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Friday, April 8, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 19)

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1 Corinthians                                                                         (Lesson 19)

Welcome back to HBS.


Introduction to 1 Corinthians 6

In this chapter our Apostle Paul begins by reproving the Corinthians for taking their judicial matters before the pagan courts, or magistrates, instead of settling their differences among themselves.  Ancient Athens was a litigious society and a covetous attitude quickly spread throughout the region.  Often the central motivating issues were monetary gain, pride, or revenge, or a combination of these.  From Paul’s perspective the motive and purpose of the court case is important, not just the basis of the case.   Angry and greedy Christians appearing in an open pagan court presented an adverse testimony to the unbelieving community.  Paul wants these folks to know that their witness is crucial to all those who still don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

When I was a young boy growing up in Indiana America’s favorite pastime was baseball.  People will say this isn’t true today.  They’ll suggest that either football or NASCAR knocked baseball of its pedestal long ago.  But I don’t think America’s #1 pursuit is any of the above.  Any idea what it is?   It’s litigation.  The criminal justice system in America is big business.  Have you noticed how many lawyers there are in the yellow pages or are currently advertising on T.V.?  Litigation has also become great entertainment just as it was in ancient Athens.  Turn on your T.V. and you can tune into people’s lives and view their dirty laundry being aired to the public.

Case in point:  two years ago my wife and I had a legal dispute with a landowner and we filed a small-claim suit in local court.  One day the telephone rang.  It was Judge Judy inquiring about our case.  We gave her a quick run-down on the facts of the case and then she asked us if we would be interested in appearing on her program…  She maintains a home in the county where we filed the suit; she told us she keeps track of the court cases being filed there – that’s how she came across our names and our case.   We declined her offer.  After some deliberation, the landowner finally decided not to go to law, and we settled our claim, dismissing the lawsuit. 

The legal frenzy in this country and elsewhere is being driven by some of these favorite slogans:  I know my rights,” I don’t have to put up with your nonsense,” “You owe me,” and “Everybody else is doing it…  I dare say our national motto changed a long time ago from, “In God we Trust,” to: “I’ll see you in Court.”  In many ways, America mimics the Corinthians of old…

Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 6:1 and I’ll meet you there.

Lawsuits Discouraged

1 Corinthians 6

1: Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before (who) the unrighteous (this means wicked unbelievers) and not before the saints (or Believers in the church). 

The word case in the Greek language is Pragma (pronounced:  prag’-mah), a noun neuter, and means – that which has been done, a deed, a matter at law that is a suit.  We know from historical accounts that the Greeks were culturally prone to litigations and the same could be said of the Romans.  The Corinth of Paul’s day was not Greek it was Roman. 

The Greek word for neighbor is Heteros (pronounced:  het’-er-os), an adjective, and in keeping with the text it means - another of the same kind; a fellow Believer.  We know this is accurate because it fits with Paul’s phrase at the end of this verse:  before the saints.  The word dare in the Greek is Tolmao (pronounced:  tol-mah’-o), a verb, and it means to presume.  Paul uses this word to give emphasis to this question.

Now, as for Paul statement:  (How) dare (any one of you choose) to go to law – back at 1 Corinthians 5:13 Paul said that the Corinthians were not to judge unbelievers; God does this (Romans 2:16; James 4:12; 1 Peter 4:5).  This being the case, why would they presume to go to law before the unrighteous, to be judged by them in full view of the pagan world? 

Paul is upset and this is the reason.  The Corinthians were degrading God’s Temple (the church).  In Paul’s day, legal hearings constituted a large part of the entertainment business in an ancient Greek city.  These proceedings weren’t held in private rooms, behind closed doors, with a small audience in attendance, such as we have today.  The courtroom was in the public square or the marketplace.  In Athens, Greece (Corinth was undoubtedly similar), a legal dispute was brought before a court known as “The Forty.”  The Forty selected a public arbitrator, who had to be a citizen in his 60th year, to hear the case.  If it still wasn’t settled it went to a jury court, which consisted of 201 citizens (if the case involved less than a certain amount of money, say $1,000 today), and 401 citizens (if greater than $1,000).  Some public juries were as large as 6,000 citizens all over the age of 30. 

It goes without saying that in a Greek city every man was a lawyer of sorts and spent a good deal of their time deciding or listening to cases.  Moreover, when someone hauled a Believer into court, they weren’t just settling a dispute; they were holding God’s Church itself up to public scrutiny and ridicule.  Paul is concerned about the selfish arrogance of these people.  The Corinthians were publicly airing their “dirty laundry” throughout the city.  These lawsuit-happy Believers were oblivious as to what the outside world was thinking and saying.  This flies in the face of Paul’s plain exhortation that they should live their lives remembering who they are in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:25, 29-32; Colossians 1:10, 3:12-17). 

