Not Inheriting God’s Kingdom

What is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 6:9? What does Malakoi in 1 Cor. 6:9 mean? Provide evidence to back your interpretation.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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 6:9–11, ESV)

Paul says twice that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom. That is the message of the three versus that encompass 1 Corinthians 6:9. He’ll use a device list to describe what the “unrighteous” entail.

He tells Christians to not be deceived about this point. This list is not complete. The unrighteous do more than just these activities. But these activities are included under the unrighteous. Unrighteous means those who do not do what God sees as right or just.

Paul starts with sexually immoral (pornos), a junk drawer term in Greek for any sexual activity that falls out of God’s will or desire for us. The biblical place to enjoy sexual desire is a marriage. Anything outside of marriage is sexual immorality.

This includes anything we can think of outside marriage. The reason Paul uses this inclusive term is because humans continue to invent ways to sin against God not listed in Scripture. The Bible lists many sexual practices outside of God’s standards like adultery, lust, fornication, bestiality, and homosexuality to name a few, but if we make up a new sexual practice outside of marriage, it would be considered under sexual morality. Even thinking about sex or sexual things outside of marriage would fit under this term.

A current move in our culture is to attempt to redefine marriage from the biblical definition of an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman. Most redefinitions focus on a loving relationship between two people (or more) instead of the parties involved in the biblical definition.

Next Paul lists idolaters (eidōlolatrēs) or those who worship idols. This is one who makes a carved image, worships that carved image, or prioritizes anyone or anything above God. The first four of the Ten Commandments describe an exclusive relationship with God. It makes sense that idolaters will not inherit God’s kingdom since they are seeking a relationship with an idol or false god Instead of Him.

From those who violate their exclusive relationship with God through idolatry Paul next lists those who violate their marital covenant with their spouse, adulterers (moichalis). This is a person who commits sexual immorality by having sex with a person other than their spouse.

But Jesus mentions the commandment about not committing adultery and expands the meaning to anyone who lusts after the opposite gender. Adultery includes not only the outward act but the inner thoughts that begin a person down the path to commit the physical act.

The next term Paul uses in the vice list has to do with homosexuality (malakoi). Since you asked specifically about this term, the most respected Greek lexicon, BDAG, defines the term this way:

②    pert. to being passive in a same-sex relationship, effeminate esp. of catamites, of men and boys who are sodomized 1 Cor 6:9 (‘male prostitutes’ NRSV is too narrow a rendering; ‘sexual pervert’ REB is too broad)=Pol 5:3. [1]

This specifically refers to the passive partner in a male to male homosexual relationship, the effeminate partner. It may not be a partner but a victim. Because the term is plural for sexual relationships it may refer to both men involved in such an act or relationship.

It is not the usual term for homosexuality that is used in these vice lists. But it may refer to a person who does not speak up if violated or may speak to complicity in a homosexual relationship. It is a very specific term that must not be broadened or made too specific.

In more general terminology, the Bible condemns homosexuality in eight verses in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Although Paul is referring to a very specific part of the homosexual relationship in this verse the Bible speaks to the issue of homosexuality more generally.

It is not popular to talk about homosexuality in these ways, but this is what the Bible says about it. I have found in my ministry that people want to ask me about what the Bible says about homosexuality to see if I will cave into new social standards and try to equivocate between the Bible and the world or if I will be honest about what the Bible says.

If I tell them what the Bible says they paint me and other Christians as homophobes. They want their “gotcha” moment. Christians must be faithful to what the Bible says. The Bible calls homosexuality sin. It’s clear in the text and if we do not admit that we do a great disservice to ourselves and to God.

But there are a host of sins the Bible calls out that we must agree calls them what they are. Being honest about what the Bible says about homosexuality does not make as homophobes. The way we treat homosexuals should be the way we treat any sin and sinners. One of the best ways to treat them is to hate the sin and love the sinner.

I don’t have anybody complaining to me about murderers being considered sinners. So we must treat every sin the same. I have a feeling this question is coming from that state of mind, as a litmus test to see if I will equivocate to the world or state the biblical standard.

Next Paul references thieves (lēstēs), people who break the commandment to not steal from others. This term is self-explanatory. Next are those who are greedy (pleonektēs). Greed and coveting can be considered under the same umbrella. This violates the last commandment. These are people who take advantage of others and always pressed for more than they need.

Next on the list are drunkards (methysos), those who drink alcohol in excess and become drunk, intoxicated. Paul has stated elsewhere that getting drunk on alcohol is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19). It is not ascended drink, but it is a sin to get drunk.

Revilers (loidoros) are those who insult or verbally abuse others. They assault the character of other people, usually out of anger. This refers specifically to sinful speech. An example of these would be the ones who reviled Jesus while he was on the cross.

Swindlers (harpax) are next. These are people who rob others, sees or snatch their property. It may refer to a more violent approach to thieving than the word mentioned earlier. This is the last group mentioned in the vice list.

For the second time Paul mentions that anyone on this list (and those who do like-minded things) will not inherit God’s kingdom. There are other vice lists in the New Testament that have other sins with the same warning.

My favorite part of this passage is what Paul says next. He says that some of the Christians he is speaking to in the letter of 1 Corinthians used to do these things before they met Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:11). There is hope for anyone on this list or doing these things.

If they wish to repent and come to Christ, become believers in Jesus, he wipes their slate clean. It’s as if they never did any of these things and are welcomed into God’s kingdom as one of his children. Paul speaks of the washing and making holy of such individuals by Jesus.

With any of the terms in this vice list Christians must react in the same way toward any sin that disqualifies a sinner from entering God’s kingdom. We cannot treat one sin worse than another. All sins separate us from God and disqualify us from the benefits of relationship with Him.

We must treat every sin with truth and love. We must speak the truth of Scripture toward the sin in a loving manner. No Christian wishes for any sinner to be separated from God and miss the opportunity to dwell with him forever in heaven.

If we don’t share these truths of Scripture, God’s requirements for righteous and holy living, with sinners then we do not love them. There must be balance in our approach.

[1 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 613.

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