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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 6

Verse 11


‘And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’

1 Corinthians 6:11

The Evangel preached by St. Paul works miracles. It acted in some measure on all ranks of society; it even saved the waifs and strays of heathen cities like Rome, Ephesus, and Corinth. Men sometimes ask for ethics, for morality to be preached. But such preaching has been tried and it has failed over and over again. It softens no hearts, saves no souls, transforms no lives. Our subject divides itself.

I. There is the former state of these people.—They had been fornicators, adulterers, and such like. The very hand of the devil had been on them.

II. Now think of their present condition.

(a) ‘But ye are washed.’ St. Paul did not say, ‘But you atoned for your sins by repentance.’ St. Paul did not say, ‘But you amended your lives.’ St. Paul did not say, ‘But you reformed yourselves.’ St. Paul said, ‘But ye are washed.’

(b) ‘But ye are sanctified.’ They had been set apart for the service of God. They had found the blessed life—the Divine ideal of what life should be. They belonged to Christ. They were to ‘occupy’ till He came. They themselves, talents, time, and money all belonged to Him. They were only stewards: all they had was only held on trust.

(c) ‘But ye are justified.’ Justify means to pronounce just or righteous. ‘We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings’ (Article XI).

III. How the change came about.—‘In the name of the Lord Jesus.’ This name has not lost its wonder-working power. It can still work moral miracles. It can still transform and uplift human hearts and lives as in the far-off ages. Christ can touch the strings of the human heart, however hopeless that heart may seem to be, and when He touches the strings, sweet music is heard—a new song of praise and gladness. ‘… And by the Spirit of our God.’ For it is He that convinces men of sin and unites them to Christ, and reveals His “unsearchable riches.”’

Rev. F. Harper.


(1) ‘“If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me,” so Christ says. “O solemn words! which leave no alternative behind them; but shut up the soul into a dilemma. You may have great virtue, as the world calls virtue; you may have great honour, as the world calls honour; you may have great love, as the world calls love; but the question comes back upon us, simple, irresistible, alone—‘Are you washed?’ ‘Has the blood of Christ ever yet been applied, by faith, to your poor soul?’ If not, it is all tinsel—all the rest is an empty show—you are not safe, you are not safe. Not for a moment. If you have any peace, it is false; if you have any hope, it is a lie. Not one grape of Eshcol may you eat; not one promise may you grasp; not one spot of Canaan can you call your own. You are not ‘washed’; you are not ‘washed’; therefore you have no part in Christ. ‘No part in Christ?’ Then where is your part?”’

(2) ‘One day an old violin was put up at a London auction mart, and the auctioneer could scarcely get a bid. But when it was going for a mere song, a stranger came in and asked to see it. He took it up and began to play. He touched the upper strings and every one was thrilled. He played in quickened time and they wanted to dance. He began on his favourite G string, “Home, sweet Home,” and they all sobbed. It was the Master of Musicians, the great Paganini himself, and the despised violin was knocked down for one hundred guineas.’



St. Paul draws a very dark picture of the past of the Corinthian Christians. ‘And such,’ he says, ‘were some of you.’ Will conscience speak very wrong in saying, ‘Such are some of you?’ In that black catalogue do you find your case, either in the letter of it or in the spirit of it? Were you not once, or are you not now, one of those ten classes? Does not the Spirit whisper that in one of those things ‘Thou art the man!’ Be faithful to yourself; be faithful to God in answering that question.

It is of such materials that the Church on earth, and the Church in heaven, is made. A place for us all; hope for us all; mercy for us all; heaven for us all.

I. But the first thing of all is to get rid of the past.—To separate that which was, and that which is to be. To cut off the sequence; to recast the life; to start another man. To this end, the first requirement is, to have the old all washed out; in some way obliterated. Like the stains, like the darkened colour of some old, defiled garment, they must be ‘washed’ quite out.

II. We need more than this; we need to be positively holy.—It will not be enough to be found without sins, we must be like God, if we are to live with God. He must see His own reflection in us. Now let us go on to see how this is done. We, being in Christ, the Holy Ghost comes and dwells in us. He has already come to you in the faith by which you receive the washing; but now He comes in all His holy, special, seven-fold offices. He comes to teach; to relieve; to comfort; to reprove; to purify; to heal, or, in one word, which includes all, He comes to ‘sanctify,’ and make us holy. The Holy Ghost in the heart is a Real Living Being; not simply a spiritual person. He draws; He speaks; He restores; He leads; He teaches; He imparts good thoughts and holy desires; He actually prays in our souls; and He empowers us with everything, and assimilates us with God in heaven; while in harmony with the inworking of the Spirit, God makes all outer things to ‘work together’ for the same end. The whole of life becomes a school of sanctification. Alike our sorrows and our joys, they have all the same end in view. They co-operate with the inner workings of the Divine Presence; some to humble us; some to cheer us; but all to help us to maintain the spirit of Christ. The imparted sanctification is the work of the Holy Ghost; the imputed sanctification is the holiness of Christ laid on, above all, and over all, hiding all deficiencies, and clothing the believer in a garment which covers the whole.

III. This leads to the third step, ‘justified.’—‘Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’ In the Bible, the word ‘justified’ means a person is accounted righteous before God, though he is not really righteous in himself, but rather a poor, miserable sinner! If we were ‘sanctified’ to the utmost point we can reach, we are not ‘perfect’; we are not good in the sight of a holy God. The whitest heart in this church is black by the side of the perfections of God. Therefore God provideth the remedy; now He hath ‘made a way whereby He can be just, and yet our Justifier.’ God sees every believer, every real believer in Christ, covered with Christ. He imputes to that man the very beauty, the holiness of the whole life of Jesus. He, poor sinner, is as though he had lived Christ’s life, for he is one that is ‘perfect and entire,’ wanting nothing. That is justification.