At 1:2 Paul identified these Corinthians as saints.  At 1:5-7 he said, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and in all knowledge… not lacking in any gift.  In chapter 2:14-16 he said they have the mind of Christ.  Therefore they have in their body of Believers all the necessary resources to settle these disputes. 

Starting in verse 2, Paul continues with three more questions, all of which are designed to demonstrate how foolish it is for the Corinthians to air their legal disputes before the unbelieving judges of the world.  He does this by using future end-time realities to motivate the Corinthian’s thinking in regard to present-time activities.

1 Corinthians 6

2: Or do you not know that the saints (Believers) will judge the (unbelieving) world?  If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest courts?

3: Do you not know that will judge angels?  How much more matters of this life?

If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest courts?  Paul directs his biting sarcasm to those who claimed to have superior wisdom. These baby Believers, who claimed to have so much spiritual insight, in reality did not know how to manage the smallest dispute. 

Or do you not know that the saints (Believers) will judge the (unbelieving) world? 
Believers, by the grace of God, are destined to judge both unbelievers and angels with righteous judgment.  As the twelve apostles of the kingdom will one day reign with Jesus Christ on earth (Matthew 19:28), and as overcoming Believers from the Great Tribulation (the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation period) will be given authority over the nations (Revelation 2:26), Believers will judge, and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ, not on earth, but over the earth, much as the principalities and powers in heavenly places do today (Ephesians 2:1-7; Daniel 10:12, 13, 20-21, 12:1).  This is why Paul was able to write in 2 Timothy 2:12a:  If we endure, we will also reign with Him; and he could assure his protégé Timothy:  The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom… (2 Timothy 4:18). 

As to Believers judging angels without a doubt Paul is speaking of Satan and his rebellious angels (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:3-9).  Paul writes in Ephesians 1:20-21:  that Christ was raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come…  And in Ephesians 2:6 Paul declared that Believers have been raised up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, when our Lord judges unbelieving men, women, and angels in the future the Corinthians (and us) will have a part in this. 

Believers are of a higher spiritual order than the angels even though the majority of Believers trapped in this fallen world don’t realize their spiritual standing (1 Corinthians 13:12).  Angels were created as servants of God and of redeemed humanity (Hebrews 1:14).  It is humanity that is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and not the angels.  It is for humanity that Jesus Christ gave His life and not the angels (Hebrews 2:14-16). 

Let’s move on to verse 4.

1 Corinthians 6

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?

Depending on the Bible you’re currently holding, verse 4 comes off sounding either like a question or a command from Paul.  Most of our English versions that translate 6:4 as a question presume that Paul is speaking of unbelieving judges.  However, I read verse 4 as a command from Paul and this is how the NIV and KJV translators present it.  If accepted in that light, this verse would then read and I’m paraphrasing of course:  Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!”

The term no account takes us back to Paul usage of the terms the base things of the world and the despised, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, to confound the world’s wisdom so that God Himself will receive the glory and the honor (1:28).  The least of God’s people are more adequate, because of God’s imparted wisdom and His resources (the Holy Spirit being one), to deal with life’s problems than the best educated and experienced unbelieving secular judge and jury. 

Let’s move on to verses 5-6:

In verses 5-6, Paul uses sarcasm in rebuking the Corinthians.  He even warns them in advance that it’s coming.

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?

I say this to your shame (NASB); Awake to righteousness, and sin not; (KJV); Come to your right mind, and sin no more (RSV).  I often use multiple Bible translations while researching these Bible lessons; I’ve presented these so you can see how they vary. 

Paul uses the word shame twice in this letter (15:34).  This word appears several times in the N.T. but it doesn’t denote the same meaning as it does here.  The word shame in the Greek language is translated into English from the word Entropen from the word Entrope, which literally means – “turning in upon oneself.”  Entrope is (pronounced:  en-trop-ay’), noun Feminine.   Our English word “Entropy” is derived from this word, or the dissipation of energy, i.e. the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which the scientist Clausius, in 1865, used to help demonstrate to be a universal law of science…  For example, as I age, my physical human systems will eventually run down and cease to function as they once did. 

Here Paul uses the word shame from the root word Entrepo (Strong’s #1788), in both these instances, which in the bad sense, means “confound;” and, as I already pointed out, Entrope signifies “turning in upon oneself.”  Therefore our Apostle Paul was moving the Corinthians to be “confounded” and to “turn in upon themselves” in shame.  He was moving them to entropy – he decreased them, so that they would see their sin.  (One has to get their head out of the clouds, so to speak, in order to see the “light of day” or the spiritual truth.)

