1 Cor 6:1-20
Some people think that Christianity is boring or that it is only for the people who are needy. I believe this chapter challenges that mindset. Paul was a deep thinker and it’s sometimes difficult to follow his way of arguing (Peter said this as well 2 Peter 3:15-16). Remember that Paul was terrified to preach to the Corinthians and that he asked for a sign in Acts 18. He was preaching to people who were not really receptive when it came to kingdom values and principles. But how amazingly blessed was Paul in his wording. Full of grace and mercy he approaches them seeing them as his own family.
1. Freedom of Speech
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
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.
Is there any connection with chapter five besides the judging? Maybe it is about their rights; being touchy about their rights (on the basis of previous chapters); Were they more worried about their rights instead of their responsibilities? Some say that the Greek were fascinated by the court and law and therefore used to challenge each other in court. This was something that Paul didn’t want in the Church. The Christian Corinthians struggled to keep worldly practices outside of the Church. Some suggest that the court case refers to the incest incident from chapter 5. Is the father or brother of the woman taking the man to court? No new topic mentioned after chapter 5; Taking somebody to a non-Christian court is not what Christians are meant to do, that seems to be the point that Paul is making.
They had a wrong understanding of freedom:
“As Paul shames his readers and accuses them of asking the courts to wash the church’s dirty laundry in public, he is surely recalling the court case in Corinth in which he was the accused.” (Acts 18:12) Trivial is better translated as “small.” In light of “judging the world.” Judging the world and angels could be a “Jewish apocalyptic eschatology.” The point is that he refers to eternity again. “The Corinthians had an entirely wrong attitude to their failures, their destiny, their resources and their calling. Paul, therefore, calls them to account.”
Paul needed to give some guidelines and rules:
Rules are not there to punish us! (Drinking, sexuality, etc.) Most rules came into place because there was no other option or because it creates guidelines for the people. Rebellion against rules can be a sign of immaturity since rules are there to help. But this doesn’t mean that rules can’t be re-evaluated since they should be there to help us.
2. Freedom in our Behaviour
1 Corinthians 6:9-12
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 men[a] 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. 12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
(Slanderer = false charge / swindlers = thief)
Whereas, “The word immoral covers a wide range of rejected sexual practices. The “greedy” are not just the people who eat too much but also those engaged in “conspicuous consumption.” (spending your money on luxury – things that are visible.)
God had healed the Corinthians from sins from the past (see list of 10).
11 And that is what some of you were. But 1 you were washed (baptised), (but 2 ) you were sanctified, (but 3) you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ 1 and by the Spirit 2 of our God 3.
“Here the Trinity is at the heart of new life in Christ. With this new status in the presence of God in mind.” This is also a reference to baptism. It is a point in our Christian walk we can look back to and remember that we left our old life behind!
The Corinthians libertines:
“All things are lawful to me” or “I have the right to do anything” (see also 10:23) It could be that this is originally Paul’s phrase to use against the Jewish Legalism. The problem was that people started to use it out of context; Like Augustine “Love God and do what you like” Both need reinterpretation.
“What is to be done when recipients of the gospel, upon realizing that they have been invited into God’s home with full privileges, as it were, start wrecking the furniture, befouling the floors, and even tearing the building apart?”
So would enforcing the law bring them back to the right place? No Paul uses a different tactic. It’s about pointing people in the right direction. “Walking in the Spirit is always a matter of steering the middle and narrow course between too much licence and too many rules and regulations.” We have to recognise where we stand. Do I walk in the Spirit or do I walk in the flesh? “When one loves God, all things are permissible; but when one loves God, one loves what He loves.”
We have a message that proclaims freedom:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” But what do we do with this freedom; “Paul thus wants everything we do to have a positive result on our own lives and on the lives we touch day by day.”
Paul’s second approach is even more interesting since he uses a play on words. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered / enslaved by anything. ‘Lawful’/’right’ finds its root in ‘authority’; Paul uses ‘to be enslaved’ in his response, from the same root (stam in Greek). “The man who has to express his freedom is actually in bondage to the need to show he is a free man. The genuinely free man has nothing to prove.”
“I can make free with all things, but I will not let any thing make free with me.” (Paraphrase in English)
“If I am constantly concerned about my rights, like the Christians in Corinth, how can I be genuinely free to respond to what my Lord wants me to do?” More on this in following chapters. We can’t make up our own rules about the kingdom of God. God has made clear what the values and standards are of His kingdom. There are no exceptions. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. So when it comes to sin God is just as clear about small sins and big sins. Our focus should be on the creator instead of focussing on how we can get away with things or bend the rules. This is the very reason the bible talks about carrying your cross and it could well be that somebodies cross is heavier than somebody else’s cross.
Paul in Philippians 3:12-14
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
3. Freedom in Christ
1 Corinthians 6:13-20
13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”[b] 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.”
Paul responds to this Corinthian phrase. It looks like the Corinthians were comparing their use of food with sex. That’s what you do right? 50 shades of grey? Food goes into the stomach and both the food and the stomach will be gone in the long run; Okay I get that but… Similarity sexual appetite and the body are temporary and both will be gone when one dies. The soul is immortal so it doesn’t affect one’s soul since sex is connected to the body. “One Greek proverb was: “The body is a tomb.” Epictetus had said: “I am a poor soul shackled to a corpse.”” Since the 1970s: “Do what you feel like doing, and if you don’t feel like doing it, don’t do it.”
Paul is not denying the food slogan since there is truth in but he rather gives them an interesting other phrase: “The body is meant for the Lord and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13) Paul is arguing that we are our bodies. This is us! God will raise us – our bodies.
“Man does not have a soma (body); he is a soma (body).”
“In short, if I take my body with me beyond death, then any permanent damage that I inflict on it in this life has eternal significance.”
So what we do with our bodies will effect the day of resurrection??? “One beam of biblical light on this issue is the fact that Jesus’ resurrection body was most certainly a new glorious body. Yet he had scars on his hands and in his side. Paul seems to be saying “Don’t scar up your own body – it goes with you.” “Paul is objecting to the dehumanizing of sex that takes place when it is turned into a form of entertainment and made parallel of food.” It is not only about the individual – it is about the whole body of Christ.
So Paul strengthens his argument by connecting the ‘sexual ethics’ to four ‘theological frameworks:
Cross ? Bought with a price so the body is meant to glorify God.
Resurrection ? The body will be raised.
Trinity ? Members of Christ (15) ? Temples of the HS (19) ? from God (19)
Church ? The Church as a body
The following chapters will be build on these theological foundations in which Paul describes the “patterns of sexual practice that are in harmony with those foundations.” Full freedom in Christ based on these principles will lead us to surrender to God. Christianity / Discipleship is about surrendering to our Creator since He knows what’s best for us!!
Thought and prayer for the week:
What could be an area in your life where you apply your freedom in Christ in a way that is not helpful for your walk in discipleship?
Challenge for the week:
Assess in which way your freedom in Christ is visible in your daily life.
See the footnotes for the different sources I’ve used. Most of them are good quality commentaries on Corinthians.