Washed, Sanctified, Justified

Defiled sinners cannot be in the presence of the holy God; He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and can not look on iniquity” (Hab 1:13).[1] The apostle Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” and catalogues the kind of unholy behaviour characteristic of unregenerate sinful humanity (1Co 6:9-10). Scripture confirms that such defiled sinners will have no entrance into the heavenly city (Rev 21:27), “the holy Jerusalem” (v10). Men’s sinful lives are fitting themselves for righteous judgment at God’s holy “great white throne,” where they will be judged “according to their works” (20:11-12). Their portion will be eternal judgment and separation from God, “which is the second death” (21:8).

Having been blessed with God’s salvation, believers in the Lord Jesus at Corinth had been fitted for God’s holy presence: “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” (1Co 6:11). By God’s rich grace, they were now “washed,” wholly cleansed of the defilement and stain of their sin. They were “sanctified,” positionally set apart to the holy God, and they were “justified,” acquitted of all the guilt of their sinful lives and declared righteous before God.

The clear implication of Paul’s statement, “and such were some of you,” is that the kind of sinful behaviour listed in verses 9-10 no longer characterised the lives of these believers. Having been converted to Christ, they were no longer habitually practicing such sins. The name of Jesus indicates that “he shall save his people from their sins” (Mat 1:21). God’s salvation is intended to change lives, bringing deliverance from the present practice of sin and from the ultimate penalty of sin. Peter exhorts, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1Pe 1:14-15).

Through salvation, these previously defiled sinners at Corinth had been made saints (holy ones) of God; Paul wrote “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1Co 1:2). This is testimony to the grace of God in the gospel concerning His Son. When Paul went to Corinth, his only message was “the preaching of the cross” (v18); he preached “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2:2).

The Corinthians’ cleansing was accomplished by the precious blood of Christ shed at Calvary’s cross – “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1Jn 1:7). John writes, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev 1:5). They were “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). They were “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24).

To any unbeliever still defiled by your sin, the message is this: be “washed … sanctified … justified” by trusting in the Saviour and His sin-atoning work upon the cross. Only such a step of faith in Christ can fit you for God’s holy presence in heaven.


[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.