1 Corinthians 6:11
And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus…
It has been alleged that the early Christians were gathered from the mere rabble and offscourings of the ancient world. Gibbon remarks, with his usual sneer, that "the missionaries of the gospel, after the example of their Divine Master, disdained not the society of men, and especially of women, oppressed by the consciousness and very often by the effects of their vices." But it is not the fact, and it is not fair to insinuate, that the Church was formed from the mire of society. The gospel then, as now, influenced in some measure all ranks of society, all aiders of mind, and all grades of moral culture. Yet it is not to be concealed, and indeed it is to the credit of the gospel, that it brought newness of heart and life to some of the most profligate inhabitants of the ancient cities where it was preached. Not only in Judaea had it saved the very harlots; but in the licentious cities of the heathen, as Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome, it had rescued persons who were steeped in sensual vice. "Such were some of you," writes the apostle to the members of" the Church of God at Corinth." He had put down a terrible catalogue of sinners, who were not to inherit the kingdom of God. "Such were some of you; but you are so no longer: I recognize the mighty change."
I. THE THREEFOLD CHANGE.
1. "Ye were washed." "Ye washed yourselves." A definite fact, as much so as the washing of Naaman in the river which took away his leprosy. Such is the way of Divine grace. The thought of man's heart is that his sins may be rubbed out, or the traces worn out by lapse of time, or that by repentance and amendment of life they are atoned for. But nothing removes sin except washing. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin."
2. "Ye were sanctified." After the washing comes the anointing with holy oil. They who are cleansed are consecrated and set apart for Divine use. This is sanctification of the Spirit, which is imparted freely and at once to those who receive the gospel, though it is only gradually realized in experience and practice.
3. "Ye were justified." Being defiled, ye were cleansed; being profane, ye were hallowed; and being unrighteous, ye were Justified. You are no longer under condemnation, but being regarded as "in Christ," you are reckoned righteous in him. And this too is an accomplished fact in God's grace. Know it well, for it is the charter of your acceptance, and the warrant of your peace.
II. THE PHILOSOPHY OF THIS CHANGE.
1. "In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Warnings of the consequences of vice, expositions of the beauty and advantage of virtue, can do little in such cases as are indicated here. It was not for want of sages to sound the praise and discuss the nature of virtue that the Greeks of Corinth had been so vicious. But no change was wrought upon them till the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ was published. Here was not a sage turning fine sentences, but a Saviour who could save men from themselves, and make them sons of God. In this Name it was, and to this day it is, that the soiled are washed, the unholy sanctified, the guilty justified.
2. "And by the Spirit of our God." For it is that Spirit who convinces men of their sins, and who brings and unites them to the Saviour, in whom they are made new creatures. What condescension in that pure and Holy Spirit, to come near to such vile persons as the previous verse describes, and transform such sinners into saints!
III. THE LESSONS SUGGESTED.
1. That no sinner's case is too desperate for the gospel remedy. Christianity can do more than develop germs of goodness where they exist. It has a new creating energy, and can inspire good motives and feelings where there seemed to be nothing but evil, evil continually. There is no case so sunk and lost as to baffle the power of Christ's Name and the Holy Spirit's quickening grace. We do not make light of moral gradations. It is a thing to be thankful for, if one has been preserved from gross sin. It is a thing to be bitterly lamented, if one has committed, even in thought, such sins as the apostle enumerates. But the most moral man has something on his heart to be ashamed of before God. And the immoral have grievous confessions to make. Let the shame and grief be felt; they are wholesome for the soul. But let no one despond or despair. The Divine grace which brings salvation is no perquisite of the higher and middle classes of sinners. It goes down through all degrees to the lowest depth of human sin and misery. The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ is a shield for the most unclean. The Spirit of our God can renew those who are dead in trespasses and sins.
2. That a Christian is to be known by what he is, not what he once was. Many seem to have no real conception of the transforming power which the Holy Spirit exerts on those who truly receive the gospel; and, accordingly, when one who was known to be a sinner begins to confess the Saviour's Name, many virtuous persons shake their heads suspiciously, and sometimes wag their heads reproachfully, and relate all that they have heard, however vaguely, of such a person's faults, as though they must cleave to him forever. Thus the old sins are kept hanging as a perpetual reproach over the head of the new recruit to the Christian army, just as though there were no washing possible, no sanctification, no justification. But how unreasonable is this! Is it not from the ranks of sinners that the ranks of the saints have always been filled up? Is there not a significant "but" in our text, indicating the transition from the old state to the new? And is it not true in life, as well as in Scripture? You tell me what this person was: I bid you see what this person is, and glorify God, whose grace works such blessed changes among the children of men. Make not the conversion of a sinner more difficult than it need be, by your suspicions. Reserve your strictest judgments for yourself. - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.