1 Corinthians 6:1-6
These brothers and sister in Christ at the church of Corinth had been filing lawsuits against each other. That's what 'go to law' means. This is another part of their culture that made its way into church. When a couple of individuals, both believers, didn't agree on something so they sued each other. They took their case before the civil judge in the city.
In this Greek culture the judge sat in what is called the bema seat to settle disputes. Anyone could bring their case before him and he would hear their case and settle the dispute. The Greeks loved a good argument and they loved the endless discussion of beliefs and philosophies. So a good lawsuit was entertainment to them. Anyone could go and hear the cases presented to the judge. It was like watching Judge Judy.
This was not the way things were supposed to work for Christians. Paul said, "Dare any of you…." This is strong wording from Paul. He simply can't believe this is going on in this church. Those of the world were still in their sins. These are the immoral ones, the swindlers, idolaters, revilers, and drunkards that Paul talked about at the end of chapter 5. This type of immorality was not supposed to be in the church. So, if 2 people in the church had a dispute, where was the best place for them to go? Why would they go to an unbelieving judge who was still in his sins?
Paul said they were going before the unrighteous. Now that's not an evaluation of the judges in Corinth. He's using the term 'unrighteous' strictly in spiritual terms saying these judges weren't justified, they weren't saved. Why would two saved people, justified by Christ, take their dispute before one that that is not justified? Besides, Christian people have no business airing out their business before the unbelievers. Paul taught that the believers were completely capable of resolving their own disputes. By all we claim to be and all we possess and because we are saved by grace at the mercy of God we should be able to judge in truth.
Paul said, 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Isn't it amazing that it's part of our destiny as the saints of God to one day rule with Jesus Christ? See Revelation 3:21. Paul said the saints will judge the world, are you then unworthy to judge these small things that arise among the saints? Don't you know that you will judge the angels? This could mean we will sit in judgment with Jesus as the fallen angels are judged or it could mean we are governing or ruling the good angels. We really don't know exactly but either way it is a tremendous responsibility. And if we are being prepared for that responsibility, then surely we can judge the simple things that pertain to this life.
Doesn't it make more sense for Christians to judge among themselves than to leave the judging to one that is least esteemed by the church? The 'least esteemed by the church' is the secular judge setting down the road at the courtyard in the Bema seat. He is least esteemed because he was an unbeliever. Why would two believers who will judge the world and govern angels go to a secular judge for his decision? It makes no sense. And that's what Paul said, I say this to your shame.
It was shameful that they were taking disputes among Christians before a secular judge to be heard among the un-believers. Was there not a wise man among them? Among all this previous talk of them pursuing wisdom and their talk of philosophies and the mysteries of the world. Was there not even one man who could judge between his brothers and sisters? Could they not find someone who could resolve this and keep their problems among themselves? What do you suppose the unbelievers think when they see a Christian suing another Christian? I'm always amazed at how two folks can have the same Holy Spirit from the same God and be saved by the same Grace and be so hateful and disagreeable to one another. Shouldn't we be more like minded?
It's important to note here that Paul is talking about Christian brethren going to law against Christian brethren. He's not against using the legal system. Paul worked within the legal system when he took advantage of being a Roman citizen and eventually he used his right to appeal to be heard before the Caesar.
There are almost 20 million civil lawsuits filed every year in the United States. That's a new lawsuit every couple of seconds. And we have over a million lawyers to take care of all these lawsuits. The vast majority of the people who file these lawsuits claim to be Christians. If professed Christians stopped suing professed Christians then several hundred thousand law offices would close!
1 Corinthians 6:7
These saints of Corinth had already been dragging each other into civil court to put their disputes before a judge. They may have demanded that it be their right to sue and they held tightly to that right. By going to court against their Christian brother, Paul said that both parties ended up being losers. In that way the people of this church had already failed miserably. We don't really know how many lawsuits had been taken to the courts. They apparently had done this enough that it had become noteworthy. And because of that, it had to be dealt with by Paul.
