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Washed, Sanctified, and Justified

May 5, 2024 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Miscellaneous Sermons

Topic: Expository Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11



Baptisms are a big deal in the life of a church. Therefore, I’d like to take a break from Romans and consider a passage that gets right to the significance of baptism (read). You may think I’m crazy for picking this passage for today, and maybe I am. This passage is shocking, even offensive in our culture for how it confronts several specific sins, especially homosexuality.

This is not going to be a sermon on homosexuality. I especially want to get to v. 11 and the incredible hope that Christ can wash away your sin. Praise God for that hope! And baptism beautifully illustrates this great work. So, I want us to rejoice in what the gospel has done and is doing in those who were baptized and in all who are saved.

And I want to offer hope to any who have never been saved that the gospel can wash away your sin. It doesn’t matter what you have done or how trapped you feel. You are not beyond the reach of God’s grace. Christ can forgive you, and he can transform you. The gospel is good news.

But you will never appreciate the good news until you come to grips with the darkness of your sin. You must face vv. 9–10 and what God is saying about you (not just the really bad people out there) before you will ever know the hope of v. 11 and appreciate it’s great power. Therefore, we must start with the fact that…

I.  You must be washed (vv. 9–10).

I especially want to emphasize the importance of this for you because of…

The Danger of Deception (v. 9a): We all tend to downplay the significance of our own sin including Christians. Paul is warning the Corinthian church because some of them were tolerating terrible ungodliness. They tried to hide it behind a facade of wisdom and religiosity, but it was ungodliness all the same. They deceived themselves into believing everyone else’s sins were terrible, but theirs were not that bad.

We are all inclined to do the same thing. You are quick to judge the sins of others and quick to give yourself a pass. But don’t miss the fact that Paul doesn’t only call out sins like homosexuality and adultery. He also condemns greed and abusive speech.

So, don’t worry about other people’s sins; worry about your own. Do not ignore the wickedness of your own sin because doing so will condemn your soul to hell. Instead, ask God to help you see and appreciate the darkness of your sin. I know that’s not pleasant, but neither is scrubbing a wound. Yet both are essential. You must recognize your need to be washed. The fundamental reason is…

The Righteousness of the Kingdom: God’s future kingdom is righteous because God is righteous. 1 John 1:5 states, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” God is not merely 90% righteous, and his good works are merely greater than his bad works. He is holy. He has no darkness at all.

And one of the great blessings of heaven is that it will be perfect as God is. No one is going to cheat you, lie to you, abuse you, or hurt you. The kingdom will be perfectly righteous.

That’s great, but it also creates a big problem for sinners. Verse 9 states the matter bluntly, “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” God couldn’t be clearer. You cannot enter the kingdom dirty. It doesn’t matter if you are better than the guy down the street. It doesn’t matter what good deeds you have done. What matters is whether you are righteous like God is. If you fall short, you will not enter God’s kingdom.

Then Paul helps us evaluate what God demands with a list of disqualifying sins. So, let’s talk specifically about…

The Darkness of Sin (vv. 9b–10): Before we get into the list, I must say that Paul confronts lifestyles more than actions. Paul is not saying that if you have ever done any of these sins you are permanently and forever disqualified. To be clear, God will save a homosexual if he comes in repentance and faith. We know this because v. 11 says some in the Corinthian church had committed these sins before Christ saved them. Christ can save anyone. His blood can wash away any sin.

And he’s also not saying that a genuine Christian will never commit these sins or that if he does, he will lose his salvation. No, we are still sinners, and we will fail. The Bible doesn’t hold out any hope for perfection in this life. But what separates a Christian from an unbeliever is that we are not content in our sin. It grieves us, we confess it to the Lord, and we want to change.

That grief over my sin and a desire to change are far more important fruits of conversion than any spiritual checklist. So, if you hate your sin, and you are fighting your sin, this passage should not shake your faith. Keep going. You are on the right track. But if you are living in sin without any conviction, you should be afraid. Your lifestyle contradicts the gospel. That said, let’s jump into the list. Notice that…

Your respectable sins are wicked. We’ll get to the headline sins soon, but don’t miss the fact that “the covetous (i.e., greedy)” and “revilers (i.e., abusive speech)” are also excluded from the kingdom. You may be free from the other sins, but we’ve all committed these or similar types of sin.

