As Paul addresses the division and immaturity of the local church at Corinth, He comes to the subject of personal offenses, quarrels, and lawsuits between members of the congregation. Immediately preceding his instruction concerning personal offenses, Paul instructed the church about church discipline and excommunication. Church discipline was to be practiced when a so-called brother was living in sin and so proved not to be regenerate. Personal offenses are different, and Paul instructs the church differently concerning personal offenses.
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
6.1 Τολμᾷ τις ὑμῶν πρᾶγμα ἔχων πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον κρίνεσθαι ἐπὶ τῶν ἀδίκων, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἁγίων; 2 ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσιν; καὶ εἰ ἐν ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος, ἀνάξιοί ἐστε κριτηρίων ἐλαχίστων; 3 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν, μήτιγε βιωτικά; 4 βιωτικὰ μὲν οὖν κριτήρια ἐὰν ἔχητε, τοὺς ἐξουθενημένους ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, τούτους καθίζετε; 5 πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λέγω. οὕτως οὐκ ἔνι ἐν ὑμῖν οὐδεὶς σοφὸς ὃς δυνήσεται διακρῖναι ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, 6 ἀλλὰ ἀδελφὸς μετὰ ἀδελφοῦ κρίνεται, καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ ἀπίστων; 7 ἤδη μὲν οὖν ὅλως ἥττημα ὑμῖν ἐστιν ὅτι κρίματα ἔχετε μεθʼ ἑαυτῶν· διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀδικεῖσθε; διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀποστερεῖσθε; 8 ἀλλὰ ὑμεῖς ἀδικεῖτε καὶ ἀποστερεῖτε, καὶ τοῦτο ἀδελφούς.
9 Ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; μὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται 10 οὔτε κλέπται οὔτε πλεονέκται, οὐ μέθυσοι, οὐ λοίδοροι, οὐχ ἅρπαγες βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν. 11 καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε· ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε, ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλὰ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν.
Christians as just judges (v. 1-4)
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? 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? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 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?
Paul, here, gets at the reality of personal offense. He assumes that there will be personal offenses in the local church. These are not cases in which a so-called brother is living in sin and is therefore subject to church discipline in front of the body of believers. This concerns personal offenses, which is a different category. There are many who mistake personal offense for sin and desire to pursue church discipline against someone based on personal offense. Personal offenses, though, require a different type of attention. Anytime you have imperfect people gathering together, some will be offended by others whether or not there is sin committed. If every offended person was trying to have everyone who offends him or her put under church discipline, the church would be Hell. Paul particularly addresses anyone who is offended and part of the local church, who has a case against his neighbor—here, meaning against anyone and not only others in the local church. He asks if the offended party would dare take the matter before a worldly court instead of before the saints—identifying the judgment of Christians as more beneficial than that of any worldly judicial system. Before instructing the local church, Paul reminds believers about their position in the kingdom of heaven.
Christians, the people of God who are part of God’s church represented in the local gathering, will judge the world. Here, Paul sets the kingdom of Christ in the First Century above the worldly government entities—specifically the judicial system of Rome. In this, Paul’s post- or amillennialism shows through. He believes and teaches, words that are inspired by God, that the local church is the manifestation of the kingdom on the earth in the First Century AD and bears a higher authority and competence than does the state. In fact, the church is responsible before God to judge the world—not the individuals of the world like was clarified in Chapter 5 but the worldly systems. The church is to expose the ungodliness and foolishness of the world in a reasonable, just way.
Christians not only judge the world but will judge angels, here meaning the heavenly angels and matters of the heavens because he juxtaposes angels with the matters of this life. If those who are in Christ will judge matters of the heavens, how much more are we able to judge the matters of this momentary life? If Christians appeal to the law-courts of the world, they are consulting the dead on behalf of the living. The spiritually dead do not know what living is like. It makes little sense to react to personal offense like the world does.
