Conversion of the Corinthians
(1 Cor. 6:9-11)
Warren E. Berkley
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. 6:11
This is one of the strongest statements showing evidence of conversion in the New Testament. People in Corinth had been living far away from God. Fornication, adultery and homosexuality was widely practiced, even promoted. They had participated in idolatry, stealing, drunkenness and extortion (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
The apostle Paul came to a people living in these sins, and he “determined not to know anything among [them] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” His purpose was not to impress them with his superior style of speech. He wasn’t interested in gaining a following for himself against any competitors. He simply wanted them to know about Christ, His person and work; His death, burial and resurrection; His exaltation to the right hand of God. Paul knew their problem was sin, and He came to Corinth to announce the only remedy and tell them what they needed to do to apply the remedy. The results of this preaching? Many of the Corinthians “hearing, believed and were baptized,” (Acts 18:8). And in baptism, they were added to the church, the only body (1 Cor. 12:13).
In this passage the conversion of the Corinthians is described: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. 6:11
This verse is dramatic testimony to the Grace of God. Nothing in the behavior of man puts God in debt to save us. He would be perfectly right to ignore those who ignore Him. But there is this exceeding measure of mercy, born of love, in the heart of God. It is His desire to save us though we have acted against His goodwill. The case of the Corinthians shows that by grace sinners can be saved, “..so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom. 5:21).
We should never give up on people who practice these sins. Evangelism is often discouraged by one’s initial subjective reaction to sin. We do not hold in high favor those who engage in fornication or homosexuality, because we believe those behaviors are destructive to the participants, harmful to the innocent and offensive to God. We must not, however, allow these negative emotions to silence evangelism. We must not withhold saving truth, out of prejudice against the sinner. It is understood that we abhor what is evil, but we cannot use that as grounds to ignore the lost. Paul knew how they were living. He abhorred their sin. But his response was to tell them how to be saved from their sin. That’s an example worthy of our imitation.
Let us look back on how we once lived. Perhaps we cannot identify with the specific sins named in 1 Cor. 6:9,10. But there are sins we know we were engaged in prior to our obedience to the gospel. In our sin, we were offending God. We did not know the way of peace, and there was no fear of God before our eyes (Rom. 3:17,18). “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” (Titus 3:3-7).
Only in response to the gospel of Christ, can sinners be washed, sanctified and justified. When you engage in the instructed response (“hearing, believed and were baptized,” Acts 18:8), you personally receive the forgiveness Christ died for you to have, and you are put in position to live your days faithfully in Christ, laboring for the final rest God promises in Him.