This list is not exhaustive. Other passages would add lying, hating your parents, and many other so-called respectable sins to the list of evils that an disqualify you from heaven.

We like to think these kinds of sins are okay. Everyone does them. But Jesus didn’t. His standard is the only one that matters. God forbids every so-called respectable sin. Even something like greed or slander is sufficient to exclude you from heaven. They are all rebellion against God. They all deserve wrath.

And Christian, the fact that you are saved does not mean you can excuse respectable sins. Afterall, Paul is addressing Christians who were excusing these very things. You should hate your greed; you should hate your hurtful tongue. Confess them as the rebellion and darkness they are. You need Christ to help you wash your heart clean of them. But I also want to be clear that…

Your shameful sins are wicked. The first item in the list is fornication or immorality. The Greek term porneía encompasses every type of sexual sin including things like pornography. Our world increasingly assumes it is right to chase and indulge whatever sexual passion is inside you. Our entertainment is so full of perversion that we can grow numb to how dark it is. But God calls it all rebellion. It will condemn your soul to hell. Christian, you need to wash your soul clean of it all by the grace of God.

Idolaters: The first commandment is, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex 20:2–3). Anything that you value and that controls your life over God is a betrayal of your Creator. It could be anything, even something that is good in itself. What has first place in your life? What is keeping you from serving God with all your heart? Stop excusing your idolatry. Call it the betrayal that it is. Repent before God.

Adulterers: The world says, “You have a right to be happy.” “Nothing can stand in the way of love.” But God considers adultery to be among the worst sins imaginable (vv. 16–18).

God is saying to those who are married that you must guard the exclusivity of your love. Run from any thought of disloyalty. Adultery destroys God’s covenant, and any immorality is a uniquely grievous sin against your body. It has no place in the life of a Christian, and it deserves eternal judgment.

Effeminate and Homosexuals: These two sins almost assuredly go together. In fact, many versions translate them together as male homosexuality. Most likely the first refers to the passive recipient and the second to the initiator.

Once again, our culture says God made people to behave this way. It’s part of their nature. “You can’t deny love.” But God calls it perversion. If there’s anyone here who has SSA or has been involved in homosexuality, we love you. We want you hear, and we want you to know Christ and the glory of his grace. But for the good of your soul, I must tell you that God calls homosexuality a sin. It will condemn your soul to an eternity in hell if you do not repent and receive Christ. The Bible is clear that sex is only for marriage and that marriage is only be between a man and a woman.

But God can save you, and he can transform your life. Come to him for grace. And if you are a Christian who has any sort of struggle in this area, I want to speak with you. Christ wants to transform you, and we want to help you get there. Please give us that opportunity.

Thieves and Swindlers: There’s not much difference between these sins. God condemns both in the 8th Commandment, “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15). We serve a God of truth, justice, and love. There’s no place for stealing or dishonest financial practices in Christian’s life. This applies to your dealings individuals but also with big, wealthy corporations. Be honest with your taxes, your employer, and in every other arena.

Drunkards: Sadly, the church’s commitment to this standard has fallen on hard times. You don’t have to look far to see Christians boast about their drinking escapades. They want to really stretch the boundaries of sobriety. It’s fleshly and foolish. Christians are to be filled with the Spirit, and Ephesian 5 says that’s impossible if you are inebriated.

Don’t get drunk and don’t even toy with that line. Drunkenness is sin, it is sufficient to condemn you to hell. Stay away. I must also say that I know several of you fight addictions. God sees your heart and so do we. Keep fighting. It is worth the struggle, and you can win. That makes for a good transition to the 2nd big idea in this text. Yes, you must be washed. But…

II.  Christ can wash away your sin (v. 11).

Again, the point of vv. 9–10 is to say that your sin is wicked. God is your Creator and Lord, and you have sinned against his will. You may enjoy your sin, but Jesus warned, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matt 16:26)? It’s not worth it. Your sin is dark, and it will condemn you to hell.

But praise God there is hope in the gospel. Christ can wash away your sin. The first words of v. 11 are so amazing. Paul reminds the Corinthians, “Such were some of you.” Most of them were saved out of paganism. Homosexuality, prostitution, drunkenness, and other sins had probably been a normal part of their lives at one point. But God still pursued them in love, he forgave all their sin, and God transformed their lives.

