|1st Corinthians - Wayne Barber/Part 40|
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|When we’re offended, particularly when it comes to affecting our pocketbook, that’s when our flesh usually takes over. We refuse to die to self; we refuse to seek a biblical solution; and our testimony in the world is ruined.|
The Sin of Demanding Our Own Rights – Part 3
1 Corinthians 6:7-10
Turn to Isaiah 55:8-9. I want you to read something. We will never understand the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians unless we know this principle right here. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” That’s a powerful principle there. Verse 9 continues, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth [think of the distance of the heaven from the earth], so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Now understand that and keep it in the back of your mind as we continue to go through 1 Corinthians 6.
We’ve seen the problem; we’ve seen the misunderstanding; we’ve seen the shame of demanding our own rights. It’s a tragic thing when Christians who have differences with one another will not go to the cross, die to self, and allow Christ to be a part of the solution to that problem. When we’re offended, particularly when it comes to affecting our pocketbook, that’s when our flesh usually takes over. We refuse to die to self; we refuse to seek a biblical solution; and our testimony in the world is ruined.
You see, we have the Word of [[God]]. We can solve our problems. Whether you know it or not, we do. A better translation of 1 Corinthians 6:4 could read this way: “If then [the word has the idea of “since we do”] you have standards for material things pertaining to this life,” and we do. It is the Word of [[God]]. A standard is something by which you make decisions. The standards we have are in the Word of [[God]]. He says, “set them to judge who are the least esteemed in the church.” Now, by “the least esteemed” what he’s saying is not the least Christian in the church. He’s saying that all the members of the church are least esteemed by the world they’ve come out of. By the people of Corinth, the Christians there were the least esteemed. The world laughs at us. The world mocks us. But the difference between us and the world is we can solve our problems within the confines of the church. We can solve differences. We can solve offenses. The world cannot.
In fact, the world sees themselves as a victim. We don’t see ourselves that way from the perspective God gives us as members of His body. As a matter of fact, in verse 2 it says that we can be the smallest of law courts. Now, here’s what he’s saying. He’s saying that even the individual believer, when attached to Christ, allowing God’s Word to renew his mind and transform his life, can become the smallest law court. He can become part of the solution.
Let’s just say this individual is offended by another individual in the body of Christ. Let’s just say it’s going to cost him money. This person who’s been offended has a wonderful opportunity to die to self, lay the situation at the feet of Jesus, and ask God to love this person who offended him like never before. By doing that, this person who offended him can also come to realize his wrong and die to it. Then the whole situation can be solved within the church and not have to be taken before the courts where unbelievers do not understand any of us. In fact, they do not esteem us in any way.
But no! The Corinthian church is not going to do it that way. They’re going to do it their way. They’re not going to do it God’s way. As a result, their witness is absolutely devastated in the city of Corinth. They go right back and start living the very lifestyle they came out of.
Remember, as we studied before, in the tradition of that time, the consistency of the people in the pagan world was to sue each other at the drop of a hat. If you sneezed wrong, then you get sued for it. That was the world of Corinth. That was the world of Athens. Paul said, “You’ve drug that same practice right into the church and you don’t understand that I do it a different way. God does it a different way.”
In fact, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:5, “I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?” That word “unbelievers” is the word apistos. It means a person without faith, an infidel. As a matter of fact, his character cannot be trusted because God, who can be trusted, doesn’t live in him. He’s a person who does not have eternal hope. A person who, when he dies, will spend eternity in hell; a person whom Christ died for on the cross.
Now, when you speak of a person as an unbeliever, you’re not in any way attacking his integrity. You’re not in any way attacking his family or anything. What you’re saying is he’s in a different class than you’re in, because, when you become a believer, God takes you out of the way the world does things and puts you into the way God does things. You become a part of the family of God and you’re different than that person. So unbelievers are people who do not have any means of acting justly because they have never received the just One who lives in our life.
The Corinthians were once like them, and to go back and act like them would be to devastate their witness. That’s exactly what they’re doing. You know the problem. You know the misunderstanding and the shame of demanding your own rights.
