1 Corinthians 6:1-8 ~ 20130929 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
09/29 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Better To Be Defrauded; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130929_1cor6_1-8.mp3
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 μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν· διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀδικεῖσθε; διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀποστερεῖσθε; 8 ἀλλὰ ὑμεῖς ἀδικεῖτε καὶ ἀποστερεῖτε, καὶ τοῦτο ἀδελφούς.
1Cor 6 [ESV2011]
6:1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
The church in Corinth had a pride problem. They were puffed up, they were arrogant, they thought they were wise and advanced and super-spiritual. They had lost sight of the cross. Paul is bringing them back to a humility appropriate to followers of Jesus. In chapter 5, he addressed the first major evidence that all was not well in Corinth. They were tolerating sexual immorality in the church, of a kind that was not even tolerated among unbelievers. Here in chapter 6, he addresses the next major evidence, lawsuits among believers, and he gives us some clear and practical direction on how to handle issues that come up between people.
How Dare You?
He begins this section by asking 'How dare you?' Who has the audacity to do this? What they are doing is totally out of line, and they should know better. It is no surprise that there are issues between people. You borrowed my rake, and haven't given it back. Your kid threw a ball through my window. You hired me to remodel your kitchen, and it's now three months later and you still haven't paid me. I hired you to put a new roof on my house and you didn't finish, and now it's snowing in my living room. You backed into my car after church last Sunday, and left a big dent. You dug a hole, and I fell into it, and now I have doctor bills. I lent you money, again, and you still haven't paid me back. You were rude to me and you never apologized. You dog leaves me presents in my front yard every morning. You didn't treat me fairly or speak to me kindly. I feel that you have wronged or offended me in some way. You have something that is mine. You owe me. Fill in the blank. People hurt people. People violate the rights of other people. People inconvenience and injure and offend other people. This is no surprise. This is part of life in a fallen world. Paul is not shocked that there are issues between people. He is shocked and appalled at the way they are responding to these offenses. How dare you? When you have an issue, you take your brother to court!
Civil vs. Criminal
It is important to keep this in proper perspective. The language he uses in this passage describe the kind of case he is talking about. He says it is a 'grievance', a 'trivial case', 'matters pertaining to this life', 'a dispute between brothers', issues of being 'wronged and defrauded'. These are not cases of assault, homicide, statutory rape, or the like.
Paul says in Romans 13:
He holds up the secular government as established and instituted by God, God's servant to carry out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. What Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 6 are issues we might categorize as small claims, grievances, civil disputes. If you witness a murder, don't call the elders of the church; call 911.
Before The UnJustified
Paul says 'how dare you bring your civil disputes to court. The first problem with this is that the secular judges are 'unjust' or 'unrighteous'. This is another way of saying 'unbelieving' (as he does in verse 6), in contrast to the saints, God's holy ones who have been justified or declared righteous because of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We have a legal standing before God as not guilty, cleared on all counts, because Jesus suffered the penalty for all our wrongs. Why would you take your petty disputes before unjustified people?
But not only were the Roman courts run by people who had not experienced the transforming grace of Jesus, they also had a reputation for injustice. The courts had a tendency to be unjust, favoring the rich, those with power and influence. James refers to the legal system like this:
The poor were at a deep disadvantage in the court systems. And the Christians were typically those who were poor, being mistreated through the legal system. But in Corinth, there were rich people in the church who used their wealth and position in society to take their brothers to court, squeezing out of them more than they had to give. We see this in verse 8.
The goal of taking someone to court is usually not just a desire for justice. It is a desire for revenge, or a desire for more and more and more. I don't want what is fair, I want to take you for all you are worth, every last penny. After all, I have to pay my lawyers, and I only get what is left over.
The Saints will Judge
Paul's question implies that there is another option when disputes arise. Why don't you take your case before the saints? Jewish communities in the first century Roman world would never bring their disputes before a Roman court. The Jewish community had their own system of handling disputes. After all, God had given them his word. To go to an outsider for litigation would be to say that God's word doesn't have all the answers. Paul is expecting the Christian church in Corinth to do the same. Of course you will have grievances with people, but dare you to go to law before the unrighteous instead of the holy ones? Take your case before your fellow believers.
