1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 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, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
For the last several weeks we have taken a hiatus from our analysis of this text where Paul’s catalogues sins from which God in His grace and mercy has determined to free us through Christ. If we have truly believed in Christ and the Spirit has been poured out upon us, then these pernicious fruits will be uprooted and in their place the Spirit will begin to bear His fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Thus far we have considered the sins of fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, covetousness, and drunkenness. Today we speak of reviling. Revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
To revile is to reproach, to insult, or even to blaspheme. Moses commands us in Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God nor curse a ruler of your people.” Reviling, therefore, has particular reference to the authorities which God has placed in our lives – including, especially, God Himself. We are to treat our authorities with respect; in other words, we are not to revile them or treat them lightly.
When the Apostle Paul was on trial before the Sanhedrin, he began by protesting his innocence but the high priest ordered him to be struck on the mouth. Not knowing who had given the order, Paul reponded in anger, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” One the bystanders then demanded, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” Paul immediately corrected himself, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” Note that Paul shows respect for the high priest’s office even though the high priest was acting unjustly.
Paul’s conduct reminds us that God takes authority seriously – authority in the home, in the church, and in civil society. Why? Because these authorities represent Him as the ultimate authority. Consequently, those who revile the authorities that God Himself has established in the world ultimately revile God.
God is no egalitarian – He is Himself the Ruler over the world. Hence, the world that He made reflects these layers of authority and we are called upon to respect them. We are to give honor to whom honor is due. Jude warns us that it is false teachers who “defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (8).
So what of you? Have you given due honor to the authorities God has placed in your life? Children, are you honoring your parents? Wives, are you honoring your husbands? Employees, are you honoring your employers? Christians, are you honoring your local elders and deacons? Citizens, are you honoring the civil authorities that God has placed over you? This is our calling.
Reminded that revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God, let us confess that we often despise and insult the authorities He has placed in our lives. As you are able, let us kneel as we seek the Lord’s forgiveness.
One of the ancient associations of Pentecost is with the giving of God’s Law on Mt. Sinai. While the feast of Passover was associated with the deliverance from Egypt, Pentecost 50 days later came to be associated with the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. As Christians, it is important, as we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, that we not drive a wedge between God’s Law and His Spirit. For the Spirit who has been poured out upon us is the Spirit of holiness who enables us, by His grace, to live lives that fulfill God’s law. The Spirit teaches us to cry out with David, “O how I love your law! It is my meditation day and night.” So this morning we mark our celebration of Pentecost with a responsive reading of God’s law – I will be reading each of the Ten Commandments and you will respond with passages from the New Testament that parallel these commandments.
Responsive Reading of the Law of God (Exodus 20:1-17)
Minister: Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
People: For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
M: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
P: Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
M: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
P: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.’” (Matthew 6:9)
M: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
P: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.(Hebrews 10:24-25)
M: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
P: Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)
M: “You shall not murder.”
P: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8, 9)
M: “You shall not commit adultery.”
P: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
M: “You shall not steal.”
P: Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
M: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
P: Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25)
M: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
P: Do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Ephesians 5:3)
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
It is in this 10th commandment that the true force of the other nine commandments is revealed. Had we simply the other commandments, we might console ourselves, like the Pharisees before us, with a mere external observance of God’s laws. I’ve never murdered another; I’ve never committed adultery; I’ve never stolen from my neighbor; I’ve never borne false witness in a court of law. But when we come to the 10th commandment, all such externalism is obliterated. For here we reach the true heart of the law – commandments which do not merely regulate our external actions but which govern our internal attitudes and desires.
Here we find the inspiration for Jesus’ insistence that the 6thcommandment forbids not merely murder but the hatred and spite that give birth to it. Here we find the inspiration for Jesus’ insistence that the 7thcommandment forbids not merely the acting out of sexual deviancy but the lust that gives rise to it. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, idolatries, and every other thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. The law reveals that our fundamental problem as human beings is not that we do the wrong things but that we want, we desire the wrong things. Our problem is a problem of the heart, a problem of allegiance. We do not want to acknowledge that God is the Lord. Evil actions are merely the fruit of that idolatry.