Throughout this letter Paul has been chastising the Corinthians who have been guilty of arrogance and boasting in hopes of deflating their egos.  In verse 5, Paul aims to humble them with his pen and the Holy Spirit’s assistance.  I’m paraphrasing again, “Seriously, you can’t find one wise man in the church to judge legal matters?  “I thought you guys had your act together.”  Do you really need to take your legal affairs outside the church?”  “Come on now.”  “Isn’t there at least one of you capable of judging legal matters?” 

Paul’s point should be clear even to these baby saints.  Any Believer that is striving to be Christ-like (walking with the Lord daily) is not only more capable but is a far better option than taking their case before an unbeliever in a secular court of law.  After all, we have the mind of Christ (2:16) and therefore our motivation is (or should be) love (1 Corinthians 13), which would be the absence of monetary gain, pride, and revenge (or should be) and as Believers we have the desire to see the guilty person restored to fellowship.  Secular judges and juries are not interested in these things. 

Let’s go to verses 7-8.

1 Corinthians 6

7: Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have law-suits 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.

Please note in this passage Paul isn’t referring to doctrinal disputes but to personal disputes, involving material or worldly gain.  Secular judges are not going to have a firm grasp on spiritual matters (Acts 18:13-15).  So, when Paul said that in taking their brethren to court over personal matters they were in effect losing their cases by default; they had already lost them, spiritually speaking they were defeated before their cases were even tried because no matter who wins the lawsuit the gospel has suffered in the process.  Much more would have been gained had they opted to accept the wrong and “turned the other cheek” when defrauded.  This would have greatly enhanced their spiritual growth and their stature within the community.  But, Paul says, “You yourselves wrong and defraud.  You do this even to your brethren.  In verse 8 Paul is saying that Believer’s rights are not as important as the reputation and mission of God’s Church. 

Before moving on I need to clarify something.  Paul did not say that Believers were to refrain from using the secular court system.  He had a high regard for the Roman justice system (Acts 18).  During Paul’s time in Corinth, the Jews dragged him into court before the proconsul Gallio; accusing Paul of treason, of preaching a religion that would undermine Roman authority.  Gallio listened to the case and said, “No, this is a minor religious dispute and it has no place in a court of law.”  So, Paul himself benefitted from the fairness of Roman justice. 
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is dealing with civil disputes between individuals and not criminal cases requiring legal action.  In Romans 13:3-4, Paul makes it quite clear that secular civil law courts are not only valid but also needed in a fallen world, since these folks tend to be arrogant and vicious in their selfishness.  Therefore, God has provided a way to enforce relative social justice and to check the attitude of the fallen, by force if necessary, a.k.a. the sword. 

Let’s move on to verses 9-11.

1 Corinthians 6

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.
When our Apostle Paul speaks of the unrighteous (unjust) in 6:9, he is not speaking of some carnal members of this church in Corinth.  Instead, Paul uses this term as a description of unsaved, unregenerate, lost people.  We know this because the term unrighteous is clearly defined for us in the context of this chapter.  At verse 1 Paul said:  “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous (unjust) and not before the saints?” 

Paul has clearly established two groups for us: 

1) The unrighteous (the unsaved). 
2) The saints (the saved). 

We are now seeing these same two groups in verses 9-11.  In verses 9-10 we have a description, of sorts, of the unrighteous (the unsaved) in which the Corinthians were called out of, yet still live in.  The unrighteous (the unsaved) will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Do not be deceived. 

In verse 11 we have those who are sanctified and justified.  These are the saints (the saved) who will inherit the kingdom of God.  There is no such thing as a saint who will not inherit the kingdom of God, contrary to some people’s opinion on the subject (Romans 8:1). 

The reason the Corinthians and every Believer is righteous is not because they have persevered in walking closely with Jesus Christ each and every day and therefore have “earned” a place in His kingdom.  Every Believer is righteous and will inherit the kingdom of God because they have been justified freely and this made possible by the Grace of God (Romans 3:24)!  They are seen as perfectly clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:21; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:27; Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10).
Paul is affirming the Corinthian’s security or right-standing with God, in Christ Jesus, in spite of their sins.  Our heavenly position and eternal standing with God, in Christ Jesus, is never based on how well we’re doing down here, or on our achievements, but always and only on Jesus Christ’s finished work of the cross, and our willingness to accept this on faith. 

(To be continued)

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