The Christian Transformation
When a person becomes a Christian, many things take place. The apostle Paul often wrote of the transformation that occurs when someone is saved and added to the church. He reminded the Romans that they obeyed “that form of Doctrine” (Rom. 6:17) when they were baptized into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). He told the Galatians they “put on Christ” when they were baptized into Him (Gal. 3:27). He spoke of how the Ephesians heard the word, believed, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). Paul also reminded the Corinthians what happened when they were saved and became a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). In First Corinthians he spoke of how they left their past life of sin, and explained how it was essential because the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. He described some of the sins they repented of and then explained their salvation with three different terms. Paul wrote, “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, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 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” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Let’s examine the three terms Paul used to further understand what exactly happens when we obey the gospel of Christ.
1. The Christians at Corinth were washed. This is an obvious description of their baptism, but the word implies what actually happened at that event. Their sins were washed away. Peter told the Jews on Pentecost, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the actual point when one’s sins are washed away by coming into contact with the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). The word “washed” in the text is a synecdoche representing obedience to the complete plan of salvation that culminates in the final act of baptism. They had heard the word, believed in Jesus, repented of their sins, confessed Jesus as the Son of God, and then had their sins “washed” away in the act of baptism. Ananias used the same word when he asked Paul. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
2. The Christians at Corinth were sanctified. The word sanctify means “separation to God” and the “separation of the believer from evil things and ways” (Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). It comes from the Greek root word hagios, which means holy. Paul was saying they had been made holy or purified. Paul had listed numerous sins that will prevent one from inheriting the kingdom of God. He stated that some of the Corinthians had been living in those sins, but when they were washed they became sanctified. The word sanctify also implies being “set apart,” and when one becomes a Christian they are called out and separated from the world.
3. The Christians at Corinth were justified. Justification, or to be justified, means to be declared not guilty. When the Corinthians obeyed the gospel and had their sins washed away, God was able to declare them not guilty of their sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul explained this to the Romans when he wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:8-9).
We too should look back on our conversion and consider all the great things that happened on that day. It will remind us of the amazing grace of God, and our desperate need for salvation. -Ed