… 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 (1 Cor 6:11).
As Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for not acting in a Christ-like manner with each other by defrauding one another and taking each other to court, he brings up a sobering reminder for the church to consider their calling and identity. Christians are supposed to act like Christians – in fact, Jesus said that the world would know that we are Christians by our love one for another. The reports Paul received of the lying, cheating and immorality in the Corinthian church was such that it caused him to question the authenticity of some of their conversions. He admonishes them once again with the words, “Do you not know…” meaning “You really should know better than to be acting like this!” He cautions them, “Do not be deceived,” so that they might examine their behaviors as to whether they are aligned with their professions. In the church at Corinth and well as the church today, there are people living immorally; there were and are drunkards and thieves and swindlers. People whose lives are characterized by these kinds of activities should not be fooled – for such are not Christians, but “unrighteous” who, although they may be inside the church, have never had their sins washed away. They may have had a moral reformation – an outward washing of sorts, like a pig might get washed of the mud that clings to him – but they were now falling back into the same sins that they supposed themselves to have been cleansed of.
This text stresses the contrast between the “righteous” and the “unrighteous.” The unrighteous are identified by the lifestyle which characterizes them – whether sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, stealing, greed, drunkenness, scorn, or deceit. But Paul is primarily addressing the righteous sheep in the church at Corinth. As he does, he first does not want them deceived so as to think that everyone in their midst was necessarily a genuine Christian; and secondly he is challenging those who are true believers to examine their lives and repent of their sinful inconsistencies. As he does this, Paul reminds them, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” He uses the aorist tense and middle voice of the verb “to be,” emphasizing a decisive action that is done to the individual. Once again Paul resorts to his usual method of stressing indicatives in order to challenge Christians to look back at God’s work in them as the motivation to change their behavior to conform to what they indeed are. For there were also in the church at Corinth as well as the church today, people who are falling into sins of immorality, drunkenness, even stealing and swindling one another, who were yet among God’s sheep. If sin is beginning to get a grip on your life, remember you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified – and may this good news lead you to repent and trust that Christ’s finished work on the cross has paid for all of your sin, guilt, and shame.
Listen to this message here: