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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 6:1-11


The Christian in the Courts!
1st Corinthians 6:1-11

Should we take each other to court? 1st Corinthians is an extremely practical guide to Christian behaviour. Paul has already dealt with the problem of division in the local church, and he has explained how a church is to deal with matters of sexual impropriety among its members. Now he turns to a related matter, and he argues that a Christian must not take another Christian before the secular courts for justice or arbitration in any dispute! So what would you do in those circumstances? Paul gives us some startling guidelines! However, it is very important that Paul is speaking here only about disputes between Christian believers. I would go as far as to say that these are disputes between evangelicals!

The Brethren’s Legal Practice!
In Corinth, there were minor disputes among the brethren in the Church. Instead of sorting these matters out in the church courts, the Corinthians went to the secular courts over the most trivial matters! The background here is very relevant. The Jews would never have done this. It was against Jewish tradition to go to the secular courts, and the Jews instead would sort out such matters before the rulers of the synagogue.

The Greeks were the opposite! Greek society was extremely litigious! In Athens for example, almost every man was an amateur lawyer! Three appointed arbiters would settle a dispute, but if they failed, there was the court of The Forty. This was a jury made up of men over the age of sixty, who were paid a small fee for their work! C.E. Robinson, in “A History of Greece” points out that the result of paid jury service was ‘a morbid taste for hearing litigation, and a decline in public spirit’ (pg 139). There were higher courts also! One had up to 250 jurors! Some cases could attract juries of 6000 men! So you can see the thirst for legal process that pertained in Greek society! The same situation existed in Corinth as in Athens, and again this is a situation where the church had become like the world around it!
Again we have a similar situation in our modern world! There has been a marked rise in litigation. We sue, we claim, we demand our rights! But when Christian faces Christian across the courtroom, we are already defeated!
There is another general point to be made here. Paul reminds us here of our activity in eternity! Do you know that in heaven, Christians will actively work for God’s glory? Do you think that your heavenly rest will be a time of semi conscious sleep, or that you will float around on a cloud all the time, or that you will just be a passive onlooker in heaven? None of these things are true! The Christian has a role in eternity! He will judge angels! He will reign with Christ! Matthew 19:28 Luke 22:30 . 2 Tim. 2:12 Rev. 2:26-27 Rev. 20:4 Daniel 7:22. So in V7, Paul makes some very important arguments as to why Christians should not take their petty disputes before the courts of this world.
He argues that

Saints will Judge the World! V2 Why should we trust the world’s judgement when a day will come when we will sit, with the Lord Jesus, in judgement of this world!

Saints will Judge Angels! V3 In fact we shall not only sit in judgement of the human inhabitants of this world but on the supernatural created beings! The angels, even the fallen angels, shall be judged, and we shall have a part in that judgement!

Saints should Judge Brethren! V3-4 You can see Paul’s arguments here! If we are going to judge the world and the angels, then surely we should enough discernment among us to be able to settle our own petty differences without having recourse to the judgement of this world.

Paul sums up his arguments in verse 5, where he holds up his hands in frustration and in despair and cries, “I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? “

The Brethren’s Legal Patience!
There is an alternative! It is to put the precepts of the Lord into practice in every area of our lives, and that includes when it comes to matters of our rights, or perceived wrongs committed against us by other believers.
Here is how it works:-
A Christian should be careful that he does not defeat his own cause! Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another V7. The NKJV translates this verse, “It is already an utter failure for you, that you go to law against one another!” These believers were already defeated! Just think of the scene. The unsaved judge and those countless jurors would be lined up for the court schedule of the day. In would come two squabbling Christians, fighting over some insignificant matter! What would the legal experts of the world think? They would come to the conclusion that these so called ‘transformed believers’ were no better than anyone else! Where was their great, life changing faith? They were no different than the pagan on the street! Their cause was already lost before the case had begun, for the gospel was being dragged into the mire!

