without equal concern for behavior have missed Paul’s own theological urgencies. It is precisely for these reasons that the warning texts in Paul must be taken with real seriousness. Security in Christ there is , to be sure, but it is a false security that would justify sinners who have never taken seriously “but such were some of you.” That is to whitewash the sinner without regeneration or transformation; Paul simply would not understand such theology.

Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (NICNT), p. 248.

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