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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for 1 Corinthians 6

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Lawsuits and Loose Living

A. Instruction regarding lawsuits among Christians.

1. (1Cr 6:1) Paul denounces their recourse to the pagan law courts in disputes among Christians.

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?

a. Dare any of you is strong wording. Paul simply can’t believe what these Corinthian Christians are doing.

b. Having a matter against another: Apparently, one Christian believed he had been wronged by another, and sought justice in the local courts (go to law before the unrighteous).

i. The local judge sat in what was known as the “bema” seat of the civil magistrate, located in the heart of the marketplace. Because Greek culture found a good legal battle entertaining, anyone’s lawsuit soon became public knowledge.

c. Unrighteous is literally unjust, in the sense of “not justified before God, not saved.” Why are the Corinthian Christians trying to find justice from those who aren’t justified before God?

i. Paul is using the term unrighteous in a religious sense, not a moral sense. It isn’t that Corinthian judges were necessarily bad judges, but they were not Christians.

2. (1Cr 6:2-6) Why Christians are fully capable of judging their own matters, and it is wrong to go to heathen law courts in disputes among Christians.

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!

a. The saints will judge the world... we shall judge angels: Christians should be fully able to judge their own matters because of our destiny. As we reign with Jesus Christ, we will (in some sense or another) judge the world, and even judge angels.

i. The idea of Christians judging angels is fascinating. It does not mean we will sit in judgment of faithful angels, as if we could penalize them for letting us down or not being there, but we will have a part in judging evil angels.

ii. How great is God’s destiny for redeemed men and women! “Is there any statement in the apostolic writings in certain senses which has more definite and tremendous implication of the union of the saints with their Lord?” (Morgan)

iii. The destiny of redeemed men and women – to one day be higher than the angels and to even sit in judgment of them – must greatly annoy a certain high angel in heaven. He did not want to serve an inferior creature now, and did not want that inferior creature to be raised up higher than even he. So, he rebelled against God, and is determined to keep as much of humanity as possible from sitting in judgment of himself. We can imagine the perverse, proud pleasure Satan takes over every soul that goes to hell: “They won’t sit in judgment over me!”

b. If Christians are being prepared right now for such a glorious destiny, why do the Corinthian Christians allow those least esteemed by the church (that is, the secular judges) to decide disputes among Christians?

c. Is there not a wise man among you: The Corinthian Christians were proud of what they thought was their “wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), but their actions showed that there was not a wise man among them.

d. Brother goes to law against brother: By his actions, Paul showed he was not against all legal action. In Acts 22:25 and 25:10-11, he appealed to Roman courts for his rights. However, Paul knew it was wrong when brother goes to law against brother.

i. It is important for Christians to settle disputes among themselves according to God’s principles. This can be done either through the church, or through Christian arbitration. But today, even as in Paul’s day, there is no reason for Christians to sue one another.

ii. Does this mean that it is permissible for Christians to sue non-believers who wrong them? This is an important question in our age where people are so ready to sue. Paul certainly does not bring up this specific issue, and he does not say matters between Christians should be unresolved – only that they should be settled in the proper arena.

iii. Paul does not say that Christians should have their own court system to handle criminal law. In Romans 13:3-4 Paul says that it is appropriate for the state to handle criminal cases. Christians should, however, be able to handle civil cases among themselves. “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.” (Clarke)

3. (1Cr 6:7) Paul rebukes the man who had been wronged: why not accept the wrong?

Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?

a. The Corinthians were just like modern Americans: addicted to their own “rights.” But in clinging to their rights so fiercely, they had already shown utter failure. Just by going to court against your brother, you already lose.

b. It would be better to accept wrong. It would be better to let yourselves be cheated than to defend your “rights” at the expense of God’s glory and the higher good of His kingdom.

i. Paul called this man to do something hard: to give up what he deserved for the higher good of God and His kingdom. But the man who was wronged should not think Paul was asking him to take a loss. No one who accepts wrong for the sake of God’s glory will be a loser.

ii. Ideally, the church should have settled the dispute. But if the church failed to do so, Paul asked the man to trust in God, not in secular judges and lawsuits and courts.

iii. Paul didn’t say, “Why not suffer wrong instead of confronting the problem?” Instead, he said, “Why not suffer wrong instead of bringing your dispute before unbelievers?”

