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"Brother Against Brother"
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Wednesday AM Bible Study
June 13, 2007
Theme: Believers are to seek the settling of their differences within the body, and not bring one another to the courts of unbelievers.
People love courtroom drama. Sadly, this is often because people have a sinful love for a good fight. The daytime television channels are filled with such programs. How particularly tragic, though, when believers in Christ deny the basic principles of their own faith by dragging one another before the courts of the unredeemed in the sight of unbelievers.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul had first dealt with the problem of unity among the brethren (chapters 1-4), then with the need for holiness in the midst of that unity (chapter 5). It is natural that he now deals with the absence of the practical expression of that holy union—that is, through brother suing brother in the secular courts of law.
I. THE BASIC PRINCIPLE: DON'T GO TO SECULAR COURTS AGAINST ONE ANOTHER (v. 1).
A. Paul had just spoken of judgment within the body of Christ (5:9-11). He now turns his attention to the problem of believers inappropriately bringing judgment against one another in the secular courts. He asks, "Dare any of you . . .?"; suggesting the profound impropriety of the act.
B. The problem that Paul addresses is not the fact that there are differences between believers, nor that the differences needed to be settled. There is, in the Scripture, not only a recognition that such differences would occur (Matthew 5:23-26); but also a provision for dealing with them (Matthew 18:15-20). Handled properly, God can even use them—as He did in the case of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). Rather, the problem amongst the Corinthians was that they were acting so inconsistently with their calling in Christ as to drag one another before unbelievers in order to have their differences settled regarding temporal things by people who are unsaved. In doing so, the saints were behaving as if life on this earth was all that mattered. They were acting no different from the people of this world.
II. THE ARGUMENTS FOR THE PRINCIPLE (vv. 2-11).
A. First, Paul argues from the basis of the saints' destiny (vv. 2-4). He stresses this in two "Do you not know . . .?" statements.
1. On the one hand, the saints are destined to judge this world system (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 20:4). Note that the verb used in the second verse for "judge" is in the present tense—suggesting that we are even judging this world presently (perhaps in the sense of being "salt" and "light" as in Matthew 5:13-16; and also as the instruments of the indwelling Holy Spirit as in John 16:7-11). How then can they justify bringing their grievances against one another before those whom they are destined by God to judge?—before those, in fact, who are spiritually unqualified to make judgments among the redeemed (1 Corinthians 2:14)?
2. And on the other hand, the saints are even destined to judge angels (v. 3; see also Romans 16:20); "how much more, things of this life?" How then can they justify appointing judges over themselves in temporal matters that are "least esteemed by the church"? (See James 2:6.)
B. Second, Paul argues from the nature of the body of Christ itself (vv. 5-6).
1. He says, "I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you. . .?" Clearly, the implication is that the body is equipped with those who are able to rightly admonish believers (Romans 15:14); but that they were not being sought out.
2. Instead, they lept to the option that the unredeemed people of this world grab hold of—that of dragging one another to court. He emphasizes how inappropriate this is by the fact that it is "brother" going to law against "brother, and that before unbelievers!" Not only is the family-spirit of love that Christ commands thus being violated (John 13:34); but the witness that our love is to bear to the world is also thus being spoiled (John 13:35).
C. Third, Paul argues from the call for the follower of Christ to humble himself or herself (vv. 7-8).
1. He argues that it was already a "failure" (that is, a "loss", as if in a court of law), that they went to law against one another in the first place. He asks why they do not rather willingly accept wrong, or allow themselves to be cheated. He is here echoing the instruction of our Savior in Matthew 5:38-42. By going to court against one another at all, they are not behaving as followers of the Savior that they held in common.
2. In fact, it is even worse than that; because they are actively wronging and cheating one another in the process—doing such things to their brethren (which is the real cause of the problem in the first place). They were behaving in a manner far different from that which occurred when the Holy Spirit first came upon the people of God (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37).
D. Finally, Paul argues from the recollection of our salvation (vv. 9-11).
1. He reminds them of the sins that would keep a man or woman out of heaven; saying "Do not be deceived"; and that such who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. He describes the list of these sins; and then reminds the believers, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." This speaks of the full accomplishment of salvation through grace.
2. Such men and women are in the church—people who were dreadful sinners; but who have been redeemed and have tasted of the grace of God. Having experienced such grace, such people should be well-qualified not only to judge between brethren regarding their temporal differences, but also—in those very same conflicts—advance the cause of the same sort of grace that they themselves experienced from God (Ephesians 4:31-32).
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The unbelieving world is watching us. And Jesus lets us know that the world will know we are His disciples by our love (John 13:35). May we, by God's grace, show we are disciples of Jesus by the fact that we act as He would act whenever we are wronged. May we learn to settle our differences in a loving spirit within godly judgment of the body of Christ.
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