The defeat which is obvious
Now let’s take it another step: the defeat that is obvious when one demands his own rights. I didn’t write this. This is amazing to me. That’s why I read Isaiah 55:8-9 before we even got into this. Even in my own mind walking through it I’m thinking, “Man, this goes against the grain of how people think today.” Yes, it does. Folks, I want to tell you something. Chapter 6, if nothing else in 1 Corinthians, shows us how far we’ve come from dead-center, how much we’ve allowed the world’s thinking to infiltrate into our own minds. Sometimes it even makes us look at Scripture as if Scripture is wrong because the world does not think that way. But remember God’s thoughts are higher. God’s ways are higher.
Look at verse 7 of chapter 6. He says, “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another.” It’s already a defeat. “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” The word “defeat” there is the word hettema. It literally means to overcome, to be moved into a state of being that’s worse than where you were before, to degrade oneself so as to be a total failure.
What he’s saying here is, by taking each other to law courts before the pagan world to settle your differences instead of solving them at the cross under the blood of Christ, you have already become a failure. Not only the one who sues his brother has become a failure, but now you have caused the witness of the whole congregation to be a failure. You see, we have to remember that. When we do one thing it affects the whole. That’s what he’s trying to tell them. You see, an unbeliever is not suing a believer here. And a believer is not suing an unbeliever here. This is a believer suing a believer, and that’s a defeat to everybody. No one wins. That is a lose-lose situation. Paul is saying your witness is totally defeated when this happens.
Paul sets a precedence for those who are offended by those who are in the church. Remember I told you that all of us can be offended, and when the flesh rises up on any of us we can offend somebody. Sometimes it can cost them monetarily. But when that happens, Paul raises up a precedent, the way we ought to live. Look at verse 7: “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” In other words, your witness is so important to the world. We must remember, folks, what goes on outside the walls of the church. People out there don’t understand what we’re like in here. They don’t understand the Word of God. They don’t have the mind of Christ.
The apostle Paul says, “Wouldn’t you be wronged? Wouldn’t you rather be defrauded than have your witness devastated before the world?” The most important thing you have is your witness for those people who do not know Christ. The word for “wronged” there is the word adikeo. “A” means without; dikeo comes from the word dike, righteousness. So adikeo means without righteousness, without justice. “Wouldn’t you rather be treated unjustly?” Paul said. If he had left it alone and just made that statement, that wouldn’t make much sense. But he said, “Wouldn’t you rather be treated unjustly and let it be, rather than react the wrong way and have your witness marred in the community?” He said, “Would you rather be treated unjustly,” then goes on to say, “Would you not rather be defrauded?”
Now, that can be the act of what somebody in the body did to you. They deprived you of something monetary. However, what I think he’s saying here is, “Wouldn’t you rather be deprived of your legal right to take your brother to court and at the same time salvage your witness?” You see, some people argue, “That’s my legal right. I’m American, aren’t I? I live here. I have certain rights.” No, listen. As a citizen, maybe; but not as a Christian. We don’t have any rights as Christians. We’re bondservants to Christ, and as a result of that we live daily surrendered to His Word, not what our flesh says is right or wrong. What He says is right or wrong. So the apostle Paul said, “Wouldn’t you rather be wronged? Wouldn’t you rather be treated unjustly? Wouldn’t you rather have your own legal rights deprived than lose your testimony before others?”
You know, I think sometimes we forget how our Lord Jesus suffered on this earth. It says that when He was reviled, He reviled not back but kept entrusting Himself to the Father who judges righteously. He told His disciples. “They hated Me, they’ll hate you.” Now, why do we think, if Jesus came to this earth and lived that way, we have the right to live differently than He lived, especially since He lives in us? For a person to take the bull by the horns, for a person to step outside the counsel of God’s Word and to accept the advice of the world, even if it’s a legal right, that person is sending a signal that he’s going his own way. He’s chosen not to go God’s way. That’s when his witness is damaged and devastated to the people around him. We completely defeat our witness and we damage the witness of the people we represent, the body of Christ.
