1 Corinthians 6, christian judgment, christians judging other christians, lawsuits among christians, lawsuits between christians, right and wrong judgment, should christians judge, should christians take christians to court, the law of love, turning the other cheek
So far we have learned about wrong ways to judge and right ways to judge. In I Corinthians 1-4 we learned how we are not to judge another’s stewardship of their ministry of the Word of God (so long as it is doctrinally sound). In other words, we are not to pass judgment on a minister’s presentation or communication style, but rather, are to leave that to God alone who is their Master. We are also not to pass judgment on each other’s way of communicating the Bible to each other. We all have a different style and are answerable to God alone.
But I must also remind everyone that this judgment does not apply to ministers teaching false doctrine, nor does it have to do with judging different Bible translations. We must be alert to the rampant deception riddling the Church, and we must be quick to shine the light of truth into these dark corners of Christendom. Furthermore, correct judgment and discernment concerning Bible translations is also essential in this day and age of great deception.
Then in 1 Corinthians 5 we learned that we are not to judge those sinning outside of the church. But, we as Christians are instructed to deal with habitual sins of every kindinside the church because sin spreads like yeast through dough, and God through Christ our “leaven-less” Passover sacrifice has made us sin-free, new creations in Christ. We are to live as imitators of Christ who are lights in this world, and thus are to through the word of God expose the deeds of darkness within the body of Christ in order that we might be pure and holy and undefiled.
1 Corinthians 6
Today we are going to explore one more area of right and wrong judgment as seen in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. So, let’s take a look at that passage.
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 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? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5 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? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!7 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? 8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 9 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, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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.”
Setting the Scene
So, what is going on here? Well, one of the Corinthian Christians had been wronged, even cheated, by one of the other Corinthian Christians, and he had drug his fellow Christian to a secular court over the matter. This is not about a non-Christian versus a Christian. Paul does not address this dynamic at all. Let’s keep things very clear. A Christian brother had cheated a fellow Christian brother, and the cheated brother dragged the cheating brother to court.
This sounds completely normal in America today, for we are a very litigious society. Even in Paul’s day, this is what people could do when robbed or cheated or wronged in whatever way. They would take the offender, whether real or imaginary, to court and have a judge decide the matter. Even among the Jews of Jesus’ day, when one of them was even merely offended they could drag their brother before the Jewish authorities (the Sanhedrin) for judgment.
But instead of Paul commenting to the Corinthian Christians that this is completely normal, and oh how sad that brother so-and-so was wronged, and the wronged man has his rights, he blasts them with a sharp rebuke which he presents through “statements of horror… rhetorical questions…sarcasm…and [a] threat” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, page 229). Paul perceives the depth of what really is taking place, for truly the “failure of the two men” involved in the lawsuit “is primarily a failure of the church to be the church” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, by Gordon D. Fee, 230). Indeed, Paul is so aghast that he starts off with a “How DARE you!” statement. Really, it is difficult to translate these words accurately into English. But they are strong, and they are emotionally charged. And they express great horror, and could be translated as “the gall of such a man to do such a thing!”
We Are Called to Judge
Why is Paul so upset by this occurrence? To begin with, the Church was not to judge those outside the Church. The world was going to act like the world; their time of judgment has not yet come. Even the Jewish people, though ruled over by various empires, had judged their own people based on God’s laws (aside from being able to exact the death penalty when under Roman occupation). And now, as God’s people, Paul informs the Corinthians that Christians are not to drag one another before non-Christian courts with non-Christian judges. Why? Verses 2-3 answers this, “2 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?”
Did you read what I just read? We will one day judge the world and the angels! We will. Seriously. So, if we are going to do all that soon and very soon, Paul is asking if they as Christians could not handle the smallest of earthly issues. Sarcastically, Paul points out that the Corinthian church thought of themselves as so wise and yet they were not able to judge even in the minutest matters of church business. For indeed, even the ones esteemed “least wise” in the church can do a better job to judge than a non-Christian judge in a non-Christian court!
Not only is this an absolute “shame” but Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that this equals “utter failure”. In the Greek this means that they have lost in every way; it is failure to the depth and breadth and height; it is failure through and through. And it is to their utter shame.
“7 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?”
On the One Hand
On the one hand, they have failed because they have not turned the other cheek. When Jesus talks about turning the other cheek he is referring to offense. And Jesus taught that when we are offended, we are not to retaliate, but rather, are to quickly forgive and make amends as is within our power to do. Even so, Paul states through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is better to be wronged and cheated by a fellow Christian than to go to court among the non-Christians. It is far better to forgive and let go, than to defend one’s worldly “rights” against a fellow-Christian before a non-Christian court that will one day be judged by Christians.
