Pentecost 4c

Preached: June 16, 2013

You Were Washed Clean
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit testifies to us about what Jesus has done for us is 1 Corinthians 6.

Don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God's kingdom? Don't fool yourselves. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor perverts nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunks nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit God's kingdom. And that's what some of you were. But to the contrary, you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

It was one of those hot August days. Young Al had just washed his pig to make a good showing at the fair. But he hadn't noticed that the door to the yard was open. As he turned his back, the pig headed right for the mud.

An old proverb says that a dog returns to its vomit and a washed pig to its wallowing in the mud. Even though we may know that pigs stay cool that way, our gut reaction is: “How stupid!” If you go through the work of washing clean, why go back and roll in the mud?

The Apostle Peter in his second letter applies those proverbs to people who followed Jesus escaping the world's filth but then, after a while, turned away from God's truth. The Apostle Paul in the text warns the Christians in Corinth and us about that danger.

For you see, dear Christian, you were washed, washed clean. That's the theme. So don't forsake the inheritance you were reborn into (part one). For in Jesus you have a new verdict (part two).

A. Don't forsake the inheritance you were reborn into

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV84), the Apostle writes. Paul had just listed a grab bag of various sins. He's not trying to be exhaustive but is simply giving some examples. Sometimes we're tempted to grab one or two out of a list like this and think, “That's a bad sin. Those who do that won't inherit the kingdom of God. I'm glad I'm not one of those kind of people.”

Maybe among conservative Christians in our age, it's tempting to pick out the sin of homosexuality. Yes, this is a key passage to prove that homosexuality is sinful. But it's not listed here so that we can feel superior, saying to ourselves, “I'm glad I'm not one of those sinners.”

Rather, dear friends, let the full impact of this list hit you square in the heart. Several of the items deal with sexual sins, not just homosexual but heterosexual sins as well. Sexual immorality and adultery are listed. “But I've been faithful to my spouse.” Remember what Jesus said about the Sixth Commandment. A lustful thought makes you or me guilty before God, as much of a dirty sinner as an adulterer or homosexual.

Likewise, maybe a criminal background check would clearly show that you've never been convicted as a thief or swindler. But notice how greed is mentioned in this list, that covetous desire that unsatisfied with what we have. How often don't our complaints come because we are not content with what God has given us. We want more. That's greed. Or we greedily hold on to what we have with clenched fists claiming, “This is MINE!” The greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Getting drunk isn't something to laugh at or joke about. That's on the list here too. When he mentions slanderers, think of how often we've used our words with evil intent to hurt someone or tarnish their good name. And when he lists idolatry don't just picture bowing down to a stone or wooden idol. Idolatry means failing to place God first continuously. Whenever we sin, we've placed our desires above God. That's idolatry. Whenever we trust something or someone else instead of God, that's idolatry. Whenever we seek happiness without God, that's idolatry. When we treasure the gifts more than we treasure our God who gives them, that's idolatry. Whenever we fail to love him above all, that's idolatry.

Do we really want to plead our case in God's courtroom by arguing that at least we haven't broken as many laws as someone else? Do we really want to try to prove our righteousness by saying, “At least I didn't do that particular sin”? Do you really want to argue, “I'm a good person overall. I do my best. I try hard. I should get some credit”? God's law demands perfection, complete perfection. The only righteousness that stands up in God's courtroom has no flaws at all, no blemish, no stain, not one speck of dust. As long as we keep arguing our case based on our efforts to obey, the law condemns you and me as dirty, filthy sinners, unrighteous law-breakers. Such people will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But you were washed, dear friend. You were washed clean of your guilt. You were washed clean of all the unrighteousness and wickedness. You were washed clean of those sins Paul listed and every other sin as well. You were washed clean through the water of Baptism, that washing of water with the word, that washing of rebirth and renewal worked by the Holy Spirit to make you an heir of eternal life.