You know, there have been times in my life when I’ve done things. You have also. We forget that we are attached to one another as well as being attached to Him because we’re in the body of Christ. No man is an island. Anything I do will somehow affect you, and anything you do will somehow affect me. That’s why we need one another. That’s why when offenses come up we must take them to the cross. We must die to self. And if we can’t solve it individually with one another, and we can, but if perhaps it goes beyond that, we can at least get Christian arbitration and get people within the confines of the church to solve it. Find biblical solutions. If we don’t and we take it the public court, we’re throwing mud on the witness that we have for Jesus Christ out there in the world.
In verse 8, look what he says. He said, “On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren.” In other words, he’s saying, “Now listen. As they have treated you unjustly, now by you dragging them into court you’re treating them unjustly.” Isn’t that interesting? You have stooped to their level by the way you’ve reacted to this, rather than responding under the grace of God. You’re the one now who’s wronging, and you’re defrauding that individual of his spiritual privileges in the body to have this problem solved under the umbrella, the protection, of God’s community. It is better to be wronged and defrauded than to wrong and defraud. When a person chooses to take his brother to court over offenses, particularly those that have cost him, then that brother does not realize how he’s infringing upon the whole body by damaging the witness we have for Jesus Christ. We’re not of this world. We’ve been called out of the way the world does things into the way God does things.
No matter what our legal rights are, the key is, what is our spiritual responsibility? That’s the bottom line for a person who loves Jesus.
So: the problem, the misunderstanding, the shame, and the defeat. We’re already defeated, he said, if we’re going to do this. If you’re going to do that, don’t bother telling them about Jesus, because they’re going to laugh in your face.
The question that must be asked
Another one we look at here is the question that must be asked of those demanding their own rights. Now, listen, if I do it, you must ask it of me. If you do it, I must ask it of you. It’s a question that has to be solved. What is that question? Am I or are you really saved? Do we really know Jesus? You see, folks, we live in such a watered down society. People have already learned how to play the game within the church. We’ve got to remember that unbelievers join the church. So we’ve got to start asking some serious questions. When people refuse counsel in the Word of God, when people refuse to lay something down and to die to self, do they really know Christ? Is that attitude one of belligerence? Is that an attitude of an unbeliever? It certainly echoes what the world does day by day.
Look at verse 9. He says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” Now, again, we must be aware that there are unbelievers always in our midst when believers meet. That’s the way it was then. That’s the way it is now. We’re known by our actions. Demanding that our own rights be taken and given is not the action of a believer.
You know, there is a lizard called a chameleon. Have you ever seen one of those? They’re weird little things. You put it on something blue and it turns blue. You put it on something red and it turns red. You put it on something that’s yellow and it turns yellow. Have you ever seen one?
You see, what’s happening here is these Christians are saying, “Ha! We don’t mess around with the immoral of the world.” That’s chapter 5. He says, “You’re a bunch of spiritual airbags. You have learned to identify with whatever group you’re with, and one of the things you’re doing is you’re acting just like the world. Now you have put on the color of the world. You’re acting like they do. You’re dragging your brother into court before pagans and before unbelievers.
That shows us that you need to ask yourself the question: do you really know Christ? That kind of action is not the action of a person who loves Jesus. A believer may act fleshly; that’s true, because in Corinth they’re doing that. Hey, listen, there’s a fine line between being a believer and an unbeliever when you get into that area. I’m not going to touch it.
Look over in 2 Corinthians 13:5. The apostle Paul questions if some of these people who call themselves believers are really believers. You’re seen by what you do. You do what you do because you are what you are. When people will not listen to God’s Word, will not bow and die to self and let God bring the solution, then something’s wrong here. Second Corinthians 13:5 says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith.” Good thing, isn’t it? Test your faith. He says a very similar thing in 1 Corinthians 11 when he says to examine yourself. Second Corinthians 13:5 continues, “examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” You see, if Christ is in you and you have the mind of Christ, like the last verse of chapter 2 tells us, then you have the ability to appraise any situation according to what God’s Word and God’s will is all about.
Paul uses two words in verses 1 and 6 of chapter 6 to describe unrighteous people. I’m going to show you something here. In verse 1 it says, “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous.” Now that word, “unrighteous”, there, adikos, is the word without righteousness, without a right standing with God, without the ability to act justly. Now, that unrighteous person can cause unjust things to happen.
