In the present passage Paul writes to the Corinthians about two further issues which somewhat relate to the issue he addressed in the previous chapter. In the preceding lesson, we learned about the judgment that Paul expected the church to pronounce on the sexually immoral person in the church. In this lesson, Paul reprimands the church in Corinth for failing to judge disputes among brethren and warns against sexual immorality.
Did You Know...?
- The Greek word for “judge,” krinō, and its cognates are predominant in the first segment of this passage (1 Cor 6:1–8). They are variously translated: “go to law” (v. 1); “judge” (vv. 2, 3); “cases” (vv. 2, 4); “settle a dispute” (v. 5); “goes to law” (v. 6); “lawsuits” (v. 7).
- “Trivial cases” (2) and “matters pertaining to this life” (3) both translate the same Greek word, biōtikos, which is defined as “belonging to (daily) life.” [ref]
- Defeat (7): The word is also translated “loss.” The verse may be thus translated, “Therefore, it is in fact a loss for you that you have lawsuits among yourselves.”
- Four Greek words of the same root are seen in the present passage: “sexually immoral” (v. 9); “sexual immorality” (vv. 13, 18); “prostitute” (vv. 15, 16); “sexually immoral person [ref] ” (vv. 18)
List the six “do you not know” rhetorical questions in this passage.Hide Answer
• Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? (v. 2)
• Do you not know that we are to judge angels? (v. 3)
• Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (v. 9)
• Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? (v. 15)
• Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? (v. 16)
• Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? (v. 19)
Why do you think Paul repeatedly uses this rhetorical device in this passage?Hide Answer
While Paul also asks rhetorically with “do you not know” in other passages in
1 Corinthians (1 Cor 3:16, 5:6, 9:13, 24), the way he strings together one question after another in chapter 6 is unique and striking. The series of rhetorical questions reveals Paul’s earnest and heartfelt admonition of the Corinthians for their faults. They seem to also imply that Paul found their spiritual dullness difficult to believe. How ironic it is that a church which prided itself for its wisdom was in fact so ignorant of the truth!
How do you understand the tone behind the word “dare” (v. 1)?Hide Answer
Like the series of “do you not know” questions that follow this first question, starting this chapter with the question “dare” betrays an utter disbelief that such a thing could happen in the church. The word “dare” also suggests a lack of shame for actions unbefitting believers (cf. v. 5).
Why is it wrong to bring lawsuits against our brethren before unbelievers?Hide Answer
To have disputes with our brethren is wrong to begin with, but to bring such disputes to unbelievers is even more unacceptable. Paul chooses the term “the unrighteous” for unbelievers (v. 1) in contrast to “the saints.” Believers are saints who have been washed, sanctified, and justified (v. 11). They have a noble spiritual identity that unbelievers do not have. That is why Paul calls the unbelievers “those who have no standing in the church” (v. 4). Believers ought to live in a higher moral plane before God than unbelievers who do not subscribe to God’s laws and commandments. As such, it is a mockery for saints to bring disputes among themselves to the unrighteous.
What qualifications are required for those who settle disputes among believers?Hide Answer
Paul touches on the issue of competence in verse 2 and the need for wisdom in settling disputes in verse 5. Hence, settling disputes among believers requires certain qualifications, one of which is the wisdom to discern right from wrong and to help the two parties come to a good resolution.
When the church in Jerusalem became aware of its negligence of the minority in the church, the apostles asked the congregation to pick out seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3). Such qualifications are necessary in managing the affairs of the church and may also be applicable to settling disputes. A person with good repute would be respected by both parties in dispute. Being full of the Spirit enables the one settling the dispute to handle the matter in a God-centered and Christ-like manner.
Similarly, we may also consider the qualifications for the judges among the Israelites: “able men… men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe” (Ex 18:21). These qualities would be essential to one who helps settle disputes because they ensure fairness and spiritual integrity before God in resolving disputes.
Is Paul teaching that the church is to handle all legal matters among believers?Hide Answer
The scope of the disputes in view in this passage has to do with matters of daily life (see Did You Know, point 2). Paul’s teaching here is not to be taken without qualification to suggest that the church should take the place of the courts or law enforcement in all matters, including even crimes or felonies.
How was bringing lawsuits before unbelievers a “defeat” for the Corinthian church?Hide Answer
As Paul has pointed out, for believers to bring lawsuits against each other before unbelievers is a mockery of the believers’ own spiritual identity. It is a sign of spiritual incompetence and lack of wisdom, and it is something to be ashamed of. A believer may win a dispute against a brother, but the name of Christ suffers and it is in fact a loss for himself and for the church.
How do Paul’s words in verse 7 reveal a basic problem that underlies the lawsuits among members?Hide Answer
One main reason that disputes occurred in the Corinthian church was that the believers were unwilling to let go of the offenses of others. They had failed to practice the Lord’s teachings about forgiveness and concession.
What other problems does verse 8 reveal?Hide Answer
Paul was not siding with the offenders and only asking the ones who had been wronged to forgive. In verse 8, he turns around and reprimands the offenders. To wrong and defraud others is unacceptable, not to mention doing so to our brothers in Christ.
How does this segment relate to the previous segment?Hide Answer
This segment continues the thought of the previous segment. In verse 7, Paul expresses his disappointment in the ones who have been wronged for not willing to let go of the wrong. But in verse 8, he turns his attention to the wrongdoers. The present segment carries the point further by means of a severe warning to wrongdoers about various kinds of wrongdoings.
