Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Such Were Some Of You"

Had a great class session Friday morning at the Rescue Mission with a couple of new folks in the New Life discipleship program. A man and a woman who reached bottom in their lives due to sinful addictions, and have now received new, eternal life in Jesus Christ. They are both a joy to work with as they discover truths from God's word regarding their new identity in Christ. The man, James, is especially eager to learn. He's really intelligent, having had a successful career in professional sales and management, only to have it all destroyed by sin and alcohol. But now he's been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and is learning how to live this new life.

So we were looking at one of the greatest "before and after" passages in the New Testament as we were studying this incredible change of identity that comes with being born again in Christ. The passage is:

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. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Paul here lists a set of identities based on the outworking of the sinful nature of the unredeemed person, and states clearly that those identified as such are not inheritors of the kingdom of God. Not because they engage in these behaviors, but because their identity is that of a sinner and the behaviors simply express that identity. In fact, the terms used here are terms of identity. Not just those who engage in idolatry or fornication, but idolaters and fornicators.

But then we come to verse 11, where Paul reminds us that many of us who have come to faith in Christ had the same identity as this list. "Such were some of you." But for those of us who believe in the name of Christ and by the power of His Spirit we are not anymore. We have been and are washed clean from our sin. We have been and are made holy and set apart for God's own possession and purposes. We have been and are justified and declared righteous in His sight. A complete and total change of identity. From who we were, to who God has made us. Incredible.

As we read this, James looked at me with wonder. Having been raised Roman Catholic, he said that he had heard verses 9 and 10 before. But then he said, "Nobody ever went on to read verse 11." The legalistic teaching of Catholicism had no room for the complete and permanent redemption in Christ that is described in the last verse of this passage. So the first two verses were used as a hammer to condemn, rather than as they were intended to be used in context. I saw James understanding in a new and deeper way the glorious grace of God in the change that He has wrought in him as he grasped these truths. I saw working in James the words of Christ in John 8:32 - "And you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Once again I am amazed at the sovereign grace of God, and the power of His word. Truth indeed.

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