Look at verse 6 of chapter 6. There’s another word here. He says, “but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?” The word “unbeliever” there is apistos. That means without faith, without believing. Now, careful here. As I said, there’s a fine line drawn here. Look in verse 7. That same word used in verse 1 is brought back into play in verse 7: “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. [Now watch.] Why not rather be wronged?” That word for “wronged” there is the word that means to be treated unjustly. If a person is unjust, he’ll treat people unjustly.
What Paul’s saying is, “You don’t even know if that person who’s offended you knows the Lord. Because, by his very willingness to offend you, he automatically puts himself into the question where it has to be asked: Do you know Christ? Why would you do this to a brother?”
But watch. In verse 8 we see something that is crazy to me. “On the contrary [he’s speaking about the person who’s been offended], you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren.” Now, wait a minute. Hold it! The unbelieving world is unrighteous. They treat each other unjustly. Somebody in the church, who calls him a brother, has treated you unjustly. And now you’re treating him unjustly. Will the real Christian please stand up? That’s what he’s saying. Who knows the difference?
I grew up in city league basketball. But then I got into church recreation. I want to tell you something, folks. I saw the worst behavior of so-called believers on the basketball court and the softball field that I ever saw at city league. I saw unjustness being done. I saw unjust behavior. I grew up in unjust behavior and I’m thinking, “Where are the Christians?”
I put a big sign up on the wall that said, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Every time something would happen on the floor, I would blow the whistle and just point to that sign.
You see, if you’re going to act unjustly, and you’ve been treated unjust, and the unrighteous live that way, how do you know you’re even saved? That’s the question that needs to be asked, not only if a person offends a brother, but if the person who the brother offended acts the wrong way. The world laughs in our face and says, “You’re no better than we are. You’re acting just like we act.”
Well, like I said, will the real Christian please stand up? In the world the standard is not the same as in the Christian community. You’ve got to realize this. I was at a funeral one time standing by the casket, and this person next to me said, “If anybody’s in Heaven, that lady right there is in Heaven.” I said, “Why’s that?” I was just curious. They said, “That woman was the sweetest woman I’ve ever known in my life. Why, when I was growing up every time I would go over to her house she’d give me cookies and milk. She was just the nicest person I’ve ever known. And if anybody’s in Heaven, she is.” I’m thinking, “Good grief!”
That’s the way the world thinks, isn’t it? If you’re a good guy and obey the law and don’t harm anybody, in the world’s eyes you’re righteous. I want to tell you something. That won’t cut it with God. Jesus said the Pharisees and the scribes lived the same way. Listen to what he says in Matthew 5:20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Do you know what I think happened that day? Those people would obey all the laws. I mean, they were squeaky clean, folks. And when they obeyed the law, they’d put a little thing inside what they called a phylactery. It was a little box on the front of their head. And the more laws they obeyed, the heavier the box got. The heavier the box got, they would eventually have to hire somebody to hold their head up. Those were the spiritual ones walking around. Oh, how spiritual they were, obeying the law, wouldn’t hurt anyone, they just did everything right.
One of them passed Jesus one day and Jesus said, “Do you want to get into Heaven? You had better be better than the Pharisees.” In the world’s eyes they see the righteous man. God says, “That’s not the righteousness I require. I moved you to a dimension higher than what the world says.” In Matthew 5:43 the Lord Jesus says, “I say to you to love your enemies, not just do what’s right within the law. Go a step further.” He said, “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ I’m changing that.” He says in verse 44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
Do you realize when you take somebody into court to get your due, to exercise your legal right, that what you’re doing is far beneath what God requires? God requires that we love our enemies, love the people who persecute us. In the heathen mind-set, a righteous person is one who obeyed all the laws and never forgetfully or selfishly transgressed the laws that God had given. In our day and time, he obeys the speed limit. He pays his taxes and does all the little things. Everybody says, “Oh, that’s a model citizen. That’s a good man. That person will be in Heaven one day.” But I want to tell you something about him. He gives everybody his due, but within the confines of the law he wants his back. Under the confines of what is legal, he’ll sue you if he gets a chance to get what is his. And he will still be looked at by the world as a righteous, good man because he did it within the framework of the law. But I want to tell you something. What is legal is not the last word with a Christian, it’s “What does God say?” That’s the last word with a Christian. If it takes away my right to the world, I didn’t have any to begin with, because I’m just a servant to my Lord Jesus Christ.