On the Other Hand
On the other hand, the Christians of Corinth had failed in that there was still habitual sin among them in the form of cheating and wronging their fellow Christians. And the Church too had suffered utter defeat through this because they had appeared powerless and petty before a watching, sin-filled world. “In a church full of pride and arrogance, where “wisdom,”…was a watchword, “is it so with you that there is nobody among you who is sophos (“wise”), so that he/she might render a decision between the brothers?” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, by Gordon D. Fee, 237). Why would anyone in the world want to become apart of such Christianity that was not walking in peace and wisdom and love, that was not any better than those in the world who were fighting and disagreeing and jockeying for power?
Thus, Paul goes on to remind them that they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; they are spotless; they are now sinless. However, as God said to Cain in Genesis 4:7, “sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” All of them (and the Greek is clear that it was “all” of them) had once been immersed in sins that Paul goes on to list, but he reminds them that they what they were they are no longer. They are redeemed. They are sanctified. It was imperative that they start living like it.
American Christians are so into “things” and our rights. We are raised with this mindset. We are brought up with the American dream of financial success which includes lots and lots of stuff and lots and lots of vacations and lots and lots of fun. Hedonism and materialism are even treated as virtues in our society. We are a lot like Maureen O’Hara’s character in the movie, “The Quiet Man,” who is so consumed with needing her materialistic “things about her” that she nearly drives away the man she loves (played by John Wayne). And although the movie really is about a man overcoming his past and showing his wife the love that she needs, another message can be gleaned from it by Christians. For indeed, American Christians are too consumed by consumerism, and that is not a virtue. Rather, it is a failure of the Church to be the Church.
For, truly, it is better to be wronged by a fellow Christian than to go before secular courts in a lawsuit against a fellow Christian. But this truth is hard to swallow. But, it goes along the line of all that Jesus taught and lived by example. For was He not wronged? Was Jesus not unjustly tried and condemned? Was not Jesus unfairly crucified? Indeed, did not Jesus have more rights more than anyone else in all of time, and yet He did not defend those rights (Isaiah 53). Instead, He laid down His life, and lived and died with eternity in mind.
Incredibly, it is all about a change of perspective. For though we are raised with a worldly mindset, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). We are called to have the same mind in us as that of Christ Jesus who though equal with God became a humble servant (Philippians 2). Amazingly, as Christians we have been given the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2). However, our modern, westernized Christian mentality tends “to be warped toward the values of this age rather than the age to come,” and we are in “great need of reformation” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, by Gordon D. Fee, 238).
Again, this is a call for reformation in the Church, not the world. The world is going to act like the world. But, those in the Church have been made brand new, have been made sinless, and Christians are to act differently. And indeed, part of that difference is to be seen in how Christians are not taking fellow Christians to court, but instead, are evaluating each other, being held accountable by each other, and living out transformation and forgiveness in very real ways.
Sometimes this may mean that someone remains wronged, but the Holy Spirit through the inspiration of this passage says that this is better than dragging a fellow Christian before a worldly, secular, non-Christian court. For, one day, all Christians will stand in judgment of this world and of the fallen angels. Because of this, we are not to go to the world for judgment, but to one another.
Oddly enough, most Christians would not want their local church judging their legal issues against a brother or sister in Christ. They would rather trust a non-Christian judge to arbitrate than trust the members of their church. Yet, it ought to be the other way around. Why? Because we as Christians are not of this world. We are from a heavenly kingdom with a heavenly monarch. As such, we live under kingdom rules that are based in the Bible and the law of love that Christ said we are to live by in all matters. When we are wronged by a fellow Christian, the law of love has been broken, and this cannot be repaired by a secular ruling or through laws that are not kingdom laws. We must break out of the mindset that flawed worldly laws are an answer for disputes between Christians. We must get a revelation that only God’s laws – specifically of love – can actually resolve a dispute and even bring healing to those in disagreement. Often it is not even about being right. It’s about being loving.
All in all, Christians are called on to live in love with one another, for the world will know us by our love for each other (John 13:35). This is the law that we live under, and this is the law by which we must judge each other in all matters. We are not to drag one another to court over anything, but are to address these matters before the body of Christ that our case may be judged based on the Bible and love and not on man-made laws and worldly wisdom. After all, we will one day judge the world and the angels. It is time to practice and prepare for that day. If not now, when?
Jesus is coming soon. Let’s be ready.
Holy Light Ministries
Sources and Helpful Links
The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
Bible Hub Commentaries and Interlinear Online
Paul: His Life and Teaching, by John McRay
The First Epistle to the Corinthians, by Gordon D. Fee
“Judging Without Being Judgmental,” by Wave Nunnally, https://www.jubileeministries.org/judging-without-being-judgmental-2/