Judgments and Justification
A child runs to you and cries, “Johnny won’t let me play with his lego!” What would you, as a responsible grown up, say to this child?
The Corinthian church has been described as the church of God in Corinth because they have been called by God to be holy. However, Paul has addressed the first issue among them namely: they are boasting about human wisdom and not simply growing as a church in the knowledge of the gospel. Secondly, Paul rebukes the church for putting up with, and even celebrating evil in their midst. They have welcomed worldly wisdom and they have welcomed worldly activity – or even worse than the world. It seems that the church in Corinth have not grasped the unique and special gift that they have received by God through grace. Their thinking needs to change.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!
7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with menr 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
What did you see?
- Taking your disagreements to the world (1-6)
- As it is, you are not looking like saved people (7-11)
Taking your disagreements to the world (1-6)
“…do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?” It is difficult to apply this passage universally since we live in a unified culture which promotes the legal system for everyone. What Paul wants to get across, however, is that Christians have the mind of Christ and know what is right and wrong and so we ought not to default to going to the law to settle disputes. I shouldn’t think that Paul nor we should teach that we live outside the law. That is not the point of Paul’s words. He is reacting to the disputes and quarrels among the church and asking them if they don’t see the silliness of running to lawyers over matters that brothers or sisters in Christ could not settle on their own. They are acting like a small club that exists in the more superior realm of society. Paul wants them to think more soberly about who they are in the world and in the context of eternal judgement.
“…or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; John 5:22. The exact understanding of this will not be clear until the end of times I’m afraid. But we, as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), are not to think too lowly of what we have inherited in Christ! When we have followed him, we have judged him to be king over all and especially over us! This is heavenly wisdom and we will participate somehow in the future. Again, the mechanics and details of what this means is a mystery. Paul, however, is tapping into a privilege that we should own and adopt and think twice before taking matters to the officials of this world to decide for us!
“…are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” Again, put things into perspective and see that we have the mind of Christ (2:16), the Spirit of God is in us (2:12) and we are apparently going to judge with Jesus one day. We ought to be sober-minded about this statement since the details of what that means is yet to be disclosed but we must embrace the logic of what Paul is saying – don’t regard yourselves as incapable of sorting out your own disputes. We need to pursue the same mind (1:10) – being in fellowship together with God’s Son (1:9). We’ve got this!
“…we will judge angels…” Just to repeat: this is interesting stuff that we need to accept in order to understand Paul’s argument but how this will come about is a mystery. We should remember, however, that angels are not guiltless by definition. The fallen angels are still angels! The basis of judgment will be determined by who is for the kingdom of God and who is against. John 9:39 expresses that judgement is about those who see and those who do not see. Paul has already given us a little demonstration of judgement in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (esp. Verse 3). Any privilege given to us can be abused and misused because it is misunderstood and misapplied. Paul is giving us a high responsibility and wants the church in Corinth to grow up. Give an idiot a gun and they will shoot themselves. Give a wise person a gun and they will use it respectfully. We are being told that our place in the kingdom of God is not as strangers and intruders but as sharing in the glory of God on judgment day. It’s time now for us to meditate on this and grow up.
“…do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?” If life outside the church follows rules that do not accord with holiness and truth then why would we go there for rulings? We live in a very Christianised society and many laws fit squarely with Christian views. But what cases would people in fellowship together in the church would need to go to court over? Surely disputes and differences can be resolved way before courts are needed. I should just note here that there are areas that should be settled by our courts which include divorces and rulings over property and such – BUT – the principal Paul is giving us is that there are plenty of matters that we can talk about and resolve before things go pear-shaped. If everybody in the church were putting the kingdom of God first and one another’s interests before themselves then we could do amazing things together!
“I say this to shame you.” In 4:14, Paul soothed the readers by saying that he is not trying to shame them with regard to being divisive over who is the best leader! But now, he wants them to be ashamed of running to the authority of unbelievers to resolve matters that could have been handled amongst themselves. The former incident is folly that needed gentle guidance but this matter must be stopped.
“…and this in front of unbelievers!” The church of God consists of people who have declared Jesus as Lord and desire to grow in their understanding of him and of fellowship toward one another. What kind of message would we tell if we take one another to court? Paul is not telling us to hide our disputes or cover up illegal activity, but that brothers and sisters in Christ ought to be better than that! Things that have been covered up in any church organisation in the past should never have been covered up or looked past or whatever has happened. Paul is talking about trivial matters (Verse 2) and not about serious things that definitely need to be dealt with according to both wise church policy and civil law. I hope that is clear enough.
