Elon, North Carolina
Tonight, we will look at an extremely important passage. It is found in I Corinthians 6:9-11. It answers the question, Who will not be in heaven? Jesus explained who WILL inherit the kingdom (Matthew 5:3, 10; Mark 10:14). Paul tells us who will NOT inherit the kingdom.
Many think that these people will be in heaven. Paul says that these people will be EXCLUDED from the kingdom. They won’t go to heaven. If you want to know who is NOT going to Heaven, all you have to do is to look at this list. Greek scholar A. T. Robertson calls this “a roll call of the damned.”
Some of these groups of people may be found on some church membership rolls but they will not be found in Heaven’s rolls. Their names will be absent from the Book of Life. There are ten groups of people that will not be in heaven.
What are the sins that made Paul’s list of top ten in I Corinthians 6? Are you on the list? I want to look at these ten sins and make some general observations about them. I am going to list the ten classes of sinners. Every Bible translates these words slightly different.
I Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “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 homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (NKJV).
Ten Sinners Not in Heaven
1) Sexually Immoral
6) Thieves or Robbers
7) Greedy or Covetous
8) Drunkards (substance abusers)
9) Slanderers (verbal abusers)
10) Swindlers or Extortioners
Facts about Paul’s Sin List
1) Many of these sins fall into different CATEGORIES
What are some of the categories mentioned in this list? Most of them (seven in particular) are either sex sins or money sins. You might call it sexual immorality or financial immorality.
One is a RELIGIOUS sin. Idolaters are people who worship a false god, people who have a false religion. They may actually be moral but they worship a false god. Their fate will be the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).
One is a VERBAL sin. “Revilers” refers to people who say all kinds of hateful things out of their mouth and are verbally abusive. That made the top ten list. There are many people who wouldn’t think of committing some gross sexual sin but do this all the time. They insult and ridicule people. Some political commentators and people in the media are guilty of this. It is the Greek word for a slanderer (λοίδορος). Are you a reviler? Do you slander people? When Jesus was reviled and insulted, he did not revile people back (I Peter 2:23). We are not even supposed to associate with professing Christians who are revilers (I Corinthians 5:11).
One is a FOOD sin. Paul mentions drunkards. John Calvin thought this applies to over eating (gluttony) as well. I usually agree with John Calvin but I think he is wrong here. Getting drunk, getting completely stoned and wasted is not like eating one too many French Fries at MacDonald’s. Alcohol is not only a beverage, it is a drug.
Four are SEXUAL sins. Almost half of the sins on the list are sexual (two of the sins deal with heterosexuals and two deal with homosexuals). Paul mentions fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, and sodomites. In fact, adulterers and homosexuals sound very similar in the Greek text. One is μοίχοί and one is μαλακοί. There is no getting around that fact the passage here condemns homosexuality. On the other hand, it is not the only sexual sin on the list. The passage also condemns many heterosexuals.
One sin is a GENDER sin. It mentions feminized men, men who act like women or try to become women. Many Bibles say that one group that will not make it into the kingdom are the “effiminate” (so KJV, ASV, NASB).
Three are FINANCIAL sins. They have to do with money. Paul mentions thieves, greedy, and swindlers. Two of those financial sins are actual crimes. One is not.
2) Some sins in the list are REPEATED
Paul gives two different words for stealing (robbers and extortioners or swindlers). Thieves will not be in heaven. The Greek word that Paul for thieves is κλέπτης (from which we get the word “kleptomaniac”). The Bible says that Judas was a thief (John 12:4-6). He was the treasurer for Jesus and the Apostles. Apparently, he did not just do it once, he did it continually.
Last week, we saw some in the Corinthian Church who were stealing from other people in the church. They were ripping them off. Paul reminds us that robbers will not be in heaven. When we think of a swindler, we think of someone like Bernie Maydoff who defrauded people of billions of dollars.
Paul gives two different words for homosexuality (effeminate, homosexuals), The first word (μαλακοί) is a little broader than just homosexuality but would include the passive homosexual partner.
3) This list of vices is NOT exhaustive
Are these the only people who will not be in heaven? No. How do we know this? This is not a complete list. It doesn’t even mention murderers. They are mentioned in Revelation 21:8. Paul says this three times in the NT and each time his list is slightly different (cf. Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7).
4) Many of these sins are perfectly LEGAL
Stealing and slander are not legal. Extortion is illegal. It is a crime but most of the sins on this list are perfectly legal. Greed is legal. In fact, some would say that it is part of the American Dream. Idolatry is legal. Our constitution says that you have the freedom to worship anyone or anything you want. You can worship one God, many gods or no God. Sexual immorality is legal today. What is legal is not necessarily moral. What you are allowed to do is not necessarily what you should do.
