I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16a) is how Paul describes his attitude to the gospel. The gospel is about transformation. It is about a new life which comes when God enters our lives and in His Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. Paul thereby says I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Gal.2:20a). Regrettably, for many Christianity is not about transformation, but rather about being cleaned up on the outside. People still live according to the principles of this world which are based on selfishness. The energy for such lives comes not from God, but from the flesh.
Such people are not Christians because they have not known the new life which is in Christ Jesus. It is so very important that we grasp this. Paul writes to the Corinthians: Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Cor. 6:9). He then goes on to list certain lifestyles and character traits which describe unrighteousness (see v9b-10). Finally he says And that is what some of you were. 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). Paul says that is what some of you were. In saying that some have had their lives changed, he is also indicating that some others in the church are not true Christians because there is no change in their lives. Which raises the question: you may be in a church, you may be in Feltham Evangelical Church, but are you really a Christian?
We gain help for examining our own lives here by looking at 1 Corinthians 6:7-11. From the passage let us consider the characteristics of the church members in Corinth who are truly Christian and those who are non-Christians.
True Christian: In 9b-10 Paul gives a list which describes what certain people are and what characterizes their lives. He says: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Of the true Christians he says this is what they were (see 11a). The word “were” speaks of what they continually displayed in their lives in the past. But such a giving over to unrighteousness is now in the past. As Christians we may have lapses and we may be battling with the realities of sin, but sin does not dominate us. A sinful lifestyle is in the past. We must note here that the things described in vv9b-10 may seem a long way from our lives before we were converted, but they represent normal life in Corinth. The true believers had left these things behind. If we are truly saved it will be shown in the fact that we are no longer following the lifestyles of the world around us. We have left that behind.
Non-Christian For the non-Christian,however, there has been no change. They may have outwardly cleaned up their act but underneath things have not changed. They are still slaves to sin; they are not inheritors of the Kingdom of God.
True Christian: Of the true believers in Corinth, Paul says of them: 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. 6:11b). Here the word “were” is used three times and unlike in (v11a) refers to something that happened at a specific time in the past. It refers to their conversion. Through confessing Jesus as LORD and Christ and through experiencing the working of the Holy Spirit the true believer has:
washed away his sins (washed),
been set apart to live for God and not for himself and the world (sanctified),
been declared right before God (justified).
In summary, his sins were forgiven and washed away. This describes conversion; this describes the moment of transformation when someone is brought from death to life. This describes the true Christian.
Non-Christian: The non- Christian has never experienced any of these things. They may be religious, they may be in church; they may have decent lives, but they have never known the transformation of God. Have you been washed, sanctified and justified. That is the big question. Or are you a religious hypocrite who plays the part of a Christian, but is not really a Christian.
True Christian: A changed person lives a changed life. And if there is no changed life then there has never been any change. Our profession to be a Christian is proven by changed attitudes. We no longer desire unrighteousness, but now desire godliness. Paul describes this change in attitude when he says to the Corinthians; Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception (2 Cor. 4:2a).
Non-Christian: As we consider the lifestyle of non-Christian church member we get into the heart of Paul’s theme in this passage. Rather than accepting wrongs and cheating in humble manner to display their godliness, some were pursuing “justice” through the courts against professed brothers in the church (see v7). In doing so they were displaying character traits which reflect the world. Their standing up for their rights harmed the whole witness of the church. But worse they were actually retaliating, cheating and wronging those in the church (see v8). Paul raises the challenges the Corinthians to repent by asking in v9a Do you not know wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Repentance would give indication of their desire for godliness, otherwise they declare themselves to be outside the kingdom of God
From studying this passage we learn very significant lessons about who is a true Christian. Most particularly and seachingly we learn that you can be a church member, but not belong to the kingdom of God.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of May 2011)