Post Author: Bill Pratt
Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson recently cited 1 Cor 6:9-10 when asked about sin in a GQ article. Here is the passage:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)
What everyone has been focused on is the fact that “homosexual offenders” is included in this passage. The apostle Paul is clearly giving a list of vices that should be avoided, with homosexual behavior included in the list.
But what hasn’t been discussed, at least not that I’ve seen, is what “inherit the kingdom of God” means. This phrase appears twice in these two verses, and clearly Paul is claiming that not inheriting the kingdom of God is a bad thing.
Some Christians will argue that this phrase refers to entrance into heaven, and that it is targeted at non-Christians who are not saved, but I think this is wrong. We know that a thief did go to heaven – the thief on the cross. In addition, common sense tells us that many people who have truly professed faith in Christ have subsequently been drunk, or slandered, or stolen. Right? So it follows that true Christians have also committed the rest of the sins in Paul’s list.
If “inherit the kingdom” doesn’t mean enter into heaven, then what does it mean? Theologian Joseph Dillow provides the answer in his book The Reign of the Servant Kings. Listen to what he says.
[Paul] is not warning non-Christians that they will not inherit the kingdom; he is warning Christians, those who do wrong and do it to their brothers. It is pointless to argue that true Christians could never be characterized by the things in this list when Paul connects the true Christians of v. 8 with the individuals in v. 9.
It is even more futile to argue this way when the entire context of 1 Corinthians describes activities of true Christians which parallel nearly every item in vv. 9-10. They were involved in sexual immorality (6:15); covetousness (probable motive in lawsuits, 6:1); drunkenness (1 Cor. 11:21); dishonoring the Lord’s table (1 Cor. 11:30–for this reason some of them experienced the sin unto death); adultery (5:1); and they were arrogant (4:18; 5:6).
Yet this group of people that acts unrighteously, . . . and that is guilty of all these things has been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:11)! They were washed and saved from all those things, and yet they are still doing them. That is the terrible inconsistency which grieves the apostle through all sixteen chapters of this book.
His burden in 6:9-10 is not to call into question their salvation (he specifically says they are saved in v. 11) but to warn them that, if they do not change their behavior, they will, like Esau, forfeit their inheritance. As Kendall put it, “It was not salvation, then, but their inheritance in the kingdom of God these Christians were in danger of forfeiting.”
This, of course, does not mean that a person who commits one of these sins will not enter heaven. It does mean that, if he commits such a sin and persists in it without confessing and receiving cleansing (1 Jn. 1:9), he will lose his right to rule with Christ. Those walking in such a state, without their sin confessed, face eternal consequences if their Lord should suddenly appear and find them unprepared. They will truly be ashamed “before Him at His coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).
According to Dillow, then, “inherit the kingdom” in the context of 1 Cor 6 is referring to rewards in heaven, not entrance into heaven. The Christian who persists in committing the sins enumerated by Paul will lose her rewards in heaven.
This is no small threat. Christians face losing a seat at the wedding feast, forfeiting their reign with Christ, and not hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” at the judgment seat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give up any of those things.