Last week in chapter 5 Paul taught the church how to deal with a specific situation of sexual immorality within the church, and in the midst of that he taught them about the importance of purity in the body of Christ and how to maintain that purity through church discipline. Paul taught them that it is not our job to judge those outside the church, but it is certainly our job to judge those inside the church so that the leaven of sin doesn’t spread throughout the Body and cause decay.
RESPONSIBILITIES TO ONE ANOTHER
Today we will find that Paul continues this theme of the health and responsibilities of the church in chapter 6 as he confronts the church about taking each other to court and not living in accordance to their new identity in Christ. This morning I hope we are reminded how important church membership is as we recognize our responsibilities to one another and our responsibility to be a good witness to those outside of the church.
READ 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 (ESV)
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?
What we find as we begin chapter 6 is that in the midst of disagreements with one another, members of the church were taking one another to court. Paul is horrified that this is taking place for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that by taking one another to court they are in essence “airing their dirty laundry” which serves as a horrible witness to those outside the church. Secondly, Paul is saddened by this further proof of their lack of spiritual maturity and lack of Christ-likeness. It is obvious that this church doesn’t understand the authority and power that God has given it, so Paul begins there.
In verses 2-3 he asks, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” and “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” Now you might be right there with the church as you listen to these questions from Paul thinking, “No, actually, I didn’t know that we would play a part in judging the world or angels Paul. What are you talking about?” Here’s what Paul is referring to – At the second coming of Christ, God’s people, who are joint heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17) will reign and judge the world with him in his millennial kingdom (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 20:4; Rev. 3:21).
-2 Timothy 2:12 – if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us.
-Revelation 20:4 – I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
-Revelation 3:21 – The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
To make his argument even stronger for the validity and competence of Christians to settle cases at Corinth, Paul teaches that Christians will even judge angels, but he does not specify any details (v. 3). What he must mean is that Christians, when ruling in the future with Christ, will have a part in judging the devil and the fallen angels at the Second Coming (cf. Rev 19:19, 20; 20:10). Or, the statement could mean that Christians will judge angels, even the good ones, in the sense of presiding with Christ over the angelic host. Either way, Paul’s point is that god has given us the role of judgment in the future millennial kingdom, so surely they could judge one another’s misunderstandings presently.
Pressing on in verse 4, Paul challenges them with the irony of the fact that although they will sit in judgement with Christ over others and angels in the millennial kingdom, they have now chosen people who have no standing in the church to judge them. While he said back in 4:14 that he wasn’t writing at that point to shame them, he now says emphatically in verse 5 that he is writing to shame them. And he hits them where it hurts when he alludes to all their talk and desire for wisdom and asks if they are so wise how is it that there isn’t one person among them wise enough to arbitrate between other believers. Finally, in verse 6, he laments once again the shamefulness of the fact that they are going to court, brother against brother, and what makes it even more disgraceful is the fact that this poor behavior is in front of unbelievers.
RESPONSIBILITY TO BE SALT AND LIGHT
As a body of Christ we are called to be righteous as God is righteous. That doesn’t mean that we will never sin of course, but it means that we will strive to remain pure through righteous living and repentance whenever it is necessary. As we recognize that we are the earthly representation of Christ, we must take seriously God’s desire for us to be holy.
But another critical reason for us to be pure and holy as a church is God’s desire for us to serve as a witness to the world and that’s what Paul alludes to at the end of verse 6. He is mortified that these church members are suing each other in front of unbelievers because it’s a horrible witness for Christ and the transformation that should take place in our lives when we are reborn. Scripture talks about the importance of our witness to the world often:
-Isaiah 43:12 – “I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.”
-Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
-Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
As we live our lives as individuals and together corporately as the church, we must always be aware of what our actions and our words are telling the world around us. There are so many things that can serve as a bad witness and potentially prevent others from wanting anything to do with Jesus – may we never serve as a stumbling block to others. Yes, we are free in Christ, but as we will hear Paul say in the second half of this chapter (v. 12), ““All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.” We must be careful to follow Paul’s words of instruction in Galatians 5:13-14 which says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Part of loving our neighbors is living in such a way that helps lead them to Christ rather than living in such a way that leaves them wondering how a Christian is any different. That’s what Paul talks about next as he explains that because of the Corinthian church’s negative witness to their culture, they have already suffered a great deal of defeat.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CARRYING THE BURDEN
1 Corinthians 6:7-11
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! 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 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.
Paul is disappointed that these Christians have taken on such worldly attitudes that they are more willing to be a bad witness to the world that be treated unfairly.
Matthew 20:26-28 –“…Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Philippians 2:5-8 – “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Matthew 5:38-48 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
For American Christians today, I cannot think of a much more applicable set of Scriptures. For many of us becoming a Christian means that we start going to church regularly, we stop cussing and drinking, we may read our Bibles occasionally or even give money to the church, and we feel like these things are major sacrifices and that we’re good Christians because of these things. But the Bible describes following Jesus as picking up our cross daily. That means laying down our lives, giving up freedoms that we have a right to, being willing to die rather than forsaking Jesus. Scripture tells us that as we obey the command to love our neighbors we must realize what real love looks like. 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
I get so frustrated hearing Christians demand their rights right along with the rest of the culture. We are so easily offended and we often completely ignore Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek. We are so materialistic that if someone damages our car or our house in the slightest way, we are ready to “lawyer up.” We are so entrenched in our culture rather than Scripture that when politicians try to sway the “Christian” vote they typically focus on two things – abortion and gun control. They don’t cater to “Christian” voters by promising to take care of the poor and widow or orphan (Ex. 22:22), they don’t focus on welcoming and loving immigrants (Lev. 19:33-34); and they certainly don’t focus on promising to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). In fact, they typically do the opposite – they promise that they will try to do away with welfare, they will kick out as many immigrants as possible, and they will bomb our enemies any chance they get.
Like the church at Corinth, we need to be reminded that we have been made new and this world is not our home. Rather than revenge or justice we must seek peace and show grace. Rather than hate, we must overwhelm people with love. Rather than expecting to have rights, we must live lives of sacrifice and service, that PEOPLE MIGHT SEE JESUS IN US.
BECOMING WHAT YOU ARE
Once again, Paul is trying to get the church to become what they already are in Christ. He reminds them that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, neither “the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” And he reminds them that they used to be these things, but now they have been made new, so their lives must show it.
They have been washed by regeneration, or re-creation through the new birth. They have been sanctified, or made holy through washing away of their sins by the blood of Christ. And they have been justified through Christ, in other words, they have had their legal standing before God expunged and they now stand before Him as innocent. This is a total transformation inwardly, and for a follower of Christ, this inward transformation must be manifested outwardly as we are continually changed by Christ and follow His values rather than the values of our world.
This morning I want to urge you to allow Jesus to transform your life. If you desire this morning to be transformed, if you’re sick of the life you live, if you’re tired of the patterns of your life, tired of being a part of that list of unrighteous sins that Paul listed, then I want to invite you right to pray a simple prayer saying,
“Lord Jesus I want you to come into my life. I want you transform me. I want you to make me new. I want to be a new creation, I want the old things to pass away and everything to become new.”
Invite Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life.
If you’re a Christian this morning but you’re recognizing maybe that you’re living by some old patterns, then you ought to seek the Lord in that regard. You certainly don’t want to be what you used to be, when you can be what God has made you.
Father, thank You for our time together in Christ. Continue to impress upon our hearts this tremendous principle of forgiveness and humility that we’ve talked about this morning that our only attitude to have toward other believers and toward those outside the church is that we forgive as Christ forgave us and thereby give a testimony to the world of what our God is like and that we indeed are His children. And Father, we pray that You’ll transform many lives today as only you can and that those of us who have been transformed will live the principles of a transformed life to Your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.