Paul asked them these two questions. Why not just accept wrong? ………and….. Why not be cheated? If you feel someone did you wrong or cheated you, it is better to accept it and go on than to create another problem. It is an utter failure of the faith for a Christian to sue another Christian. It becomes a testimony to the world and all that are watching that those who put their faith in Christ can't resolve their problems by themselves. It shows believers aren't capable of applying to their lives and their problems the wisdom of the God they espouse. And it tells the world that Christians many times fail to apply the principles of the book they say they live by.
Paul wants them and us to know that it would be better to be cheated and wronged than to demand your rights at the expense of the greater good of the kingdom of God. Paul wasn't saying the problem couldn't or shouldn't be resolved. Only that it shouldn't be done before an unbelieving judge and a lost world.
1 Corinthians 6:8
Those who were bringing the lawsuits weren't any better than the ones they were suing. They sued because someone wronged them or cheated them. Yet they were doing the same and to their own brothers and sisters in Christ. It sounds Incredible! Yet it happens every day.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
So the saints of Corinth did each other wrong and cheated each other and Paul asked these people who were swindling each other, 'Don't you know the unrighteous won't inherit the kingdom of God?'
Some day we will all stand before God and be judged. And what will we say as Christians when God asks us what we were thinking about when we did some of this stuff? This isn't just about lawsuits, this is just one of the many things Paul's addressing with these people. It's about a reliance on the things of the world. When these people stand before God and give an accounting for suing each other, what possible excuse or reason could they give to the creator of the universe that wouldn't sound totally worthless and lame?
When we give an accounting to God on how we spent our lives, our time and resources in this life, how will it sound? Will we have something serious and substantial to talk about? Or will all our answers sound like excuses for why we didn't do more? Does our whole existence revolve around our own happiness and our own rights to pursue anything we desire? Will our life be a summary of all that we did that made us happy at any particular moment in time? Unless something or someone interfered with our rights to pursuer our happiness and then we dealt with the problem. We do this sometimes by pleading our case before the courts of the world, saying, "World system……..please hear my case and grant me favor."
Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, "What is your worldview?" Is all that you see and do and think viewed through the lens or our faith? Is Jesus Christ the center of our life? If your answer is yes then do you not believe he can direct your life outside of the world system? That probably sounds like an over simplification but I think that kind of thinking should be foundational to us. It's kind of examining ourselves and asking why we do the things we do. Is it for pleasure; for our glory? Or is it for the glory of God?
I don't think the people in the church of Corinth realized how serious these things were. The stakes were high, because the unrighteous won't inherit the kingdom of God. In saying this, Paul wasn't saying specifically that these people would lose their salvation. He was saying that if you are relying on the world and you can swindle your brethren without conscience then it's fair to question whether you are even saved at all. Don't be deceived.
The unrighteous are characterized as fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and extortionist. None of these will inherit the kingdom of God. Their very lives are characterized by their sin. They live in it, they are defined by it, and feel no shame about it. In death those same sins will cost them eternally.
When a believer extorts, cheats, swindles and engages in sexual immorality then they are keeping company with the unrighteous. Their defense might be, 'It was just a small sin' or 'I didn't cheat too much on my taxes' or 'It was just a one night thing.' We could list our excuses all day long trying to justify ourselves. Will one of these sins send them to hell to be eternally separated from God? No, they were saved by grace, but these sins are no small thing either. They are sins against an eternal God. These folks will be forgiven if they trust in Christ, but to go on sinning in this way is dangerous because God will deal with sin.
To live in a habitual state of sin tempts God, tests your salvation and takes grace for granted. You might argue once saved, always saved; I can't lose my salvation. Once saved, always saved is not an argument to go on sinning. If you live in that habitual state of sin you might discover the end of God's patience. Paul warns, do not be deceived.
