There are certain things that seem to be clear as day when you go back in your memory. For me, one of those things is my first car and my first accident. When I started driving I had a 1988 dodge Ram 50 truck. The paint job on this thing was white and rust. My Dad and I replaced the head gasket, and a year later the engine blew. Every time I would drive it, I had to make sure I had a gallon of gas and a gallon of coolant with me. I loved that truck up until I had to get rid of it. It was a manual transmission, and that’s what got me into the accident. I had woken up at 4am and was supposed to head to a job site to do some clean up. I was following my dad’s truck when we came to a light in Rancho Cordova out by Sacramento. He got into the left turning lane to go to his job, but I was going straight and proceeded to fall in line behind a little white sedan. As I looked over at my dad’s truck, I remember seeing the light turn green. It was then I began to take my foot off the clutch, slowly getting my foot onto the gas. But as I did, I looked straight and saw that my light wasn’t green, but rather it was the left turn light that was. In a panic I accidentally took my foot all the way off of the clutch while in gear and the car jumped. BAM! Right into the lady in front of me.
I was fine, she was fine, my car was fine, but I did a number to her bumper. And in that moment I realized, just how tired I had been. I hadn’t gotten the sleep I needed and so my senses weren’t fully awake. If I had been more mindful of my need for sleep, more mindful of the light, and more mindful of the clutch, I would have never gotten into that little accident.
And it’s this idea of being mindful of what’s going on around us that brings us back into 1st Corinthians chapter 5 starting this week in verse 9. And as we open together to 1st Corinthians 5:9, let’s refresh ourselves on where were at in this series.
The theme of the book is unity. Paul states it as his desire for the Corinthian Church, who are dealing with several issues that are causing disunity.
The first of these issues is leadership, and Paul spends four chapters on the role of leadership in the Church. He focus’ on Jesus as the authority over all, and human leaders being planters and waters to the believer’s faith. Paul then goes on to tell the Corinthian Church how he has a more specific role with this particular church, because he is like a spiritual father to them, and desires their best.
The second of these issues that Paul addresses is judging, but it’s not judging like we tend to deal with today. The issue that we face in the Church today is judging non-believers, and because we try to avoid all sorts of judgement we actually end up finding ourselves in the same situation as the Corinthian Christians. Their issue, was that they weren’t taking their reasonability of making judgments in the Church itself. In this, Paul gives to examples that the Church needed to make judgment calls in. The first was a man sleeping with his father’s mother. The second were business disputes between believers. After we talked about each, last week, we when then walked through the biblical process of judgment that the Church is to conduct as them make decisions between believers. And when we follow the proper course that God lays out for us for judgment in the Bible, we will find that unity actually happens.
But last week I shared with you that we were going to be returning to chapters 5 and 6 because there are somethings we need to address that Paul brings up. So, let’s return to 1st Corinthians starting in chapter 5 verse 9.
Now as we read this, we’re going to re-read verses 9-11 from chapter 5 and we’re going to then compare it to chapter 6 verses 9-11. So let’s read.
“9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”
These words come as Paul is addressing the Corinthians about how who they associate themselves with. Paul is telling the Corinthian Christians that they cannot fully disassociate themselves from sinful people, because they live in a world of sin. Instead, they are not to fully disassociate themselves from the sinners of the world, but rather from those who claim to be a believer, yet, purposefully engage in sinful acts. Paul is not talking about believers who sin and repent and seek God’s cleansing work through the Holy Spirit, but rather those who call themselves believers that see no problem in sinful acts.
Let’s make a list of all the sinful acts that Paul lists here. There’s the: sexually immoral, greedy, swindlers, idolaters, slanderers, and drunkards. Now that we have that list, let’s move on to chapter 6 verse 9 and look at what Paul says there.
“9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 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.”
Out of this second list of sinful acts let’s add to our first list. There’s the: sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who have sex with men, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers.
The two lists are very similar with only adulterers, men who have sex with men, and thieves being the differences.
Now before we move on, we need to fully understand what Paul means by these words he is using. Because even though we can think we know what a word means when we read it, the understanding behind these words may be more than what we realize.
So let’s take each of these sinful acts and see what they mean.
