1 - 6 Judgments and Settling Matters
1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent [to constitute] the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say [this] to your shame. [Is it so, that] there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
V1. Quarreling happens to the best of us. But this expression cannot be applied to the family of God. In God’s family quarrels should not happen. And yet that happens. Why? Somebody might have cheated you once. I will give you an example. Just pretend that you have a car and lend this car to a brother. After he finished using it, you received the car back in good shape. But yet, in course of time you receive in your letterbox a fine for driving too fast. Fortunately you could recall that on the day the fine was dated, you lent the car to this brother. Then, with this fine you go to him.
To your astonishment, he doesn’t know what you’re talking about; at least, that is how he responds. But you know for sure that he borrowed your car on the day in question. This matter becomes so intense that you sue him. Of course you don’t give up, do you? And of course you want to get to the bottom of the situation, don’t you! This turns into a situation of two brothers standing before the court to enforce their right. What a bad thing for the testimony of God on earth.
Something like this was reported to Paul by the believers at Corinth. He found it very sad. How dared they? And they actually battled their conflicts out before the unrighteous! It doesn’t say what case it really was about. Therefore you may apply my example to many other cases, whatever believers can quarrel about. As it is said, it is not supposed to happen among children of God. But in case it does, how do you respond? That is the issue here. Paul rebukes them, because they went to the worldly-wise judge with their conflicts, instead of consulting the saints, the brothers and sisters.
V2. Do you know why he says this? It’s because the saints, the believers, will judge the world. What is he saying? Shall we judge the world? Yes, that’s what he is saying. You ought to see judging here as the meaning of reigning and not condemning. And if the saints shall judge the world, wouldn’t they then be able to deal with the most insignificant judgments?
Just make yourself fully aware of this. You will be able to – soon, when the Lord will rule the world – rule together with Him. Then you will be able to know exactly how to deal with all kinds of situations, properly. Will you be different then from what you are now? No, you will be the same. There will only be one change and that is the fact, that you don’t have the flesh, your old nature, anymore. And that is just exactly the thing that is still keeping you from responding properly when somebody else cheats you.
V3. There is no better advice than what Paul is giving here: Be aware of your future! In future you will even judge angels. Once again, the meaning of this judging is: ruling over angels, thus, telling them what to do. That is quite something, isn’t it! Angels are powerful creatures. Once, one angel killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand people in one night (Isa 37:36). At present, angels are creatures that are being used by God to help believers and to protect them (Heb 1:14). Soon you will tell angels where they should go and what they should do.
What should these powerful creatures think then when you let yourself go into the matters of this life, which will be meaningless in future? For that is the issue here: the everyday matters. It is about matters that have no significance at all in themselves, in the future. The question is: how important are they for you? Do you want to, at all cost, claim the part you’re entitled to and what you haven’t received? The angels are watching how you respond to these matters. The best way to determine the value of “matters of this life” is to consider them in the light of the future. That is what Paul is doing here. If you do so, you will get rid of the pain of loss and you will have joy in what you will receive in future, instead.
V4. This section is very practical. It deals with the common things of life. When problems arise between believers about every day things, other believers ought to be able to give solutions. You don’t need to have a special gift or an extraordinary spiritual insight for that. The simplest believer is capable, with the wisdom of God, to deal with such situations.
V5. Paul said that they should be ashamed of themselves. Weren’t they glorying in their many gifts? But in spite of those many gifts, brothers went to law against each other. In that way they aired the dirty laundry of the church in public and it became known to the world. What an embarrassing spectacle. Would people in the world be made jealous in order to become Christians, by hearing these things? They could only speak with scorn and malicious delight about quarrelling Christians.
The fact that there are many different churches and denominations is still something that should embarrass us. But it hurts me more when I sometimes read about matters from which it becomes apparent that Christians are also quarreling within their own church or denomination. And in this case, it makes no difference to me in which church or denomination Christians are quarreling.
Where was the brother, who would be capable of judging between his brethren? It must have been a great church at Corinth, for God says to Paul about it: “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). But a large number of believers in a local church is not a guarantee for a healthy spiritual life in that church.
If you think you are a simple brother or sister, then you might have the tendency to follow the crowd easily. But on the other hand, if you have received a certain gift, you might be easily tempted to raise yourself above the crowd, or you might be raised by fellow believers. Neither of them is right. In the church everybody should know his place and task. Paul will go further into that matter in chapter 12. But the lesson here is that we should not ignore the responsibility to keep a watchful eye for matters that could bring the church into disrepute.
