By way of summary, here is what we have stated in the two previous posts. The kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God through the King of King and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, in the hearts and lives of His spiritually regenerated people. The kingdom of God is a present reality with an ultimately future fulfillment. Born-again believers are adopted sons of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, awaiting the full possession of the heavenly inheritance. They are assured of their future hope by the indwelling Holy Spirit, by Whom they are sealed for the day of redemption.
We began this series of blog posts with three Pauline passages which list various sinful practices followed by warnings. In two of these (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21), it is stated that those who habitually engage in such behaviors will not (future) inherit the kingdom of God. In Paul’s thinking this can only mean that they will not be possessors of eternal salvation. Some have suggested that Paul is here referring to a loss of rewards and that salvation is not in view. But there is no evidence for this position.
In the third of the passages mentioned in the initial post (Eph. 5:5) we read that, no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has (present tense) an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Remember that the kingdom of God is a present reality in the hearts and lives of regenerate believers. As Christians we already have a part or stake in the inheritance, although we await the taking of full possession. In Paul’s thinking being a born again believer means being a joint heir with Christ–you can’t have one without the other; so that when Paul states that those practicing the vices listed have (present tense) no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God, in so many words he is saying they are not regenerate. They are not saved. They are not Christians.
In each of the Pauline passages under discussion Paul clearly distinguishes his readers (you) from the ones practicing the sins listed (he, they). Notice the interchange of the second and third person in 1 Cor. 6:11, where after stating in the previous verse that the ones practicing the sins listed (they–third person plural) will not inherit the kingdom of God, he switches to the second person plural (you): 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 Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
We see the same kind of language in the Ephesian passage: Therefore, do not be partakers with them (third person plural); for you (second person plural) were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (vv. 7-8). It is obvious from this kind of language that Paul is not including the true believers among those who practice the sinful practices he condemns, and of which he states that those who practice them have no present or future part in the kingdom of God.
Very strong language, indeed. Why include it here in Ephesians? And why did Paul reiterate it on three different occasions? I believe it was as a warning to those who profess to be members of the kingdom without taking seriously the Lordship of Christ. Paul is not saying here that a true believer could never commit one or more of the listed sins: the present tenses in Greek make it clear he is talking about someone walking in an ongoing pattern of blatant flagrant unrepentant sin while at the same time paying lip service to Christ as Lord and King. The warning is to the effect that if you are in this position you should not feel safe and comfortable; rather you should examine your spiritual condition seriously and prayerfully. Do not presume upon God’s grace or some so-called decision for Christ you have made. Do not think you can refuse to obey the one you call your King and then magically die one day and wake up in the kingdom of God.
In the context of all three of the passages under consideration Paul warns those reading not to be deceived.