First, sexually immoral. This is the Greek word porneia (por-ni’-ah), meaning fornication, which is a word we don’t really use that much today, but simply means two non married people who have sex. This word is from another Greek word, pernao which means to sell off. This has the idea of selling off sex to someone outside the marriage bond. This can be done through prostitution, but mostly refers to two people engaging in sexual activities without the exchange of money. It is also root for the English word pornography. It can be translated in the Bible as fortification, whoredom, sexual immorality, and even idolatry. In the course of just these two chapters, it is used six times (5:1, 9, 10, 11; 6:9, 18).
The next word is greedy. This is the Greek word pleonektés (pleh-on-ek’-tace), meaning to desire more. In other words, to desire more material possessions. It is translated as greedy or covetousness. This word appears four times in these two chapters (5:10, 11; 6:10).
The third word is swindler. This is the Greek work harpax (har’-pax), meaning rapacious, which is an even less used word than fornication, but simply which means a person who predatory in their extortion of others. Or we can think of it as someone who gets satisfaction taking money from people. The word implies an unquenchable desire to take from others. It is translated in the Bible as a robber, swindler, or extortioner. And It appears three times in these two passages (5:10, 11; 6:10).
Next we have idolater. The Greek word for this is eidólolatrés (i-do-lol-at’-race), meaning an image worshiper. This comes from the Greek words eidolon meaning image and latris meaning servant. Which would mean the word idolater could be understood as an “image’s servant”. The Bible translates this word as idol worshiper, idolater, and idolatry. It appears three times in these two chapters (5:10, 11; 6:9).
The fifth word is slander. The Greek word is loidoros (loy’-dor-os), meaning abusive or one who rails against another. This is used of a person who is abusive with their words, bringing people down rather than building them up. The Bible translates this word as slander, reviler, or verbal abuser. It appears twice in these two chapters (5:11; 6:10).
Now, were about halfway there, with our sixth word, drunkard. This Greek word is methusos (meth’-oo-sos), meaning drunken. It comes from the Greek word methuo (meth-oo) which simply means intoxicated or tipsy. This is generally referring to alcohol, but could be a case for other intoxicants as well. It is translated as drunkard or intoxicated, and appears twice in these two chapters (5:11; 6:10).
Our seventh word is adulterers. The Greek word here is moichos (moy-khos’), meaning an adulterer. It’s used in speaking almost exclusively of a man who is guilty of a sexual relationship with a married woman. As a side note, it is interesting that people will accuse the Bible of being misogynist, yet the main thrust of condemning sinful acts is aimed, not at woman, but at men. This word only appears once in the two chapters and only three total times in the Bible (6:9; Luke 18:11 & Hebrews 13:4).
Eighth on our list depends on your translation. It is either one word, homosexual, two words male prositute and homosexual, or is a phrase “men who have sex with men” . But in the Greek it is two words, effeminate and sodomite. Let’s look at the word effeminate first. The Greek word here is malakos (mal-ak-os’), meaning soft or effeminate. This is a Greek idiom or cultural saying. It would be like if it was raining and someone said, “It’s raining cats and dogs”. That’s a cultural idiom that we understand, but doesn’t mean it’s actually raining felines and canines. The word effeminate was used to describe a man who would take the woman’s place in a sexual act. They would tend to dress as a woman and play the part, whether that be in prostitution or in a relationship. An interesting side note here, this word is used four total times in the New Testament. Three in the Gospels (Matthew 11:8 2x & Luke 7:25) and once by Paul here in verse 9. The Gospel writers use this term when talking about clothing that is fancy, but Paul uses it in the Greek idiomatic way that we just discussed. We know this because of the context of sexual sin he’s been talking about, and not of clothing.
The other word that is used here is Sodomite. This is the Greek word arsenokoites (ar-sen-ok-oy’-tace), literally meaning a sodomite. This would be a male who receives or gives sexual pleasure through the rectum with another male. This one Greek word is made up of two other Greek words, arrhen which means male, and the word is koite which means mat or bed; this word usually referred to a marriage bed. So most likely Paul is making an illusion to Leviticus 20:13, where the direct Greek translation reads, “And a man, have committed an abomination if he lies with a male as he lies with a woman, surely the two of them they shall be put to death, upon them their blood shall be.” This lying down of a man, coupled with the use of the Greek idiom for a male who takes the position of a woman in sex is why some translations simply put the word homosexual, because in our modern terminology, that would be our understanding. This word is used only two times in the New Testament, both by Paul; one here in verse 9 and one in Paul’s first letter to Timothy chapter 1 verse 10. So it’s a word that most likely Paul developed himself.
