Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? … 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
God sees us not in terms of what we were apart from him, but in light of who we become in Christ. One of the essential steps to gain victory and hope in our lives is to see ourselves in light of the power of the Gospel, in light of our new reality in Christ.
The “wicked” includes us all in some manner. The church at Corinth existed in a city renown for its debauchery, so much so that to be called a Corinthian was an insult in the First Century. Prostitution, slander, thievery, drunkenness – these characterized the populace, and some of them had become believers and were in the church. Yet by the grace of God their old sinful identities were exchanged for new ones: clean, sanctified, and justified.
But we do not need to be involved in such graphic sinning to be among the wicked. In Ephesians Paul wrote that all of us at one time lived like people of the world: “Gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3). Through the gospel we found ourselves being sought by God. Having trusted in Christ we have been made alive in him, yet still the old nature beckons us to return to its perspectives and patterns of thought and behavior.
God’s word helps us to form a new understanding of ourselves. We are cleaned through the blood of Christ. The old sins and trespasses that we have done, the former unclean ways of thinking and acting, the pain we have caused to others and to ourselves – all of this is forgiven completely. Washed has the image of a filthy object made clean.
We are sanctified, and this has two aspects: positional sanctification and progressive sanctification. We are in a new position in Christ as believers, not just cleaned from moral filth but also brought into the very presence of God through his Spirit; this is positional or legal sanctification. We are also growing in holiness in our lives through his Spirit who works to will and to do his good pleasure in our lives; this is progressive sanctification.
We are justified in Christ. Justified is a strong term and means more than forgiveness. In our common speech to justify yourself means to insist you did not wrong to begin with. To be justified in Christ means that God now sees us in a legal sense as though we had never sinned – the righteousness of Christ has covered our past.
This is who you are in Christ Jesus. What you were apart from Christ is not the final definition of who you are. You are a new creation! Rejoice in the grace of God this day!
Lord, it is easy for us to fall into old patterns of thinking, to define ourselves only by our past. Increase our faith that we may see ourselves in light of your gospel: loved, forgiven, sanctified, justified. Amen.