New Appreciation for the Local ChurchIt's interesting that from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians we see again and again an exalted view of what the Church is. In this letter, Paul teaches that the local church is a:
Q1. (1 Corinthians 6:1-8) How does it hurt the Christian cause when Christians take each other to court? How should disputes be settled between believers? How might this be instituted in a local congregation? Among churches in a geographical region?
The Wicked Don't Inherit the Kingdom (6:9-11)Paul now continues his thought by warning the church with all seriousness that the wicked aren't saved.
"9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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." (6:9-11)
This passage is both glorious -- "you were washed ... sanctified ... justified" -- and controversial. Some, who believe that a person who is truly saved cannot lose his or her salvation by any means, are troubled by the suggestion that habitual sinners won't go to heaven. Let's examine these verses carefully.
Serious Sins (6:9-10)We looked at a number of sins that tempted the Corinthians in 5:9-10 (Lesson 5) above, but several are mentioned here that weren't mentioned previously. Let's consider them briefly:
"Adulterers." Adultery, of course, would be included under sexual immorality (porneia), but Paul pulls it out for notice here, probably, because it was still too prevalent in the Christian community at Corinth. The Greek word is moichos, "one who is unfaithful to a spouse, adulterer." Since our word is in the plural, the reference can be to both males and females.166
"Male prostitutes" (NIV, NRSV), "effeminate" (KJV) is malakos, "soft," here, "pertaining to being passive in a same-sex relationship, effeminate," especially of catamites, of men and boys who are sodomized by other males in such a relationship."167 Greek culture didn't look down on those who were the "penetrators" in a homosexual relationship, but it did look down on those who were passive, or the one sodomized. That's what's being referred to here. The translation "male prostitute," here in the sense of "effeminate call-boy" is suggested by the use of the word that follows in the list -- arsenokoitēs.168
"Homosexual offenders" (NIV), "sodomites" (NRSV), "abusers of themselves with mankind" (KJV) is arsenokoitēs, "a male who engages in sexual activity with a person of his own sex, pederast," that is, of one who assumes the dominant role in same-sex activity.169 Thus Paul considers both the active and passive participants in homosexual intercourse as committing sin.
This word refers to male homosexuality, not female. Paul mentions lesbian sex only once in Romans 1:26. Paul refers to male homosexuality also in Romans 1:27 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Homosexuality is condemned in the Old Testament also (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Genesis 19:5; Judges 19). Some Christian homosexuals have sought to convince us that we've misinterpreted the Scriptures, that a "committed relationship" is not condemned in Scripture. Frankly, I don't think they make their case. Homosexuality is clearly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. What seems clear is that both malakos andarsenokoitēs refer to persons who engage in a behavior. The terms do not refer to an attitude or inherent characteristic.170
Having said that, I believe that we Christians must show love and tenderness towards people who don't have a sexual desire for the opposite sex. For most of them, sexual identity is a huge struggle. Let us love them, dear friends. For those whose sexual desires tempt them towards immorality -- both heterosexual and homosexual -- we must encourage restraint and repentance.
Let's be clear, sexual attraction to the same sex is not sinful -- it just is! A person probably can't change that attraction, though counseling can sometimes help a person cope with it more effectively. But the Scripture teaches that homosexual acts are sinful. The answer is not to redefine homosexual acts as not being sinful, as our culture does. That goes against the clear teaching of Scripture. Like other temptations, sexual temptations may be difficult to resist. But with Christ's help we can live free of sexual sin.
Thieves. The word is kleptēs (from which we get our English word "kleptomaniac"), referring to a person who steals something that belongs to another person.171 Of course, a person who steals to support a drug habit is a thief. But so is the person who steals from his employer, by the unauthorized taking of company property or not putting in a full workday, etc.
Q2. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) What does the scripture teach here about participating in homosexual acts? What does the scripture teach about heterosexual immorality? Why is repentance so important for a believer?