Not on a soapbox
These words from the Apostle Paul are so fitting with all the turmoil that is going on in our country concerning sexuality, marriage and a whole host of other sinful desires – whether on the Supreme Court level, the state level, or even on the congregational level. So you might think to yourself that this is a perfect opportunity to get on your soapbox and blast all those who fall under Paul’s list of moral perversions. We can never back down from speaking God’s truth, but we also need to speak God’s truth in love as we work with each individual soul with whom we come into contact.
As we read through Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth, we can’t help but recognize that Paul was not afraid to address the sins of this congregation with the full crushing force of the Law, and these three verses are no exception.
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. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
He wasn’t preaching on his soapbox, but with a shepherd’s heart that was looking to do all things possible to lead the souls under his care to repent of their sin and be strengthened by God’s grace. It is striking to see how quickly Paul follows up the Law with the reminder of how God’s saving Gospel had changed their lives as it was poured out on them by the Holy Spirit, “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.”
Because of the moral decay of our society, even the members of our congregations don’t always recognize sexual sins as being wrong or are confused by the mixed messages of this world. For this reason, it is good for us to be very clear and pointed in addressing these sexual sins with our Christian brothers and sisters as well as the many other sexual sins mentioned here and throughout God’s Word. We never want to leave the impression that some sins (like homosexuality) are greater than other sins. Our message needs to clearly convey that every sin condemns us and God has forgiven every one of those sins.
It is always a joy to see God’s Law and Gospel at work through the words and mission work of Paul. We can see how God’s Gospel did its work in the Corinthians as we fast forward to 2 Corinthians and see how he commends them for repenting and turning to the Lord as they addressed some of the sins he addressed in his first letter. We don’t always see the same results in our ministry, but we do have the same promise that God will bless our faithful Law and Gospel ministry as we speak the truth in love to our people and to the world.