So we are first ‘washed,’ then ‘sanctified,’ then ‘justified.’ ‘Washed’ with the blood of the Son of God, ‘sanctified’ by the Holy Ghost, ‘justified’ by the Father.

Verse 19


‘Ye are not your own.’

1 Corinthians 6:19

As Christians we are no longer our own. Jesus has acquired by His blood all rights of ownership over us. This is the great truth I desire to press upon you most earnestly and most affectionately, until it lays hold of your whole natures and exerts its true influence in your daily lives.

I. Ownership demands submission.—If ownership confers any privilege upon a man, it is surely the right to command with the certainty of being obeyed. And if we as Christians are the absolute possession and property of Jesus Christ, bought with His own life’s blood, it is His lawful prerogative to command and control every act and thought of our entire lives. It is His to speak and ours to obey. It is His to rule and ours to submit.

II. Ownership is a pledge of protection.—We are ever ready to guard our own possessions. No man would refuse to draw the sword in defence of hearth and home. Our treasures are made as secure as lock and key can make them. The more we value them the more carefully we devise the means to ensure their perfect safety. And shall not Christ protect the Church which He has purchased with His own life’s blood? Think you that our safety is of no importance to Him? St. Paul at any rate thought otherwise: ‘I know Whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.’ Oh, if we could only leave everything in the hands of Jesus!

III. Ownership confers enjoyment.—The cottage may be small and the garden that surrounds it may be nothing more than a narrow strip of soil in which the homeliest of homely flowers grow. A few pounds would buy the freehold in the open market. But let it be the cottar’s own and he will love it as no stranger could ever love. We are the King’s own. Our hearts are the King’s dwelling-place. Our lives are the King’s garden. Does He find enjoyment there? Sweetly did the Bride in the Song of Solomon invite the Bridegroom to visit His garden: ‘Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits.’ Oh that the Church of Christ could address such an invitation to her Lord! Oh that we could individually welcome Him in such terms as these! Can we do so?

—Rev. G. A. Sowter.

Verse 20


‘Glorify God in your body.’

1 Corinthians 6:20

‘From the crown of the head to the sole of the foot’ there is not a part of our frame which may not be the embodiment of spiritual things, or the means for religious service.

I. The very hairs remind me of the tender care of my God for me, for are not all those hairs ‘numbered’?

II. The eyes, are they not inlets wherewith I may first take into my very heart and soul all the wonderful and beautiful works of God in nature and providence, and the written Word of His grace? And then by bright and loving looks spread peace and happiness? How much of Satan, how much of Christ, there may be in the look of the eye! The eyes are very eloquent. Remember the use and the power given to them, and ‘glorify God’ with your eyes.

III. And the mouth!—What action the mouth has for sin and self-indulgence, or self-denial and careful moderation for Christ’s sake! Be careful, when you bring your religion to your mouth, that you ‘glorify God’ with your appetites or your government of the appetites. Those are very strong words of Solomon. Are they too strong? They are the words of a man of great experience: ‘Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties, for they are deceitful meat.’ And perhaps more than you are aware the mouth is the index of temper or of sweetness. Take care of your mouth. ‘Glorify God’ with your mouth.

IV. And the tongue!—That ‘fire,’ that ‘world of iniquity,’ which St. James calls it; but as Solomon calls it, that ‘tree of life.’ Your tongue! That thing of paradoxes. Are you thinking about it, are you really in your daily life consecrating your tongue; in your public worship as in your private; when you are alone in your own room, and when in society? Do you speak with that tongue what you ought, and when you ought, and where you ought about Jesus Christ? Who can calculate either what shame or what glory he can bring upon religion? What a curse or what a blessing that tongue may be; what a comforter, what a minister, what an instrument of salvation to men—that tongue! In all you have to do in daily life, it is not your inward feelings, it is not your secret appetites, that do it, your tongue must do it, your tongue must ‘glorify God.’ Does it? Does your tongue ‘glorify God’?

V. And your ear.—Take great care what you hear. Learn when to shut it and when to open it. A word may come in at that ear which may cling unto you, and be your millstone all your life long. It is an avenue of fearful power. Often ask Him ‘Who shutteth and none can open, and Who openeth and none can shut,’ to do with your ear what He did to Lydia’s heart.

VI. And your nerves.—You speak of your nerves. They are very good servants, but very bad masters. Take care of your nerves. Pray constantly for more calmness. ‘Glorify’ God with your nerves.

And all the senses—sweet handmaids of truth, and beauty, and pure enjoyment!—consecrate them. They are the Lord’s. Let all your senses ‘glorify God.’ And all your members!—hands, knees, and feet—keep every part of the body for God.


‘We should look upon our body, and treat our body, as something given us to use and enjoy for God. A part of our likeness to Christ; a part of our present being which we are to meet again in another world; and therefore given us, here, to train and educate for the work and the services which that body is to render in heaven. For that is the body—a thing capable of being turned into the highest or the lowest uses; a marvellous structure to be dedicated; the temple walls of the inner sanctuary of the soul. Such being, then, the body, we should pray every morning of our lives about our bodies as much as about our souls. We should consecrate it in the morning to God, and we should deal with it all day long religiously, and watch and keep it diligently, and every part of it, as a very sacred thing.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.