V6. Conflicts between believers are not to be resolved by a worldly judge, but ought to be resolved in the church. So, how simple you might consider yourself (after all, you cannot possibly consider yourself too simple), you have received the command to help to seek for solutions when there are conflicts in the church about miscellaneous ordinary matters. To be able to do that, the important thing is not the need of having common sense or to have much sensitivity in the first place, but the daily fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Then you will receive the wisdom you need for any case you have to deal with. (Remark: This wisdom will, when you’re still young, lead you to consult older and wiser brothers first for a certain matter.)
Now read 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 again.
Reflection: Have you ever had a conflict with a brother or sister? How was that resolved? Or do you have a conflict with somebody at this moment? How do you think you will resolve that? Or do you know if other believers are in conflict with each other? What could your task possibly be?
7 - 13 All Things Are Lawful For Me, But ...
7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. [You do] this even to [your] brethren. 9 Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor [the] covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.
V7. Actually, it was a bad thing that there was no one at Corinth, who could judge in an insignificant dispute. Had there been somebody, then the conflict would have been resolved. Unfortunately, there was not such a person and because both brothers who were in conflict, wanted their right, they seek that by consulting an unbelieving judge. What a mess! Still there was another way for the brothers to resolve their conflict and that was if one of them would be willing to be the least. In fact, it is very foolish that believers quarrel about miscellaneous silly things. Why is it that we do not rather want to suffer injustice? We should be willing to allow the other to enjoy his benefits. We should wish him luck!
To be able to do that, you should conquer yourself first, for it is hard to respond like that. We are all eager to have the things we think to be entitled to. It is not our nature to be willing to be the least. However, we have a great example in the Lord Jesus. He never demanded His rights, but endured injustice and let Himself be cheated. He knew that it was not the time to claim His own rights. And He knew exactly what His rights were. Yet He waited – and He is still waiting – on the time of His Father. It is really true: every injustice you suffer here voluntarily will be compensated by the Father at His time.
V8. If you can work up the courage to suffer injustice or to rather have yourself cheated, you will also be kept from cheating another person. Paul had to blame the Corinthians that they themselves were doing injustice and were cheating others and even their brothers. This is how we believers are by nature. Our sense of righteousness can be strong when our own interest is at stake. We then, so-called, fight for our rights, which we after all have, while in fact we are doing injustice to our brother or are cheating him.
V9-10. Paul took it seriously. When you are doing wrong it means that you are like the unrighteous. And an unrighteous person cannot enter the kingdom of God, just as little as fornicators can and all other doers of awful sins, which Paul summarizes in verse 10. That’s quite something Paul is saying here. He ranks a person, who does injustice to his brother, with the doers of those awful sins. He empowers his words by saying: “Do not be deceived!”
It is about inheriting the kingdom of God. In that kingdom there is no room for any sinner. Only people who have broken up with their sinful past and now want to live for God, belong there. In case you drop back in old sins, you should immediately break up with it again and acknowledge it.
V11. It is necessary for you to be reminded occasionally of what you were in the past. At the same time you’re also being reminded of everything that happened to you, namely, you are:
2. “sanctified” and
Firstly: Your sins are washed away through the blood of the Lord Jesus. All that was wrong has disappeared.
Secondly: You are sanctified, which means that God has separated you for Himself to live for Him. You had to be washed, for when you were living in sin, God couldn’t use you.
But there is yet one more thing. You are, thirdly, also justified. God not only separated you from the world to live before Him, but He also connected you to Himself. You may and can be very close to Him.
You understand that these wonderful things didn’t happen because you are so great. God could do that “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God”. Only because of Who the Lord Jesus is to God and because of the work He has accomplished, could God deal with us like that. And the Spirit of God, Who lives in you, assures you that God has dealt with you like that.
V12. The connection between verse 11 and verse 12 is as follows. In verse 11 you see that God has liberated you from the chains of sin, in which you were imprisoned. When you were not yet washed etc, you were not free. You might have thought you were, but now you can see that you were a slave of sin then. You were living under obligations that you imposed on yourself or that others imposed on you.
That belongs to the past now. You can do everything now. That’s what is said, even twice: “All things are lawful for me.” That is true. Only, both times something is added. That is not to limit your freedom, but to practice it properly. The first addition is: “But not all things are profitable.” Just examine yourself if it’s helpful when you want to do something that is in fact not sinful or wrong in itself. When I think of our children or of other young people, it is possible that, because of something I do, I give a bad example to them, even though it is something that’s not wrong for me. Pay attention that Paul is speaking in the ‘I’ form here. It’s about how you and I practice Christian freedom in our daily life.