4. (1Cr 6:8-11) Paul rebukes the man who had done the wrong: do you realize how serious your sin is?

No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

a. You yourselves do wrong and cheat: There is no place for dishonest dealing by Christians; how much less place is there for dishonest dealing among Christians! Many have rejected the things of God and the fellowship of the saints because of dishonesty and cheating among Christians.

b. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Paul speaks strongly to the brother who did the wrong. “Don’t you realize how serious your sin is? The only thing you may ‘gain’ from cheating your brother is eternity with the unrighteous!”

i. Paul was not, categorically, denying the man’s salvation (Paul says he is among the brethren); however, Paul will not allow a “religious faith” that is separate from our actions. If a Christian can cheat and defraud his brothers without conscience, it may be fairly asked if he is a Christian at all.

c. This man who wronged his brother sets himself in bad company – in with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, revilers, and extortioners; and none of those who live characterized by these sins will inherit the kingdom of God.

i. No doubt the man figured, “Sure, what I’m doing to my brother isn’t good but it isn’t that bad.” Paul wants him to know just how bad it was.

ii. We shouldn’t think that a Christian who has committed an act of fornication or homosexuality (or any of the other listed sins) is automatically excluded from the kingdom of God. Instead, since Paul describes these people by their sins, he means those whose lives are dominated and characterized by these sins. So, is an occasional act of fornication or homosexuality no big deal to God? Of course it is a significant matter, because it goes against everything we have been given in Jesus, and because a lifestyle of sin begins with single acts of sin.

iii. The man who cheated his brother had to see that if his life was dominated and characterized by this sin, just as much as any of the other people Paul described, he should also be just as concerned for his salvation as any of those other people.

d. Nor homosexuals: Since this is such a clear condemnation of homosexuality, those who would like to justify the practice say Paul speaks of homosexual prostitution, not a “loving, caring homosexual relationship.” But taken in context, there is no doubt God is speaking of homosexual acts of all kinds with the words malakoi (homosexuals, which literally refers to male prostitutes) and arsenokoitai (sodomites, a generic term for all homosexual practice).

i. Paul did not write in or of a “homophobic” culture. Homosexuality was rampant in the ancient world; 14 out of the first 15 Roman emperors were bisexual or homosexual. At the very time Paul wrote, Nero was emperor. Nero castrated a boy named Sporus and then married him (with a full ceremony), brought him to the palace with a great procession, and made the boy his “wife.” Later, the emperor lived with another man, and Nero was declared to be the other man’s “wife.”

ii. In this list of sins, homosexuality (not some “special” version of homosexuality) is described, but it is described right along with other sins. Some who so strongly denounce homosexuals are guilty of other sins on this list. Can fornicators or adulterers or the covetous or drunkards rightly condemn homosexuals? Of course not.

iii. Christians err when they excuse homosexuality, and deny that it is sin, but they also err just as badly when they single it out as a sin God is uniquely angry with.

e. Paul’s point is important: such were some of you. Though these sins characterize those who will not inherit the kingdom of God, Christians can never be unloving or uncaring towards them – because they are right where we used to be.

i. Christians should not, and must not say such sins in the lives of those who don’t know Jesus are of no concern to God. They are. Instead, they must communicate the message of salvation in Jesus Christ: He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

ii. At the same time, the point is plain for the Corinthian Christians and for us: And such were some of you. Paul clearly puts it in the past tense. These things should never mark the life of a Christian, and if they do, they must be immediately repented of and forsaken.

iii. “Security in Christ there is, to be sure, but it is a false security that would justify sinners who have never taken seriously ‘but such were some of you.'” (Fee)

f. But you were washed... sanctified... justified: God’s great work for us in Jesus Christ is described in three terms.

i. You were washed: We are washed clean from sin by the mercy of God (Titus 3:5). We can have our sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). We are washed by the work of Jesus on the cross for us (Revelation 1:5) and by the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26).

ii. You were sanctified: We are set apart, away from the world and unto God, by the work of Jesus on the cross (Hebrews 10:10), by God’s Word (John 17:19), by faith in Jesus (Acts 26:18), and by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16).

iii. You were justified: We are declared “just” before the court of God, not merely “not guilty,” but declared as “just” before Him. We are justified by God’s grace through the work of Jesus on the cross (Romans 3:24), by faith and not by our own deeds (Romans 3:28).

iv. God can take the kind of people described in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 and make them into the kind of people described in 1 Corinthians 6:11! How great is the work of God!

g. In the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God: Without trying to present a doctrine of the Trinity, Paul quite naturally – because he knew it was the truth about God – lists the three Persons of the Godhead in connection with this great work of God in the life of the believer.