5) Many of these sins are COMMON in our day
Paul’s list is up-to-date, even though it was written two thousand years ago. These sins were common in Paul’s day and they are still common to this day. The lesson here is that what many are doing, what most people are doing (in some cases) is not what you should do. That is undemocratic. The majority is not always right. What is popular is not necessarily right. That is why Paul says in Romans that we are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12).
6) Many of these sins are SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE
They are not considered wrong (e.g., fornication, homosexuality, greed). Homosexuality was accepted and tolerated in Paul’s and our day is no different. The Bible looks on it as a sin, not an alternative lifestyle. It is a sin that keeps people out of heaven. Paul’s statement is completely counter-cultural.
Many of the things on his list are not regarded as wrong today. Homosexuality is socially acceptable. Gay marriage is legal in the US. Drunkenness is regarded as a sickness or a disease by the medical community. It is just an addiction that people have. You may have an addiction to coffee, while someone else has an addiction to alcohol and alcoholics can’t control their drinking. Is this a valid argument?
The Bible does not look on drunkenness as a sickness but as a sin. Interesting, none of the other things mentioned in Paul’s list are diseases. Adultery is NOT a disease. Idolatry is NOT a disease. Greed is NOT a disease. Theft is NOT a disease.
All of the other nine things mentioned are MORAL CHOICES. Why would God keep people out of heaven because of a disease? We can call drunkenness what the world calls it or what God calls it. The Bible calls drunkenness as a work of the flesh. It is a work of the sin nature. The Bible does NOT say that drinking keeps you out of the kingdom of heaven. The Bible does NOT say, “Don’t drink wine” but it does say “Don’t be DRUNK with wine” (Ephesians 5:18).
Jesus drank wine. Paul drank wine. They were Jews. It was part of their culture. The Corinthians drank wine. They were getting drunk at the communion table. What the Bible condemns is not the use but the abuse of alcohol. In the same way it does not condemn sex. God was the one who created it. There is nothing wrong with it (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible only condemns the abuse of sex.
Four Powerful Lessons for Today
1) Many people think they are saved when they are not.
There is a serious warning in this passage and it is addressed to professing Christians. It is addressed to the Church at Corinth and the warning is this: “Do not be deceived”. Many think that they are going to heaven but they are actually going to hell. Many people in the Corinthians Church thought they were saved. They thought they were going to heaven. Many church members today have the same problem (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).
Many people think that they are carnal Christians when they are not Christians at all. If you go to church on Sunday but live like the devil the rest of the week, you are probably not saved. Some have even been taught the lie that if you are saved, you have eternal security and if you have eternal security, then it doesn’t matter how you live, because you are going to go to heaven anyway.
You might was well live like the devil. Paul would say that you are just deceiving yourself. The wicked will not inherit the kingdom. Just going to church, even regularly, and getting baptized will not save you. You can’t live any way you want and go to heaven. That is not eternal security. It is antinomianism.
2) When you get saved, there is a change in your life.
After giving this long list of sins, Paul says “and such were some of you”. Some of the Corinthians lived like this before they became Christians. That is what some of them WERE (past tense) but they are no longer that. There are different because at salvation three things happened. They were washed (which you need because sin makes you dirty and salvation makes you clean), sanctified (set apart to God positionally) and justified.
There are some BIG BUTS in this passage. Notice three in this one passage alone. 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 (I Corinthians 6:11 KJV). The KJV follows the Greek text here. You can’t separate religion from morality. As James says, faith without works is DEAD. If you are genuinely saved, there is going to be a change in your life. If you are different on the inside and you have been genuinely saved, you will be different on the outside.
3) Not everyone will inherit the kingdom.
The Bible teaches that some will enter the kingdom and SOME WILL NOT. Some will possess the kingdom and some will be EXCLUDED. Some will inherit the kingdom and some will not. That refutes the doctrine of universalism. Universalism teaches that EVERYONE will one day be saved.
The Bible teaches that God loves everyone. God loves the world (John 3:16). The Bible also says that God does not want anyone to perish (I Timothy 2:3-4). It also teaches that many will perish. In fact, it says that MOST will perish (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). Paul says that many people will get in. Not all will enter the kingdom of God.
4) Even the worst sinners can be saved.
Paul said “such were some of you.” Some of the members of the Corinthians Church were former homosexuals. Some were adulterers. Some worshiped idols but then they got saved. Paul doesn’t say that all of the Corinthians lived like this before they were saved. He doesn’t even say that most of them did. He said that some of them used to live like that.
