“WHY THE CHRISTIAN CANNOT LIVE LONG LIKE THE LOST”
First Corinthians 6.11
For 1800 years there was unanimity among genuine believers in Jesus Christ that real Christians lived differently than unbelievers. This is not to say that Christians could not experience times of personal spiritual decline, sometimes referred to as backsliding, since God’s Word acknowledges the ongoing struggle against personal sinfulness that every child of God faces. First John 1.8 and 10:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Thus, it is clear that whatever the Apostle Paul meant when he asked in Romans 6.2, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” he was not referring to sinlessness in the Christian’s life. As well, in Romans 6.7, “For he that is dead is freed from sin,” Paul again does not envision sinless perfection for the child of God. If God’s plan for the Christian is immediate sinlessness following faith in Christ, He could accomplish that very easily by quickly translating newly converted Christians to glory immediately after their faith in Jesus Christ. After all, we understand that the salvation provided by Jesus Christ to those He saves includes not only salvation from the penalty of sins committed, but also salvation from the presence of sins by the saint’s removal to glory. Glory does await every child of God, eventually.
What mystifies and frustrates many people, both saved and unsaved alike, is the time span between salvation from the penalty of sins that occurs when the sinner comes to Christ and the salvation from the presence of sins that comes when the Christian enters eternity. That span of time is called the Christian’s life as a believer, and both experience and scripture teach us that the walk, the lifestyle if you will, of the Christian during that time is not a sinless one by any means. Turn if you will to Romans 6.8-19, where Paul addresses his comments to the Christian reader:
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
What does it mean to be dead with Christ, to live with Him, to be dead indeed unto sin, to be alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, for sin not to have dominion over you, to be under grace, to no longer be the servant of sin, to be made free from sin, or to be a servant of righteousness? Does it mean that the Christian life Paul described in this passage refers to no longer do anything wrong, to no longer commit any sins? My friends, it cannot mean that because of what we have already read in First John 1.8 and 10. As well, keep in mind how much of what the Apostle Paul has written in his letters dealing directly with Christians and the sins they are committing. Thus, we know that in His infinite wisdom, God has not chosen to immediately remove us from this life and the sins we find ourselves struggling against, but has chosen to graciously work in our lives even though we still commit sins as Christians whose sins have been forgiven.
I direct your attention to First Corinthians 6.11, which explains how it comes to be that the Christian life, though not a sinless life, is certainly a different life than the life lived by someone who does not know Jesus Christ as his personal savior. When you find that verse, stand with me for the reading of God’s Word:
“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.”
First Corinthians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to address, among other things, a series of profoundly serious sins that were committed by those he identifies at the outset as “the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” Central to this inspired letter is the difference their salvation has made in their lives, even though they were Christians who still committed sometimes serious sins. This does not justify sinning, my any means, but it does recognize reality.
Three observations are crucial to our understanding of the Christian life from this important verse:
First, OBSERVE THE PAST OF SOME CHRISTIANS
The verse begins, “And such were some of you.”
