… 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).
Christians are supposed to act like Christians, but the reports Paul received of lying, cheating and immorality in the Corinthian church was such that it caused him to question the authenticity of some of their conversions. He admonished them 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 Christian profession. 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 truly washed away. They may have undergone 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.
While the text stresses the contrast between “righteous” and “unrighteous” activities, 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 rebukes the church at Corinth for not acting in a Christ-like manner, Paul reminds them to consider their calling and identity. He prompts 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 in order to conform to what they truly are in Him. For there were in the church at Corinth as well as the church today, people who are falling into sins of immorality who were yet among God’s sheep. Brethren, if sin is beginning to get a grip in your life, remember your baptism, and what it means; you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified. May this good news lead you to forsake sin and trust that Christ’s finished work on the cross has washed you whiter than the snow.