Of Lawsuits And Judgments
[1st Corinthians 6, verses 1 through11]
In today’s chronological study of the writings of the apostle Paul, we will examine the first half of First Corinthians chapter six. We’ll tackle the second half next week because there is so much in this chapter that to breeze through it in one lesson really can’t do justice to this passage of Scripture. Paul had just finished telling the Corinthian congregation to expel a certain member who was apparently openly sexually immoral in a particularly revolting way. Paul then continues this train of thought, but he is now changing his focus from internal to external, apparently regarding certain lawsuits from within the congregation that were being litigated outside the church in the court system of its day. Although the original reason for these lawsuits have long since been lost to history, what matters here is what Paul has to say about it, beginning at verse one.
“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another – and this in front of unbelievers!” (I Corinthians 6: verses 1-6 NIV)
Paul wants to know in verse one why the church is having an internal matter brought before the legal system right in front of ungodly pagans. Is it not wiser to settle a dispute within the church between the parties involved, out of sight of nonbelievers? And is it not wiser, Paul is asking, to have Christian believers considering such matters rather than godless, corrupt and unprincipled people, many of whom have no conception of true spirituality? In the next sentence, when Paul asks the Corinthian church if they know that saints will judge the world, he is referring to the second coming of Christ at the end of the book of Revelation. All God’s children who had been taken away in the Rapture of His church seven years prior to Christ’s triumphant return (as it is correctly predicted in the book of Revelation) will come back with Him at His second coming to rule over the earth and over all those who survive the 7 years of tribulation described in Revelation.
Paul then continues by asking why there is no one competent or discerning enough to judge such matters from within the Corinthian church. In modern English, Paul is asking the Corinthian congregation, “Aren’t you people smart enough to judge internal disputes? I thought you were. Are you now telling me that I was wrong and that I overestimated you?” In the next sentence Paul asks if they know that the saints – who are all God’s children through the blood sacrifice of Christ Jesus – will judge angels. What is he talking about here? Paul was referring again to the second coming of Christ that he had just mentioned. At the second coming, which will be the end of the age we are currently living in and the beginning of a new age of peace, after the Saints have begun the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ, the angels of heaven will be judged. The reason for this is that long ago before the creation of mankind, there was war in heaven (see Revelation chapter 12, verses 7,8, and 9) in the form of a revolt led by Lucifer – who is now called Satan, and he is chief of the demonic realm – which resulted in one-third of the angels of heaven who followed Lucifer and revolted against God being thrown out of heaven and they became banished from heaven forever. Eternal punishment awaits them all, along with all those who refuse to believe in Jesus. To finish this thought, not only will God’s children judge and rule over all the survivors of the tribulation – including World War Three which will precede it – but we saints and believers will judge the angels as well. God will bring Lucifer and all those demons who followed him in revolt against God before God’s judgment throne, and they will be convicted and condemned to hell forever by a jury of all the saints.
So Paul is saying that if we are wise enough to judge angels and tribulation survivors in the sight of God, since He implanted us all with sufficient spiritual wisdom to accomplish this, then there should be no problem with settling disputes between church members that are of little importance. In closing this passage of Scripture, Paul does not try to hide his exasperation with this church for what they are doing, telling them that they are setting a bad example for new believers and pagans alike. When Paul writes, “But instead, one brother goes to law against another – and this in front of unbelievers!”, he is jumping into their business for making a spectacle of themselves in front of unbelievers who might otherwise be won over to Christ. Telling people that any church is worshiping Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth while at the same time being unable to get along with each other – not to mention suing each other – is a glaring contradiction if ever there was one. Paul concludes this train of thought starting at verse seven.
“The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves not the greedy nor drunkards nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6: verses 7-11 NIV)
Paul is clearly telling the Corinthians they are already defeated and their faith is meaningless so long as they continue litigating against each other over trivial matters. He is reminding them that the foremost commands of Christ Himself were to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Paul is warning them to return to the basis for their faith practiced in love, which is no less than the salvation of Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven only to return in our present time for His church. He is reminding them of Jesus’ teaching at the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Jesus said we are to bless those who curse us, to love our enemies, and that when one is struck on one side of their face they are to turn the other side towards their assailant also rather than fight back. I can tell you from personal experience that this last commandment is not an easy one to follow, particularly for someone like myself who formerly had issues with anger and with my temper before getting saved and acquiring the peace of Christ, a peace which surpasses all human understanding and comprehension. Anyone reading this who has similar issues should take heart, because Jesus is real and He wants to heal you. Let Jesus take that anger away, especially if it’s hard to let go of it.
Paul’s diatribe against immoral people – and there’s lots of them today just like back then – still rings true today for the most part. I’m not sure why Paul singled out male prostitutes instead of either gender, it’s hard to tell in this particular passage. Given the tough economic times in which we are living, I can see why a few people might be attracted to this lifestyle. I don’t condone it, but I can see why people would resort to such desperate measures as that. But the other things he mentioned, such as idolatry – which can take on many different forms such as a spouse or significant other, cars, houses, watching too much TV or constantly playing video games while the rest of people’s lives go straight down the toilet – exist today in even greater proliferation than it did back in Paul’s time. Homosexuality is also mentioned, but since I have already posted at length about gay people and why straight people have no business condemning them, I will save that discussion for later.
Paul’s main point remains as a command to live at peace with each other. If we fail to do so, our Christian faith can easily deteriorate to the realm of sniping, gossiping and backbiting. We all have the built-in ability to acquire this peace of Christ if we ask Him with a glad and thankful heart, claiming by faith the peace of Jesus Christ. Simply pray to Jesus to send you His peace today. Let’s pray together,” Dear Lord Jesus, I want to learn how to live in peace with everyone, starting with myself. Teach me your inner peace so I can be a more effective Christian that will lead to my becoming a better person. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.”