A Christian should be willing to be defrauded! Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. The use of the word ‘defrauded’ here is interesting. It means more than just badly treated legally or financially. There were people who used legal means to cheat their brethren out of what was rightly theirs. To the world it was legal, but to the Christian it was wrong! It was going to court to get more than you deserved, and it was common practice in the courts of the world. Never must a Christian react to that when so defrauded by another believer! Luke 6:29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. The Christian should be willing, even to be defrauded, rather than to see the testimony of the Lord dragged into the world’s courts.

A Christian should follow the teachings of Christ! Here is a great principle on which the believer can base his life. The Christian ought to suffer wrong rather than to do wrong! Listen to the words of the writers of the Scriptures:- Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 1 Peter 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. Proverbs 20:22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee. Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

The Brethren’s Legal Precedent!
Paul now lays down, like a good lawyer, the legal precedents on which has based his previous arguments. The people being asked to arbitrate on cases within the Christian community at Corinth were deeply sinful! Listen to the list that Paul makes:- (The Amplified Bible) “Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoer will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled); neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor cheats, – swindlers and thieves; nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foulmouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.” Here Paul gives a stern warning to the unrighteous! He draws up a list of the types of sin that were prevalent in Greek society, and warns that those who practise them would never have any place in God’s heaven:-
Impure and Immoral! Paul talks of fornicators and adulterers! Men and women who practise vile sexual immorality! Yet we see this type of sin all around us and it is certainly commonplace today!

Idolaters! The main feature of Corinth was the temple of Aphrodite, the pagan goddess. An unrepentant idolater would never gain entrance to the Kingdom. We have our idols also! Our jobs, our cars, anything that takes the place of God in pour lives becomes an idol!

Homosexuals! The AV says, effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind. The NKJV is more open about the sins being spoken of here. It says ‘Homosexuals and Sodomites.’ The Greek language is quite clear, and the New King James is a literal translation of the original text. Paul is saying that anyone who is a homosexual cannot be a member of God’s Kingdom!

Thieves! Greek society was full of such theft. Homes were easy to rob! And there were sufficient greedy, grasping people to take every advantage of that fact!

Drunkards! Greeks were usually sober, for they watered down their wine quite significantly before they drank it. There was only a tiny percentage of alcohol, and that only to sterilise the drink. It was like a grape cordial, like Schloer! These drunkards were people who went to great excess!
Revilers! People whose delight was always to slander others!

But there is also a warning against deception! Paul says, do not be deceived! We must realise that such people are all around us! They are so today, just as much as they were in the days of this epistle! Don’t be deceived by the modern softening of attitudes toward these people! There is a tendency today to regard sin as just ‘making mistakes in life’ or the product of our sociological conditions or our environment. Sin is sin!

But in the Christian there is a glorious transformation! Now Paul makes the most interesting and important point of all. “And such were some of you!” In this Corinthian Church there were people who had engaged in all the vices of the pagan Greek world. But they had been saved! And they had experienced the life changing power of God! There is hope! There is hope for the thief, the extortioner, for the drunkard, for the immoral, for the reviler, for the homosexual!

Sinners can be saved and can be gloriously changed! Jesus changes all sorts of sinners! You can see that expressed here in this text. Some of these good people at Corinth had been intensely wicked men and women prior to their conversion. What had happened to them? God’s grace had accomplished something in their sinful lives that they could never do, either before or after conversion! God had changed them! He had brought them from darkness to light, from death to life, from sickness to health, from condemnation, to justification! Listen to what Jesus did, as Paul remarks on the change in their lives, Ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Do you see the difference? Oh how glorious a change the grace of God makes in a sinner’s life! He changes you and he changes me! You are not what you were! Paul would later say, in 2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

So Paul’s point here is, that these people in the Corinthian church should know how wicked the world is. They had been there, they had been like these pagan judges. They should know better! They should be reluctant to go back to where they were; they should stay out of the courts of this world as far as disputes among brethren are concerned.

From → Sermon Notes

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