In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul provides a sobering warning about who will not inherit the kingdom of God. He states, “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.”
This passage makes it clear that those who live unrighteous lives and refuse to repent will not inherit eternal life in God’s kingdom. The specific sins listed – sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander and swindling – are examples of behaviors that characterize the unrighteous. No one who persists in these sins without repentance can expect to enter God’s kingdom.
Paul’s sobering warning serves to remind the Corinthian Christians that their actions have eternal consequences. Though saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), the expectation is that the indwelling Spirit will produce changed lives characterized by holiness and righteousness. Believers are called to turn away from their old, sinful lifestyles and embrace Christ-like living.
Why does ongoing, unrepentant sin exclude people from God’s kingdom? Here are some key reasons:
- It shows that a person’s heart has not been transformed by God’s Spirit. True saving faith results in regeneration, or being “born again” as a new spiritual creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Spirit’s work should bear righteous fruit.
- Sin grieves the heart of God, who cannot allow unconfessed wickedness into His holy presence (Isaiah 59:1-2). Habitual sin signals a lack of true relationship with Him.
- It indicates that a person still belongs to the kingdom of this world rather than God’s kingdom. They are still enslaved to sin rather than liberated through Christ (Romans 6:6-7,12-14).
- Those who sin openly and without shame demonstrate a false assurance of salvation. They have fooled themselves into thinking they are safe, when in reality they remain under God’s condemnation (1 John 3:4-10).
However, Paul ends this sobering passage on a beautifully hopeful note. He declares in verse 11, “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.” Despite their sinful pasts, the Corinthian believers had been washed clean and set apart unto righteousness through their faith in Christ. They had been justified, or declared legally righteous, before God.
This provides hope that anyone enslaved by the sins listed can repent, turn to Jesus, and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). God will forgive any who come to Him in humble confession and faith, counting them as righteous because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. They are adopted into His family and granted eternal life in His kingdom (John 1:12-13).
So in summary, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 teaches that those who persistently and unrepentantly practice certain sins will be excluded from God’s kingdom and suffer eternal separation from Him. But by God’s grace, the same individuals can experience new life through faith in Jesus Christ. This gracious offer of salvation stands to all who will surrender and take up their cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23).
The first sin that Paul mentions which can exclude someone from God’s kingdom is sexual immorality. The original Greek word used is porneia, which refers to any sexual activity occurring outside the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. This encompasses premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior, and pornography.
Sexual purity is a non-negotiable part of holy Christian living. Passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 and Hebrews 13:4 expressly command believers to avoid porneia and live honorable lives. Jesus also emphasized the importance of purity of mind and body (Matthew 5:27-30).
So why does ongoing sexual immorality indicate that someone will be excluded from God’s kingdom? Here are some reasons:
- It shows that a person’s affections are still entangled with lust and worldly passions rather than fully devoted to God.
- It constitutes a sin against one’s own body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
- It damages human relationships and often exploits others for selfish gain.
- It defies God’s explicit commands for human flourishing.
Sexual immorality enslaves people in cycles of fleeting pleasure and shame. But following God’s design for sexuality within marriage leads to lasting fulfillment and intimacy. Those who turn from sexual sin and devote their bodies to righteousness demonstrate true repentance. This gives hope that they, like the Corinthians, have been washed, sanctified and justified before God.
The second sin that keeps people out of God’s kingdom is idolatry. This refers to worshiping images, false gods, or anything other than the one true God. In Corinth, temple prostitution and pagan ritual practices associated with idolatry were major temptations that Paul warned against.
Idolatry is strictly forbidden throughout Scripture, starting with the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything…” (Exodus 20:3-4). God alone is worthy of worship, praise and allegiance.
Idolatry is dangerous and deceptive because it promises fulfillment outside of relationship with God. His jealousy for His children’s love and trust is likened to that of a faithful spouse (Exodus 34:14). Idolatry breaks trust with the heavenly Bridegroom.
It also attempts to reduce the infinite, all-powerful God to something finite and created. The prophets ridiculed the absurdity of worshiping wooden idols over the Almighty Creator (see Isaiah 44). All idols are empty counterfeits that only let their worshipers down. Therefore, those still chasing counterfeit gods reveal a heart that has not been claimed fully by the true and living God.
Adultery constitutes the next sin that keeps people from God’s kingdom. This refers specifically to the unfaithfulness of a married individual having sexual relations outside of their marriage covenant.
Like sexual immorality, adultery violates the sacred vows made between husband and wife. It threatens the stability of the fundamental building block of human society, the family. Adultery brings agony to spurned spouses and long-lasting wounds to children. It often leads to even worse sins like deception, betrayal and even violence.
That is why Scripture uses such strong language to condemn adultery. Both Old and New Testaments class adultery together with the most heinous of sins that provoke God’s judgment (Jeremiah 29:23, Mark 7:21-22). Faithfulness within marriage, on the other hand, pictures God’s covenant love for His people.
The fatal mistake, however, is to think that avoiding the physical act of adultery is sufficient. Jesus condemned even adulterous thoughts and intentions of the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). He calls His followers to radical purity, honesty and self-sacrifice in all relationships.
So those who boast of their marriage yet cultivate adulterous thoughts reveal a heart not yet fully captivated by Christ. Their actions call into question whether they have experienced new life through the indwelling Spirit.
The practice of homosexuality is also listed by Paul as conduct that will exclude unrepentant people from God’s kingdom. This remains controversial in our age of sexual license, but the Bible is consistent from Old Testament to New Testament in calling all homosexual behavior sin (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27).
