Sometimes when I am driving I like to listen to an audiobook. I have listened to audio books about Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and others by Jules Verne. Some of these books are so good that I can listen to them again and again. When the boys were younger, we read a Robin Hood book that made us laugh and cry. It is soooo good. Then there are the Jules Verne novels that I never grow tired of, or some of the 100 year old Tom Swift adventures, like The House on Wheels. I highly recommend them.
I think that Christians have some favorite parts of the Bible as well. No matter how many times you read them, they still affect you emotionally. One such passage is 1 Corinthins 6:9-11. This is one of my personal favorites. I would imagine that most of you are familiar with this wonderful passage. We love to read these verses and think about what God has done in our lives. But you may be surprised to learn that these verses were not necessarily written to encourage the Corinthian believers. They were instead written by Paul to prick their consciences about some unacceptable behaviors.
- Questionable Activity (1 Corinthians 6:1-6)
As you may recall, the Corinthian church was involved in a number of problematic activities. Paul had to address these issues so that the people would start living the way the Lord intended. However, as he did this, he chose to ask questions so that the Corinthian believers think about what they were doing.
a. Are you taking a Christian brother to a secular court? (1)
Apparently, there were some disagreements between the brothers in the church at Corinth. What those disagreements were we don’t know. But Paul took it seriously. He began his question with, “How dare you?” A dare is what you do when you are unexpected to do something. You take the dare and do it to the surprise of everyone who sees you doing it. Paul was asking how they would dare to do such a thing.
How could you dare to take a Christian brother to court? That is what non-believers do. They fight and get picky about the smallest things. But “those related by faith needed to settle their disputes like brothers, not adversaries (cf. Gen. 13:7-9)” (Lowery 515). Work things out!
The next part of the question involves going before the unrighteous. Paul was asking how they could go before an unrighteous judge to settle matters with a Christian brother. It almost sounds like Paul thought that all judges were bad. That is not the case. Instead, he is showing the difference between those who have been made righteous by faith in Christ and those who have not been (see Hodge 93). A matter between two Christians is best dealt with inside the church because other Christians understand the spiritual ramifications that are involved. “No secular judge or jury is equipped to make spiritual decisions, because they do not comprehend spiritual principles” (McGee 28).
Is it always wrong to go to a secular court?
No, it is not wrong to go to court when necessary. “Paul himself appealed to Caesar. 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” (Hodge 94).
b. Do you realize that Christians will one day be judges? (2-3)
Paul next asked whether the Corinthian believes were ignorant of their future position in God’s kingdom. Did they realize that they would be given places of administration and judgment in the kingdom?
Christians will judge the world.
In several places, it appears that Christians will be part of the justice system in the future kingdom. Not only will Jesus be enthroned as king, during the millennial kingdom, but believers will somehow be part of the judicial system.
2 Tim. 2:12 – “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.“
Matt. 19:28 – “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Rev. 2:26 – “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations”
These verses back up what Paul was saying to the Corinthian believers. We Christians will be judges in God’s future kingdom. “If then, asks the apostle, such a destiny as this awaits you, are ye unfit to decide the smallest matters?” (Hodge 95).
Christians will judge angels.
Paul also adds angels to the list of being to be judged by believers during the kingdom. “Not only men, but fallen angels are to stand before that tribunal on which Christ and his church shall sit in judgment” (Hodge 95). While Christians are not listed in the following verses, the judgment of fallen angels is mentioned in several instances.
2 Peter 2:4 – “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”
Jude 6 – “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
This is a revelation to us. We believers will be given the job of administering judgment to the world but also to angels. This only further underscores Paul’s point. “Since they were going to judge supernatural beings (the fallen angels, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), surely they should handle mundane matters satisfactorily” (Lowery 515).
c. Do you think unbelievers should be judging you? (4)
Paul’s next question has to do with those being chosen to judge their disagreements. Here is what I think he is saying. If we are going to judge people and angels in the future, should you turn to those who have nothing to do with the church to handle your problems. With this explanation, those least esteemed by the church are “‘men who have no standing’ in the church, that is, non-Christians” (Lowery 515). Why would you lower yourself to be judged by someone who has not even believed the truth about Jesus?
Think about this for a moment. With all the wickedness that the “unrighteous” are involved with, why would a Christian go to an unbeliever to solve a problem with a fellow believer, a Christian brother or sister? It doesn’t make sense and yet that was what the Corinthian believers were doing.
d. Are there no wise men among you? (5-6)
Paul was shaming the Corinthian believers for acting this way. They should have been ashamed of their actions. But to this point they weren’t. Remember that these were the same believers who were unwilling to confront a man who was committing immorality with his father’s wife. They should have known (and done) better.
Wasn’t there a wise man among them?
Paul wondered why they couldn’t find a capable person in the church to help them figure out their disagreements. “Of course, not every Christian is a capable judge, but Paul is saying, ‘I speak to your shame, isn’t there a wise man among you?’ When you go to a secular court, you are saying that none of the saints are capable of judging” (McGee 29).
I think that wisdom is needed before you share a problem with just anyone. Not every believer is wise enough to give good advice and so not everyone should be asked to help with a disagreement. But in a church of any size, there ought to be someone to whom God has granted wisdom. This is the person you should go to for help.