Because the law, particularly the 10th commandment, highlight our sin, many have concluded that the law is the problem. “Let’s get rid of the law then we won’t have these problems.” Paul declares the absurdity of this idea in Romans 7 –
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
The problem is not in the law, the problem is in our hearts. The problem is that we have rebelled against our Creator and need him to forgive us for our sin and to enable us to love what is good and right. And praise be to God that He has sent His Son Jesus Christ to solve this problem. Through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God forgives all those who confess their sins trusting in Jesus as their sacrifice. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the Spirit of God empowers all those who trust in Christ to begin loving righteousness and practicing the same.
So reminded that the law of God is holy and just and good and that, in ourselves, we do not desire to practice it in our lives, let us confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness through His Son Jesus. Let us kneel as we confess together.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Martin Luther writes in his Large Catechism, “Besides our own body, our wife or husband, and our temporal property, we have one more treasure which is indispensible to us, namely, our honor and good name, for it is intolerable to live among men in public disgrace and contempt. Therefore God will not have our neighbor deprived of his reputation, honor, and character any more than of his money and possessions…”
Even as we treasure our own reputation, we are to treasure the reputation of our neighbor and beware tarnishing his good name. So what does this mean? First, it means that in courts of law, we are obliged to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A faithful witness, Solomon declares, does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies. We are not to be influenced by another’s money, power, influence, gender, race, poverty, or position to speak anything other than the truth when summoned to do so by a lawful authority. God declares in Lev 19:15 – You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. God reiterated this need for truth in the halls of justice through the prophet Zechariah:
These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.
When summoned to bear witness in a court of law or when summoned to sit on a jury judging our peers, our obligation in the sight of God is to tell the truth and to judge in light of the truth.
Second, not only are we forbidden to bear false witness in courts of law, we are forbidden to use our tongue to destroy the reputation of our neighbor. Leviticus 19:16 declares, You shll not go about as a talebearer among your people… God hates the one who slanders and gossips and back-bites. He delights in the truth, delights in the one who is willing to speak truth with his lips. So Paul commands us in Ephesians 4:25, Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.
Even as God is a God of truth so we are to men and women of the truth. Truthfulness is to characterize our interaction – with God and with others. So what of you? Is your life truthful? Or do you hide behind lies? Lie about others? Gossip? Slander? Malign?
Reminded of our calling to be men and women of the truth, let us confess to God that our courts and our culture have abandoned truth and embraced lies; and let us confess also that we ourselves often twist and distort the truth to serve our own ends. Let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.
On one occasion Jesus was ministering and teaching to an innumerable multitude of people. So many had gathered that they trampled one another, each eager to hear the words he would speak. As he was teaching, a man in the crowd shouted, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Clearly this man was presenting Jesus with an opportunity, had he been a demagogue courting popular opinion or a revolutionary trying to lead an uprising, to rile up the crowd. Money always gets people excited. Jesus could have used this as a springboard to speak of the injustice of the inheritance laws or the excessive nature of Roman taxation. “Let us rise up; let us protest; I’m your man! Follow me!” But Jesus was neither a demagogue nor a revolutionary. The man in the crowd had misjudged Jesus.
Instead Jesus speaks bluntly to this fellow, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” Essentially Jesus is reminding the man that there is a lawful way to handle his complaint – and that lawful way was to appeal to the magistrates, to appeal to the courts who would decide in such case what was good and just. Jesus was no revolutionary.
But Jesus then goes further and speaks to the multitude: “Take heed,” he declares, “and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” Jesus exposes the sin that was at the root of this man’s request and of our drive to revolutionary action: covetousness. Hardly the type of response that a successful demagogue should make!
Unlike Jesus, our politicians regularly use class envy as a tool to propel themselves into power. “Tax the rich; take from those who have more. We’ll make your brother divide that inheritance with you! he shouldn’t have so much!” In his response to the crowds, Jesus exposes the sin that is at the root of this mentality: it is coveting that which God has given to another; it is theft.
But covetousness is not something that afflicts only politicians. The reason that we fall prey to the pleas of politicians, demagogues, and revolutionaries is that we are covetous; we desire more than God has given. But Jesus rebukes our covetousness and reminds us that our life does not consist in the abundance of things we possess. Instead, a meaningful life consists of loving God and loving our neighbor, of laying up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy. And this is true for rich and poor alike.
