‘Such Were Some of You’
After listing the kind of people who will not inherit God’s kingdom, the apostle Paul points out to the church at Corinth:
And such were some of you… (1 Cor. 6:11a ESV)
Clearly, then, such sins had been — and still can be — forgiven; and the repentant sinner justified. For these offences, or for any others, the truly repentant sinner can be cleansed. For the apostle adds:
…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 Cor. 6:11b ESV)
Yes, there is hope for the unrighteous. There is hope of salvation for all those who recognise their offences for what they are, and who assume responsibility for their actions. Their offences are sins. Primarily, they are sins against a holy and righteous God. Secondarily they are wrongdoings against one’s fellow-man.
Making Amends For Past Wrongs
We cannot, of course, make amends to God for our sin. Forgiveness and justification is granted freely by the grace of God — and it cannot be augmented by good works, or by any acts of restitution, reparation or compensation.
However, although restitution toward God is neither possible or necessary, restitution toward our fellow-man may be both possible and necessary. Assuming responsibility for past actions will often involve seeking the forgiveness of others. It may also involve making amends (where possible) to those we have wronged.
It might be argued that — since salvation is a gift of God’s grace — it should not be necessary to seek the forgiveness of, or to make amends to, those we have wronged. After all, the Lord has accepted and forgiven us. In his sight, we are now justified. Surely we need not concern ourselves with past wrongs against other people?
It is true that — in God’s sight — we have been justified. But this does not mean necessarily that we have been justified in the sight of our neighbour. The fact that salvation is by God’s sovereign grace does not absolve us of our responsibilities toward others. By grace we have been saved and reconciled to God. But we must also endeavour to be reconciled to our neighbour: that is, to anyone we have previously wronged or sinned against. We cannot evade our responsibilities in this respect. God has freely forgiven us. We must demonstrate the reality of our salvation by our actions toward others.
“Though Your Sins are Like Scarlet”
Let us return, though, to the certainty of forgiveness for any of the sins mentioned previously. This is the hope of the unrighteous: Repent and turn to God! In turning back to God, acknowledge and forsake your sin. Then, you will be “washed… sanctified… justified…” Then you will be fully and freely forgiven. Having been forgiven, go forth and be reconciled to those you have wronged.
God’s Word gives the repentant sinner this solemn assurance:
(18) “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
(19) If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land… (Isa. 1:18-19 ESV)
It should be noted that this Scripture was not addressed to unbelievers but to professing believers — to those who claimed to be the people of God. At the time, however, they had been guilty of rebelling against the LORD. Therefore, this passage is applicable both to those who do not know God, and to those of God’s people who have backslidden into sin.
Nevertheless, let God’s Word stand as a warning to those who refuse to repent, and who persist in their sin stubbornly and wilfully:
…do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?… (1 Cor. 6:9a ESV)
And, if they shall not inherit God’s kingdom, then they shall certainly be assigned to a place in the fiery torments of hell. By their deeds they will be judged, and by their deeds they will be condemned to a lost eternity.
Those who know the Lord must also remember what another Scripture says:
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus [or, the Lord], who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 1:5 ESV)
Loss of salvation and eternal life? – No. Loss of God’s temporal blessings, and possibly life on this earth? – Yes.
Will we Inherit the Kingdom of God?
If we have experienced God’s forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, then it is certain that we will inherit the kingdom of God — no matter what kind of sins we engaged in formerly . Christ has paid the penalty for our sins. We have been justified — or declared righteous in God’s sight — by God’s sovereign grace and through our faith in his one and only Son.
We have been washed. We are being sanctified through the Word of truth by the indwelling Holy Spirit. We need only to show consistently, by our manner of speech and conduct, that our life has been redeemed and that it is now set apart to God.
Cat: Forgiveness / D2 pt.2 / 1995-2011 Gordon LyonsFollow @gordon_lyons