What does it mean that a person will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)?
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the apostle Paul wrote, "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. 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." What does it mean that a person will not inherit the kingdom of God?
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The context notes that those in this passage were formerly known for the sinful practices in this list: "And such were some of you." These Corinthian Christians were previously non-believers who did not know Christ. They would not have inherited the kingdom of God at that time. In other words, to not inherit the kingdom of God is to not have eternal life.
In contrast, when these Corinthians believed in the good news of Jesus Christ (John 3:16), they were washed, sanctified, and justified. In other words, their sins were forgiven and they were made holy and right in God's sight.
Paul makes the same statement in Galatians 5:19-20: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." He then contrasts these behaviors with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), calling his readers to a new way of life as followers of Christ.
It is clear that Christians still struggle with sins (Romans 7:18-25), but are changed and seek a new pattern of life that stands in stark contrast with their previous patterns. Those who live a lifestyle of sin are those who do not know Christ and will not experience eternal life with Him in heaven. Those who have believed in Jesus by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) will inherit the kingdom of God, living with the Lord in heaven for all eternity.
Does this mean a person can lose his or her salvation through sinful actions? No. A person cannot lose the gift of eternal life (John 10:28; Romans 8:37-39; Jude 1:24-25). When someone who claims to be a Christian is living an unrepentant sinful lifestyle, they either are not really a Christian or are in need of the Holy Spirit's conviction to come to a place of repentance and change (this repentance would not be for salvation, but for sanctification. Read more here). God calls His children to live a new way of life. Those who follow Him will seek to follow His commands. Though each believer will struggle at times, there will be a new way of life. Those who do not have new life in Christ will not inherit the kingdom of God.
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