The second addition is: “I will not be mastered by anything.” If you don’t practice this freedom properly, you will fall back under a law. You will notice that things that are quite helpful, will take control over you. Could I really do something without becoming addicted to it? For when I become addicted to something, I am not in control anymore, but I am being controlled.
V13a. Here Paul speaks about food. Many people let themselves be lead by their stomach. Food, delicious and much, is very important to many people. Food is something that is lawful. God supplies us with food to nurture our body. You may enjoy your food with thanksgiving to God (1Tim 4:3). But here the application is also: how do you practice it and how important is it in your life?
With Isaac and Esau for example, their ‘appetite for something delicious’ did not turn out well. They didn’t practice food in a proper way. Esau sold his birthright for one plate of lentil stew (Gen 25:29-34). Of Isaac you read that “he had a taste for game”. Because of his love for savory food, he decided to, against the will of God, grant Esau the blessing of the firstborn (Gen 25:28; 27:3-4). Here you have some examples of people who couldn’t say: ‘I will not be mastered by anything.’ They had no self-control anymore and they did things they later regretted.
Food is for the stomach and the stomach for the food, but God will do away with both of them. That hasn’t got anything to do with the annihilation of man. Everyone will always exist, whether in heaven or in hell. The issue here is that in heaven food and stomach will be of no use anymore.
13b. The Corinthians draw the wrong conclusion that it wouldn’t be important to take care of the body. It seems they use their body for immorality.
V13b. In the world around us, everything is about sex. What Paul is saying here to the Corinthians, is very up to date for us. Because of the influence of Christianity, matters like fornication were clearly considered as something bad. But the influence of Christianity is now disappearing at a very fast pace in the West. With a lot of young people and also among older people, sexuality has been degraded to a consumption product. In our Western world, the truth of God, regarding marriage and sexuality also, has been torn up for the most part.
We are dealing with a generation that doesn’t know anything at all about what the Bible says about marriage and sexuality. Their thoughts and talk about it and what they’ve often already done with it in practice, prove that as to these things they have often completely gotten off track. It is necessary that young people (and of course also older people) who are converted and have become believers in the Lord Jesus, are being taught from the Bible on the functioning of their body.
The Corinthians hadn’t been converted for very long. Some of them had been living in most awful sexual immoralities (verses 9-11). They lived in the midst of their compatriots, who were and still are in the habit of living like that. Therefore they were in danger of losing the awareness of the impact of certain sins. Actually, this applies to us as well. The world around you lives in its own lawlessness. Values and standards are fading. If you don’t watch out, you may slowly be dragged along and you will also gradually lose the right view of matters. The only way to continually have a right view of good and evil is by listening to God’s Word. Then you will have the right view of God’s purpose with your body.
You cannot do whatever you want with your body. Regarding food and drink, you may gratefully receive them in order to nurture your body. And you may certainly enjoy it. But your body is not for sexual immorality (or fornication)! By sexual immorality is not meant prostitution in the first place. Sexual immorality is actually a collective term for all unlawful sex, thus for sexuality outside marriage.
Your body and the Lord belong together. Your body is for the Lord and the Lord takes care for your body. That’s why you should never enter into a relationship with your body with someone whom the Lord has not intended for you, that means your own wife with whom you are legally bound by marriage.
Now read 1 Corinthians 6:7-13 again.
Reflection: Do you sometimes explore, when doing things, if they are useful? Just also explore which things you are mastered by.
14 - 20 Glorify God In Your Body
14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body [with her]? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit [with Him]. 18 Flee immorality. Every [other] sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
V14. Your body and the Lord belong together, not only at present, but also in future. Just like the Lord was raised up, just like that your body will be raised up. Your body is – and will remain in future – a member of Christ.
V15. Do you not know that your body is a member of Christ? Just as you use a member of your own body, your arm, head, hand, foot, etc., Christ wants to use your body with all its members and capacities. If that stands out clearly in your mind, you will be able to immediately see why you cannot possibly make your body a member of a harlot.
V16. To be joined to a harlot means that you are one body with her. The proof of that comes from Genesis 2, where God introduced marriage (Gen 2:24). The unification that comes about through sexual intercourse, is something that belongs within a marriage. He who has sexual intercourse outside marriage – so in harlotry – with somebody else, becomes by doing so one body with the other person. The Bible calls a person, who is married and commits this sin, an ‘adulterer’. Only repentance and forgiveness can restore the damaged relationships.