1 Corinthians 6:11
We all fit into the list of the unrighteous; Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners and many more. If we were honest…… when we read that list we could say, 'Yea, that was me.' I did my fair share of things that put me on that list of the unrighteous. I was not going the right direction. Then a change took place. God saved me. He chose me. And I heard the message that somehow penetrated through all the pride and unrighteousness. Somehow that message of Grace penetrated my thick skin, hard head and hard heart.
If we were washed (Titus 3:5) we are cleansed from our sins because they were forgiven. The penalty of death that we owed was paid by Christ on the cross. Now we wear the righteousness of Jesus Christ like the borrowed robe of the king. And If we were sanctified (Hebrews 10:10) we were set apart, away from the world and unto God for His purpose and His use. If we are justified (Romans 3:24) We weren't just declared 'not guilty' we were declared 'just' in the court of God of the universe. God now sees us as if we had never sinned, that's justified.
We were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. Amazingly enough, God can take the kind of people described in verses 9 and 10……… The fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and extortioners and He can make them into the kind of people described in verse 11; those washed, sanctified and Justified in the name of Jesus Christ. He can take people like us and make us like Jesus Christ. How great is our God!
1 Corinthians 6:12
"All things are lawful for me" is a statement of Christian liberty. Paul used phrases similar to this in other places. They were always in the context of what food to eat or what day to worship on. False teachers were coming behind Paul and saying, to be a Christian you have to worship on Saturday or you have to keep the Jewish laws regarding diet or that you couldn't eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. Paul would teach that all things are lawful, but all things are not helpful. Just because something is permitted by the law does not make it useful or helpful or good for you. And just because it is lawful doesn't mean you allow it to control you or be brought under its power. All things are lawful for me but I will be mastered by none of them.
All things are lawful is a statement to avoid the legalism that religion tries to impose on you. Religion is man's way of dealing with God. Religion tends to impose legalism on you. Paul is opposing those legalisms by saying all things are lawful. That is Christian liberty. Now if that liberty is carried to far the other way that liberty can create bondages of its own. With no liberty we end up in bondage to the list of religious criteria that must be met to be a Christian. You have to worship a particular way, on a particular day, dressed a specific way and so on. With liberty we don't have to do those things but to take that liberty and run amuck with it will have you doing things a Christian ought not be doing.
In this particular case, the Corinthian Christians were taking this liberty and applying it to prostitution. Prostitution was common among the pagans but it was also a common practice among many religions. So to the average Corinthian this kind of stuff was just considered normal and no one would think it strange if the Christians were doing it also.
1 Corinthians 6:13-14
'Foods for the stomach and stomach for the foods' was probably a saying they had in their culture. It basically meant, 'When I'm hungry I eat because my appetite tells me to.' And the Greeks were particularly fond of not depriving themselves of anything to satisfy their appetites. The Corinthian's were using this argument to pursue their sexual immorality saying, 'My appetites are for my body and my body for my appetites.' They were trying to apply this saying to their sexual lusts saying, 'If I have the appetite it must be okay to fulfill it.'
The difference Paul said was that the body is not for sexual immorality. Paul gave them a saying of his own. The body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body. In their minds since it was alright to satisfy their appetite for food to satisfy the body then it must be all right to satisfy their sexual appetites also. But there is an important distinction between these two things. God will destroy the stomach and the craving for food when the body is destroyed. However, our moral character will not be destroyed when our body is destroyed.
When we are resurrected some day our moral character, our spiritual bodies will be for the Lord. The food we eat won't matter on that day. But the moral decisions we've made, specifically regarding sex, will make a difference to the spiritual body that was redeemed by the Lord.
1 Corinthians 6:15-17
As a church we are the body of Christ. These people in Corinth probably didn't know that or had not considered prostitution to be a serious offense…. (since everyone was doing it……… so to speak).
Our bodies are members of Christ. We are all linked to Him as a believer. When these believers of Corinth were joined with a harlot they were disgracing the body of Christ. Joining with the body of the harlot was becoming one with her. We know from Genesis that the 2 shall become as one flesh. The saint joined to the Lord is not to be joined to a harlot.
