When God revealed to Moses the true purpose for bringing Israel out of Egypt, he stated they would be a kingdom set apart.
Exodus 19:5-6 – Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
For God’s kingdom to be a kingdom to be a set apart kingdom, a holy kingdom, there would have to be a moral distinction between the people of the kingdom and the people of the world.
John 18:36 – Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Yeshua had begun to draw the distinction between the two worlds; the world where God reigns supreme, and this world. However, as people began to accept the message of Messiah through the hands of the apostles, they had begun to bring some of their accepted practices from this world into the midst of the kingdom congregations, and Paul used one of these opportunities to bring correction to the Corinthian congregation of their error.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people–none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
Not only were some of these practices evident among them, but they had even been reduced to taking each other to court (1 Corinthians 6:1-7). However, Paul encourages them to continue to turn away from those practices, because they were a changed people. When they believed in Messiah, they had become spiritually clean and were set apart as holy.
1 Corinthians 6:11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Messiah Yeshua and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul was clarifying that if people are changed by God, of course there will be a difference between their actions and those of the world around them. In the previous chapter, he had illustrated this distinction vividly.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about those of this world who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those within the congregation who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”
The lure of this world is to indulge in these things. The believers in Corinth had begun to think they might still be able to “dabble” with some of these because God’s forgiveness was readily available, or they had never fully repented of those things which were not of God’s standards for his children in his kingdom.
In his writings, the apostle John also makes it clear that believers were living in a tension between two worlds: this world, and the world of the kingdom.
1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
Yeshua even prayed for this very thing, knowing that believers would be challenged with continuing to live in a juxtaposition between two worlds.
John 17:9, 14-17 – “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. … I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil existing here. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
His prayer was for the disciples to keep that distinction, and to remain safe from the evil in this world. And his prayer extends even to those of us in the kingdom today who have placed our faith in him.
John 17:20 – “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.
The privilege of knowing Yeshua prayed for us can be deeply reassuring when we are faced with the lure and temptations of this world. We need to remember his kingdom is not something that has been created here, but is something beyond this world and its shallow desires. We are called from another world to be a set apart and distinct example to this world.
Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
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