Welcome to the second study of biblical verses on freedom - transformation. In our first study, we understood the danger of picking out single verses about a topic and using them out of context and saw the necessity of connecting every verse to the central theme of the Bible - the gospel. We concluded rejoicing that God has set us free from bondage to sin through Christ’s death on the cross.
Today, we are going to look at our next verse, 1 Corinthians 6:11:
“And that is what some of you were. 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 6:11 (NIV)
This verse describes freedom as a radical transformation - a change from what someone was to something new and different. When we read, “And that is what some of you were,” we immediately wonder what were these Corinthians previously, and what happened to them to change them? The verses immediately preceding answer our question:
“...Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. 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).
So, the Corinthians used to be many things as they lived in the lusts of their flesh, following the prince of the power of the air, living lives approved and applauded by the culture of the day. In this previous condition, they were “dead in transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2).
But then something happened, they were changed, they became different, they found such freedom from their previous lifestyle so that the Apostle Paul could declare “that is what some of you were!” In other words, you were, but you are not now. There was a radical change that happened to them so that they were wholly different from what they used to be.
Many in the world promote the false teaching that there are aspects of ourselves, particular desires or sin struggles, that cannot be changed. They teach that you can never change and are doomed to a life of living the same way you've always lived because you were "born that way," it is "who you are."
And while this statement is correct apart from Christ, it is a blatant lie for anyone who comes to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus can do miracles! He heals sick people, raises dead people, and makes them new. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The verse we are studying today paints a vivid picture for us to consider. In saying that the Corinthians were "washed, sanctified and justified," the Bible is showing us that the Corinthians were by birth dirty, worldly, and condemned. This is our condition from birth too.
Religions of the world understand, to some degree, the human condition, and they proclaim the way out of our mess is to keep God's commands, become better people, attain by self-effort. But this is a false method of cleansing, leaving us trying to do good works, which are "as filthy rags" before God (Isaiah 64:6).
12-step programs teach us that we are "clean" if we merely stop an undesirable habit. They teach us to say things like, "I've been clean for thirty days" if we stop doing drugs, or some other unwanted behavior, but this is a fallacy. Stopping a harmful habit might be beneficial and pleasing to ourselves and others, but it does not make us clean.
Let's say a young boy sees that it is raining outside and decides to go out into his yard and play in the puddles. He slips and falls but has great fun playing in the mud.
Eventually, his mom looks out the window and sees the mess and calls the boy inside. She's upset that he is so filthy. The boy feels terrible, and he also doesn't like the way the dirt feels on his body, so he resolves never to go out and play in the mud again.
He has stopped the behavior, but is he clean? Of course not! He may not be playing in the mud any longer, but the boy remains dirty until he washes. Can you imagine this young boy, covered in dried mud, saying to his friend the next day, "I've been clean for one day now!"?
The illustration might seem silly, but it highlights the point of today's biblical verse about freedom: there is only one way to be cleansed and find freedom from who we used to be. We must be "washed...sanctified...justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). Cleansing happens in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. 2 “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land” (Zechariah 13:1-2).
Zechariah looked forward to a specific day when a fountain would be opened, which would cleanse people from sin and impurity and remove idolatry. The context of Zechariah 13 tells us "that day" would be when the nation of Israel would "look on Me [Jesus, God's only Son] whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10). It was the same day that the Shepherd [Jesus] would be struck, and the sheep [His disciples] scattered (Zechariah 13:7).
So, when the only Son of God went to the cross and was pierced in His flesh, the day when the Good Shepherd was struck down and then raised up on the cross, a fountain was opened. A fountain so powerful that it can cleanse us from sins we’ve lived in all our lives, from thoughts we’ve had ever since we can remember, from lifestyles that defile us. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
How was it that the Corinthians used to be defiled and impure, living in sin and riddled with guilt, but then were washed in the name of Jesus? They came to the cross of Jesus and put their faith in what He had done for them! They looked at the cross and saw Jesus removing their sins from them, justifying them before God and making them right with Him. They saw Jesus’ blood flowing over their sins, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, they received the good news that their filthy sins were washed clean, and they were made whiter than snow! The work of cleansing is like a “launderer’s soap” (Malachi 3:2) that both makes us clean and sets us free!
This washing makes us new, cleanses our hearts and minds, and gives us different desires and different lives. It’s truly the receiving of a new life, like being born again.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6).
Such amazing love! That the holy and pure one, Jesus Christ, would become defiled and dirty in our sin, to wash us clean and make us new!
Friend, if you have felt defiled and impure, with your sins making your heart black and your life unclean, there is a fountain opened for you to wash and truly be clean. Washing in this fountain will make you so new, that it could be said of you, “such were you...but you were washed.” Like the song, There Is A Fountain says:
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away
Yes, the thief dying on the cross next to Jesus washed in the fountain and was “cleansed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.” And you can experience this washing too by coming to the same fountain of the cross. The cleansing fountain that flows from the cross is full of love for you that will cleanse you from the inside out and make you whiter than snow and set you free!
Our biblical verse on freedom today is this: “And that is what some of you were. 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 6:11).
If you’ve experienced the defilement of impurity, Jesus invites you to come and experience the washing of renewal in the fountain of His cross.