And so reminded that we are not to steal, not to take from others in order that we might have more, let us kneel this morning and confess that we are often envious and covetous of others’ possessions.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
The law of God repeatedly reminds us that we are not, as human beings, mere animals driven by our instincts and impulses. Though Darwinism insists that we are descendants of primates and not fundamentally different from other animals, the Word of God insists that we have been made in the image of God and are responsible for the choices we make, responsible for the actions we take.
Because this is the case, because we are humans and not animals, our actions can be classified as noble or ignoble; as good or evil; as praiseworthy or reprehensible. We are not controlled by our impulses but often choose to follow those impulses to our sorrow and shame.
Nowhere is this more true than in our sexuality. The sexual revolution has made full use of the Darwinian myth to justify sexual licentiousness. We are no more than animals; hence, there is no such thing as nobility or honor in the arena of sexuality; how dare you tell me what to do?
But God does tell us what to do. He created us, not we ourselves. Hence, he governs us, not we ourselves. And God commands us in the 7th commandment to govern our sexual impulses, powerful as they are. We are to govern our sexuality so that we not conduct ourselves shamefully, as mere beasts, but so that we conduct ourselves nobly as men.
So what does this mean? It means that we are to treat our sexuality as a gift that is intended to be enjoyed in the context of a marriage covenant. The physical union of husband and wife is a noble and glorious thing, a gift from God. Outside that marriage covenant, however, sexual fantasies and actions are shameful and ignoble; indeed, some of them are criminal.
So lusting in our hearts after another is shameful; viewing pornography is shameful; fornication is shameful; adultery is shameful; homosexuality is shameful; bestiality is shameful; incest is shameful; rape is shameful. There is a distinct reason that our consciences weigh us down when we practice such things; a reason that we experience feelings of shame – for these things are shameful in themselves. They degrade us as human beings and they dishonor our Creator.
As we come into the presence of God, therefore, the God who has made us and fashioned us as men and women not as beasts, who has fashioned us for nobility not dishonor, let us confess that we have often fallen short and acted dishonorably. Let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
Martin Luther writes in his Large Catechism, “To fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction, above all estates that are beneath it, that he commands us not simply to love our parents but also to honor them. With respect to brothers, sisters, and neighbors in general he commands nothing higher than that we love them. Thus he distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them next to himself. For it is a much greater thing to honor than to love. Honor includes not only love but also deference, humility, and modesty, directed (so to speak) toward a majesty hidden within them. It requires us not only to address them affectionately and reverently, but above all to show by our actions, both of heart and of body, that we respect them very highly and that next to God we give them the very highest place. For anyone whom we are whole-heartedly to honor, we must truly regard as high and great….
“[So] learn what this commandment requires concerning honor to parents. You are to esteem and prize them as the most precious treasure on earth. In your words you are to behave respectfully toward them, and not address them discourteously, critically, and censoriously, but submit to them and hold your tongue, even if they go too far. You are also to honor them by your actions (that is, with your body and possessions), serving them, helping them, and caring for them when they are old, sick, feeble, or poor; all this you should do not only cheerfully, but with humility and reverence, as in God’s sight…
“[N]otice what a great, good, and holy work is here assigned to children… If they wish to serve God with truly good works, they must do what is pleasing to their fathers and mothers, or to those who have parental authority over them. Every child who knows and does this has, in the first place, the great comfort of being able joyfully to boast in the face of all who are occupied with works of their own choice: ‘See, this work is well pleasing to my God in heaven; this I know for certain.’ Let them all come forward and boast of their many great, laborious, and difficult works; we shall see whether they can produce a single work that is greater and nobler than obedience to father and mother, which God has appointed and commanded next to obedience to his own majesty. If God’s Word and will are placed first and observed, nothing ought to be considered more important than the will and word of our parents, provided that these, too, are subordinated to obedience toward God and are not set into opposition to the preceding commandments.
“You should rejoice heartily and thank God that he has chosen and fitted you to perform a task so precious and pleasing to him. Even though it seems very trivial and contemptible, make sure that you regard it as great and precious…because it has its place within that jewel and holy treasure, the Word and commandments of God.”
These words of Luther remind us of the great honor that God has bestowed upon parents and of the honor which we are to show to them. And so reminded of our duty and convicted of the ways in which we have fallen short, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Today we return to our series of exhortations on the Ten Commandments. God’s law is an expression of God’s character and, as those who love and treasure Him, the law gives us an appreciation for what God is like and how we can become more like Him. Indeed, one of God’s promises in the New Covenant is that He will write His law upon our hearts and teach us His commandments. As believers in Christ we are to delight in the law of God in the inner man, hungering by the grace of God to please Him in all respects by treasuring His commandments and fulfilling them in our lives.
