AN EXPOSITION OF 1 CORINTHIANS
by Charles Hodge
This chapter consists of two distinct paragraphs. The first, vs. 1-11, relates to lawsuits before heathen magistrates. The second, vs. 12-20, to the abuse which some had made of the principle, "All things are lawful."
ON GOING TO LAW BEFORE THE HEATHEN. VS. 1-11.
Paul expresses surprise that any Christian should prosecute a fellow Christian before a heathen judge, v. 1. If Christians are destined to judge the world, and even angels, they may surely settle among themselves their worldly affairs, vs. 2, 3. If they had such suits must they appoint those whom the church could not esteem to decide them? Was there not one man among themselves able to act as a judge? vs. 4-6. It was a great evil that they had such lawsuits. It would be better to submit to injustice, v. 7. Instead, however, of submitting to wrong, they committed it, v. 8. He solemnly assures them that the unjust, or rapacious, or corrupt should not inherit the kingdom of God, vs. 9, 10. They had been such, but as Christians they were washed from these defilements, and justified through Christ and by his Spirit, v. 11.
1. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
The third evil in the church of Corinth which the apostle endeavors to correct, was the prosecuting legal suits before heathen judges. There was no necessity for this practice. The Roman laws allowed the Jews to settle their disputes about property by arbitration among themselves. And the early Christians, who were not distinguished as a distinct class from the Jews, had no doubt the same privilege. It is not necessary, however, to assume that the apostle has reference here to that privilege. It was enough that these civil suits might be arranged without the disgraceful spectacle of Christian suing Christian before heathen magistrates. The Rabbins say, "It is a statute which binds all Israelites, that if one Israelite has a cause against another, it must not be prosecuted before the Gentiles." Eisenmenger's Entdeckt. Judenth. 2. p. 427.
Dare any of you? Is any one so bold as thus to shock the Christian sense of propriety?
Having a matter. The Greek phrase (pra~gma e]cein)means to have a suit, which is obviously the sense here intended.
To go to law before the unjust. It is plain that by the unjust are meant the heathen. But why are they so called? As the terms holy and righteous are often used in a technical sense to designate the professed people of God without reference to personal character; so the terms sinners and unjust are used to designate the heathen as distinguished from the people of God. The Jews as a class were holy, and the Gentiles were unholy; though many of the latter were morally much better than many of the former. In Galatians 2:15, Paul says to Peter, "We are by nature Jews, and not sinners of the Gentiles;" meaning thereby simply that they were not Gentiles. The reason why the heathen as such are called the unjust, or sinners, is that according to the Scriptures the denial of the true God, and the worship of idols, is the greatest unrighteousness and therefore the heathen, because heathen, are called the unrighteous. The word unjust is too limited a word to answer fully to the Greek term (a]dikov), which in its scriptural sense means wicked, not conformed to the Law of God. In this verse the opposite term, saints, or the holy, designates Christians as a class; and, therefore, the unjust must mean the heathen as a class. The complaint against the Corinthians was not that they went to law before unjust judges, but that they appealed to heathen judges. It is true their being heathen proved them to be unrighteous in the scriptural sense of the term; but it was not their moral character, so much as their religious status, that was the ground of the complaint. It was indeed not to be expected that men governed by heathen laws and principles of morals, would be as fair and just as those governed by Christian principles; but what Paul complained of was, not that the Corinthians could not get justice at the hands of heathen magistrates, but that they acted unworthily of their dignity as Christians in seeking justice from such a source. Paul himself appealed to Cesar. It was, therefore, no sin in his eyes to seek justice from a heathen judge, when it could not otherwise be obtained. But it was a sin and a disgrace in his estimation for Christians to appeal to heathen magistrates to settle disputes among themselves.
2. Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Do you not know? a form of expression often used by the apostle when he wishes to bring to mind some important truth, which his readers knew but disregarded. It was a conceded point, one which entered into the common faith of Christians, that the saints are to judge the world.
The saints [oiJa[gioi], the people of God, who are called saints because separated from the world and consecrated to his service. Those, therefore, who are of the world and devoted to its pursuits, are not saints.
The saints shall judge the world. This does not mean that the time would come when Christians would become magistrates; nor that the conduct of the saints would condemn the world, as it is said the Queen of the South would condemn those who refused to listen to the words of Christ, Matthew 12:42. The context and Spirit of the passage require that it should be understood of the future and final judgment. Saints are said to sit in judgment on that great day for two reasons; first, because Christ, who is to be the judge, is the head and representative of his people, in whom they reign and judge. The exaltation and dominion of Christ are their exaltation and dominion. This is the constant representation of Scripture, Ephesians 2:6. In Hebrews 2:5-9 the declaration that all things are subject to man, is said to be fulfilled in all things being made subject to Christ. Secondly, because his people are to be associated with Christ in his dominion. They are joint heirs with him, Romans 8:17. If we suffer, we shall reign with him,2 Timothy 2:12. In Daniel 7:22 it was predicted that judgment (the right and power to judge) should be given to the saints of the Most High. Comp. Matthew 19:38. Luke 22:30. Revelation 2:26, 27. If then, asks the apostle, such a destiny as this awaits you, are ye unfit to decide the smallest matters?
