1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)
“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.”
I read long ago a comment by theologian/counsellor Jay Adams. Adams might be called the “Father of Nouthetic Counselling.” His comment was that this passage can be understood by an old joke: “When is a door not a door?” Answer, “When it is ajar.” The humour is that “ajar” sounds like “a jar,” which, of course is not at all what the door is, but in context means that the door is slightly open.
Adam’s point is that if you break it down grammatically you have this: “When is a door not a door?” Answer: “When it is something ELSE.” (i.e., “a jar”). The application to this passage becomes obvious. Paul had just listed sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
9 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, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Don’t misunderstand Paul’s intention here, by thinking that only a few sins and not explicitly naming others that only these sins are under consideration. This list is one of several Pauline lists that act as a synecdoche for a number of others.
So what Adams argues, correctly, I think, is this. “When is a (fill in the blank: unrighteous, sexually immoral, idolater, adulterers, homosexual, thief, greedy person, drunkard, reviler, swindler) not that?” Or, “When is a homosexual not a homosexual, when is a drunkard not a drunkard?” Answer: “When they are something ELSE!”
The answer is verse 11. The unrighteous becomes righteous (based on Christ’s imputed righteousness). But this is not simply to say that the adulterer becomes faithful, or the homosexual becomes heterosexual, or the drunk becomes sober; a person can be all these things and be every bit as unrighteous. There is SOMETHING ELSE.
1 Corinthians 6:11 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.
That “something else” is a man washed (regenerated, Titus 3:5) ,sanctified (made holy), justified (made righteous by another, and that other is Christ).
The force of the verb, “were” is that those behaviours were the customary habits of the person prior to being washed, sanctified, and justified. When one turns to Christ for salvation, these things no longer describe what a person is, but rather, what that person was.
A person who is a Christian is no longer identified by the sins of their rebellion. For this reason, we cannot encourage a Christian to identify with a sin as a part of that nature, when that nature has been killed. One might say, “I was once a drunkard,” but if one is no longer a drunkard, because they are something else, they are no drunkard. I know AA disagrees, but unless a man is found in Christ, he is simply a dry alcoholic.
We must not truncate the Gospel by leaving any part of our lives outside of the God’s justification and sanctification. We are not what we were; we are something else. This is why, to answer a question in another post, is homosexuality a salvation or holiness issue. The answer for this, and all rebellion against God, is YES.