Let’s look at our final word thieves. This Greek word is kleptés (klep’-tace), simply meaning a thief. This is actually the root word for our English word kleptomaniac. It is used by Paul only once in this passage (6:10).
So, why did we go through all of those words? The short answer is, so that we understand what Paul is getting at. In the first and second lists, Paul gives us sinful acts that lead us to not receive the Kingdom of God. But by giving us lists that are not exactly the same, we can infer that these are not exhaustive lists, but rather lists that speak directly to what the Corinthians are dealing with at the moment.
In verse 11 Paul says, “And that is what some of you were…” The Church of Corinth was made up of people who had come from these very backgrounds. The Church was made up of people who were thieves, drunks, adulterers, verbal abusers, homosexuals and more. Paul is upfront about it and adds to it, the rest of verse 11, “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.”
Paul is stating that the Corinthians were saved from those sinful acts and now he is encouraging them not to return to those same acts or to justify believers who do. We know this because of what Paul writes following all of this.
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
Paul uses two Corinthian sayings. First, “I have the right to do anything,” or as some translations put it, “All things are lawful for me.” This first saying is one we addressed last week. Because it seems like the Corinthians were taking this saying and the freedom they had in Christ and using it as a justification to do anything they wanted. Paul is saying, yes you have complete freedom in Christ, but not everything is good for you, therefore don’t do sinful acts.
It’s at this that Paul uses another saying, “Food for the stomach and stomach for the food, and God will destroy them both.” This idea is something we see today. Just like the consumption of food is natural, we’re told that sex in any form is simply natural. The idea here is to downplay sin in our lives as only natural. Food is natural, sex is natural, God will destroy food and our bodies, so why not engage in sex? One of the phrases I personally dislike that we use today is the phrase, “I’m only human.” It’s a simple saying that is intended to be justification for messing up. Yet as believers, we know we were created to be perfect. So a more appropriate saying would be something like, “I’m a fallen human, and that’s why I need Jesus”. This phrase recognizes sin and points to the only One who can save us from it.
But it’s in verse 15 that we see Paul zeroing in on two specific sins that the Corinthian Church is dealing with.
Verse 15 reads, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Pauls uses the Greek word porné (por’-nay), meaning a prostitute in verse 15 and the Greek word porneuó (porn-you’-o), meaning the act of committing fornication, in verse 18. Both these words have a double use. On the one hand there is an element of sexual sin, which Paul really lays into in the last part of chapter 6. But the other element is of idolatry. Which Paul will address the issue of idols in chapter 10.
But in these last words from chapter 6, Paul is urging the Corinthians to return to a right position with God. To no longer live in sinful actions, to no longer boast in sinful ways, but instead be built into the temple of God, that he first mentioned in chapter 3. Paul desires the Corinthians to realize that what we need is more Jesus in our lives, and less of fulfilling sinful desires. The Corinthians are being called to realize that they do not have the right to their bodies or to their lives, because Jesus has bought both when he died for them.
God is calling the Corinthians into a mindset that doesn’t overlook sin in their lives,. Overlooking sin eventually leads to justifying sin in our lives. The mindset that God is calling us into, is a mindset that calls sin out in our lives, and then takes it before him, asking for forgiveness and to be dealt with.
God is calling us to recognize sin, to understand what it is, and then to turn to him to cleanse us from it. This week as I read through these lists of sins that Paul gives, I realized that I can easily fall into the sin of verbal abuser. Not that I ream people and just tear down, but rather I don’t give encouragement like I should. I’m quick to point out a fault and slow to recognize a good work.
God is calling each of us to himself, to be cleansed of all sinful acts. In this process though, we must be willing to call sin, sin and be willing to deal with it.
So my challenge for you this week is to meditate on these two lists that Paul gives. Asking God to help you recognizing where you come up short, asking God to help you not fall into the trap of justifying sin, and then to ask for forgives and the strength from the Holy Spirit. When each of us takes sin seriously and deals with it seriously, we will built into the temple of God, where it’s there that unity and love for one another will abound. Amen.