If the world (mankind) shall be judged by you (ejnuJmi~n) , i.e. before you as judges. Are ye unworthy (ejnuJmi~n), i.e. of too little weight or value, having neither the requisite dignity nor ability. Unworthy of the smallest matters. The word (krith>rion), here rendered matters, in the sense of causes, or matters for judgment, means,
1. A criterion or test; a rule of judgment.
2. A tribunal or place of judgment, and then, the court or assembled judges. Exodus 21:6. Judges 5:10. Daniel 7:10, and in the New Testament, James 2:6.
3. The trial, i.e. the process of judgment.
4. The cause itself, or matters to be tried. This last sense is doubtful, although it is generally adopted here because it suits so well the fourth verse, where the same word occurs. The second sense would suit this verse. 'If ye are to sit with Christ on the seat of universal judgment, are ye unworthy of the lowest judgment seats.' But the fourth verse is in favor of the explanation adopted in our version. 'Are ye unfit for the least causes?'
3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? As, according to Scripture, only the fallen angels are to be judged in the last day, most commentators suppose the word must here be restricted to that class. Not only men, but fallen angels are to stand before that tribunal on which Christ and his church shall sit in judgment. If agreeably to the constant usage of the Scriptures, according to which (as remarked above, 4:9) the word when unqualified means good angels, it be understood of that class here, then the explanation is probably to be sought in the comprehensive sense of the word to judge. As kings were always judges, and as the administration of justice was one of the principal functions of their office, hence to rule and to judge are in Scripture often convertible terms. To judge Israel, and to rule Israel, mean the same thing. And in Matthew 19:28, "sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel," means presiding over the twelve tribes. So in the case before us, "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" may mean, 'Know ye not that we are to be exalted above the angels, and preside over them; shall we not then preside over earthly things?' This explanation avoids the difficulty of supposing that the good angels are to be called into judgment; and is consistent with what the Bible teaches of the subordination of angels to Christ, and to the church in him.
4. If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
Paul laments that there were litigations among them; but if they could not be avoided, Christians should act in reference to them in a manner consistent with their high destiny. Here the word(krith>ria), rendered judgments, seems so naturally to mean causes, things to be tried, that that sense of the word is almost universally assumed. It may, however, mean trials, judicial processes; which is more in accordance with the established use of the words.
Set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. The original admits of this translation. If the passage be so rendered, then it has a sarcastic tone. 'Set your least esteemed members to decide such matters.' It may, however, be read interrogatively, 'Do ye set as judges those least esteemed in (i.e. by) the church (that is, the heathen)?' This translation is generally preferred as best in keeping with the context. The sentence is emphatic. 'Those despised (see 1:28) by the church, - those do you set to judge?' It is an expression of surprise at their acting so unworthily of their high calling.
5. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? I speak to your shame. That is, I desire to produce in you a sense of shame. This may refer either to what precedes or to what follows. It was adapted to make them ashamed that they had acted so unworthily of their dignity as Christians; and it was no less disgraceful to them to suppose that there was not in the church a single man fit to act as arbitrator. Who shall be able. The future here expresses what should or may happen.
Between his brethren; literally, between his brother; i.e. between his complaining brother and him against whom the complaint was brought.
6. But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Instead of referring the matter to the arbitration of a judicious brother, ye go to law, and that before unbelievers. There are here two grounds of complaint. First, that they went to law (kri>nesqai) instead of resorting to arbitration (diakri~nai). Secondly, that they made unbelievers their judges. By unbelievers are to be understood the heathen. In this connection the heathen are designated under one aspect, the unjust; under another, the despised; and under a third, the unbelieving, i.e. not Christians - but, as the implication in this particular case is, pagans. And that (kai< tou~to), a form of expression often used when particular stress is to be laid on the circumstance indicated.
7. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather (suffer yourselves to) be defrauded?
Now therefore [h]dh me
Why do you not, etc. That is, why, instead of going to law with your brethren, do you not rather submit to injustice and robbery? This is a clear intimation that, under the circumstances in which the Corinthians were placed, it was wrong to go to law, even to protect themselves from injury. That this is not to be regarded as a general rule of Christian conduct is plain, because, under the old dispensation, God appointed judges for the administration of justice; and because Paul himself did not hesitate to appeal to Cesar to protect himself from the injustice of his countrymen.
8. Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that (your) brethren. Instead of having reached that state of perfection in which ye can patiently submit to injustice, ye are yourselves unjust and fraudulent. This must have been the case with some of them, otherwise there would be no occasion for these lawsuits. Their offense was aggravated, because their own brethren were the object of their unjust exactions.
9, 10. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
The tendency to divorce religion from morality has manifested itself in all ages of the world, and under all forms of religion. The pagan, the Jew, the Mohammedan, the nominal Christian, have all been exact in the performance of religious services, and zealous in the assertion and defense of what they regarded as religious truth, while unrestrained in the indulgence of every evil passion. This arises from looking upon religion as an outward service, and God as a being to be feared and propitiated, but not to be loved and obeyed. According to the gospel, all moral duties are religious services; and piety is the conformity of the soul to the image and will of God. So that to be religious and yet immoral is, according to the Christian system, as palpable a contradiction as to be good and wicked. It is evident that among the members of the Corinthian church, there were some who retained their pagan notion of religion, and who professed Christianity as a system of doctrine and as a form of worship, but not as a rule of life. All such persons the apostle warned of their fatal mistake. He assures them that no immoral man, - no man who allows himself the indulgence of any known sin, can be saved. This is one of the first principles of the gospel, and therefore the apostle asks, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Are ye Christians at all, and yet ignorant of this first principle of the religion you profess? The unrighteous in this immediate connection, means the unjust; those who violate the principles of justice in their dealings with their fellow-men. It is not the unjust alone, however, who are to be thus debarred from the Redeemer's kingdom - but also those who break any of the commandments of God, as this and other passages of Scripture distinctly teach.
Believers are, in the Bible, often called heirs. Their inheritance is a kingdom; that kingdom which God has established, and which is to be consummated in heaven, Luke 12:32. Matthew 24:34, etc. etc. From this inheritance all the immoral, no matter how zealous they may be in the profession of the truth, or how assiduous in the performance of religious services, shall be excluded. Let it also be remembered that immorality, according to the Bible, does not consist exclusively in outward sins, but also in sins of the heart; as covetousness, malice, envy, pride, and such like, Galatians 5:21. No wonder that the disciples, on a certain occasion, asked their master, Lord, are there few that be saved? or that the Lord answered them by saying, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it," Luke 13:24.
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.
And such were some of you. This is understood by many as equivalent to Such were you. The word (tine>v) being redundant, or the idea being, 'Some were impure, some drunkards, some violent, etc., or tau~ta> tinev being taken together as equivalent to toiou~toi. The natural explanation is, that the apostle designedly avoided charging the gross immoralities just referred to upon all the Corinthian Christians in their previous condition. With regard to the three terms which follow, washed, sanctified, justified, they may be taken, as by Calvin and others, to express the same idea under different aspects. That idea is, that they had been converted, or completely changed. They had put off the old man, and put on the new man. Their sins, considered as filth, had been washed away; considered as pollution, they had been purged or purified; considered as guilt, they had been covered with the righteousness of God, Romans 1:17. The majority of commentators take the several terms separately, each expressing a distinct idea. In what precise sense each of these words is to be understood, becomes, men, somewhat doubtful.
But ye are washed. The word here used (ajpelou>sasqe) is in the middle voice, and therefore may be rendered, ye have washed yourselves, or, permitted yourselves to be washed; or, as the majority of commentators prefer, on account of the following passives, ye were washed. This use of the First Aorist Middle in a passive sense is very unusual, but not unauthorized; see 1 Corinthians 10:2. It does not seem to be of much moment whether the word be taken here as active or as passive, for the same thing may be expressed in either form. Men are called upon to wash away their sins, Acts 22:16; to put off the old man, etc. and to put on the new man, Ephesians 4:22, 24; although the change expressed by these terms is elsewhere referred to God. The reason of this is, that a human and a divine agency are combined in the effects thus produced. We work our own salvation, while God works in us, Philippians 2:12, 13. With equal propriety, therefore, Paul might say to the Corinthians, 'Ye washed yourselves;' or, 'Ye were washed.'
To wash means to purify, and is frequently used in Scripture to express moral or spiritual purification. Isaiah 1:16, "Wash ye, make you clean." Psalms 51:7, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Jeremiah 4:14. In these and many other passages the word expresses general purification, without exclusive reference to guilt or to pollution. There is no reason why it should not be taken in this general sense here, and the phrase be rendered, either, 'Ye have purified yourselves,' or, 'Ye are purified.' The reference which so many assume to baptism, does not seem to be authorized by any thing in the context.
But ye are sanctified. This clause is either an amplification of the preceding one, expressing one aspect or effect of the washing spoken of, viz., their holiness; or, it is to be understood of their separation and consecration. 'Ye have not only been purified, but also set apart as a peculiar people.' In Scripture, any thing is said to be sanctified that is devoted to the service of God. Thus, God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, Genesis 2:3. Moses sanctified the people, Exodus 19:14, etc. etc.