He has done the same for many in this room. Don’t think that everyone around you has a squeaky-clean history. This church is full of people with shameful pasts. Some are struggling to leave it behind them. But God’s grace is greater than all our sin. He has changed them, and he continues to change them. And he can do the same for you. You are not beyond the reach of his grace. Paul highlights 3 mighty works of God that can change your life today and for all eternity. I’d like to start with the last work…

Justification: I want to start here because justification is the foundation for the other two. It is very important that you understand that becoming a Christian is not simply about believing in God and cleaning up your life. That’s because no matter how much you clean up your life you will always be a sinner, and you will never be worthy of the kingdom of God.

You need forgiveness, and you need God’s perfect righteousness covering your guilt. That’s what God does in justification. When you put your faith in the gospel, God forgives your sin through the sacrifice of Christ, and he credits you with Christ’s perfect righteousness. He justifies you. Or you could say he declares you righteous.

You’re still a sinner on the practical side, but legally you are forever declared righteous. That’s the only way sinners like us can escape hell. I’m safe from God’s wrath because Jesus already took it. Justification is an incredible gift.

And what makes it even better is that you don’t, and you can’t do anything to earn it. You just receive it by faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8–9).

Someone here needs to take that step of faith today. Without justification, you will spend eternity in hell under the judgment of God for your rebellion. But you can be saved from God’s wrath by receiving the gift of eternal life. You can do that right now. Confess your sin to God. Tell him you believe that Jesus is the Christ and that he paid for your sin on the cross. Ask him to save you. God promises he will. It doesn’t matter how broken you were when you walked in today. You can leave justified, declared righteous. Please do that today. But God’s not done when you are justified. The next work is…

Sanctification: Sanctification simply means that when you receive Christ, God sets you apart for himself. The unbeliever belongs to the world. He is a common enemy of God. But when you receive Christ, God sets you apart for his special purpose.

For example, suppose I went up to Crestline and cut down a big oak tree. Most of that tree will make great firewood, but it’s not useful for much else. It’s full of knots, it’s not straight, and the logs are too small. But there is a large section in the middle that is straight and clean, and I set it aside to make a table. I use the rest of the tree to warm my house, and it is gone. But I set aside that one log to craft into a special table that lasts for decades.

That’s a lot like what God does in sanctification. He sets aside his children for special use. Then he chisels away our sin and shapes us into little reflections of Christ. It’s a slow process. It’s not easy to turn sinners like us into reflections of Christ. But God faithfully and patiently transforms us.

Christian, praise God that he has set you apart for himself. You are God’s child. So, work hard to do your part in being transformed. Engage in the disciples of grace. Study the Bible, pray for grace, love the Lord, and participate in the church. Put sin to death, and grow holiness. And when you get discouraged or progress is slow, trust the Lord and keep fighting. Why? Because God will surely do the 3rd work…

Washing: Baptism is a wonderful illustration of this great work. When you get saved, Christ washes away all your sin in the sense that he forgives them all. God’s forgiveness is unconditional and complete. He removes your sin as far as the east is from the west. You were dirty, but now you are clean.

But he does more than forgive. That’s so obvious in our text. Paul says, “such were some of you.” Before the Corinthians got saved, they practiced many of the sins in vv. 9–10. But Christ transformed their lives. He washed those sins away. They weren’t perfect. That’s obvious in 1 Corinthians, but they were not the same people anymore.

And Christ can wash away your sin as well. As we say when we baptize, you were dead in sin, but Christian, you have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. Give thanks for that grace. You are no longer dead in sin and under God’s wrath. You are forgiven, and God is washing away your sin. You are a new creature in Christ.

Don’t lose sight of the work he has done. Sometimes, all we see is how far we still have to go, but don’t miss the progress you have made. Expect that progress to continue. Be encouraged and keep fighting. You’re a Christian. You’re a victor not a loser. And someday, Christ will finish his work, and you will be perfectly conformed to Christ.


Praise God that Christ can wash away your sin. I hope you believe that. I hope you have been born again. If not, please be saved. And Christian, give thanks for the gospel, be encouraged by the gospel, and keep fighting for your transformation.

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