1 Corinthians 6:9a
9 Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?
This passage has various interpretations as to its meaning. The conflict has to do with the word inherit. Let’s try to set the record straight.
First, what must one do to be saved? The most apparent answer is stated in Acts 16:30-31,
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Second, the apostle Paul explained clearly in Ephesians 2:8,9 how a person is saved,
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
We have two passages, one written by Paul himself, showing how one is saved; it is through believing in Jesus Christ. Salvation is given freely by His grace. The general rule of interpretation is to take the clearest passage first and work from there.
What is happening in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? Is Paul’s use of the word inherit different than the word saved? I think so. What does it mean to inherit the kingdom of God? Let’s go back to the Old Testament and see who it is that gets an inheritance.
Genesis 15:7: The first promise of inheritance is to Abram, and the inheritance is the Land.
Genesis 28:4: The promise of the inheritance of the Land, given to Abraham, is now repeated and extended to Jacob (Israel) and his seed.
Exodus 32:13: Moses reiterates that the promise of the inheritance to Abraham, Issac, and Israel, and their seed will be an inheritance forever.
Isaiah 54:3: This is a passage that is often allegorized (incorrectly), but verse three states that Israel will inherit the Gentiles.
Isaiah 64:9: Out of Jacob (Israel), and out of Judah…God’s elect shall inherit the mountains.
This sampling of Old Testament passages shows clearly the inheritance belonging to Israel.
When Paul writes, inherit the kingdom of God, he must have Israel in mind. Couple that proposition by remembering the Corinthian church is mostly a Jewish congregation, it would be highly unlikely this statement be directed to Gentiles.
Israel inherits the kingdom, not the Church. Gentiles in Corinth would have no clue or understanding of this inheritance concept. It is a Jewish promise. This is not an age of grace salvation passage. We cannot and should not apply the promises (and curses) for Israel to the Church.
The many misinterpretations of this passage can be avoided by remembering Israel and the Church are not the same. More discussion is needed (we will study more of this tomorrow), but it should get us thinking about the validity of our standard modern-day Christian church answer regarding this verse.