But ye are justified. As to justify in Scripture always means to pronounce righteous, or to declare just in the sight of the law, it must be so understood here. The Corinthians had not only been purified and consecrated, but also justified, i.e. clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and on that account accepted as righteous in the sight of God. They were therefore under the highest possible obligation not to relapse into their former state of pollution and condemnation.
In the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. These clauses are not to be restricted to the preceding word, as though the meaning were, 'Ye have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.' They belong equally to all three of the preceding terms. The believers were indebted for the great change which they had experienced; for their washing, sanctification, and justification, to Christ and to the Holy Ghost. The Spirit had applied to them the redemption purchased by Christ. In the name of the Lord Jesus. "The name of God," or "of Christ," is often a paraphrase for God or Christ himself. To call upon the name of God is to call on God. To baptize unto the name of Christ, and to baptize unto Christ, are interchanged as synonymous expressions. So here, to be justified or sanctified in the name of Christ, means simply by Christ; see John 20:31, "That believing ye might have life through his name." Acts 10:43, "That through his name whoso believeth in him might have remission of sins." Though these forms of expression are substantially the same as to their import, yet the "name of God" means not strictly God himself, but God as known and worshipped. The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of our God; that is, the Spirit of our reconciled God and Father, by whom that Spirit is sent in fulfillment of the promise of the Father to the Son. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law in order that we might receive the promise of the Spirit, Galatians 3:13, 14.
Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
The Corinthians are reproved for their litigious disposition; brother going to law with brother, and that before the heathen, 1-6. They should suffer wrong rather than do any, 7, 8. No unrighteous person can enter into the glory of God, 9, 10. Some of the Corinthians had been grievous sinners, but God had saved them, 11.
NOTES ON CHAP. 6.
Verse 1. Dare any of you, etc.- From the many things that are here reprehended by the apostle, we learn that the Christian Church at Corinth was in a state of great imperfection, notwithstanding there were very many eminent characters among them. Divided as they were among themselves, there was no one person who possessed any public authority to settle differences between man and man; therefore, as one party would not submit to the decisions of another, they were obliged to carry their contentions before heathen magistrates; and probably these very subjects of litigations arose out of their ecclesiastical divisions. The thing, and this issue of it, the apostle strongly reprehends.
Before the unjust, and not before the saints?- The heathen judges were termed dikastai from their presumed righteousness in the administration of justice; here the apostle, by a paronomasia, calls them adikoi, unrighteous persons; and it is very likely that at Corinth, where such corruption of manners reigned, there was a great perversion of public justice; and it is not to be supposed that matters relative to the Christians were fairly decided. The Christians the apostle terms agioi saints, which they were all by profession; and doubtless many were so in spirit and in truth.
Verse 2. The saints shall judge the world?- Nothing can be more evident than that the writers of the New Testament often use o kosmov, the world, to signify the Jewish people; and sometimes the Roman empire, and the Jewish state; and in the former sense it is often used by our Lord. When, says he, the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, then shall ye sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28. It is supposed that he refers to the same subject as that mentioned here-the saints judging the world; and that St. Paul has his words in view in what he says here to the Corinthians. By judging the twelve tribes of Israel, some have imagined that having authority in the Church is merely intended; but Dr. Lightfoot contends that the words referred to the coming of our Lord to execute judgment on the Jews, and to destroy their state; and that the doctrine of the apostles, not themselves, was to judge and condemn that most disobedient people. The place before us is generally understood to imply, that the redeemed of the Lord shall be, on the great day, assessors with him in judgment; and shall give their award in the determinations of his justice. On reviewing this subject, I am fully of opinion that this cannot be the meaning of the words, and that no such assessorship as is contended for ever will take place; and that the interpretation is clogged with a multitude of absurdities.
1. The saints themselves are to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and shall be judged by him, after which they shall reign with him; but it is never said in Scripture that they shall judge with him.
2. It would be absurd to suppose that thrones should be erected for the purpose of saints sitting on them to give their approbation in the condemnation of the wicked; of what use can such an approbation be? is it necessary to the validity of Christ's decision? and will not even the damned themselves, without this, acknowledge the justice of their doom? I therefore think with Dr. Lightfoot, that these words of the apostle refer to the prediction of Daniel, Daniel 7:18, 27, and such like prophecies, where the kingdoms of the earth are promised to the saints of the Most High; that is, that a time shall come when Christianity shall so far prevail that the civil government of the world shall be administered by Christians, which, at that time, was administered by heathens. And this is even now true of all those parts of the earth which may be considered of the greatest political consequence. They profess Christianity, and the kings and other governors are Christians in this general sense of the term.