You say, “That’s radical.” You had better believe it. Not only is it radical, it’s the normal Christian life. You wonder why the world still says, “Will the real Christian please stand up?” They’re looking for people who will go on and live what they say they believe. But like that chameleon, we go out on Monday and change colors. “As long as it’s legal,...” Christianity rises to a higher standard. The unbeliever says, “My right is my duty.” The Christian says, “My duty is my right.” What’s his duty? To love his brother. Galatians 5:14 says, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, loving your brother.” Verse 22 in Galatians 5 says only the fruit of the Spirit of God can produce this kind of love. It has nothing to do with feeling. There’s a choice that one makes to do what is absolutely spiritually beneficial to the other person regardless of what it costs him. It’s the same word used in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son....”
Look over in Matthew 5:39. I want to show you something. As you know, the Jewish people hated the Romans because of the way they made them live. They required them to help a soldier carry his pack one mile. That was Roman law. Well, the Jewish people hated that, detested that. You can just see that Roman soldier coming down the road. That Jewish man would be standing there and he would say, “Take my pack.” He takes his pack and follows along behind him, cursing every step he takes because he hates the Romans. When he walks a mile away, he throws the pack down in the dust and the Roman walks on sneering and laughing because he had done what he told him to do. They drove a peg one mile from where they lived just to make sure the Romans didn’t take them any further than what they legally had to go.
Look what [[Jesus]] has to say about that. Verse 39 of Matthew 5 says, “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil [that evil means out to get you and injure you], but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Verse 40 continues, “And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt,...” Take him to court and burn him because it’s your right. Is that what he said? He says, “let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him [how far?] two.”
Can you imagine this? That person is a precious believer, and that Roman soldier comes walking down the road. He comes up to him and says, “Sir, can I carry your bag?” “Uh, yeah. Here, take it.” “Let me take the other one too, both of them. Anything else?” He jumps out in front of him and starts walking down the road and as he’s walking down the road doing what he’s doing, the soldier’s thinking, “What in the world is going on here?” Instead of being behind him he’s in front of him. Every now and then he’ll turn around and talk to him and ask him about his family or whatever. He gets to the end of that mile and says, “You know what? I know I’m only supposed to take this a mile but hey, man, listen. I just want to be your friend. Let me take this another mile. Do you mind if I take it another mile?” By the end of that mile the Roman soldier is saying to himself, “Good night! This guy is uniquely different than the kind of people I deal with every day in my life.”
That’s what Paul is saying. He’s saying, “You want to act like everybody else? Do you want to do that? Do you want to take it to court? You’re killing your witness. Man, listen; when you die to yourself, when you lay that vendetta down, when you go to that person and seek biblical reason and biblical counseling and biblical solutions, listen, man, you can solve it right here and protect every bit of your witness out there in the lost world.”
Verse 9 of 1 Corinthians 6 says, “Or do you not know.” The word “know” there is eido. It comes as a form of horao. It means, “Don’t you see the big picture?” Are you so narrow minded that you think your life revolves around this one offense? Can’t you take a step back and see the whole picture. What’s going on here? You’re just simply being tested. God’s just running you to the end of yourself. God’s just running you to the cross to believe Him.
Paul says, “Or do you not know [what?] that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of [[God]]?” You see, I said there was a question you had to ask. You have to ask yourself the question, “Am I saved?” If I am, is the person who offended me saved? If I take this issue out there I know they’re not saved. They’re never going to inherit the kingdom of [[God]]. The word “inherit” shows you immediately that we’re talking about grace, because when you inherit something you don’t work for it. When my mom left me an inheritance, it wasn’t because I earned it. As a matter of fact, she earned a reward in Heaven for putting up with me all those years. It was just by grace. It was just because she loved me that it was left to me. I didn’t do one single thing to deserve that. That automatically begins to show you what grace is all about and how we’ve received that grace. Not a one of us has worked for it. We’ve inherited it.