The connection is especially clear in the original language. The Greek word for “wrong” in verse 8, adikeō, is the verb form of “unrighteous” (adikoi) in verse 9.
What is Paul’s message in verses 9 and 10?Hide Answer
Continuing the rebuke on the wrongs (unrighteousness) done against one’s brethren, Paul reminds the believers that the unrighteous will have no part in the kingdom of God. Although we might have lived unrighteous lives before our conversion, we are now new creations in Christ. There is no place for unrighteous acts in our personal lives or in the church.
How are some of the acts listed in verses 9 and 10 accepted in today’s world?Hide Answer
Many of the unrighteous acts mentioned in verse 9 and 10, such as sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, and sexual immorality are widely practiced, condoned, and even promoted. While acts such as theft, greed, and swindling are generally frowned upon in public, dishonesty and selfish-ambitions are widespread.
At what point is a believer washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God?Hide Answer
A believer is washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God when his sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ during baptism. The word for washed here, more accurately translated “washed away,” is the same verb Ananias used when he ordered Saul to get up, be baptized, and wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). Furthermore, we are sanctified by the atoning blood of Christ (Heb 10:10, 14, 29, 13:12). This sanctifying act by the blood of Christ also occurs in baptism, since baptism involves not only water, but also the blood of Christ (cf.
1 Jn 5:6–8). Likewise, we are justified from sin when we die and are buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:3, 4, 7). [ref]
The two agents Paul mentions, “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “by the Spirit of God,” also witness to baptism. Baptism for the remission of sins is carried out in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5). It is also by the Spirit of our God that we are baptized into the one body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13).
Explain the meaning of the sayings in verses 12 and 13.Hide Answer
In verse 12, Paul draws a distinction between what may be permitted and what is helpful. He makes a similar statement in
1 Cor 10:23. Paul teaches us that believers should operate on higher principles in making decisions than on simply whether an act is permissible. For example, we need to consider whether an action is beneficial to ourselves as well as to those around us.
Paul is not saying that sexual immorality is lawful. He is very likely taking a maxim of his day to argue that Christians need to aim higher in their moral choices. In terms of sexual immorality, while society may accept it as a norm, such actions or lifestyles are harmful to the people involved. It is also spiritually deadly, subjecting the person under its power. As the Lord Jesus taught, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin (Jn 8:34). The consequences of one who has been freed from sin but returns to sin’s dominion is dreadful (2 Pet 2:19–22).
The saying “food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” in verse 13 might have been a saying among unbelievers to downplay the sin of sexual immorality. Paul argues to the contrary and states, “the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord.” Borrowing the parallel of the secular saying, Paul states further that “the Lord is for the body.” In our temporary physical existence, food and stomach may be inseparable. But our body is not merely something physical. Rather, it has a spiritual significance. Since we have been redeemed, our body now belongs to the Lord (Rom 6:12–14). We await the day when the Lord will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body (v. 14; Php 3:20–21). Therefore, the Lord’s redemption includes not just our spirit and soul but also our body (cf.
1 Thess 5:23).
Why is it important for us to keep our body holy?Hide Answer
Several reasons are given in this segment as to why we should keep our body holy:
1. The body is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for the body (v. 13)
2. God will raise us up by His power as He had raised up the Lord (v. 14).
3. Our bodies are members of Christ (v. 15).
4. Sexual immorality is a sin against one’s own body (v. 18)
5. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (v. 19)
6. We are not our own, but have been bought with a price. We are to glorify God in our body (v. 20).
What is the point of the distinction between sins outside the body and sin against the body?Hide Answer
Although Paul’s words here do not necessarily mean that sexual immorality is the most serious of all sins, the distinction Paul makes here serves to underscore the relative seriousness of sexual immorality compared with other sins. As far as one’s body is concerned, sexual immorality is a sin against one’s own body whereas other sins are not. In other words, sexual immorality is detrimental to the body because it is a union of two individuals (see vv. 15–16). Committing sexual immorality is taking the sanctified body that belongs to the Lord and uniting it with another sexually immoral person. It is a defilement of the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Why is it increasingly difficult for Christians today to flee sexual immorality?Hide Answer
In this world of moral relativism, sexual immorality is no longer viewed as sinful. The media also often portrays sexually immoral acts as innocuous or even admirable. The accessibility of modern technology makes it so much easier to meet people in the virtual world. A person can readily become intimate with another person from a distance even before any physical act takes place.
What are some ways for us to guard against sexual temptations?Hide Answer
Because of the prevalence and widespread acceptance of sexual immorality, it becomes even more necessary for believers to guard our hearts and minds (cf. Mt 5:28, 15:18–20; Job 31:1). Rather than be conformed to this world, we need to be transformed by the renewal of our mind to discern the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2). We are to put away even hints of sexual immorality, such as obscene and filthy talks (Eph 5:3–5; Col 3:5–8). Instead, be filled with the Spirit and let the words of Christ dwell in us richly through teaching, admonition, and songs of thanksgiving (Eph 5:18–20; Col 3:16).
How should the fact that we have been bought dictate the choices we make?Hide Answer
God has bought us with such a great price—His own blood (Acts 20:28;
1 Pet 1:18–19; Rev 5:9). Christ’s redemption has made our body an honorable vessel. Not only so, we are no longer our own, but the Lord’s. It thus behooves us to offer our bodies as instruments of righteousness to live a new life for God (Rom 6:11–14, 12:1; 2 Cor 5:14–15).