Twice in this passage, Paul asks the question 'do you not know', an insult to those who claim already to know it all. He asks 'Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?' Revelation 20 says:
Paul tells Timothy:
Paul says here that we, the saints, God's holy people, will judge the world. He argues from the greater to the lesser. If you can solve advanced algebraic equations, surely you can handle a simple addition problem.
Again he is poking at their pride. Are you unfit, incapable, incompetent to judge trivial cases? In chapter 4, he mocks their arrogant boasting when he says 'already you have become kings! And would that you did reign...' (4:8). One day they will have the weighty responsibility of judging the world, but they can't arbitrate a petty argument.
He asks a second 'do you not know' question, implying that this is common knowledge, something they ought to already know. And this is intriguing.
We are to judge angels!? The author of Hebrews describes angels as:
He goes on to say:
The world to come is subjected not to angels, but to a man, the man Jesus Christ. All things will be subject to Jesus. If we are in Jesus, connected to Jesus, then we will reign with him, even over the angelic hosts. If we are destined to rule over angels, the highest order of created spiritual beings, how much more should we be qualified to render justice over matters of this temporal earthly life?
Appoint the Nothings!
Verse 4 is difficult because it is open to varying interpretations. The ESV, and many other translations render it as a question.
In the original Greek text, there were no punctuation marks, so determining what was a rhetorical question and what was a statement or even a command depends largely on the context, and can be rather difficult to decide. The King James, and many of the commentaries, render verse 4 as a command.
Both interpretations make good sense, but it seems that to take this as a command makes better sense of the grammar. The active verb in the sentence is 'appoint', and the church would have no jurisdiction to appoint secular judges. And the word 'no standing' or 'least esteemed' would be a very derogatory way to refer to secular magistrates. Paul has already used this same word in chapter 1 to refer to the believers.
God chose the least esteemed, the nothings. You then, take the nothings and appoint them to judge these trivial matters in the church. Even George the garbage man, who has experienced God's grace in the cross, is more qualified to judge things dealing with this life.
Remember, Paul has used this word 'wise' 10 times in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. Wisdom was a big deal to them. They all wanted to be thought wise. He writes this way to shame them, to humble them, to bring them down to the place where they begin to lay aside their status and see one another for who they really are. Look at the person next to you this morning and say 'You will judge the world! You will judge angels!'
Brother Against Brother
Paul summarizes the sad situation in verse 6:
He uses this family term 'brother'. Surely someone ought to be able to settle a dispute among the brothers. Something has gone radically wrong when members of the same family are suing one another. A relationship that is meant to be characterized by love and protection is now shattered by greed and animosity. Those who ought to be on the same team, who ought to have each others back, are now out to get each other. And this before unbelievers! We are brothers because we believe in Jesus. Our aim is to persuade others to believe in Jesus. How counterproductive for us to take our brother into court before an unbeliever!
The Way of the Cross
Paul now gets to the heart of the issue. He has suggested that when they have disputes, they bring them before members of the community of faith, who are much better equipped to settle these issues. Now he offers them a still more excellent way, the way of the cross.
No one goes to court to lose. If you think you don't have a strong case, you might try to settle out of court. The goal of a suit is to win, and to win big. Paul turns this around. The fact that you are taking each other to court is evidence that you have already been defeated. You are not following Jesus. You are not walking in victory. You are not walking in the way of the cross.
Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But my rights have been violated. I have been wronged. Justice has not been done. I should have a voice. I need to be heard. I want to be taken seriously. I deserve better than this. Paul says it would be better to suffer wrong, to be hurt, to be treated unjustly. It would be better to be defrauded, robbed, swindled.
This is what Jesus taught.
This is the example of Jesus.
This is the way of the cross.
If your brother sins against you, you can go and tell him his fault. You can bring him to court. You can seek justice. Or you can be defrauded. You can be wronged. You do not have to demand your rights. You can follow Jesus.