This does not mean that those struggling with same-sex attraction cannot be saved. Many believers testify to overcoming the power of these temptations through faith in Christ. They have become shining examples of God’s grace triumphing over sin.
However, those who brazenly embrace and celebrate homosexuality as their identity do not exhibit repentance. They refuse to turn away from conduct that God’s word expressly prohibits. Tragically, this prevents them from coming freely into God’s kingdom.
As with all sexual sin, the answer lies not in prideful boasting but humble confession. Admitting one’s helplessness opens the door for the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power to transform hearts and live righteously (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). This brings true freedom and fulfillment.
Theft is the next sin Paul mentions that will keep unrepentant people out of God’s kingdom. This includes not only overt robbery but all unjust taking of or damage to another’s property. Everything ultimately belongs to God, so such actions display a lack of trust in His provision.
Theft also shows contempt for the divine command to look out for the needs and interests of others. As Paul taught, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28). Those still stealing have not embraced the radical call to share rather than hoard God’s resources.
Envy often drives theft as people desire things not rightfully theirs. This contrasts starkly with the contentment and generosity that should mark kingdom living. As Hebrews 13:5 declares, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
So while theft in all its forms may be commonplace in the world, it indicates that someone remains consumed with self-interest rather than living for God’s glory. Turning from stealing and toward responsible work and stewardship demonstrates true regeneration of heart.
Closely tied to theft, greed refers to an excessive desire for more possessions, resources, money, power or status. While ambition and success are not inherently sinful, greed leads to Obtaining more through unjust means and misuse of whatever one accumulates.
Jesus sternly warned against all kinds of greed, saying, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Greed often drives people into ethical compromise, blindness to the needs of others, and isolation.
Greed also reveals misplaced priorities and faith. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 warns that those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, senseless and harmful desires, and ultimate ruin. The greedy end up pierced through with many pangs because money becomes their functional god rather than the Lord.
But Scripture commends the generous who use resources rightly as wise stewards of God’s gifts. Those who overcome greed through consistent giving and focus on eternal priorities demonstrate true transformation of heart. Their values align with God’s kingdom rather than the love of money which still grips the unsaved.
Drunkenness constitutes another sin that will keep people from God’s kingdom according to Paul. This refers to excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages leading to impaired control, judgment and discernment.
Scripture condemns drunkenness alongside other fleshly sins that must be renounced (Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:19-21). Being filled with wine means there is no room for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Loss of self-control also paves the way for foolishness and sin.
While the Bible nowhere forbids alcohol in moderation, overindulgence is dangerously addictive. It results in damage to health, relationships and reputation. Those trapped in alcoholism often spiral into devastating personal ruin.
So freedom from alcohol dependence and self-restraint provide evidence of new life in Christ. As Ephesians 5:18 instructs, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s control stands opposed to alcohol’s control.
Drunkenness may numb the pain temporarily but sabotages everything that matters eternally. Only Christ’s living water can quench our deepest thirsts now and forever (John 4:13-14).
Slander and Swindling
The last two sins that Paul links with exclusion from God’s kingdom are slander and swindling. Slander refers to intentionally spreading false accusations, rumors and misleading information about others. Swindling involves dishonest practices, scams and trickery for unlawful gain.
Both slander and swindling do tremendous harm through deliberate falsehood. They exhibit hatred rather than true neighbor love. As children of the God of truth, Christians must have no part with deceit and ill-gotten profit.
These sins reveal that someone still belongs to Satan, “the father of lies” rather than belonging to the God of truth (John 8:44). Believers are called instead to speak truthfully, build others up, and work honestly (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 28). Even repentant former swindlers like Zacchaeus demonstrated their transformed hearts by making restitution (Luke 19:1-10).
In summary, this collection of sins for which Paul warns of God’s impending judgment represents conduct completely at odds with His kingdom. They characterize those still walking as enemies of the cross rather than citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:18-20). But by God’s power and grace, all can experience new life and freedom from sin’s bondage.
Requirements for Entering God’s Kingdom
While those continuing in egregious sins demonstrate they do not belong to God, what is required to enter His kingdom and receive eternal life? Thankfully the Bible provides clear answers:
- Repentance – Turning away from sin and toward God (Acts 3:19). This means rejecting old habits, mindsets and identities contrary to following Christ.
- Faith in Jesus Christ – Trusting wholly in His death to pay for our sins and resurrection to grant new life (John 3:16-18, Romans 10:9-10).
- Regeneration by the Holy Spirit – Experiencing new spiritual rebirth and transformation from the inside out (John 3:3-8, Titus 3:3-7).
- Sanctification – Cooperating with the Spirit’s work to put sin to death and grow in holiness (Romans 6:1-14, Philippians 2:12-13).
- Perseverance – Continuing to walk closely with Christ day by day until the end (Matthew 24:13, Hebrews 3:12-14).
This does not mean believers will achieve sinless perfection. But as 1 John 1:5-10 explains, true followers of Christ will freely confess and turn from sin through the power of the indwelling Spirit. They demonstrate that their lives have been fundamentally changed by God’s grace.
So in summary, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 should jolt nominal Christians awake to get right with God. There can be no compromising with deliberate, ongoing sin of any kind. But it also offers hope that anyone enslaved by sin can become a new creation in Christ. Salvation is freely offered to all who will place their faith in Him alone and walk the path of repentance unto eternal life.