1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. 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.
Most of you know that subjects like forgiveness, repentance, mercy, reconciliation and so on are regularly twisted and distorted into unbiblical caricatures of the real thing. And then they are used by the wicked to continue to oppress the righteous. So here in this article I need to be very clear that what I am about to say is not about accepting fakes and facades. It is not about demanding that we all must reconcile with the unrepentant or even with the repentant (a very rare creature) whose past evil was of such a nature that there cannot be reconciliation in this life.
No, what I want to talk about here is an aspect of real forgiveness that is extremely freeing. It has to do more with us being forgiven than with forgiving. And, like all truths, it is a subject that the wicked will distort and try to deny us.
Notice then in the scripture above that the Christian was at one time a sinner. It’s quite a black list Paul gives, isn’t it? But notice that powerful phrase – and such were some of you. No genuine Christian, no person truly born again by the Spirit of God through faith in Christ, continues to walk in sin. Why? Because our very identity has been changed. We are no longer who we used to be. Is that not what Paul is saying here? Of course it is. And furthermore, he is saying that if anyone is still who “they used to be,” then they are not going to see heaven. They aren’t saved.
Christians are once dirty people who have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Justified, pronounced righteous before God and sanctified – made holy. Anyone therefore who walks habitually in sin, showing no fruit of repentance, simply is not saved. Period.
Now, to the main point. “Such were some of you.” Paul says “some” because he is referring to the particular sin list he has given, but what he means is that “such were all of you” in that we all were sinners, dead in our sins, loving our sins and hating God. Such were we. Were. But not now. We are new creations. We aren’t perfect but our flesh does not define who we are – the Spirit of Christ in us and our new heart do.
What has this got to do with forgiveness? Well, it means that we Christians must not hold who we once were against each other. We must forgive one another in the sense of not seeing one another as the old sinners we used to be. If, for instance, we had known Saul of Tarsus before he met Christ and became Paul the Apostle, we musn’t keep throwing his persecution of the church in his face. You remember that the Christians who first heard of his conversion had to work through that:
Act 9:13-15 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. (14) And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” (15) But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
Paul himself knew what he had been. He acknowledged he had been the Chief of sinners, but then, you might say, he forgave himself because Christ had forgiven him.
1Ti 1:12-13 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, (13) though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
Look here then, Christian. You were a sinner the second you were born into this world. You hated God and you hated His Law. You were a child of the devil, dead to God, dead in your sins. But God, being rich in mercy, raised you up out of that pit, set you free, and made you a new person in Christ. This is why Paul says:
2Co 5:16-17 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
So, let me ask you – have you forgiven yourself? Do you answer the enemy’s accusations when they come against you with “But God, being rich in mercy, has washed me clean”? And are you allowing other believers to be who they are in Christ, not still seeing them as the old man they once were? Do you see it?
Wicked, evil abusers just love to keep running back to who we used to be. “Well, I remember when you…”. “You think you are so holier than thou. You did this and that just like all of us.” They do this in order to try to shame us and control us.
Don’t wear that shame. If you know Christ, then the new has come, the old has passed away. Our former sins, He remembers no more.