God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 A panoply of perversions
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 16, 2023
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men for pay or for pleasure 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
This passage is a panoply of perversions, but the Apostle crafts it in such a way as to teach us about the will of God. He begins with “the wicked,” or literally “the unrighteous.” He will list nine different examples of wickedness, but before this, he takes the usual order of the words “kingdom of God” and reverses them (“God’s kingdom”) to emphasize whose kingdom he is talking about; whose divine will is being broken by these unrighteous offenders. This is not man’s opinion or preference, but God’s law that is being broken.
1, The sexually immoral (pornoi, πόρνοι). Those who have sex apart from marriage. When this word appears in the feminine, it stands for a prostitute (1 Kings 3:16). In the masculine, as we have here, it is anyone who is sexually immoral; the kind of man who has sex with prostitutes. There are limitless examples of such sins, but anyone who violates God’s plan for marriage by having sexual relations apart from marriage falls into this sin. One ancient believer said: “To a fornicator all bread is sweet; he will never weary until he dies.”
2, idolaters (eidololatrai, εἰδωλολάτραι). The sins that surround this one in the list are sexual. Why place idolatry here? It is probably because in Corinth, worship of the Greek gods involved having sex with prostitutes. The Corinthians were so completely immersed in this culture that it was a surprise to them to hear God’s will about sex.
3, adulterers (moichoi, μοιχοὶ). Those who have sex outside their marriage. An adulterer in this list is a married person who wanders out of the marriage for gratification. As Professor Lyle Lange put it: “One plus one plus another one breaks the union of one man and one woman; adultery breaks the marriage bond” (God So Loved the World, p. 669). “A man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself… his shame will never be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32). As for a woman who commits adultery: “First of all, she has disobeyed the Most High; second, she has committed an offense against her husband; and third, she has committed adultery through harlotry and brought forth children by another man. She will leave her memory for a curse, and her disgrace will never be blotted out.”
4, men who have sex with men for pay (malakoi, μαλακοὶ). This word means “soft ones” and can refer to fine clothes (Luke 7:25) but here means men or boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually. Because almost any translation of Biblical terms for homosexual acts is misapplied by various denominations that try to justify “consensual” sexual acts today, I have translated this word “men who have sex with men for pay.” It is clear that the act, not merely sinful intention behind the act, is sinful in God’s sight.
5, men who have sex with men for pleasure (arsenokoitai, ἀρσενοκοῖται). This is any male homosexual; a sodomite or sodomizer, also condemned by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:10. I have differentiated the word from the previous one with “for pleasure” rather than “for pay,” but either are equally sinful. Many of the Corinthian prostitutes were men seeking to give their bodies to other men in a perverse worship of the useless, powerless Greek gods. They were “led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed” (Amos 2:4).
5, thieves (kleptai, κλέπται). It is remarkable that Paul places thieves here after the list of sexual sins. A thief is a sinner in almost all cultures apart from certain Native American or Pacific Islander groups. Thieves were shouted at if they were seen walking by (Job 30:5). Guilt by association with thieves was regarded as being just as sinful (Jeremiah 48:27). An adulterer is a thief of another man’s wife (Deuteronomy 5:21).
6, greedy (pleonektai, πλεονέκται). The root word means “the desire to increase,” and it often involves defrauding or cheating people out of what is theirs; exploiting them (2 Corinthians 7:2). It can also be used of the devil, who wants to “outwit us” (2 Corinthians 2:11). “The eye of the greedy person is not satisfied with his share.”
7, drunkards (methysoi, μέθυσοι). Alcohol in the Bible is limited to the two kinds that were available at the time: beer and wine. Noah brought the art of wine making with him from the ancient world when he left the ark (Genesis 9:20-21). Beer isn’t mentioned until Hannah denies being drunk to the priest at Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:15), but we know the the ancient Hittites and others were experts at making beer. What God desires is that we will not abuse drink (a Fifth Commandment sin), and today we would add the same caution for drugs of all kinds, legal or not, which are horribly misused and lead to all sorts of other sins. “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).
8, slanderers (loidoroi, λοίδοροι). Slander is a sin against the Eighth Commandment, but we should also notice that this word means “to speak abuse,” and therefore is also a Fifth Commandment sin. Jesus was reviled and abused by the Jews and Romans, but “he did not retaliate” (1 Peter 2:23). Those who abuse one another, nit-pick, insult, or otherwise hurt each other with words commit sins like a wicked man planting weeds in his enemy’s field (Matthew 13:25). That damage wreaks havoc for a lifetime, and sometimes beyond one person’s lifetime with misery passed along to children and grandchildren. “The insults of those who insult you fall on me,” David said (Psalm 69:9).
9, swindlers (harpages, ἅρπαγες). This is a word Jesus used to describe “savage” wolves (Matthew 7:15). It means plunder or robbery of any kind, and is used in the prophets for the plunder of lions who fill their lairs with what they have torn from those they have killed (Nahum 2:12). Cheating someone out of their property is a sin, described in many ways in the prophets: “skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales” (Amos 8:5). “Cursed is the cheat” (Malachi 1:14). “If anyone deceives his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care, or stolen, or if he cheats him, or finds lost property and lies about it… he sins and becomes guilty” (Leviticus 6:2-4).
Paul warns: “Do not be deceived!” And he will add in verse 11, “This is what some of you were!” Those who are caught up in these sins will too often defend themselves by saying either that this is a choice they are free to make or that they have no choice at all (one hears both). But choice or not, a sin is a sin. Paul describes sexual sins, especially homosexual sins in either men or women, as a judgment from God: “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Romans 1:24).
For a believer to continue in a sin like this is an invitation to severe judgment from God. God doesn’t draw us to himself in order to give us permission to continue sinning, but to turn from our sin and to live according to his will. A person who turns his heart away from the influence of the Holy Spirit is taking a step onto Pharaoh’s path of hardening his heart. For those who try that, the time will come when they can neither see with their eyes nor understand with their hearts, nor turn from their sins any longer (John 12:40). They will have hardened their hearts and received judgment.
The Christian who is trying to help a brother or sister who struggles with these or other sins must never forget that these sins in particular are more like an addiction than a mere fascination. A man who sets aside sexual immorality for twenty years may suddenly be caught up in its snares when he leasts expects it. An addict is never cured but he can guard against his addiction.
The Church warns: “We should do all the works of sanctification, avoiding all evil speaking, wanton and impure sexual actions, drunkenness, youthful lusts, abominable passion, detestable adultery and abominable pride” (1 Clement 30:1). And again: “Even a man with a bad temper lives in luxury when he satisfies his passion. The adulterer, the drunkard, the slanderer, the liar, the coveter and the robber—anyone who does such things—satisfies his own sickness” (Shepherd of Hermas, Hs 6,5,5).
But most of all, Jesus teaches us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation.” We pray that God would guard us and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or lead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; and though we are tempted by them, we pray that we may overcome and win the victory.
Pastor Timothy Smith