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Is Losing an Inheritance the Same as Losing Your Salvation? (1 Corinthians 9:11-16)

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Hey Shawn,

I have a theological question. My church has sent out a sort of legal “membership” statement of faith type document. I think certain laws might be changing in the future about same-sex marriages and I guess forcing pastors to perform these marriages even though it goes against God’s intent. So I think this agreement will protect the pastors when they refuse. There was some other stuff in there about celibacy and divorce. So, there was a couple in my small church group who cut off communication and left the church after reading the document. I don’t know why. I’m going to try and reach out to them myself. Maybe it has to do with the fact that this is their second marriage for both of them. Anyways they quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and said they would be “excluded from God’s kingdom” So I am confused because it does say that drunkards, adulterers, etc. will not inherit the kingdom. But it also says that we were washed and sanctified. So exactly “who” won’t inherit the kingdom? Is it people who don’t accept Jesus and keep sinning or is the writer talking to Christians who continue sinning? Because I believe God saved me from all my sins, past, present, and future. But if this couple's 2nd marriage is considered adultery in the bible and they continue in their adultery, then that would be active rebellion. So, is active rebellion a cause to lose salvation? 🤔If you have any clarification let me know.

Hi Shannon,

Great question. It’s interesting that, in referring to 1 Cor 6:9-11 you went from using the language of “excluded from God’s kingdom,” to “not inheriting,” to “losing your salvation.” Those can mean very different things. Whenever I face a Biblical question, the first thing I ask is, “What does the text actually say?” In this case, Paul wrote:

Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? (1 Cor 6:9, emphasis added).

Paul says inherit. He didn’t write “excluded from God’s kingdom” or “lose your salvation.” This is about a potential inheritance that you can lose due to bad behavior. So what does that mean?

Let me suggest to you that inheritance has to do with our eternal rewards, not our salvation.

Jesus talked about eternal rewards, too, urging people to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt 6:19-20). Heavenly treasures are rewards. It takes obedience to lay them up, and you might not do that. By contrast, when Jesus talked about how to be born again, He said the only thing we need to do is to believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-18).

When Paul is warning against losing your kingdom inheritance, I believe he is talking about that heavenly treasure, i.e., eternal rewards. In fact, Paul told the Corinthians about these rewards earlier in the letter. In 1 Cor 3:11-15, he explained that all of our works will be judged, the worthless ones will be burned up, and the valuable ones will be rewarded. But as Paul also explained, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire.” You can experience a loss of rewards—a loss of inheritance—“but he himself will be saved.” You can lose all your rewards, but not your salvation. Once saved always saved.

Unfortunately, if a pastor is not familiar with the concept of eternal rewards, he can easily misuse reward passages to teach works salvation. I consider this a learning opportunity!

Now, I don’t know about the situation of the couple in your group or what they were reacting against. Divorce and remarriage is a tough topic. You shouldn’t get remarried for the wrong reasons. But if someone does, what happens next? Is there no forgiveness? If a couple who have been remarried for decades comes to the church, do you insist they get a divorce? Is there no forgiveness for that? I don’t know for sure. However, if it is a sin, then it will be a spiritual growth and rewards issue, not a salvation issue.

Send your questions or comments to Shawn.

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