B. Instruction regarding sexual purity.

1. (1Cr 6:12) A principle for sexual purity among Christians: what is permitted is not our only guide for behavior.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

a. In both 1 Corinthians 5 (in the section dealing with the sexual immorality of a certain member of the Corinthian church) and in 1 Corinthians 6 (in the section where certain sinners are described), Paul brought up the issue of the sexual conduct of Christians. Now he will address some of the questions and problems the Corinthian Christians had about what God wanted them to do in regard to sex.

b. All things are lawful for me: This was probably a phrase Paul had used in teaching the Corinthian Christians about Christian liberty. We can almost hear Paul telling the Corinthians exactly what he told the Colossians in Colossians 2:16-17: “When it comes to what we eat or drink or on what day we worship the Lord, all things are lawful for me. I am at liberty, and I should not let anyone put me under bondage, as legalists are prone to do.”

c. But all things are not helpful: The Corinthian Christians took the idea all things are lawful and applied it to areas Paul, or the Lord, never intended. They used their “liberty” as a license to sin.

i. Specifically, from the reference to the harlot in 1 Corinthians 6:15, the point seems to be that the Corinthian Christians thought they had the liberty to use the services of prostitutes. This was culturally accepted in the city of Corinth, and it was accepted in the religious community among the religious pagans, who saw nothing wrong in a “religious” person using prostitutes.

d. I will not be brought under the power of any: In this phrase, Paul uses a verb he uses again only in 1 Corinthians 7:4, in the context of a husband and wife having “authority” over each other’s bodies. Paul may be saying I will not be brought under the power of any body (as in the body of a prostitute).

2. (1Cr 6:13-14) A principle for sexual purity among Christians: appetites for food and sex are not the same.

Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

a. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods: The Corinthian Christians probably used this motto to justify giving their bodies whatever their bodies wanted. “My body wants food, so I eat. My body wants sex, so I hire a prostitute. What’s the problem?”

b. But Paul will not let them take that slogan, which applies to irrelevant food restrictions, and apply it to sexual immorality, because the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

i. Because of our lustful sexual appetites, it may seem that God did make our bodies for sexual immorality. But God did not make our bodies that way; sinful Adam did. We see the wisdom in God’s design for the body and for sexual purity when we look at the problems of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. These are the price one pays in the body for using the body in a way the Lord never intended – the body is not for sexual immorality.

c. One day God will destroy our stomachs, in the sense of being dependent on food and affected by hunger (though there will be food and eating in heaven). Yet, our bodies themselves – in their moral character, relevant to our sexual conduct – will be raised up by the Lord at the resurrection. So what we do with our bodies in regard to food does not affect us in the same way as what we do with our bodies in regard to sex.

3. (1Cr 6:15-17) A principle for sexual purity among Christians: our bodies are part of the body of Christ, and so should never be joined to a prostitute.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

a. Do you not know: Apparently, many of the Corinthian Christians did not know, and thought their sexual conduct with prostitutes had no connection to their relationship with Jesus.

b. Your bodies are members of Christ: When an individual Christian commits sexual immorality, it disgraces the entire body of Christ, linking the body of Christ to immorality.

c. He who is joined to a harlot is one body with her... one flesh: In their sexual relationship, a husband and wife become “one flesh” in a way that is under God’s blessing. In sex outside of marriage, the partners become “one flesh” in a way that is under God’s curse.

i. A person pursuing a casual sexual encounter may not want to become one flesh with their partner but in some spiritual sense, they do. Part of their self is given to that person, and it means there is less to give to the Lord and to the partner God intends for them. In the Biblical understanding of sex, there is no such thing as “casual sex.”