Then he goes on and says, “the kingdom of God?” The kingdom of God is in two stages. One of the ways to think about the kingdom of God is the territory where God reigns and rules. When you’re a Christian, first of all you have to look at the kingdom of God as inward. The moment you get saved the kingdom of God comes into your heart and then God rules and reigns. Flesh doesn’t. God does. “Well, wait a minute. This person’s suing me. That’s his flesh, isn’t it?” Yes, that’s right. Well, if God’s supposed to be ruling, is he even a Christian? You see, that’s the whole point.
Luke 17:20 says, “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or, “There it is!” For behold the kingdom of God is in your midst.’” Listen, when Christ comes to live in you, it will be right here in our midst, because the kingdom of God is where He rules and reigns in us. We can solve our differences with one another. We can take it to the cross and the eternal judge that lives in us gives us the ability to discern all things. We can find harmony and love and unity which He gives to us. We can find Biblical solutions.
But secondly it is outward. One day it will be visible on earth. Matthew 25:31 says, “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” We’ll live and rule with Him one day, as the earlier part of chapter 6 says. We’ll rule and reign with Him one day. We’ll judge over angels and nations alongside him. But the people who are unrighteous, the people who live unrighteously, the people characterized by suing each other and taking each other to court, which was the norm of Corinth of that day, these people won’t enter the kingdom of God. They don’t know the kingdom of God. You have a witness out there and you need to ask yourself if you’re living this way. Do you really know Christ?
Then he says, “Do not be deceived.” The word “deceived” is planao, which has the idea of a planet that’s wandering around. The idea here is, don’t be misled. Don’t be misled. People who live and act this way are telling you what they are. You do what you do because you are what you are. People who live unjust lives do not inherit the kingdom of God.
So the question we need to ask ourselves is, if we’re living this way, refusing biblical counsel, refusing what God’s telling us, and we’re adamant to claim and do it on our own because it’s our legal right, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I a believer? Do I really know Christ?” Isaiah 55:8-9 says that His ways are higher and His thoughts are higher. They’re not what we think or the world thinks. If He’s going to rule and reign, why isn’t He ruling and reigning? That’s the question we must ask.
The association of those who demand their own rights
So we’ve seen the problem, the misunderstanding, the shame, the defeat, and the question. Finally, I want to show you the association of those who demand their own rights. Do you want to associate with them? Do you want to be one of those who demand their own rights? That was Corinth. That was the pagan world of the day. If you do, look what you’re associating yourself with. This is what he’s saying. You know, we think of it as one faceted here. No, no. This is what you’re associating yourself with. It was the characteristic of the lost world of Corinth, that they would demand their own rights in public court. Get all you can. That was their whole attitude. Covetous, I’m going to get what’s mine. You took it from me. I’ll get it back. That’s the attitude of the lost.
Now watch. There are other things that go along with that. Paul begins to give you the list of characteristics that goes along with people who demand their own rights: “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals.” I don’t like this list, by the way, but when you go verse by verse you can’t skip it. Let me just hit it as fast as I can.
The word “fornicators” is the Greek word pornos. It comes from the word which is a male prostitute. The Greeks considered those who prostituted themselves for gain, for monetary money, as fornicators. Money’s the goal of those who would even sell their own bodies. It’s interesting how covetousness is so closely attached to fornicators. In Ephesians 5:5 it ties them right together: “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Here’s the fornicator and here’s the covetous man tied right together. We think of sin being this or that. No, all sin stems out of a person who wants what’s his and he’s going to take it. He’s a taker.
Well, Paul says in verse 9, the second one is “idolaters.” The word means a servant of an idol, a worshipper of an idol. Interestingly, Ephesians 5:5 attaches this one in the same group. “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person [there’s your fornicator, same word] or covetous man who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of [[Christ]] and [[God]].” In other words, when you act covetously and you take the law in your own hands, and because you have a legal right, you demand your right, you’re associating yourself with all the other characteristics of the people who do the same thing. Is that what you want?
Colossians 3:5 says, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which [all of them put together] amounts to idolatry.”
