This Week's Focus Passage

1 Corinthians 6:11 ‘Such were some of you.’

1 Corinthians 6:11 ‘Such were some of you.’

Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

Are there any limits as to whom God is able o save; are there any sins so heinous and culpable that they cannot be covered by the blood of the Lamb of God? Such a question may appear to be somewhat foolish in many respects, yet we learn in the Scripture narratives that there have been many over centuries and generations that have been counted most unworthy by their contemporaries. Obvious examples of this are those provided by the Pharisees. And in particular, there is a conspicuous side-by-side illustration provided in that most ‘famous’ case of the Pharisee and the Publican which is found in Luke 18:9ff. Assuming the initial words to be those of the gospel writer, Luke himself, this physician has set before us the likely intention of Christ in speaking this parable; at least Luke defines Jesus’ audience. We are told that He spoke this parable unto self-righteous individuals—certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. Not only were these folk self-righteous, but they set all others at nought. ‘All others,’ or, the rest, being those that were not like them; not like the Pharisees. If this perception is thought to be questionable in any way at all, it seems to become manifestly correct as we learn more about this particular Pharisee. As he prays with himself, his predilections, prejudices, and contentment with himself and his opinion of his practices become starkly candid to our view. Yea, he brags about what he is not, as well as what he is. He even thanks God that he is not as the rest of men; and the rest of men of whom he speaks, are extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this ‘collector of Roman taxes.’ His is a conspicuously works related idea of being accepted by God. He is, it appears, incredibly satisfied with himself; with his activities as well as his most punctilious behavior in all things.

On the other hand, this man standing nowhere near the Pharisee, but standing afar off, uncertain of having any right to even be in the temple of God, would not presume to even lift his eyes up unto heaven. But with his eyes cast down at his feet, or at the ground before his feet, considering himself unworthy to even stand where he was, but smote upon his breast and cried, God, be thou propitiated to me, the sinner. He pretends nothing whatever to offer to God. We may well imagine his heart saying, nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thee I cling, and when his hands are not smiting his breast, they are open and uplifted toward God with that simple plea, nothing in my hand. He came full of needs; full of wants; full of hope; but with nothing to offer to God but his empty hands. Remarkably, Jesus said that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. He humbled himself and I have exalted him.

The Pharisee that exalted himself, Jesus said, shall be humbled. We know not when this humbling would come to him. We are not told expressly that he was immediately humbled. We have every reason to believe that he walked out of the temple even as he had entered; proud and self-satisfied. Well might it have been for him had he beat upon his breast and begged God for mercy. Well might it have been for him had he humbled himself that he might be exalted.

The words that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth under our purview this week were likely intended by Paul to humble his readers—which includes the saints of today as well as those of the first century, and ever since. Pharisaism is alive and well today as it was in the days of our Lord’s sojourn upon earth; as it was in the days of Paul; yea, from then even into the 21st century. Even as Charles Spurgeon wisely spoke years ago, when he asserted that we are all born Arminians; we are all born imagining that we are able to save ourselves from whatever we may need to be saved from. We are fiercely independent creatures by nature. And even as that is so of Arminianism, sadly, it is equally so with regard to Pharisaism. We are, each of us, born Pharisees. We are born self-righteous. We are born self-satisfied and proud.

For this reason, it would be a helpful and practical exercise to meditate upon our own origins; not the origins of mankind necessarily, but our individual, personal origins. It would be time well spent were we to meditate on the truth of these words of Paul to the Corinthians, asking God the Holy Spirit to enable us to apply them to our own lives and to our own hearts. Well would it be if our Lord were then pleased to use such meditations to humble us before Him. This counsel was given years ago through the prophet Isaiah, and it bears frequent repetition. Isaiah 51:1ff;

Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek Jehovah: look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye were digged.

May we never, ever look askance at the ‘publican’ beating his breast in sincere and gracious, true humility. May we be reminded when we may encounter fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with men, thieves, drunkards, that such were some of you; but ye were washed, but ye were justified in the Name.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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