“In this section (1 Corinthians 6) Paul is dealing with a problem which specifically affected the Greeks. The Jews did not ordinarily go to law in the public law-courts at all; they settled things before the elders of the village or the elders of the Synagogue; to them justice was far more a thing to be settled in a family spirit than in a legal spirit, it was far otherwise with the Greeks; the Greeks were naturally and characteristically a litigious people. The law courts were in fact one of their chief amusements and entertainments. Going to law was integrally bound up with Greek life”. (Barclay, p. 55)
1 Corinthians 6:1 “Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?”
“Against his neighbor”: That is, his or her fellow Christian (6:5,6,8). This section is specifically dealing with lawsuits between Christians. “Go to law”: “To have his case tried before the heathen” (TCNT). “The unrighteous”: Now it was not that the courts in Corinth were "corrupt" (or more corrupt than any other), because even Paul himself, had found justice before the courts in Corinth (Acts 18:12-16). Paul is not forbidding all use of the courts, after all, we are commanded to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13), and obeying certain laws demands that we use the court system, i.e., marriage licenses, adoptions, jury duty, settling estates, and so on. Paul is dealing with disputes between brethren (6:5). There are people in the court system who are seeking to be honest and doing the best they can. Yet, human judges must judge cases on the basis of laws made by men, and laws based on limited human experience. By contrast, we have divine revelation, all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), all truth (John 16:13) and the very words of the Creator upon which to make decisions.
“And not before the saints”: Indicating the course of action that should have been taken. This verse is not authorizing the institution of "Christian Courts", rather if the unbelieving world with its wisdom (1:21) is viewed as competent to resolve issues, then should not the local congregation with God's wisdom (2:9-13) be able to handle its own problems? (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15ff; Galatians 6:1ff). At this point some in Corinth may have responded, “but we are not competent to judge such matters!” Unfortunately, Christians who claim to possess "all the truth", at times do not act like it when they appeal to the "world" for help with a problem. Has God given us everything we need, or hasn't He? We might be tempted to say, “but these people are the experts”. Yet whose "wisdom" are these experts using? (Jeremiah 8:9; 1 Corinthians 1:21; James 3:14-18) How credible and relevant does Christianity look when members of the church must run to the world for the answers to their personal or relational problems?
1 Corinthians 6:2 “Or know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?”
“That the saints shall judge the world?”: “One view understands that the saint's faith will condemn the unbelief of the world just as the Ninevites will rise in judgment against the generation that rejected the Christ” (Matthew 12:41). (Willis, p. 181) “I think the world will be judged in light of the choices the saints made. In choosing Christ the saints have charged the world that it is foolish. They have rejected the world's wisdom as nonsense, its priorities and values as upside down and its goals as madness”. (McGuiggan, p. 70) In the final judgment, I find simply one judge before whom both saint and sinner must stand (2 Corinthians 5:10). Thus, we are not the judge, but rather the fact that we could serve God faithfully removes all the excuses from those who did not.
“Are ye unworthy”: “Are you not competent” (NASV). “Are you unfit to try the most trivial cases” (TCNT). “To judge the smallest matters?”: “The most trivial cases” (TCNT). Compared to other judgments that church members are required to give (like the one in chapter 5), if one can correctly judge who Christ is and what one must do to be saved, then one should be able to properly judge all lesser issues.
1 Corinthians 6:3 “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?”
“We shall judge angels?”: “In choosing Christ the saints have wisely placed themselves under authority to God whereas the angels rebelled and kept not their ‘places of authority’ (NIV on Jude 9). To remain true to Jesus when surrounded by temptations and trials is a standing condemnation against those angels whoin the very presence of God, were not subject to earthly temptations and yet did not remain faithful. It is so easy to downplay faithfulness, but faithfulness will be our greatest accomplishment.
1 Corinthians 6:4 “If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this life, do ye set them to judge who are of no account in the church?”
“Seeing that Christians demonstrate better judgment than the world and even some angels in very serious matters; now when it comes to lesser matters, do you all of a sudden run to people who are not even members of the church?” A great lesson exists here for us. We did not consult the "world" to decide if God existed or not, if the Bible was the word of God, or if Jesus was the Son of God. Why would we consult the world then for much lesser personal issues?
1 Corinthians 6:5 “I say this to move you to shame. What, cannot there be found among you one wise man who shall be able to decide between his brethren”
“I say this to move you to shame”: “He wants them to feel their shame. They prided themselves as men of critical ability. They were a church blessed with spiritual and miraculous abilities. And now, Paul wants to know, can't there be found a wise man who can give wise counsel to differing brothers? (McGuiggan, pp. 70-71) “One wise man”: “Are you really unable to find among your number one man with enough sense” (Phi). “So utter a lack of men of sense amongst you Corinthians, with all your talent and pretensions? (1:5, 3:18, 4:10)” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 816). (Fee, p. 237)
1 Corinthians 6:6 “but brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?”
“Not only so, but all of this happens right in the open, ‘in front of unbelievers’” (Fee, p. 237). “And that”: Calling attention to the worst feature. “That there should be disputes is bad; that Christian should to go law with Christian is worse; that Christians should do this before unbelievers is worst of all” (Robertson, pp. 118-119).
1 Corinthians 6:7 “Nay, already it is altogether a defect in you, that ye have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”
“Already it is altogether a defect in you”: “Without going any further, suing one another means you have utterly failed” (Beck). “Actually, then, it is already a defeat to you” (NASV). “Already”: “Before ye even begin civil action” (McGarvey, p. 75).
“Why not rather take wrong?”: “Why not, indeed! For one living in the old age, where selfishness in all of its sordid as well as domesticated forms still rules, one can give a thousand reasons why not; but they all begin with the word ‘but’ (as in, ‘But you don't know what he did to me’) and are motivated by some form of self-protection or self-gain”. (Fee, pp. 240-241)
“Paul now turns his attention directly to the two men involved in the litigation, the actions of both men are a total defeat, shaming both the church and themselves” (Fee, p. 239). “Verse 7 makes good reading; it's the practice of it that makes it hard. We love to see it in others. Not our family members or friends, of course. Is there never a time to turn the other cheek? Is there never a time to take mistreatment with kindness in return? Is it never right to suffer yourself to be defrauded? Is 1 Peter 2:21-23 only for cranks and fanatics? Well? Sometimes when I look within and look around I think we're all dabbling in religion rather than being disciples of Christ. We read truths like verse 7 and line up about 200 reasons why we can't live that way and 400 occasions when it would be wrong to do so. How, in God's name, did the Church of God ever get launched in the world with the moderate amount of success it enjoyed if its early members were as shrewd as we are in avoiding pain and personal loss?” (McGuiggan, p. 71)
1 Corinthians 6:8 “Nay, but ye yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren”
“But ye yourselves do wrong”: Far from enduring wrong (Matthew 5:40; 1 Peter 2:22), or forfeiting "their rights" for others, they were actually becoming the abusers. In the demand for "justice", they were being unjust to others. The verse contains a valuable truth. When Christians seek revenge, "so-called justice", or "their rights", they often end up walking all over the "rights" of others to get them (Romans 12:17-21).
Mark Dunagan | email@example.com
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017