(1 Cor. 6:9-10) Are sinners not getting into heaven?

CLAIM: Some Lordship theologians argue that those in a lifestyle of sin will not go to heaven. This is the case?

RESPONSE: There are a couple of plausible ways to understand this passage from a free grace perspective:

OPTION #1: Paul is referring to INHERITING the kingdom—not ENTERING the kingdom

What does it mean to “inherit” (klēronomeō) the kingdom of God? Some free grace theologians argue that “inheriting the kingdom of God is not equivalent to entering God’s kingdom.”[1] The NT uses the term “inherit” (klēronomeō) to refer to inheriting eternal life (Mt. 19:29; Mk 10:17; Lk 10:25; 18:18), inheriting the kingdom of God (Mt. 5:5; 25:34; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Cor. 15:50; Gal. 5:21), or even inheriting a blessing (Heb. 12:17; 1 Pet. 3:9). Under this view, there is a key distinction between inheriting God’s kingdom (e.g. rewards, rulership, etc.) and inheriting eternal life (e.g. simply making it to heaven, rather than hell). They point out that Paul already argued that believers can lose rewards—even if they do not lose eternal life (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

OPTION #2: Paul is referring to their POSITION—not their CONDITION

Under this view, Paul is not speaking about believers who lost their salvation. Instead, he is speaking about unbelievers who never had salvation. In the context, Paul is speaking about the Christian witness before “unbelievers” (v.6). Therefore, it’s likely that he is speaking of unregenerate people—not Christians who are sinning too much. In the very next verse, Paul writes, “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” (1 Cor. 6:11). In other words, Paul is pointing out that these people in verses 9 and 10 are not Christians. If they were Christians, Paul wouldn’t have needed to make the distinction. Finally, in verse 12, Paul goes on to tell them that they are permitted to do these actions under grace, but they aren’t beneficial or profitable (v.12). If there was any place for Paul to pull out the fear-threat, law-based imperatives, it would be here! However, he instead appeals to these Christians under grace—not law.

Thus, the thinking here is that believers shouldn’t act like non-believers. They will not inherit the kingdom, so why would we act like them? Our position has been fundamentally changed. We favor this latter view.

For more on this topic, see our earlier article “Lordship Theology.”

[1] Hunt, D. L. (2010). The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 729). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.