Verse 3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels?- Dr. Lightfoot observes that "the apostle does not say here, as he said before, the saints shall judge the angels, but WE shall judge them. By angels, all confess that demons are intended; but certainly all saints, according to the latitude with which that word is understood, i.e. all who profess Christianity, shall not judge angels. Nor is this judging of angels to be understood of the last day; but the apostle speaks of the ministers of the Gospel, himself and others, who, by the preaching of the Gospel, through the power of Christ, should spoil the devils of their oracles and their idols, should deprive them of their worship, should drive them out of their seats, and strip them of their dominion. Thus would God subdue the whole world under the Christian power, so that Christian magistrates should judge men, and Christian ministers judge devils."
Verse 4. Things pertaining to this life- They could examine all civil cases among themselves, which they were permitted to determine without any hinderance from the heathen governments under which they lived. Who are least esteemed in the Church.- touv exouqenhmenouv, Those who were in the lowest order of judges; for the apostle may refer here to the order in the Jewish benches, as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, of which there were five, viz:-
1. The great Sanhedrin, consisting of seventy-two elders, which presided in Jerusalem. 2. The little Sanhedrin of twenty-five, in large cities, out of Jerusalem. 3. The Bench of Three in every synagogue. 4. The Authorized, or Authentic Bench. 5. The Bench not authorized, exouqenhmenov. This latter bench was so called because it received not its authority immediately from the Sanhedrin, but was chosen by the parties between whom the controversy depended. The apostle certainly does not mean persons of no repute, but such as these arbitrators, who were chosen for the purpose of settling private differences, and preventing them from going before the regular magistrates. The following verse makes it pretty evident that the apostle refers to this lower kind of tribunal; and hence he says,-
Verse 5. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?- Have you none among yourselves that can be arbitrators of the differences which arise, that you go to the heathen tribunals?
Verse 6. Brother goeth to law with brother- One Christian sues another at law! This is almost as great a scandal as can exist in a Christian society. Those in a religious community who will not submit to a proper arbitration, made by persons among themselves, should be expelled from the Church of God.
Verse 7. There is utterly a fault among you- There is a most manifest defect among you, 1. Of peaceableness; 2. Of brotherly love; 3. Of mutual confidence; and 4. Of reverence for God, and concern for the honor of his cause.
Why do ye not rather take wrong?- Better suffer an injury than take a method of redressing yourselves which must injure your own peace, and greatly dishonor the cause of God.
Verse 8. Nay, ye do wrong- Far from suffering, ye are the aggressors; and defraud your pious, long-suffering brethren, who submit to this wrong rather than take those methods of redressing their grievances which the spirit of Christianity forbids. Probably the apostle refers to him who had taken his father's wife.
Verse 9. The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom- The unrighteous, adikoi, those who act contrary to right, cannot inherit, for the inheritance is by right. He who is not a child of God has no right to the family inheritance, for that inheritance is for the children. If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17. There are here ten classes of transgressors which the apostle excludes from the kingdom of God; and any man who is guilty of any one of the evils mentioned above is thereby excluded from this kingdom, whether it imply the Church of Christ here below, or the state of glory hereafter. Several of the evils here enumerated will not bear to be particularly explained; they are, however, sufficiently plain of themselves, and show us what abominations were commonly practiced among the Corinthians.
Joseph Beet Commentary:
SOME OF THEM GO TO LAW, AND THAT BEFORE UNBELIEVERS
1 Corinthians CHAPTER 6:1-11
Dares any of you, having a matter with another, go to law before the unrighteous ones, and not before the saints? Or, do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if before you the world is judged, are you unworthy of smallest judgments? Do you not know that angels we shall judge? To say nothing of this life. If then touching matters of this life you have judgments, is it those who are despised in the church, is it these whom you appoint? To put you to shame I say it. To this degree is there among you no wise man who will be able to judge between his brother? But brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers.
To go no further indeed, speaking generally, it is a damage to you that you have judgments among yourselves. Why do you not rather suffer injustice? Why do you not suffer fraud? But it is you that practice injustice and practice fraud, and that to brothers. Or, do you not know that unrighteous (Or unjust.) men will not inherit God's kingdom? Be not deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor luxurious men, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous men, no drunken men, no railers, no grasping men, will inherit the kingdom of God. And these things some of you were. But you washed yourselves, but you were sanctified, but you were justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the spirit of our God.
Ver. 1. A new subject, viz. another disorder among church-members which Paul must deal with before he comes to the matters mentioned in the letter from Corinth. The suddenness and surprise of the question, Dares any one of you, etc., suggest the peril of thus insulting the majesty of the Church of Christ. That no one person is mentioned as in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, the earnest appeal to the whole church, the words of 1 Corinthians 6:4, "you appoint," and perhaps the present tense in1 Corinthians 6:6 noting a general practice "goes to law," suggest that there were more cases than one.
Any of you: Even one case would be outrageous.
Go-to-law: same word in Romans 3:4.