- Proposed Solutions (1 Corinthians 6:7-8)
After addressing their questionable actions, Paul continues with two questions that would have normally provided the solution to their problem. But all along he knew that the problem would have to be addressed at a deeper level.
a. Why don’t you just take the wrong done against you? (7)
If someone were to call you a failure, you would not be happy. Who do you think you are calling me a failure? And yet that is what Paul said to the Corinthian believers. You have completely failed by going to a secular court to handle problems between believers.
He then asks why the Christians were not willing to “take the hit” and live with it. In other words, he was asking why they didn’t just ignore what happened. Was it such a big deal that they couldn’t let it go? Couldn’t they allow themselves to be mistreated? Couldn’t they allow the other person to cheat them without making it a big deal? “Mundane loss was preferrable to the spiritual loss which the lawsuits produced” (Lowery 515).
Now this isn’t a blanket approval for people doing wrong and always turning the other cheek when sinned against. “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…” (Hodge 97). God desires that we do right and will judge our sin. And there are times when sin needs to be carefully confronted in another Christian’s lives. But there are other times when we need to overlook wrongs done against us without making a big deal of it.
But in this case, the problem was bigger than that.
b. Why don’t you examine your own actions? (8)
In verse 8, Paul reveals that the people couldn’t let things go because they were, in fact, the ones doing the wrong to others. They were wronging and cheating other Christians and needed to be confronted themselves. That is what Paul was doing here. He confronted their own sinfulness and called on them to repent of their sinful actions.
- Somber Reflections (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
While these verses are favorites of many Christians, they were not designed to encourage the original readers. Instead, Paul was comparing their actions with people who were not Christians. He wanted them to consider what God had done in their lives and then for them to live like God intended.
a. Your behavior is unacceptable (9-10).
Don’t you know? This is the phrase that Paul keeps repeating. The actions of the Corinthian believers revealed that they either didn’t know or they were acting like they didn’t know. So what was the spiritual truth that they Corinthian believers were ignorant of? They were ignorant of the fact that unbelievers who practice sinful behavior will not be part of God’s kingdom.
He then gives a long list of sins that the unrighteous commit: fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, and extortion. Paul told them that they were deceived if they thought this kind of behavior was acceptable to God or allowed in His kingdom.
“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” (Hodge 98).
Paul said all of that to make them think. Is your behavior giving evidence that you will be part of God’s kingdom? At this point, their behavior was pointing to their old way of life. This was not good.
b. Your behavior should reflect what God has done in your life (11).
Thankfully, Paul had not given up hope on the Christians in Corinth. He noted that some of them had been like that in the past. “Some (but not all) the Corinthians Christians had been guilty of the sins listed in verses 9-10, but God had intervened” (Lowery 516). Thankfully, God had brought these sinful people to faith and repentance and had changed their lives. He then explains what God did for them.
washed – “Their sins, considered as filth, had been washed away; considered as pollution, they had been purged or purified” (Hodge 99). Never look back at your past sins as if they are a small thing. Next to God’s holiness, we were very dirty and sinful. We could not stand in God’s presence due to our sinfulness. And yet He chose to wash and cleanse us from our sin.
sanctified – Once we were cleansed of our sins, God sanctified us. We, who were once filthy in God’s eyes, were set apart and “devoted to the service of God” (Hodge 100). That is a wonderful thought when you consider where we came from. How could God use us even after cleansing us from our sin?
justified – The reason we can be accepted by God is that we have been justified by faith in Jesus. “…To justify in Scripture always means to pronounce righteous, or to declare just in the sight of the law… clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and on that account accepted as righteous in the sight of God” (Hodge 100). We have never been worthy of being called just because of our sins. But Jesus, who died in our place, is completely righteous. When we put our faith in the fact that Jesus died in our place, God applies Jesus’ perfect righteousness to our account and we are from then on considered justified—without sin.
All of these statements are true about every believer because of the Lord Jesus and because of the work of the Holy Spirit who worked in us. With that in mind, believers should feel “indebted for the great change which they had experienced; for their washing, sanctification, and justification, to Christ and to the Holy Ghost” (Hodge 101). And we should be careful not to “relapse into [our] former state of pollution and condemnation.” (Hodge 100-01).
When I was a young man, someone came to my house to pick me up for a church event. Apparently, I had not shaved for a while because the man asked me if I had shaved with a banana. That was his humorous way of telling me I needed to shave. His question made me think the next time it was time to go out. The questions Paul asked in this chapter were not humorous. But they were meant to produce the same result. When he asked them, he wanted to know if the Corinthian believers were thinking about the results of their sinful actions.
Perhaps we need to be asked a few questions as well. Are your thoughts, words, and actions showing the way you used to be, or are they showing what God has caused you to become? When you are alone with your thoughts, are they controlled by the Spirit of God? When you speak to others, is it apparent that you have been born again? When you take action, do others notice the change God has made in your life?
We are starting a new year today. And it may be that the Spirit of God had pricked at your conscience today. As the Spirit reveals to you any sin that you are holding onto, ask yourself the question, Am I living like someone who has been washed, sanctified, and justified, or like someone who will be excluded from God’s kingdom. Then choose to live the way God intended.
Hodge, Charles, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1974, orig. 1857, pp. 92-101.
Lowery, David K., “1 Corinthians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 515-16.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 26-29.