As we close this first half of the text, let’s understand that the people of God need to grow themselves up and understand what an enormous privilege it is to be part of God’s kingdom. Paul wants us to stop being like little children who immediately run to the teacher when someone won’t share their toy. A child is taught to use their words to talk to the other child and come to an agreement on the matter without involving some outside authority over trivial matters. Know what privilege we have in Christ and develop wise approaches to relationships.
As it is, you are not looking like saved people (7-11)
“…means you have been completely defeated already.” Paul says that they have crossed a line. This is not a grey area but a clear indication that they are not living like the church of God that they have been called to be. Their hearts and minds are not operating on a gospel level. They do not behave like kids of the kingdom! Paul goes on…
“Why not rather be wronged…cheated?” How alien does that suggestion sound to you? Is it so far removed from what you could ever imaging happening? Could you just let something go and allow someone else to get more than you did? Or overlook someone else’s exaggeration when they describe their ministry and forget to mention what you contributed? Or that you always seem to bring more than others bring? Has the gospel made an impact on you? The gospel that speaks of you getting all the riches of God at the cost of God’s Son. The gospel that speaks of how little you really deserve but you get it all anyway.
“Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong…wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Rather than displaying grace and mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, Paul accuses some of retaliation, fighting, quarreling and returning evil with evil. This is not right. God has saved us by his blood and called us to be holy as he is holy. We are not saved by being good people but we are not saved in order to continue as people of this world – as mere humans (3:3)!
“Do not be deceived… sexually immoral… idolaters… adulterers… men who have sex with men… thieves… greedy… drunkards… slanderers… swindlers… will [not] inherit the kingdom of God.” We must keep reading on to Verse 11 (which we will) to keep the gospel in view but let’s just stop at this list for a second. Some of these items are stereotypically wrong. But some of these items have moved in our culture from evil to beautiful. I’m not going to talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to this list because I think the passage has said it. But think about adultery. This is clearly a sin and is given its own place in the ten commandments. And yet, our movies and songs and comedies are able to paint adultery as acceptable as long as it is true love! What!!!? Now, what about greed?! We live in a consume and throw away society. Seeking joy in more stuff is not Christ living. Stealing is not acceptable – unless you can do it without getting caught or in a way that everybody else does. Alcohol comes with many dangers and addiction is the worst. I would like people suffering from alcohol addiction to meditate on Verse 11 and keep getting help. The point, though, is that these things are not our life anymore. We can stumble and struggle with every one of the things in this list – the struggle does not disqualify us – but if we are at home in them then we are not at home in the kingdom of God.
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Memory verse that! What do they say? God wants you to come to him as you are – but don’t expect to stay as you are. Or it’s ok to not be ok – it’s not ok to stay that way. We are the washed ones. Without blemish or stain (Colossians 1:22). We are the sanctified ones. Made holy by God because of Christ’s holiness and by the renewing of our minds through the word of God (John 17:19; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). We are the justified ones. Righteous because Jesus has made us so (Romans 3:24; 5:1; Romans 8:1, 30). Don’t overlook the fact that it is through Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God that we are justified and not through works or through any other pathway to God. Jesus is the way! This is what we believe or else we will all be condemned.
What did we learn?
Praise God that he will judge us according to what Christ has done and not on our failure to be holy. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Let us then live as redeemed people who will inherit the kingdom of God. If we will inherit the kingdom of God then why would we bother fighting for what we feel are our rights in this world!
Topic A: Seeing the people we go to church and Growth Group with as saved people we will share eternity with. Look at one another in your Growth Group. Potentially, everyone you see will be in heaven for eternity sharing in the kingdom of God! Do we talk and pray about what to be doing in this life with that eternal view? How can we pursue kingdom living together? This group have (hopefully) come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and they have truly understood the grace of God. They are a very unique bunch of people. People whom God loves dearly and cherishes. Do you have that same view of the people in your group? The person sitting next to you will judge angels one day!
Topic B: How do you take serious matters of dispute or hurt and deal with them in the Christian church? Remember that we are not talking about illegal activity that should be dealt with in civil court but about disputes of wrongdoing or being cheated at a trivial level. Discuss some wise strategies for dealing with things that cause a break in fellowship.
Topic C: We are the washed, sanctified and justified ones. Be sure about your salvation. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith. Truly understanding the grace of God is the most important lesson you will ever learn in your life! No exception. Do you understand what it means to be saved by grace? Does everybody in your group understand this? Looking at the list of wrongs in Verses 9 and 10 will cause all of us to be shamed but some, perhaps, more than others. We all need to be taught about the cross of Christ and be lead to a repentance that leads to forgiveness. Once forgiven, we need to hear the gospel again and again and again. Be sure that you and your group understand the gospel and have accepted it by faith.