Three comments need to be made for a proper understanding of this significant phrase:
First, and what is most obvious, is the apostle’s reference to the sordid past of some Christians. It is important to realize that the main body of the Corinthian letter comprises the Apostle Paul’s responses to three types of issues that had come to his attention. Members of Cloe’s household had informed Paul of serious divisions within the congregation, divisions that were revealed by contentions that arose about the personalities of different preachers, according to First Corinthians 1.11-12. It took Paul the better part of four chapters to address the problems related to their spiritually immature and sinful hero worship. As if that was not bad enough, Paul had also heard by word of mouth from across the Aegean Sea, from Corinth all the way to where he was engaged in ministry in Ephesus, that extremely wicked sexual sin was being committed by one of the members, with the congregation as a whole congratulating themselves for being tolerant and nonjudgmental about it. That covers chapters six and seven, wherein is found our text for today. Then, from First Corinthians chapters 7-16, Paul answers questions asked of him by the church members, dealing with everything from marriage to communion, to the resurrection, and offerings. When Paul wrote, “And such were some of you,” it is important to keep in mind that he is in that portion of the letter where he responds to the serious sexual sin committed by a church member, who it turns out was unsaved (he had a false hope that was exposed by his plunge into that horrifying sin). Why is this important? It is important because the phrase, “And such were some of you” was a reminder to them that some of them had been saved from very sordid pasts in which they had also committed horrible sins. The sins some of them had committed prior to turning to Christ are listed in verses 9-10:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Though it is important to note that some of the Christians in Corinth, and everywhere else for that matter, were guilty of and were then saved from really horrible sins, that is not true of all Christians. Some people who are exposed to the gospel are from different backgrounds, raised up in circumstances in which they are protected from many temptations and vices. Still others are exposed to the gospel at a very young age. The result is that some come under the sound of the gospel and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit without exposure to the sordid sins mentioned by Paul in verses 9-10. However, even those with less exposure to temptations, and less experience committing certain kinds of sins, are very much in need of the salvation which only Jesus Christ provides. The five-year old child in a Christian home who attends church whenever the doors are opened is just as spiritually needy as the forty-year old wastrel who has committed every vile sin imaginable. Both, you see, are dead in trespasses and sins. Both, you see, are alienated from God. Both, you see, are in desperate need of Christ. The irony which serves as a victory for Satan is the astonishing frequency of some raised in Christian homes who look back on their experiences as deprivations, regretting that their parents did not expose them to more sinning. While only some of the Christians in Corinth had committed the sins mentioned in verses 9-10, they had all sinned and come short of the glory of God, and were all faced with the wages of sin which is death. Each and every one of those truly saved had turned from his own sins and come to Jesus Christ, both the so-called really bad sinners as well as the so-called not so bad sinners. Whatever kind of sinner a person is, without Christ he will surely suffer God’s wrath throughout eternity.
The final comment to make about the opening phrase in the verse, “And such were some of you,” is summed up by the word different. Though the word is not used by Paul, the concept is there. It cannot be maintained by anyone who reads his Bible that Christians are so different from the unsaved that whereas the unsaved commit sins, Christians commit no sins. That is not the difference that is shown in scripture, sinning versus no sinning. Christians commit sins. Every Christian commits sins. There are no Christians who do not commit sins. So the difference is not sinning when lost as opposed to not sinning when saved. However, what is strongly asserted by Paul with this phrase is the difference. How so? While Paul does not argue, suggest, or in any way imply that Christians do not sin, he most emphatically does insist that Christians are different from unsaved people with respect to their sinning. Who can read verses 9-11 and not see the thrust of his assertion? Lost people live one way and saved people by God’s grace and mercy live another way. Paul insisted that his readers not lose sight of that reality. Thus, whatever your particular past happens to have been, if you are now a Christian, if you are now born again, if you have come to Christ, you are different than you used to be, and your conduct is not now the same as it used to be. It will do you no good to compare your conduct with the conduct of other people, since Paul rebuked such errors, in First Corinthians 4.1-6. He would write in his next letter to the Corinthians, “but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” That said, if you are now a Christian, your life and your lifestyle is different than before.
