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1 Corinthians 6 is often used as evidence that some actions, such as homosexuality, are incompatible with Biblical teaching.

9Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

For the purpose of this question, however, I'm not interested in discussing homosexuality, or any other specific "sin" in the list. I'm simply interested in understanding if this list is meant to be prescriptive or descriptive.

That is to say, is this list saying:

  • Any person who participates in XYZ activity will not inherit the kingdom of God

Or is it saying

  • Those who will not inherit the kingdom of God engage in XYZ activities

It may seem like a difference of semantics to some, but perhaps an imagined contemporary re-phrasing can help make my question more clear.

Or do you not know that party animals will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the twerkers, nor dirty dancers, nor sexually promiscuous, nor womanizers, nor drunkards, nor drug users, nor gossipers nor stalkers will inherit the kingdom of God.

In my contrived example, the list is descriptive--describing a possible night club scene, for instance.

Is the original text descriptive, perhaps of a certain class (or classes) of people? Or is it prescriptive?

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  • Help with tagging, please.
    – Flimzy
    Dec 27 '13 at 12:13
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pre·scrip·tive /priˈskriptiv/

adjective: prescriptive1. of or relating to the imposition or enforcement of a rule or method

de·scrip·tive /diˈskriptiv/

adjective

adjective: descriptive1. serving or seeking to describe. synonyms: illustrative, expressive, graphic, detailed, lively, vivid, striking; More explanatory, explicative "descriptive prose"

•Grammar(of an adjective) assigning a quality rather than restricting the application of the expression modified, e.g., blue as distinct from few.2. describing or classifying without expressing feelings or judging.

To answer your question, 1 Cor. 6:9-10(and other simular passage) are both *D*escriptive and *P*rescriptive. Descriptive, from the fact that Scripture 'describes' these activities as sinful and leaves no doubt as to the consequence for remaining in them; Prescriptive, in that just as consequences of disobeying or ignoring are prescribed, so also is the 'remedy' if one is willing to take it.

As to 're-interpreting' what the Scripture says to mean something else, one must exercise great caution. There are other Scriptures to describe those activities or their attributes. The important truth contained here is that if one continues in these activities, then one is "ineligable' for the Kingdom of God; one can repent from them and in vs. 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

.

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It is both prescriptive and descriptive. Corinth was known for 2 things back in their day: a robust economy (it was a center of commerce and trading) and their sexual perversion. In fact the Corinthian church was the richest church Paul wrote to. Out of all the sins, it's quite curious that he specified sexual sin (which was also part of their pagan temple worship), drinking, and material covetousness which were connected to Greco-Roman culture (hedonism).

It could also be a warning to the Corinthians to avoid their previous sinful lifestyles. The context of that passage was Paul's command to stop sinning against one another in those areas because that wasn't really loving one another as Christ loves you.

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1 Corinthians 6:7-10 (DRB)  Already indeed there is plainly a fault among you, that you have lawsuits one with another. Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 But you do wrong and defraud, and that to your brethren. 9 Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, 10 Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God.

A 'you are doing wrong ... don't you know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of heaven' is quite clearly a warning, that is to say, prescriptive.

Besides, you asked:

That is to say, is this list saying:

  • Any person who participates in XYZ activity will not inherit the kingdom of God

Or is it saying

  • Those who will not inherit the kingdom of God engage in XYZ activities

What does it say?

"[e.g.] fornicators ... shall [not] possess the kingdom of God"

This is not the same as "those who shall not inherit the kingdom of God are fornicators. Especially since in passages like Galatians 5, St. Paul explicitly warns believers about committing these sins because they will not inherit the kingdom of God. You don't warn people someone else will not inherit the kingdom of God 'therefore do not partake with them.'

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