1 Corinthians 6:18
Augustine was a Christian who had a lot of trouble with keeping sexually pure. For a long time, it kept him from really following God. He used to pray: "God, make me pure - but not just yet." But there came a point where he really turned everything over to God. He stopped hanging around with his companions in sexual immorality, and stopped going to the neighborhood where he used to meet them. But once, he had to go there on business, and on the street he met an old flame. She was glad to see him, and started running to him with arms outstretched, saying "Augustine! Where have you been for so long? We have missed you so!" Augustine did the only thing he could do: he started running the other way. She called out to him: "Augustine, why are you running? Its only me!" He looked back, while still running, and said "I'm running because I'm not me!" Augustine was a different man because of Jesus, He was living a different way. The new man flees from sexual immorality. If your life has been changed by Jesus, it will show in the desire to flee sexual immorality.
This 'sexual immorality' that Paul is referring to is the word porneia. It is any sexual relationship outside of the covenant of marriage. We are to flee from the porneia. We can't flirt with it, we can't test our resolve and try real hard to avoid it, we aren't to stand up to it, we have to flee from it. This brings to mind Joseph fleeing from Potiphar's wife. He didn't mess around; he just got out of there. All other sin is outside the body and against the Lord. But this sin of 'porneia' is against your own body and against the Lord.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Each of us have sinned and failed miserably to meet God's standards. As sinners we are subject to be judged by a holy God by His Holy Standards. And on our own we would stand before Him pitiful; deserving nothing but death for having continually committed sins against Him. And many go through life deceiving themselves, thinking they aren't so bad. We deceive ourselves into thinking we don't fit in that list of the unrighteous that won't inherit the kingdom of God. However, every one of us could find a place on that list. Don't be deceived, we are all unrighteous.
For those who come to realize their unrighteousness, God made a way. Jesus Christ came and died the death we deserve. Because He was the perfect, sinless sacrifice, He satisfied the payment for the sins of those who put their trust in Him. When we turn away from our sins and we trust in the work on the cross we are forgiven. He took our sins to the cross and we get His righteousness. It's a great trade but it doesn't happen by default. We have to turn to him and give up all our will and all our ways to Him. We have to quit trusting in ourselves and trust solely in Jesus Christ and then repent of our sins. When you do that, when you willingly give up your way to Him, Jesus Christ trades His righteousness for your sins and we are redeemed or purchased out of death…….
When we make that decision, we now belong to him. That's what it means when Paul says we were bought with a price. It was a precious price of shed blood. And now we are not our own. We are no longer driven by the old things. The old man has passed away……….we are a new man. We are to a new creature in Christ.
Paul told those in Corinth that their body was the temple. As a Christian we are the temple of God. A temple is a pure and sacred place. Everything has a place in the temple. Everything has meaning and purpose in the temple. Everything is in order.
In the Old Testament we see the temple was where the priest ministered to God and to the people. If our body is the temple as Paul says, then there should be purpose and order. And that purpose should be used to minister to God and to the people and the order is holiness and righteousness. Is your life marked by holiness and righteousness? Not religion and works but the holiness and righteousness given to us by God and grown in us by the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
Our culture is driven by the same things that drove the culture of Corinth. Sexual immorality is nothing more than feeding the appetites of the flesh. It's alive and doing well. It's taking care of me. The Christians suing other Christians was the same thing. It was taking care of 'me' at all cost. These things are the little leaven Paul spoke about in the last chapter. The little leaven works it way through the entire lump and that's a picture of a little sin or corruption working its way through a believer and the church. The leaven affects every aspect of your life and the church. The leaven defiles the whole temple. And we have no business defiling the temple with the pagan practices of the culture. Paul said you are a Christian, you were bought with the precious blood of Christ, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which belong to God. This sounds a lot like Paul saying, "You are a Christian it's time to act like it.
©2016 Doug Ford