Next, OBSERVE THE REASONS FOR THE DIFFERENCE
The reasons for the difference in the life of the Christian are given to us in the middle of our text,
“but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified”
May I begin our consideration of these three items by admitting great divergence of opinions among good commentators as to precisely what Paul is saying here? For example: Protestant commentators typically insist the words “but ye are washed” refers to infant baptism, though such an interpretation is clearly forced. My own inclination is to believe that Paul’s reference to washed, sanctified, and justified lists what is subsequent from and arising out of what precedes, what has logically come before:
Thus, when Paul writes “but ye are washed” he is revealing what occurs as a direct consequence of “but ye are sanctified.” I say this because Paul’s reference to being washed at this point is not in the context of a sinner’s sins being washed in the blood of Christ, but having instead to do with a Christian’s manner of life being cleansed through the ministry of the Word of God. Let me illustrate: Right in the middle of His comments about the vine and bearing fruit in John 15.1-8, the Lord Jesus Christ says, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,” John 15.3. This is in the context of the Christian bearing fruit as he abides in Christ, the true Vine. Then, in Ephesians 5.26, in connection with Christ and the church, Paul writes, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” My own inclination, therefore, is to conclude that the Apostle Paul in our text is correcting the slack conduct of the Corinthian congregation toward known sins in order for them to bear fruit, #1, and in order for them to be more prepared for Christ’s return, #2, with both accomplished through the ministry of the Word of God in the lives of those who are already Christians.
This is predicated upon them being sanctified: “but ye are sanctified.” Though I have typically and frequently used the word sanctified to refer to the gradual growth of a Christian in Christ likeness and maturity in his Christian life over time, there is another sense in which the word “ye are sanctified” is used, the result of which is that one becomes a saint. Of course, the word saint is a noun, while this word from the same root is a verb, but this is what is done to a person to make him a saint, he is claimed by God as His own and made a member of His holy people. It is when one is made into a saint of God, when one is claimed by God as His own and made a member of His holy people, that the Spirit of God then works in his life to sanctify him in the sense of altering one’s character and conduct, maturing him over time, and consecrating him for service. So you see how these two aspects of sanctification fit together, the aspect you are familiar with, progressive sanctification over time which is a process, and what we have reference to here, sometimes known as positional sanctification, which is an event that coincides with and logically results from justification.
Finally, we have “but ye are justified.” Now we are on more familiar ground.
Romans 5.1: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5.9: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Romans 8.30: “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
Back to our text. Here is the appeal the Apostle Paul is making to the Corinthian Christians: Because you are justified through faith in Christ, it follows that you are sanctified (claimed by God as His own and made a member of His holy people). As well, because you are sanctified, you are also washed so as to be so influenced by God’s Word that your conduct is thereby affected. Paul is hereby arguing with them why as real Christians who have standing before God because they are justified, sanctified by God in that they are claimed by God as His own, they will then be so moved by His Word that they will cease and desist from this wicked toleration of sin in their midst, sins of the very type that many of them had themselves been delivered from when they came to faith in Christ. Who should know more about the danger of a particular sin than someone saved out of that sin? Who should be less tolerant of a particular sin in the church body than someone who knows from tragic experience how degrading and destructive that sin is? Those of you who were saved by Jesus Christ out of horrible sins should be the very church members who first stand up and oppose such behavior by church members so foolish as to engage in them.
Finally, THE SOURCE OF THE DIFFERENCE IN THE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE
The verse ends, “in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
Let us consider separately “in the name of the Lord Jesus” “and by the Spirit of our God.”
“In the name of the Lord Jesus” is rich with meaning, to a degree usually not appreciated in our day. Thus, the three things Paul refers to being done to and for Christians “in the name of the Lord Jesus” meant a number of things to those readers that we find it difficult to understand today. The name of a person spoke of a power very closely associated with the bearer of that name, while disclosing the bearer’s nature. Thus, the Lord Jesus actually means kurioV, Lord, and Jesus, Jehovah is salvation, with the word kurioV being the Greek word both the LXX and the Apostle Paul used to translate the Hebrew name of the God of Israel. Therefore, when the Apostle Paul declares that Christians are washed, sanctified, and justified “by the name of the Lord Jesus,” he is not only asserting that our salvation and these things associated with it are accomplished with the authority of the One who died on the cross, was buried, rose from the dead, and is presently enthroned on high, he is also asserting that it is accomplished on the authority of the One Who is Jehovah, Jehovah is salvation, with our Lord’s name inseparable from Who and What He is. There is a great deal to that phrase.
