Live Out Your Identity- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

In the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul is chastising believers in the Corinthian church for instigating lawsuits against each other. He is criticizing them for acting like unbelievers, criticizing Christians for acting like those who don’t know Christ. In verses 9-11, he then provides insight for them (and us as well) into why these believers were acting like unbelievers in order to help them not act in that way any longer. Paul, as usual, is not just providing information here but attempting to provide understanding that will transform behavior. In verse 9, he tells us that those who act like unbelievers will not inherit the kingdom of God, that believers who act like the lost live as though God is not their king. He then lists a series of behaviors which used to characterize the lives of those who are now part of the church. He tells them, in verse 11, that “that is what some of you were”. The word translated were here is the imperfect active indicative of eimi- the verb “to be”. The imperfect tense signifies continual action in the past, and its usage here refers to a “lifestyle”, to lives which used to be defined and characterized by the behaviors listed in verses 9 and 10. The use of the indicative mood indicates this is a statement of fact, that they in fact used to “be” the things listed here, and they acted that way because that is what they were. He then begins his conclusion to this passage, in verse 11, with a “but”, signifying that things have changed, that they are no longer those things anymore. After reminding them of what they used to be, he then tells them what they now are. They were “washed”, they have been cleansed of their pasts. They were “sanctified”, they have been “set apart” from their old lives and now belong once and for all to God, set apart for His service. They were “justified”, they have been declared righteous once and for all, accepted by God, new creations in Christ. All of this has been done “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”. The question arises here as to why Paul would take the time to remind them of what they were and to tell them they are not that anymore? The reason he does so is in order to remind them of what (or who) they really are and that they are no longer what (or who) they used to be. The Holy Spirit (through Paul here) wants to show us who we really are because the teaching of the New Testament is that there is a connection between identity and behavior, we will act like what we see ourselves to be. The devil wants to remind us of what we were in order to keep us living and acting that way (which is what was happening in Corinth), for if we see ourselves as still being the things listed in verse 9 and 10, we will act like those things. The Holy Spirit wants to remind us of what we are now, for if we see ourselves as “washed, sanctified and justified”, we will live and behave that way. Paul attempts to transform the behavior of the church in Corinth by telling them who they are and turning their focus upon what the are now and away from what they used to be, and the Holy Spirit uses what Paul wrote here for exactly the same purpose in our lives. May we truly understand who we are in Christ and that we are no longer what we used to be, that we have been given a new identity, so that we may live as those who will inherit the Kingdom of God, because that is what we are.

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