Verse 9 goes on and says, “nor adulterers.” That’s a very specific word, moichos. These are people who live this way. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed by undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” He ties those two together. Well, since fornicators is already tied to covetous and idolaters, now he ties it into adulterers. All of it’s in the same house.
He goes on and says, “nor effeminate.” I don’t like this word. The word is malakos. It means soft ones, passive homosexuals, men who allow themselves to be used as women with other men. The word “homosexual” is the word for active homosexuals. It comes from two words, a male in bed and you can put the rest of it together.
All of these things are tied into the lifestyle of people who demand their own rights. He says, “You want to go in to court and put yourself in the same category? They look at you demanding your own rights and say to themselves, ‘Hey you’re no better than we are. He probably does all these other things too.’” You say, “No, I don’t.” And they say, “How do we know that? You’re acting just like we are.” That’s what he’s trying to tell them. None of these can inherit the kingdom of God.
He says in verse 10, “nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” So when I start acting like the world acts because I have a legal right, I have stepped right into associating myself with the character that goes along with that. As far as anybody else knows, all these other things might be involved at the same time.
All of the rest of these are pretty self-explanatory. Thieves, covetous, we’ve already seen. Drunkards, revilers, swindlers, all these characteristics are related to the fleshly sin of covetousness which is the root of somebody’s, “I’m going to get mine back because you took it from me” attitude. When we take somebody to court, we have lowered ourselves to that level. Paul says, “Now you have no witness with anybody. You couldn’t prove to anybody that you weren’t this way, because you’re acting this other way.
Remember how Abraham was told to take Isaac up on top of the mountain. Folks, I want to tell you something. When you die to self it involves three things. First of all, Abraham had to die to his understanding. It just didn’t make any sense to him. Why would God promise him all these things through which the door would be Isaac and then not do it? Secondly, he had to accept the unacceptable, because he had to go up and kill the very beloved son that he had, the very son of promise that God had given to him, Isaac. But thirdly, he had to deal with his will. I want to tell you something. Will is king when it comes to surrendering to Christ. If he doesn’t make that choice then it never happens. He never sees what’s on the other side of that.
Our minds scream at us in this kind of passage because we’ve been so programmed by the world to think if it’s legal it must be righteous. God says, “No way! Righteous is what I tell you in My Word, what I speak to you in My Spirit. It must be dealt with and that’s what sets you apart from those in the list that we have just read.”
Folks, listen. If you have a difference with a brother and you can’t solve it, you can solve it individually by becoming part of the solution, dying to and doing what’s right. But if for some reason that’s still difficult for you, find some Christian arbitration within the church and let men who have God living in them and can act justly make decisions. Do it that way. But when you drag that before the courts of the land, those who already mock us laugh even harder, “Look at the Christians. They’re no different than we are.” Paul says, “Hey, you kill your witness. They associate you with people who have all the other string of sins within their own life.” The first step you’ve got to do is that dying to self that I just talked about.
I heard a story that happened in Asia. A lady there had a maid. I don’t know what they call them over there. We call them maids. It was somebody who kept the house, cooked and all. When this lady left one day she looked out in the back where all the chickens were running around and she told the maid, “Get a chicken, pluck it, wash it, and put it in the refrigerator for supper tomorrow night.” Then she left.
She came home, having forgotten what she had told the person to do. Finally, after a while she got thirsty and went over to the refrigerator and opened up the door. When she opened up the door, there sat a chicken looking at her. It didn’t have any feathers, and it was wet and shivering because it was so cold. The maid did everything she was supposed to do but the most essential thing. She didn’t kill the chicken.
You can go to counselors. You can read books. You can refute anything I’ve said, friend. Help yourself. You’re going to probably do it anyway. But I want to tell you something. The most essential thing is your willingness to die to yourself, your flesh, your hurt, your loss, and all the other things. You’re going to overlook that if you’re not careful. Be willing to say, “Lord Jesus, I’m Your slave. Will You be and do through me what will glorify Your name no matter how much it costs me? I want to be Your witness before others.” That’s the bottom line. Remember, there has to be a death before Christ can resurrect a life. Do the most important thing. Die to self.