And at that moment when you were washed, you were also sanctified. What does that mean? You were set apart for God. You were counted as holy in his sight. He called you his saint, one of his holy, sanctified children, one of his heirs. “But you were washed, you were sanctified” (1 Corinthians 6:11), the Apostle writes.

Why would we return to the mud hole? Why would we forsake the inheritance Jesus has sanctified us for? He has set you apart as his own child, washed you clean to be an heir of everlasting life in his kingdom. You've been reborn into his family. Don't forsake your inheritance by willingly indulging in sin, as if God's forgiveness granted you a license to do as your sinful nature pleases. Don't forsake your inheritance by trying to show that you're better than others as if your filth doesn't stick as bad. Don't forsake your inheritance by arguing your case based on your efforts to obey. Don't return to that slavery, toiling in the mud. Jesus has freed you and made you a son or daughter in his family, so that you are an heir of his kingdom.

When Baptism washed you clean, you were reborn into God's family. So live as a child of the holy God, honoring the family name you carry. Live as heirs of heaven firmly believing that the inheritance is yours not as something earned by you, but as a gift freely given because of the death of your Brother, Jesus Christ. For an inheritance is not a wage that's earned, but a gift passed on at the death of a family member. Every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and the inheritance he freely gives us.

Yes, what an inheritance you were reborn into at your Baptism! Live as a holy child of God and heir of his kingdom. You were washed clean.

B. For in Christ you have a new verdict

And if this sounds too good to be true, listen to the verdict, the new verdict that God himself speaks. The Apostle writes, “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” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV84).

We've already talked about being washed and sanctified, but the Apostle adds one more word to assure you of what your Savior has done for you. For you see, God's law pricks our conscience and accuses us. “You're dirty sinner. You're a guilty law-breaker.” Our conscience knows the deep sins hidden in the dungeons of our hearts. Even if others think we're clean, our conscience knows better. And God's law has only one verdict for a law-breaker: Damned to hell.

But dear Christian, you were not only washed and sanctified; you were justified, the Apostle declares. The Law's verdict based on our efforts and actions was death and damnation. But in Christ you have a new verdict: Justified! Acquitted! Not-guilty!

How can that be? Were are sins not that bad? Not at all. Our sins are worse than we realize. Was our conscience mistaken about our guilt? Not at all. Our conscience doesn't know the half of it. How come this new verdict then? How can we be justified, acquitted, found not guilty?

That's answered in the last words of the text. “... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV84). This new verdict is not based in any way at all on our efforts or actions; it's based entirely on the Lord Jesus Christ. His life and death in our place is the evidence presented on our behalf. His righteousness counts as your record. His perfect life of holiness covers you so that God calls you his holy child, his saint. His blood washes away every stain of your sin. His suffering and death satisfied the Law's just requirement that every sin be punished. His resurrection proclaims God's new verdict: “Because of Jesus sinners are declared righteous, the wicked are justified, the guilty are acquitted.”

The Holy Spirit has brought you, dear Christian, to believe this new verdict this good news of Jesus. No faith, dead faith, or false faith does not plead the merits of Christ but still clings to its own efforts and actions. The new verdict does such a person no good at all. Only death and damnation await them. But the Holy Spirit has brought you, dear Christian, to believe this new verdict, the gospel of Jesus. Because of Jesus God has erased the record of your wickedness so that no matter how great your guilt is, you have been acquitted. Through faith in Jesus you, dear sinner, are forgiven. That's the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. That's the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Believe the Spirit's testimony. It is God's truth.

Such faith that believes the Spirit's testimony does not return to the mud. Rather your faith, dear Christian, cherishes the Spirit's testimony. Remember the Spirit's testimony spoken at your Baptism when you were reborn into the family of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Ponder the Spirit's testimony recorded by the Scriptures which reveal the kingdom of God and the inheritance that is yours in Christ Jesus. Rejoice in the Spirit's testimony brought to you by the body and blood of Christ which you eat and drink in the Lord's Supper. His body and blood, sacrificed on the cross for you, have justified you. This new verdict is yours through faith alone. For you were washed clean in the blood of Jesus.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313