However, that is not all. Add to that “and by the Spirit of our God.” Keep in mind that our Lord Jesus Christ is twenty-five times in the Word of God said to be sitting at the Father’s right hand on high. As well, in a fair number of those passages it is said that while He is enthroned on high, His enemies will be made His footstool. That suggests a somewhat passive role with respect to His enemies being made His footstool. While the Lord Jesus Christ is enthroned, we see from this and other places in God’s Word that it is the Holy Spirit of God who is instrumental in applying the benefits of Christ’s saving work on the cross to the elect. Thus, the Executive who brings to bear in the Christian’s life the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit. Look closely and you will also see the Trinity’s involvement in the Christian’s washing, sanctification, and justification, with mention made of “the name of our Lord Jesus,” followed by “and by the Spirit,” with the concluding words “of our God.” Thus, God the Father sent His only begotten Son, Who then sent the Holy Spirit Who also proceeds from the Father. Thus, the entire Godhead is intimately involved in the saving, the keeping, and the ultimate delivery to glory of every Christian.
We know that God hates sin. He hates sin so badly that His holy and righteous nature is powerfully moved to deal with it by extreme measures, namely Hellfire and the lake of fire initially created for the Devil and his angels. However, more powerful than God’s hatred of sin is His proper motive of glorifying and magnifying His own marvelous being. Were His desire to glorify His name and His Word not more prominent a motive than His desire to punish sin, He would never have permitted sin in the first place.
That said, in light of the fact that Revelation 4.11 reveals to us, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,” it must be that God has chosen to first save undeserving sinners and then to work in the lives of Christians who still battle with their personal sins, because He is in some way through it all glorified and magnified. The Corinthians had lost sight of some things as Christians who somehow forgot about the sinfulness of sins, and it resulted in them not valiantly fighting against their sinful inclinations as vigorously as they should have, not responding to the ministry of the Word as they ought to have done. The result was the rise of a terrible sin in their midst, which Paul addressed and corrected.
What did the Corinthians learn from their experience? What can we learn from their experience to apply to our own lives? Several things: First, God could have rid Himself of our sinning by saving us and then quickly taking us to heaven. Second, God must somehow be glorified when His children are justified, sanctified, and washed so that we live for Him, love Him, serve Him, and also struggle against our sins for victory by His grace to live and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit until we are promoted to glory.
Therefore, my Christian friend, do not be so discouraged by your sins that you feel an utter and miserable failure in the Christian life. God could have made things turn out differently, but He chose not to for reasons only He fully understands. The task before you and me, then, is to live by grace and do His blessed will, as Paul did, and as the saints down through history have done. Fight against your sinful tendencies, and never give up the fight against them. Love God and live for Christ, yielding to the Holy Spirit of God.
My unsaved friends should take away from this the following: There is nothing in God’s Word that suggests anyone will ever find a genuine Christian who is without personal sins. God could have arranged things for Christians to commit no sins after conversion, but that would have required our immediate promotion to glory, somehow depriving God of the honor sinning saints give Him living by God’s grace here on earth. Thus, a Christian who sins is not a hypocrite but a real Christian, since only lost people claim or pretend they have no sins.
Therefore, I do not glory in the fact that I am now sinless as a Christian, for that is not the case at all. I glory in the fact that I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see. I rejoice in the fact that though I am still an undeserving and sinful creature, by God’s grace, through the merits of Jesus Christ, and by the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit of God, I am different.
 1 Corinthians 1.2
 For a fuller explanation of my reason for believing the Corinthian fornicator was an unsaved church member, see my sermon at http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/sermons/00-05/sermon__sin_in_the_camp.htm
 2 Corinthians 10.12
 Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 403.
 Gerhard Kittel, Editor, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol V, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), page 243.
 Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11
 Psalm 110.1; Mark 12.36; Acts 2.34-35
 John 3.16; 15.26
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