Unrighteous: same word as 'unjust,' used often both in this narrower sense, and in the wider sense of "not as it ought to be." See note, Romans 1:17.
The unrighteous ones: heathen judges, who doubtless in many cases well merited this description. Cp. Galatians 2:15.
The saints: the church-members, whom God had claimed to be His own, and who professed to live for Him. In this contrast an argument lies. "Do you seek a settlement of your disputes from those whom you look upon as sinners under the anger of God rather than from those whom God has made specially His Own?"
Ver. 2. Or, do you not know: common phrase of Paul, Romans 6:3; 7:1;11:2: see 1 Corinthians 3:16. By a second question he supports the argument implied in the first. The saints will judge the world: a truth which the readers ought to 'know,' but which their preference for heathen judges proves that they had strangely forgotten. Same teaching in Daniel 7:22, 27, "judgment (the right to pronounce sentence) was given to the saints of the Most High." Cp. Wisdom 3:8. Christ's people will share His royalty, Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; and therefore they will share the government which ( John 5:22) the Father has committed to the Son. Cp. Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30.
In the great Day the saints will intelligently and cordially approve and endorse the sentence pronounced by Christ on the millions of earth. Possibly, this approval may be a divinely appointed and essential condition, without which sentence would not be pronounced. For, it may enter into God's plan that sentence be pronounced, not only by Man upon men, but by men, themselves redeemed from their own sins, upon those who have chosen death rather than life. (In Matthew 12:41; Romans 2:27, the words "condemn" and "judge" are differently used.) It may be that final sentence cannot, according to the principles of the Divine Government of the Universe, be pronounced upon the lost without the concurrence of the saved, i.e. without a revelation of the justice of the sentence so clear as to secure the full approbation of the saved. If so, the concurrence of the saved is an essential element in the final judgment; and they may truly be said to judge both men and angels. That the sentence which the saints will pronounce is put into their lips by Christ, does not make their part in the judgment less real: for even the Son says ( John 5:30) "I cannot of myself do anything; as I hear, I judge."
The world: either all men, or (cp. 1 Corinthians 5:10) all unsaved men. But this latter limitation is not absolutely needful here. For as summoned by Christ to sit with Him, the saints will approve and endorse the measure of reward to be given to themselves. To appeal to human courts of law, was to appeal to men upon whom, as upon all men, they themselves, amid the splendor of the great assize, will pronounce an eternal sentence.
Smallest judgments: about earthly matters, and therefore, as compared with the awards of that Day, utterly insignificant. That they 'will judge,' implies that already they 'are' not 'unworthy, etc.' For, not only does designation to honor confer present dignity, but whatever we shall be in full degree and outward actuality we are already in some degree inwardly and spiritually. The light of eternity, which will enable us to estimate with infallible justice all actions done on earth and to approve and endorse the sentence of Christ, already shines in the hearts of those in whom the Spirit dwells. For His presence imparts (1 Corinthians 2:15f) the wisdom of Christ. Therefore, in proportion as we are influenced by the Spirit, we are able to estimate conduct so far as the facts are known to us: i.e. spiritual men are, other things being equal, most fit to decide the differences of their brethren.
Ver. 3. Another known truth, forming with 1 Corinthians 6:2 a climax. Angel, when not otherwise defined in the New Testament always a good angel. But here the word 'judge' recalls at once the angels who sinned. This verse implies, as 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6 plainly assert, that the sentence of the great Day will include at least the fallen angels. We cannot doubt that it will be pronounced by Christ. If so, 1 Corinthians 6:2 suggests that in this sentence His people will join. Thus Man and men will pronounce sentence on those mighty powers which have seduced men, but from whose grasp the saints have been saved. The condemnation of wicked angels suggests that in the great Day the faithful angels will receive reward. If so, they may be included here; as in 1 Corinthians 6:2, "the world" may include "the saints." All this reveals a mysterious and wonderful connection (cp.Colossians 1:20) between the moral destiny of our race and that of other races.
The teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:2, 3 is implied in the great truth that whatever Christ is and does He calls His people to share; and therefore helps us to realize the infinite grandeur of our position. We cannot (1 Corinthians 4:5) pronounce judgment now: for the facts are not yet fully before us. But in view of the majesty of that great assize, before which even angels will tremble, 'matters of this life' are unworthy of mention.
Ver. 4-6. Those who are despised: heathen judges, who, as ignorant of the wisdom which the Corinthian Christians conceived that they had obtained through the Gospel, were, 'in the church,' looked down upon with contempt. By taking their disputes into courts of law Christians practically 'appoint' heathens to be their judges. Paul asks with bitter irony, "Is it because your matters of dispute are so small, as belonging merely to the present passing life, compared with the tremendous sentence yourselves will share in pronouncing-is it for this reason that you submit them to men on whom you look down with contempt as aliens from the kingdom of God and exposed to the condemnation of the great Day, to men worthy to decide only these trifling temporal matters?"
