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“That Is What Some of You Were”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday after the Epiphany—January 18, 2009

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is the last verse of today’s Epistle Reading.  Paul first gives a list of very serious sins, and then he reminds the Corinthians, “And that is what some of you were. 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.”

The congregation at Corinth was in big trouble.  Paul is writing them this letter because some members from Corinth have come to him in distress about what is happening there.  Instead of being united in their common faith and mission, they are splitting apart into factions. 

“My brothers,” Paul says at the beginning of the letter, “some . . . have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’”

They are having arguments about basic doctrinal matters, such as the resurrection of the dead, which some of them denied.  The modern idea is that even on matters of doctrine we should just “agree to disagree.”  But, Paul makes clear that on matters of doctrine there can be no compromise for the sake of peace. “By this Gospel you are saved,” he writes, “if you hold firmly to the Word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

However, in addition to disputes about doctrine, on which there can be no compromise, the Christians at Corinth are also having arguments among themselves on many other matters.  Issues of practical Christian living, such as the proper Christian attitude toward marriage and sexuality.  And questions of adiaphora, which are things God has neither commanded nor forbidden, such as the eating of certain foods.  In today’s Epistle Reading, Paul says that the infighting and factions among them have gotten so bad they are even bringing lawsuits against other members of the church.

So, instead of working together to bring new members into the church, they are internally intriguing and scheming and contriving against each other.  Their focus is on getting church members on their side of the argument, recruiting church members into their faction within the congregation. 

Sadly, we see from the New Testament that factions like this were already common in the early church.  As Paul says to the Galatians, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”  He pleads with the Corinthians, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another, so that there may be no divisions among you, and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 

In our text, Paul gives the theological basis for why they will put aside their differences on these secondary issues, and live and work together in harmony.  A few chapters earlier he says, “Some of you have become arrogant,” and that they are “puffed up against one another.”  Like popping a balloon, Paul punctures their puffed up arrogance with the needle of the Law, reminding them that they all started off in the same sinful predicament, with even the very serious sins that he lists found among them.  “And that is what some of you were.”  POP!

Because we are all sinners, no faction, no individual, has reason to feel superior.  Paul puts it this way in Romans, “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? No, not at all!  For we have already made the charge that . . . all alike are under sin.”

But, there’s more than just this bad news of their sin.  For, the Corinthians not only started off in the same sinful predicament.  Paul goes on to say that what will really motivate them to put aside their differences and live and work together in harmony is that they have also received the same spectacular pardon for all their sins: “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.”

The Lord says in Isaiah, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  No matter what your sins may be, that is how the Lord sees you through faith in Christ: white as snow.  Nothing is too great for God to forgive.  As John says, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.”

“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.”  The Corinthians will put aside their differences, and live and work together in harmony, because through Holy Baptism they have been joined to Christ, and to one another.  As Paul says a few chapters later, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. . .  you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 

We also have been born again as God’s children in Holy Baptism, and therefore united together, as brothers and sisters in God’s family.  Paul puts it this way in Galatians, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. . .  you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

What a comforting assurance we have in the beautiful words of today’s text.  God knows your sin.  “And that is what some of you were.”  But, even the greatest sins have been washed away in the blessed flood of God’s grace.  “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.”

Amen.

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