The Expository Files

Sinners Anonymous

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you were..." (I Cor 6:9-11)

I was listening to a radio talk show the other day and the topic was homosexuality. The evasive manner in which many Christians deal with homosexuals, even repentant former homosexuals, was being considered. During the conversation a somewhat flippant suggestion was made that the name of the Lord's church be changed to "Sinners Anonymous," reflecting the truth that since we are all sinners we should not be too quick to shun others who, after all, are no worse off in God's eyes than we are (Mt. 7:1,2; Ja 2:10). Even though the suggestion was not intended to be taken seriously, it did remind me of what I consider to be a rather serious problem among the Lord's people.

It would do us all good to remember the following three points: (1) All Christians are converted sinners and continue to sin even after conversion (I Jn 2:1). (2) Christians should never become arrogant, thinking themselves to be better than other sinners (I Cor 5:1,2). And (3), it would possibly be easier to bring other sinners to the Lord by formally recognizing the fact that we also are sinners (I Tim 1:15).

Without going so far as re-naming the church, Christians do need to reconsider how they view themselves in contrast to those who have not been saved. Instead of adopting an arrogant, "holier than thou" attitude ("The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like othr men'..." - Lk 18:11), we need to see ourselves as sinners ("God, have mercy on me a sinner." - Lk 18:13), who have been blessed spiritually through the benevolence of God ("For it is by grace you have been saved through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." Eph 2:8,9).

The growth of local churches of Christ has, no doubt, been stunted by the refusal of Christians to sincerely welcome into their company those who are seen as spiritually "challenged". This un-Christlike behavior is seen not only in public worship services, but also in our personal and business activities as we consciously avoid anything other than a distant and casual acquaintance with those whom we consider to be spiritually and/or morally inferior.

Jesus was not afraid to go to the poor, ignorant, downtrodden, socially outcast, morally decadent and physically diseased masses. Neither were his apostles, and neither should we. (Mt. 4:23; 6:2; 8:3,14,28; 9:6,32; 10:1; 12:10; 14:36; 15:22,30; 16:1; Acts 28:7-9; I Pet 2:21. Read 'em!).
The church in Corinth was made up of sinners of the vilest ilk, male prostitutes, homosexuals, etc., Paul however, tells them reassuringly, "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" (v11). No longer shun such people. Let their sin, or poverty, etc. be your opportunity to lead them to Christ.

By Ed Barnes
From Expository Files 6.10; October 1999