The lesson here is that God can save anyone – murderers, crack heads, prostitutes, and drunkards. This shows the power of the gospel. Real change is possible but it has nothing to do with Barack Obama or any other politician. This refutes the idea that “once gay always gay” or “once an alcoholic always an alcoholic”.
John Calvin pointed out over 500 years ago that even though Paul says that the wicked will NOT inherit the kingdom of God, technically the wicked CAN inherit the kingdom. People who do not know the Bible very well sometimes ask questions like, Can God saved murderers? Can God save homosexuals? Can God save prostitutes? The answer is that God can save everyone WHO REPENTS. Everyone one of the ten sins listed in I Corinthians 6:9 can be forgiven and has been forgiven.
Jesus said that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven (Matthew 12:31). Even the darkest sins that we can commit can be forgiven. The sin of sodomy can be forgiven.
That was a sin so wicked that God wiped out the entire city but even the wicked sodomites could have their sins forgiven by God if they repented and turned from their sins. The worst sin on the planet was crucifying Christ and the people who did this were told that if they repented, they would be saved.
1) Do you have to be sinless to go to heaven?
Paul does NOT say that you have to be sinless to go to heaven. Sinless perfection is not possible. You do have to have all of your sins forgiven to go to heaven but you do not have to live a sinless life to go to heaven. That is not even possible. Paul is not teaching a works salvation. The kingdom is not earned, it is inherited.
An inheritance is something that you get when you die as a gift. It is not something that you work for to receive. It is something that you get because you are part of the family. The Bible teaches that all believers are heirs (Ephesians 1: 14, 18; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:4; Acts 20:32); Romans 8:17 Titus 3:7)
2) Can a Christian commit any one of these sins?
He does NOT say that a Christian cannot commit one of these sins. Who is there who has never had a covetous thought? A true believer could commit any one of these sins.
There are examples in the Bible of believers committing some of these sins. David committed adultery. Solomon committed idolatry. He married all of those pagan wives and started building temples to pagan gods because he loved his wives so much.
Noah got drunk after the Flood. Samson committed sexual immorality. He was visiting prostitutes and he is the one who is listed in the great faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11. Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of greed. A Christian can commit any sin and still go to heaven but a Christian cannot habitually live like any of these sinful lifestyles and still go to heaven.
3) Does this teach that you can lose your salvation?
Some have used this passage to teach that you can lose your salvation. Does Paul teach that? He does NOT say that you will lose your salvation. He doesn’t say that if you commit these sins you will lose your inheritance and be disinherited.
He just says that if you commit these sins, you will not get an inheritance. An inheritance is only for members of the family. The implication is that you were never saved. He doesn’t say anything about losing an inheritance.
4) Can you be gay and be a Christian?
Entire books written on a topic on both sides. Some say you can be gay and be a Christian. We talk about gay evangelicals today. We have not only GAY CHRISTIANS today, we have GAY CHURCHES. We have GAY DENOMINATIONS. We have GAY MINISTERS. Others say you cannot be gay and be a Christian. The question is not, what do people think about this question but what does the Bible say? What does God say about this question?
What the Bible says is completely counter-cultural. It is different from what society says. It is different from what modern psychology says. It is different from what the news media and entertainment industry says. God’s thoughts are NOT our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jesus says, “What is HIGHLY ESTEEMED among men is DETESTABLE in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15-16).
Paul says in this passage that homosexuals will NOT enter the kingdom. These are not my words. I did not write them. The Bible says that they will NOT go to heaven. Paul does not say if people do these things, they will not get any rewards in heaven. He says that they will not be there. He also says that a lot of heterosexuals will NOT be there either. Scripture does NOT just single out homosexuals.
That is not to say that Christians can fall into all types of sins, including sexual sins and even homosexual sins. Christians can fall into adultery and even murder. King David committed adultery and murder but he repented. He was not a serial adulterer.
This passage is not talking about people who struggle with and fall into a particular sin but continue in that sin and even justify it and claim it is not even a sin and reinterpret the Bible to justify their sin. They say that God made them that way and make the Bible to say what they want it to say.
It is one thing to reject the Bible and its clear teaching on a variety of topics. It is quite another matter to claim to be a Christian and accept the Bible as the inspired, authoritative Word of God but to live completely contrary to what it teaches and justify that behavior. The latter claim to believe the Bible but revise and reinterpret it, making it say something that it does not say. A gay Christian is biblically an oxymoron. A Christian adulterer or a Christian drunkard is also an oxymoron.