Talking to the person who is offended, Paul reveals that, if the person is in Christ, he or she will handle the offense unlike the world handle’s offense. Why would we subject decisions about our lives to judges who are not accountable to the local church ruled by the Holy Spirit?
Christians as selfless judges (v. 5-7)
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, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 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?
Since Paul is particularly addressing the plaintiffs (anyone who is offended), we know that he writes what he does to the shame of the offended party. Paul’s instruction concerning church discipline, even to excommunication, was not to the shame of the person living in sin or the community of faith. Church discipline is for the good of the one living in sin and the good of the local church body. Paul takes a different tone with the one who is personally offended, speaking to his shame. Why? If someone acts against another because he or she is offended in some way, it is already a defeat for the offended party.
Why are we already defeated if we act out because we are offended? It is not the content party who is defeated. It is the offended party. When we get offended and hold fast to that offense, we quickly become bitter, resentful, hateful, pushing others away, and hurting others. When we are content, we have joy, acceptance, forgiveness, love, hospitality, and healing. To be offended is defeat. To be content is victory.
Paul asks, “Why not rather be wronged… defrauded?” Here, he speaks to the meek, selfless character of the Christian, the one who is truly in Christ. The more Christ humbles me, the less I react to what others say, the more I am equipped to live at peace with all people, and the less I am offended by the things I see and hear. Christ is making me a living sacrifice and causing me to see more fully that I am clothed in His righteousness rather than my own. When I was of the world, I needed to defend my honor. Now, I simply want to honor Christ. If you wrong me, I’m okay and can forgive because Christ causes me to think more highly of others than I think of myself.
Jesus drew the same distinction between matters of church discipline and personal offense in Matthew 18. If a brother is caught in sin, go show him his fault in private. If he does not listen, bring another witness. If he still does not listen, take it before the church. If he still does not listen, excommunicate him (Matthew 18:15-20; cf. Leviticus 19:17). But, if a brother personally offends you, forgive unconditionally (Matthew 18:21-35). Personal offense and sin against God are two very different things. Jesus was even more severe. If someone is personally offended and does not forgive unconditionally, the Father will torcher that unforgiving person (Matthew 18:35).
James will put it this way in his epistle:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:1-4).
If I am offended and act in my offense, I have done so based on my own perception, desires, envies, and wrong motives rather than considering others to be more important than myself. If I believe that I am entitled to anything, position, status, perception, or identity, I will be easily offended and act out against others. James refers to the offended ones who act according to the offense adulteresses. Such are the ways of the world. Their friendship with the world makes them enemies of God. In other words, they are not in Christ. Sadly, there are many professing Christians who believe they are in Christ but are constantly offended and complain about others. We observe the fruit of our own lives. Are we bearing the fruit of the world or the Spirit? Are we offended or content people? The fruit reveals the root. There are many professing Christians who, judging by their fruit, have experienced false conversion and need to repent and receive salvation. Salvation brings contentment because Christ’s yoke is easy. Contentment equals freedom from the oppression of our own offendedness.
Others can be as offensive as they want. Such is the way of the world. I don’t have to be offended and so bring divine torture to my own life.
Christians as dead judges (v. 8-11)
On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.
Instead of being willing to be wronged and defrauded, the offended parties in the church at Corinth actually wrong and defraud because they are acting in the offended state. If I am easily offended and react to that offense, I quickly become offensive to others. Offended people offend people. In the world, without regenerate and content people, there is no end the the offensive reactions of offended people. It is a vicious cycle. Paul reveals that those offended parties in the local church are living like the world. They claim to be alive but hang like corpses waving in the wind.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Since taking offense rather than being content is the way of the world, Paul connects taking offense with unrighteousness and reminds the offended parties in the local church at Corinth that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus taught that the Father will torture those who do not forgive unconditionally. James wrote that to be offended like the world is to be God’s enemy. Paul, here, reveals that those who take it upon themselves to be offended people will not inherit the kingdom of God.
