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Thursday, August 11, 2022

No Inheritance in The Kingdom of God – Part I

The apostle Paul when he was not writing to a specific individual in his epistles was writing to a church or a group of churches, Galatians for example.  He was writing to Christians in all cases.  In the course of his writing, he warns against a multitude of sins, sins of all kinds.  One finds long listings in Rom. 1:28-32 and 2 Tim. 3:1-5.

While we know sin of any kind unrepented of can keep one out of heaven I have found it noteworthy that in three places Paul gives the reader specific warning that the sins he lists, if practiced, will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God.  Those passages are found in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, and Eph. 5:5-7.  I quote them below using the New King James version.  All underlining is mine.

         1 Cor. 6:9-10

 

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Co 6:9-10 NKJV)

              Gal. 5:19-21

 

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,

idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21 NKJV)

               Eph. 5:5-7

 

“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. (Eph 5:5-7 NKJV)

I thought it might be good to be sure we understand the nature of the sins that will keep us out of heaven if practiced. 

Adultery is the first sin listed in Gal. 5.  I suspect most people think they know what adultery is but Jesus’ gives one definition of it in Matt. 19:9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (Matt. 19:9 NKJV)  Of course, if the woman was to do this rather than the man the principle is the same.

There are people who claim that adultery is a one-time act.  No so!  Col. 3:5-7 clearly teaches one can live in a sin.  “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication (‘sexual immorality’ in modern versions – DS), uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” (Col. 3:5-7 NKJV)  So, one can live in a sin or sins versus just a one-time act.

Besides that it is said by those who know the Greek that the word “committeth” as in committeth adultery in Matt. 19:9 in the King James version of the Bible denotes linear or continuous action thus means it is ongoing, not a single act.  I am not a Greek scholar but I don’t think they are lying about it.  There is no reason to do so. 

One must also remember why John the Baptist got in trouble with Herod.  He was imprisoned for Herod did not like what he had to say, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18 NKJV)  Herod had married her but John said she is “your brother’s wife.”  Herod was living in adultery with Herodias.

Of course, all extra-marital affairs are adulterous.  A fitting definition that more or less covers the whole ground of what adultery is would go something like this:  voluntary sexual intercourse between two persons, one at least who is married to another (both might be).  Yes, this is an act but when engaged in habitually it is a manner of life, a way of life which one lives or practices.

Is this the only way to commit adultery?  Good question.  How about what Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were involved in?  What about those who are sexually intimate but have not yet gone all the way?  God will judge whether or not it is adultery but it is certain such things are sexually immoral and will keep the unrepentant out of the kingdom of God no matter what descriptive name you would give to the specific sin.  Those things would at the very least fall under the category of “fornication,” our next topic.  As a matter of fact, all adultery falls under the more inclusive classification of fornication (sexual immorality).

Before moving on to the topic of fornication one other comment ought to be added to this discussion.  Jesus did say, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28 NKJV)  “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8 NKJV)  Is this equivalent to the adultery spoken of in Paul’s listings?  It would be tough to take the position that one could face God on the Day of Judgment with an impure heart and have hope of heaven.  I suppose technically, which is to say physically, it would not be adultery but it is definitely a soul destroyer.  That is about all one can say about the matter.

The next sin Paul lists that committed habitually and unrepented of that will keep one out of heaven is fornication.  When I was growing up in the mid-20th century when one used the word fornication we all thought we knew what was meant.  It was a single person having sexual relations, sexual intercourse, outside of marriage.  Such a person was a fornicator.  That was the limit of the sin.

Nowadays one will not even find the word “fornication” or “fornicators” in the major modern-day translations.  Those terms have been exchanged for a much broader more inclusive term, “sexual immorality.”  This includes versions like the New American Standard 2020, the English Standard Version, the Christian Standard Version, and the New International Version.  The New Living Translation uses the term “sexual sin” in 1 Cor. 6:9.

Think of the many Greek scholars who worked on these translations deciding how to most accurately translate the Greek into understandable English.  Were all these scholars wrong in making the decision to change the wording from fornication to sexual immorality?  Perhaps the very reason they did it was to clarify the meaning of the text to those of us who were likely to misunderstand the meaning of the word “fornication” in our modern-day society.

The Greek word behind the King James, the New King James, and the older New American Standard versions that was translated as “fornication” was the word “porneia” in its noun form with a slightly different spelling in its verb form.  It was long thought among the average person, so to speak, that this word had the restricted meaning I have already spoken of, but modern scholarship has debunked that idea and thus changed the translation to “sexual immorality.”

One can easily be misled by reading some of the older commentaries and word study books on the word fornication that seem to restrict the meaning to one specific act.  Whether they actually did that or not is open to question.  They may have meant more than we commonly give them credit for when they used phrases like “sexual intercourse.”  That phrase likely had a more broad based meaning many decades ago than it does today in society in general, more specifically the word intercourse.  We have today confined it to one act.  That does not mean they did or that they intended to.

Be that as it may, scholarship does advance with time in nearly every field of endeavor.  Not every change in our bibles is the devil trying to destroy us as some King James only advocates seem to imply.  “Sexual immorality” is a much better way to translate the Greek word porneia to give the modern-day reader an accurate understanding of what the text is meant to convey.

So, what does this phrase mean, this thing, this sin that will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God?  Fornication (NKJV) or sexual immorality (modern versions) includes all sexual sin thus not just sexual intercourse outside marriage but nearly everything that you can imagine.  Probably no one could list every specific sin under this general category of “sexual immorality.”  I think most people have an innate sense about them, if they have any Christian background or training at all, to know when an action has crossed the line into sexual immorality whether it is specifically stated as such in the text or not.    

I know some object to “sexual immorality” as a translation of the Greek here.  They think it is too broad a phrase, encompasses too much.  Yet, they generally admit that the word “fornication” as most understand it to not be inclusive enough of what the actual Greek word “porneia” means.  So, they stand between a rock and a hard place.  What word or phrase would they use?  You get no answer.  As I said before, “sexual immorality” is a better translation for our day and age.  Trying to figure out every single sexual sin that this would include is not the job of the translator.

Certainly, this sin, sexual immorality in all its many varied aspects, is difficult for people living in bodies of flesh to conquer.  I once heard many, many years ago a faithful man in the church as far as I could tell comment that everyone was likely guilty.  I suspect he was correct if one was to talk of a one-time or an occasional occurrence over the course of a lifetime, especially in youth.  However, Paul speaks of those “who practice such things” (Gal. 5:21), who make it a way of life, who are unrepentant.

It is no news to any of us that we sin.  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10 NKJV)  The key is to not practice sin as a way of life and to be penitent, to repent when we do sin --  that is if one is a Christian.  For those who are not the key is to obey the gospel from the heart with all that involves (another lesson for another time).

I had hoped to go through this entire listing of sins from the passages chosen in one article.  Obviously, that is not going to happen.  I will, Lord willing, continue on in later articles.  For now, I close by simply saying that the Holy Spirit says we cannot go to heaven practicing these two categories of sins. 

“For out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the thing which defile a man.” (Jesus, Matt. 15:19-20 NKJV) [my underlining -- DS]

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