The first four commandments inform us of our duty in relation to God, the way in which we are to respond to Him and honor Him. The first commandment governs our heart: God alone is to be the object of our affection; the second regulates our bodies: God alone is the one to whom we bow in worship; the third governs our lips: God’s Name must not be treated lightly; the fourth regulates our time: God must be prioritized in our weekly lives.
The Westminster Confession explains:
As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath. (XXI.7)
The Lord’s Day is a holy day – a day set apart from ordinary days for the honor of God and the good of mankind. The Sabbath was given to mankind as a gift, a gift of rest from the Creator. The Sabbath reminds us that all we have and all we are comes as a gift from God not a result of our own labor and performance. God announces through the prophet Ezekiel:
Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. (Ezek 20:12)
The Lord’s Day announces this same thing and more today. On this day Jesus rose from the dead and conquered sin and death. Because Jesus has risen, He has poured out His Spirit upon us that we might be sanctified – made more like our Savior, increasingly reflecting the character of God. God continues to use the rest of the Lord’s Day to remind us that all that we have and all we are come as gifts from Him. They are not primarily a result of our labor but of His grace – for there are many who labor long and hard and who have nothing to show for it.
Increasingly as a people we have ignored and despised the Lord’s Day, we have rejected the privilege of rest and have insisted on working. We have declared that it is not God whose work is primary but we whose work is primary. So God is increasingly making us slaves to our labor and making the portions which we have thinner. Unless we repent and acknowledge once again our dependence on God and the need to reverence His Name by resting on His Day, we can expect this bondage to increase.
So let us confess this day that as a people we have despised God’s holy day and that we need Him to forgive us and restore to us the rest we have lost. Let us kneel as we confess together.
7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
Commonly the third commandment is taken as a restriction on profane speech – and while it does have implications for our speech, the commandment is much broader. The third commandment is a stirring warning against hypocrisy.
The word translated “take” in the commandment can also mean to bear or bear up. Shortly after its use in the third commandment, the same word is used to describe the high priest “bearing” the names of the sons of Israel upon his shoulders. In other words, he stood as the representative for the tribes of Israel, taking their sins upon himself in the Day of Atonement and lifting up their prayers on the altar of incense.
To “bear the name” is, therefore, to represent another. So when God warns Israel about “taking” or “bearing” the name of the Lord your God in vain, he is warning them against representing him to the world in a way that is unfaithful and slanderous. Even as a wife takes the name of her husband and can no longer act as though unmarried, so those who take the Name of God are to live in light of that identity. This, of course, has application for one’s speech; but it actually addresses everything – starting from the heart and working its way out to the tongue.
When God chose Abraham and gave him the covenant of circumcision, he marked out Abraham and his descendants as His representatives on earth. It was through Abraham and his offspring that all the families of the earth would be blessed. God chose Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob and his twelve sons to be His special possession, a people called by His Name and who bore His Name. Israel was the people of God.
In the New Covenant, it is we who have been baptized into Christ who bear the Name of God and whom God now calls to bear His Name in truth. For how are we baptized? We are baptized “into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And having been baptized into the Triune Name, having had the Name of God placed upon us, we are to live lives that represent that God to the world. When we fail to represent Him faithfully – either through the worship of other gods, or through unrighteous living, or through the practice of injustice, or through the misuse of our tongues – then we bear His Name in vain.
We also see in our text that God takes this hypocrisy and deceitful bearing of His Name very seriously – He will not hold Him guiltless that takes His Name in vain. Repeatedly in the history of Israel and in the history of the Church, we see God vindicating His Name in the face of the unfaithfulness of those who bear it. And so this is a reminder to us, an admonition to us to fear the Lord and to serve Him sincerely, free from hypocrisy and double-mindedness. We are to represent God faithfully to the world.
One of the ways we do this is by acknowledging that He alone is holy and exalted and free from sin. The way we demonstrate this, publicly and privately, is by routinely confessing our sins and seeking His forgiveness in the Name of Christ. So this morning let us confess our sins – and in particular, the way in which we are tempted to bear the Name of God in vain and fail to represent Him faithfully to the world. Let us kneel together as we confess.