This is a matter of salvation. People either bear fruit consistent with repentance or pride. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot build our own kingdoms and be citizens in Christ’s. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Why be part of the world and its degenerate ways?
Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
Like he did previously, Paul broadens his focus to describe the sinful lifestyles that reveal a degenerate heart—the heart of a person who is unrighteous and will not inherit the kingdom of heaven in his current state. Brace yourself for this list, and pay attention. If these describe your lifestyle, you are not in Christ and need to repent and believe the Gospel, be forgiven, and receive eternal life.
- Fornicators (πόρνοι)—those who live in the sin of porneia, the type of sin directly in view in Chapter 5 regarding church discipline and excommunication.
- Idolaters (εἰδωλολάτραι)—those who live in worship to graven images or false gods.
- Adulterers (μοιχοὶ)—those who live in relationships with or lust after otherwise married people.
- Effeminate (μαλακοὶ)—men who live in femininity and loose themselves of the masculine shrewdness that of biblical manhood or present themselves “softened” as if they were women. This word can be applied to women who “soften” their wills to the world such that they are led by the things of the world or who force men to be effeminate (cf. Genesis 3:16). Selfless gravitas is godly. The shrewdness of manhood is not to be forsaken simply because the world desires to cancel it. There is a meek way for men to exhibit their masculinity (not to be confused with bravado).
- Homosexuals (ἀρσενοκοῖται)—literally “Sodomites;” those who trade natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations and orgies.
- Thieves (κλέπται)—those who steal what others have been given to steward.
- Covetous (πλεονέκται)—those who desire what others have, live life to gain for themselves, who self-aggrandize, and trample on others. This includes those addressed directly in the preceding verses who live lifestyles of being offended.
- Drunkards (μέθυσοι)—those who live in abuse (over-indulgence) to the good gifts God has given. Though the term is with direct reference to the abuse of alcohol, gluttony and addiction to anything (including soda or coffee) fall into this category. We desire to enjoy but not abuse. Things are much more enjoyable when they are not abused.
- Revilers (λοίδοροι)—those who live resenting, reviling, or abusing (verbal or physical) anyone. Such are the offended parties Paul is addressing particularly.
- Swindlers (ἅρπαγες)—those who live only to take from others, even through legitimate means of the state (e.g. business, government, religion).
Notice, Paul identifies all these types of people by their lifestyles. These are not one-time missteps. These are sinful lifestyles. Those who are perpetually offended and thus are in the habit of bringing accusations against others in the church or the world are in sin and in need of the church discipline Paul prescribed in Chapter 5. For the purpose of this discussion, sin is not the same as personal offense. Being an offended person is a sinful lifestyle along with porneia and the others Paul mentions by name.
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.
Everyone who is now in Christ was guilty of at least one of the ten sinful lifestyles above. Before we come to Christ, we are enemies of God and degenerate. But, we were (1) washed. Paul, here, is getting at regeneration. Despite our sin, Christ chose us for Himself and washed us from the guilt of sin. But, we were (2) sanctified. In the past-tense, it means we were set apart for God from the power of sin. But, we were (3) justified. Placed in righteous standing before God and free from the presence of sin in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. We passively receive washing, sanctification (here to mean being set apart), and justification. Christians no longer live like the world in enmity toward God. Instead, we live as people liberated from the consequences, presence, and power of sinful living. We are no longer in sin but in the righteousness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our victory over sin is complete and we are being made complete (cf. 1:10).
The local church at Corinth is neglecting church discipline for those living in sin but filing lawsuits against those who personally offend them. They are unconcerned about the things that offend God and overly concerned about the things that offend them. May we be people of God instead of ourselves. We cannot serve two kingdoms. Those who always look for enemies will always find them. As Christians, we are not pugnacious (cf. 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7), and we live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on us (cf. Romans 12:18). When we are delivered from sin, we repent and believe the Gospel. May we also bear fruit that is consistent with repentance. The longer I live in Christ, the more I find that less stuff bothers me like it bothers worldly people. What an amazing peace.
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