I will not now go further into the terrible consequences, but you can imagine the pain and sorrow that could fill the hearts of the persons involved. The worst consequences come out of this sin.
In an earlier commentary I wrote as follows about this verse:
‘When somebody who is not married commits this sin, then he or she is obligated to marry the other person, because, to my personal conviction, God sees this physical unification as a marriage, even though this unification still has to be confirmed publicly.’
Now I have reread this commentary, which I did because of its publication in an e-book form, I must confess to the reader that I had to revise ‘my personal conviction’. That has been a while ago, but with this new version I now have the opportunity to tell it. My revision appeared to be necessary after I reread carefully what is written in the Bible. Also others have pointed that out to me.
It is written that two married people become one flesh through sexual intercourse. That it is about a man and a woman who are married together, appears from the fact that “becoming one flesh” does not stand on itself, but it is the third aspect that makes a marriage to a real marriage.
Read again what is written in Genesis 2, where God introduces marriage (Gen 2:24). You read there, that there are two steps that precede the “becoming one flesh”. Those steps are
1. that “a man shall leave his father and his mother” (a process) and
2. then will “be joined to his wife” (the official wedding).
Subsequently, after these two steps, follows that “they shall become one flesh”. This third step or this third aspect expresses the whole and total unity.
When unmarried people have sexual intercourse, there is no mention of the first two steps. Therefore Paul doesn’t say here – and that is what has opened my eyes – that he who joins a harlot is one flesh with her, but that he is “one body” with her. The reason why Paul refers to marriage is because of God’s purpose with it and that’s why he speaks about “one flesh”. Because of the fact that Paul speaks about cases regarding sexual intercourse outside marriage, he says that in those cases there is a mention of ‘one body’ and not of ‘one flesh’.
When I became aware of that important distinction, I also understood that it is not right to speak about a marriage when unmarried people commit this sin.
That doesn’t mean that sexual intercourse before marriage because of the mentioned reasons doesn’t have consequences in the sense of obligations. This change of vision is mainly important on how pastoral care is given in such cases. God will grant power to persons who are prepared to receive pastoral care, so that they will be able to bear the consequences and even to be instruments in a way that God will be glorified. I would like you to consider exploring in the Old Testament and in the New Testament as well, how God thinks about marriage.
Now I will not go further on problems that occur in a case that the other person is married. You cannot expect otherwise what the consequence of sin is, that it always brings chaos. God will surely make a way for the persons involved, when they confess their sins sincerely and wholeheartedly. The same goes for people, young and old, who are converted and have come to faith in the Lord Jesus and who do not have any religious back-ground. The number of newly converts that are free from sexual immorality is decreasing more and more. It is often the case that they haven’t ‘had sex’ with only one person, but with more than one. What should you advise in such cases? That is not that simple. We should look at them on a case-by-case basis.
One thing is clear: before someone is converted, everything he does, is sin. Confession towards God and forgiveness by God are necessary. The more someone speaks light-heartedly about his past, the less profound his confession will be. The awareness of the gravity of this sin should be made clear to such a person. The deeper someone is convinced of his former sins, the more he can be pointed to the forgiveness that God has granted him. When that repentance is clearly apparent, God will surely show a way to get through.
V17. The believer belongs to the Lord, he is one spirit with Him. That is the unity that has been accomplished at conversion. This spiritual unity may not be damaged by a wrong physical unity.
V18. The call is: “Flee immorality.” Do not ever trifle with your sexual feelings. You should avoid places where you can easily be tempted to fulfill your sexual desires (which are not wrong on itself; they are given by God, after all) in an erroneous way. Sexual immorality has, among all sins one can commit, a particular place, because your body is, in an extraordinarily negative way, involved in this.
V19. Consider also the fact that your body has received such an extraordinarily positive function from God. Your body is a house wherein the Holy Spirit dwells. A Divine Guest has taken up residence in your body. How special must your body be. At the same time that means that you are not of yourself anymore. When God the Holy Spirit dwells in you, He surely has all rights in and over the house of your body, hasn’t He?
V20. Do you still remember how He received the ownership of your body? Not by squatting or by breaking into ‘the house’ of your body. The full price has been paid by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, which He shed after His awful sufferings on the cross. Make yourself fully aware of that again; think once more about what the Lord really did for you. It is only through His love that He made your body His own, isn’t it? If you put your body in the hands of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in you, He will use every member of it to glorify God. Therefore glorify God in your body!
Now read 1 Corinthians 6:14-20 again.
Reflection: Explore how you can glorify God with your body (thus with your ears, eyes, hands, feet etc.).