Lesson 19


Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 6:2 Don't you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 6:3 Don't you know that we will judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 6:4 If then, you have to judge things pertaining to this life, do you set them to judge who are of no account in the assembly? 6:5 I say this to move you to shame. Isn't there even one wise man among you who would be able to decide between his brothers? 6:6 But brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers! 6:7 Therefore it is already altogether a defect in you, that you have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 6:8 No, but you yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that against your brothers.


Today's Lesson 

Two things Paul had brought before the Corinthians that he had against what they were doing. First, there were divisions and jealousies that separated the body into competing factions. Second, there was the matter of open and tolerated sexual sin that needed to be dealt with. In both cases Paul gives specific remedies to resolve these problems.

 

Now Paul discusses the next problem. The situation had arose in Corinth where members of the church were suing one another in open court in the city. To the Jewish mind this was a shameful way for brothers in Christ to act. It was against Jewish law to bring a suit against another Jew in a foreign city. Cases of dispute were brought before the elders in the synagogue.

 

 But the Greeks had a completely different outlook on legal issues. In the city-states in Greece, legal cases were brought quite easily and frequently. The average citizen spent quite a bit of time serving on juries. Serving in a civic court was considered the duty of a citizen and was taken quite seriously. These issues became a matter of the political and civic discourse of the city. Some have written that in order to take ones rightful place as a citizen within the Greek state, one must first become a lawyer or, at the very least, very well acquainted with the law.

 

So the Greeks at Corinth had simply followed through with their own cultural inclinations in this matter. But Paul is aghast at this behavior asking them wouldn't they rather be wronged outright and defrauded than subject the body of Christ to a civic lawsuit of brother against brother. He asks them whether they have anyone in their assemblies that couldn't judge these things themselves and thereby keep their disputes within the family of God. In this section, it is more the fact that they bring their disputes before unbelievers that bothers Paul than anything else. From Paul's perspective, they should have rather allowed themselves to be cheated than to bring the matter before unbelievers to be judged.

 

In discussing this Paul brings up interesting and provocative questions that he does not explain. "Don't you know that the saints will judge the world? ... Don't you know that we will judge angels?" Whether or not the judging here is meant in the sense of deciding their fate as jurors or in the sense of ruling over them is a basis question in itself that can't truly be resolved. But quite frankly, there's simply not enough explanation here to determine exactly what Paul means so therefore there are as many interpretations as there are interpreters.

 

But what we do know is the thrust of why Paul says these things. As members of the body of Christ, God grants us power and responsibility. We are brought into a family and it is a family of status and authority. Paul is telling the Corinthians that since we have this status and responsibilities, the things that they are disputing amongst themselves are such minor things by consequence that they should be decided within their own assemblies.

 

It's just as though they belong to a powerful family that ruled nations. In that situation, would a member of the family appeal to a lesser court with a dispute? Would the rulers of a country submit a dispute among themselves to those they rule? Certainly not in Paul's day. Paul tells them that God has put or will put all of this authority into their hands. If God is going to allow them to judge even the exalted angels, can't they even judge their pettier dispute among themselves?

 

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