ii. Since we belong to Jesus – body, soul, and spirit – we have no right to give any part of our self away to an “unauthorized” person. “By being joined to her [a prostitute] in porneia the believer constitutes someone else, outside of Christ, as the unlawful lord over one’s own body.” (Fee)

iii. “Sex outside of marriage is like a man robbing a bank: he gets something, but it is not his and he will one day pay for it. Sex within marriage can be like a person putting money into a bank: there is safety, security, and he will collect dividends.” (Wiersbe)

d. He who is joined to the Lord: In the heat of lustful passion, spiritual things may seem far away. Yet, at the root of most lustful passion is the desire for love, acceptance, and adventure – all of which is far better, and more completely, satisfied in a one-spirit relationship with the Lord instead of with sexual immorality.

4. (1Cr 6:18) A command for sexual purity among Christians: Flee sexual immorality.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

a. Flee: Paul doesn’t tell us to be brave and resist the lustful passion of sexual immorality, but to flee from its very presence. Many fall because they underestimate the power of lustful passion, or think they will “test” themselves and see how much they can “take.”

i. We should follow the example of Joseph, who fled from sexual immorality – even when it cost him something (Genesis 39:7-21).

ii. “Some sins, or solicitations to sin, may be reasoned with; in the above cases, if you parley you are undone; reason not, but fly!” (Clarke)

b. Flee sexual immorality: Paul does not say that Christians should flee sex, only sexual immorality. God gave sex as a precious gift to mankind, and uses it powerfully to bond husband and wife together in a true one-flesh relationship. So as Hebrews 13:4 says, the marriage bed is undefiled – the sexual relationship between husband and wife is pure, holy, and good before God.

i. But sexual immorality works against God’s good purpose for sex, working against a true, godly one-flesh relationship. Sex outside of marriage can be exciting, but it can’t be enriching.

c. Sexual immorality: We are reminded Paul uses the Greek word porneia, which refers to a broad range of sexual sin. To flee sexual immorality means more than not having sexual intercourse with someone we are not married to.

i. It means to flee sexual gratification short of or apart from intercourse with someone we are not married to.

ii. It means to flee sexual gratification or thrills one might find from pornographic videos, movies, magazines, books, or Internet sites.

d. Sins against his own body: Paul isn’t saying sexual immorality is worse than any other sin, but he does teach that sexual sin has a unique effect on the body. The effect is physical, but it is also moral and spiritual.

5. (1Cr 6:19-20) A principle and a command for sexual purity among Christians: glorify God in your body.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

a. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit: A temple is a place sacred to God and pure from immorality. If it is true we are filled with the Spirit, this truth must influence our sexual behavior. And if we commit sexual immorality as Christians, we pollute God’s temple.

i. Earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul wrote that the church as a whole was the temple of the Holy Spirit. Now he says the same is true, in a spiritual sense, of individual Christians.

b. Because our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies belong to God, and not to ourselves: You are not your own... for you were bought with a price.

i. Any honest person will take better care of something that doesn’t belong to them. Our bodies belong to God because He bought them. We don’t have the right to pollute and abuse God’s property!

ii. This principle applies to more than our sexual conduct. If our bodies belong to Jesus, we also have no right to be idle with, or wasteful of, what belongs to Him. Our bodies should be put to use glorifying God (Therefore glorify God in your body). “Your body was a willing horse when it was in the service of the devil, let it not be a sluggish hack now that it draws the chariot of Christ.” (Spurgeon)

c. Because our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, God Himself lives within us. This means we have the strength, the power over the sins of the flesh living within us. We should expect sexual purity from Christians more than from those who are not, because they do not have God living within them as we do.

d. Some Christians think that the devil cannot possess a Christian’s spirit or soul, but that a Christian’s body can be filled with demons, so that some Christians must have those demons cast out by another person. But Paul makes it clear that our bodies belong to Jesus just as much as our spirits. He is the owner of my body, and He is not subletting to demons.

e. Many old manuscripts end this chapter with the words glorify God in your body. The words and in your spirit may have been added by a scribe who thought it wasn’t “spiritual” enough to end the chapter talking about our bodies glorifying God.

i. Harry Ironside was right when he wrote, “Glorify God in your body and the spiritual side will take care of itself.”

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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