To put you to shame: 1 Corinthians 15:34. It states Paul's immediate aim; 1 Corinthians 4:14, his ultimate aim.
I say it: I ask the foregoing bitter question. Your conduct implies that 'to this degree' your large church is destitute of wisdom, that 'there is not among you even one wise man who will be able' as cases arise 'to judge, etc.'
Between his brother: viz. the one man who brings the complaint. This question was most humiliating. Just as in 1 Corinthians 3:1ff Paul proves from the existence of the church-parties that they were incapable of the higher Christian teaching, so now from their lawsuits he infers that the whole church does not contain one wise man. 1 Corinthians 6:6 asserts as fact, in reply to Paul's own question, the matter which gave rise to the question of 1 Corinthians 6:1. Unbelievers; explains "the unrighteous" in 1 Corinthians 6:1.
Ver. 7-8. To go no further, than the fact that "brother goes to law with brother," that you have judgments with yourselves. As in 1 Corinthians 6:1, Paul descends from fornication "generally" to a specially aggravated "kind of fornication," so now he rises from lawsuits before unbelievers to all lawsuits between Christians.
Judgment: sentence pronounced by a judge, which, as being the culminating point, implies the whole process of the suit. Apart from the heathen judges, the lawsuits were themselves a spiritual injury; they tended to lessen and destroy the spiritual life of those concerned and of the church generally.
Damage: same word in Romans 11:12. Why...? why...? solemn repetition and climax. It is better to 'suffer-injustice' and 'fraud' than spiritual 'damage.' 'But' their conduct was the precise opposite of this.
Injustice: that which is not right, 1 Corinthians 6:1.
Fraud: taking, generally by guile, the known property of others. Of this, Paul must have known that some of them were guilty.
Ver. 9-10. Do you not know: This conduct, like all sin, arose from ignorance. Unrighteousness, or 'unjust,' refers specifically to 1 Corinthians 6:8; but includes the sin of 1 Corinthians 6:1 and all other sin. For, against all sin equally this solemn warning is valid.
Inherit God 's kingdom: 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5: become, in virtue of filial relation to God, citizens of the future and glorious realm over which, in a royalty which His children will share, He will reign for ever.
Be not deceived, etc.: solemn repetition, and exposition in its wider sense, Of 1 Corinthians 6:9a. Cp.Galatians 5:21. Fornicators; recalls 1 Corinthians 5:1ff. Idolaters; see 1 Corinthians 5:11.
Ver. 11. Supports the foregoing solemn warning by the contrast of their entrance to the Christian life. When Paul speaks of sin in the abstract, he says, "There is no difference: for all have sinned," Romans 3:22; 5:8ff. But, when speaking of gross and open sins, he says 'some of you.' For there may have been at Corinth men who, like Paul, (Acts 26:5,) were outwardly moral from their youth.
You washed yourselves: close coincidence with Acts 22:16, "Baptize thyself (or, have thyself baptized) and wash away thy sin." God designs the Christian life to be one of purity, i.e. free from the inward conscious defilement, causing shame, which always accompanies sin. To this life of purity, Baptism, as a public confession of Christ and formal union with His people, was the divinely appointed outward entrance. Only thus, in ordinary cases, could men obtain salvation: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38. And the use of water set forth in outward symbol the inward purity which God requires, and is ready to give. Therefore by voluntarily receiving Baptism, not only did the early converts profess their desire for the purity promised in the Gospel, but, by fulfilling the divinely ordained condition, they actually obtained it in proportion to their faith. Consequently, by coming to baptism, they practically 'washed themselves' from the stain of their sin. Cp. Titus 3:5, "He saved us by means of the laver of regeneration." This does not imply purification in the moment of baptism, or apart from the converts' faith and steadfast resolve to forsake sin. But these words reminded the readers that, unless it was a meaningless and an empty form, their baptism was a renouncing of all sin. The allusion here is similar to the mention of baptism in Romans 6:2ff: see notes.
You were sanctified: as in 1 Corinthians 1:2. "When God rescued you from sin and joined you to His people, He claimed you for His Own, and thus placed you in a new and solemn relation to Himself."
Justified: a solitary instance probably in the New Testament of the simplest sense, "made righteous." For Paul is dealing here (cp.1 Corinthians 6:9a) with practical unrighteousness: and with him the justification of pardon always precedes (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:30) sanctification. But we have the opposite order here, because practical conformity with the Law is an outflow and consequence of devotion to God. Therefore, by claiming us for His Own, and by breathing into us the devotion He claims, God makes us righteous. 'You washed yourselves,' reminds the readers that by their own act they renounced sin: therefore to continue in sin is to retrace their own act. 'You were sanctified, etc.,' reminds "them that by One greater than themselves they were devoted to the service of God and made righteous: therefore, to sin is to resist God." Thus the change of expression sets before us two sides of the Christian life.
In the Name, etc.; belongs probably to all three verbs. Their baptism was an acknowledgment that 'Jesus' claimed to be their 'Anointed Master,' whose 'Name' they were henceforth to bear. Cp. Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5. They were "sanctified in Christ," 1 Corinthians 1:2. And moral uprightness was imparted to them in view of their confession of the Name of Christ, and for the honor of that Name.
The Spirit of God: the inward and immediate source, as 'the Name of Christ' is the outward professed source, of the Christian life. This Spirit they received at Baptism, 1 Corinthians 12:13: Acts 2:38; 19:5f: (though not by mechanical necessity but by faith, Galatians 3:14, 26f: Galatians 4:6: Ephesians 1:13; and therefore not necessarily in the moment of Baptism:) and He was the source of (Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13) their loyalty to God; and of ( Romans 8:4) their conformity to the Law. In this section, as frequently, Paul deals with matters of detail by appealing to great principles of wide application. Not only are there at Corinth legal disputes, but these are carried into the common law-courts. The litigants insult the majesty of the church, forgetful of the dignity awaiting its members, by submitting their disputes to the decision of men on whom they themselves look down with contempt as aliens from God, as though the church did not contain even one man wise enough to decide them. That there are lawsuits at all, is a spiritual injury to them, an injury they would do well to avoid, even at the cost of submitting to injustice. It is needful to warn them against the error of expecting that bad men will enter the kingdom of God; and to remind them that, when they entered the church and so far as their profession was genuine, they renounced sin, became the people of God, and therefore righteous men.
The above does not imply that in that early day there were regularly constituted Christian law-courts. The readers are simply urged to settle their disputes privately by Christian arbitration rather than by a public legal process. A century later there were regular, though private, Christian courts; in which the bishops gave judgment between church-members.
To us, the argument of 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 is modified by the fact that our public courts are for the more part presided over by excellent Christian men. But the injury inflicted upon a church by lawsuits between members, and the spirit of unscrupulous grasping, in one or both parties, which lies at the root of nearly all lawsuits, are the same in all ages. And, in proportion as men are moved by the Spirit of God, disputes about property will become rare; and the disputants will decide them, not in a public court, but by private arbitration, and by arbiters who themselves are guided by the same Spirit. Whether, in any one case it be more for the advancement of the kingdom of God that we defend our property or submit to injustice, must be determined by that spiritual wisdom which God has promised to give. From 1 Corinthians 6:8 we learn that there are cases in which we shall do well to choose the latter alternative.
CHAPTER 6:1-11 treats the subject of wrongs. It was shameful that those who were to judge the world and the angels should be incapable of judging the paltry affairs of this world. Let the least esteemed in the assembly be employed in this service. Rather should they bear the wrong, whereas they did wrong themselves. But the wicked and the unrighteous would assuredly not inherit the kingdom. What a wonderful mixture we have here of astonishing revelations, of a morality that is unchangeable whatever may be the divine supremacy of grace, and of ecclesiastical order and discipline!
The assembly is united to Christ. When He shall judge the world and pronounce the doom of the angels, she will be associated with Him and take part in His judgment, for she has His Spirit and His mind. Nothing however that is unrighteous shall enter into that kingdom, for in effect how could evil be judged by any that took pleasure in it? Christians should not go to a worldly tribunal for justice, but have recourse to the arbitration of the brethren - a service which, as entering so little into christian spirituality, was suited to the weakest among them. Moreover the proper thing was rather to suffer the wrong. Be it as it might, the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom.
Judaism, which took pleasure in a carnal sanctity of outward regulations, and the spirit of the world with conformity to its ways, were the two dangers that threatened the assembly at Corinth - dangers, indeed, which exist for the heart of man at all times and in all places. With regard to meats the rule is simple: perfect liberty, since all is allowed - true liberty, in that we are in bondage to none of these things. Meats and the belly, as in relationship to each other, should both perish; the body has a higher destiny - it is for the Lord, and the Lord for it. God has raised up Christ from the dead, and He will raise us up again by His power. The body belongs to this and not to meats.
But the doctrine that the body is for Christ decided another question, to which the depraved habits of the Corinthians gave rise. All fornication is forbidden. To us, with our present Christian habits of mind, it is a thing of course - to Pagans, new; but the doctrine exalts every subject. Our bodies are the members of Christ. Another truth connected with this is of great importance: if (by union according to the flesh) two were one body, he who is united to the Lord is one spirit. The Spirit whose fullness is in Christ is the same Spirit who dwells in me and unites me to Him. Our bodies are His temples. What a mighty truth when we think of it!
The Christian Court, a ministry of: PeaceMakers International, Inc.