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We have just been discussing the very difficult subject of making judgements about those within the church. We recognise that we have been given the responsibility and authority to do this. We also recognise that we have been given the wisdom, knowledge and spiritual insight to be able to do this. Now, Paul says, if that is the case, why take your problems to the civil courts? Do we expect that the ‘ungodly’ would have the same wisdom, knowledge and spiritual insight?


1 Corinthians 6:1-8

1 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?

2 Do you not know that the saints 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, appoint as judges even men of little account 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 goes to law against another— and this in front of unbelievers!


We will return to verses 2 and 3 in a moment, for now we will start with 4 and 5:

4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account 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?


Paul’s argument is that any Christian with the guidance of the Holy Spirit would be able to give a better judgement than the wisest non-Christian.


Is it fair to say that only Christians, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, can really determine what is truly right or wrong?


Now 7 and 8:

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.


For someone to feel so aggrieved that he has to sue another Christian means that in one way or another sin has entered into the relationship between them. Maybe on the part of the accused, maybe on the part of the accuser, maybe both. As a result someone is demanding his ‘rights’.

Is it true to say that Christians have no rights, only privileges?


Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:27-37 centres not so much on verse 31: Do to others as you would have them do to you. As on verse 36: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Have both verses pre-written on board)Try to think of situations where we might be expected to pay for what we have done (in money or some other form of retribution) and where instead a merciful conclusion would be most welcome.


The generosity of forgiveness shown to us by our Heavenly Father must now be our example of the way we treat others. Putting the two verses together we have: (Pre-written, but hidden) Do to others as mercifully as you would have your Heavenly Father do to you’.


Standing up for our ‘Rights’ is not what Jesus did and is not what we should do. Standing up for God’s rights is more productive!

(The study on ‘Christian Living’ covers this in more depth.)


Now we can look at verses 2 and 3:


 ‘2 Do you not know that the saints 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!’


How many times does the phrase ‘Do you not know’ occur in this chapter?  Six times. Remembering what we read in chapter 4v10: We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!, obviously Paul is pointing out that those who thought they had superior knowledge are perhaps lacking in this area.


A quick search shows that no-one has been able to find any other passage in the Bible which sheds more light on these two verses but the facts of Paul’s statement are simple: ‘we will judge the world’, and ‘we will judge Angels’. We can only speculate how this might happen. Does anyone want to speculate how this might happen?


Barnes, in his ‘Notes on the Bible’ says:

If asked "in what way" this is to be done, it may be answered, that it may be meant simply that Christians shall be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and shall encompass his throne; that they shall assent to, and approve of his judgment, that they shall be elevated to a post of honour and favour, as if they were associated with him in the Judgment.


They shall then be regarded as his friends, and express their approbation, and that "with a deep sense of its justice," of the condemnation of the wicked. Perhaps the idea is, not that they shall "pronounce" sentence, which will be done by the Lord Jesus, but that they shall then be qualified to see the justice of the condemnation which shall be passed on the wicked; they shall have a clear and distinct view of the case; they shall even see the propriety of their everlasting punishment, and shall not only approve it, but be qualified to enter into the subject, and to pronounce upon it intelligently.


And the argument of the apostle is, that if they would be qualified to pronounce on the eternal doom of men and angels; if they had such views of justice and right, and such integrity as to form an opinion and express it in regard to the everlasting destiny of an immense host of immortal beings, assuredly they ought to be qualified to express their sense of the smaller transactions in this life, and pronounce an opinion between man and man.


Now into 1 Corinthians 7


Here we move into more controversial waters, but before we do, let’s look at some phrases from verses later in this chapter: (v.26) ‘Because of the present crisis’, (v.29) ‘the time is short’, (v.31) ‘For this world in its present form is passing away’.


This letter (from around A.D. 55) seems to have been written in an atmosphere of imminent trouble but no-one can be sure what it actually was.


It may have been that with the coming of a new Roman Emperor (Nero, in A.D. 54) there may have been increased tension in the Jewish World. The first Jewish-Roman war started in A.D. 66 but war had almost been triggered when Caligula ordered his statue to be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem. His assassination in A.D. 41 prevented that order being carried out.


Or another possibility is that Paul thought that the second coming of Christ was imminent – but there is little to support that argument and the term ‘present crisis’ (v26) would hardly be appropriate.


Another possibility is that there was a famine (not an unusual occurrence).

Whatever the problem may have been, it is in this atmosphere of uncertainty that Paul now answers various specific questions concerning marriage, but he is careful to distinguish between his own opinion, and commands from the Lord.  


It’s best we read through the whole chapter at this point: 1 Corinthians 7

(Perhaps seven readers could each share: 1-6, 7-11, 12-16, 17-24, 25-28, 29-34, and 35-40)

 

It is obvious that in this chapter Paul is answering specific questions (Now for the matters you wrote about v1) it is also obvious that he was not married when he wrote this letter (v8). It is also apparent that his mind is still concerned with the whole problem of sexual immorality within the Church at Corinth (v2). So his reply seems more concerned with the sexual side to marriage instead of the true love between Husband and Wife.


So in verses 2, 9 and possibly 36, Paul encourages marriage – and obviously sex within marriage – as the best solution. And for those who are married, to not deny their partner normal sexual relations (v 3-5).


What do we understand by ‘Concession’ in verse 6?


Probably: give-and-take, mutual agreement.


Note that Paul is careful in several of these verses to point out that he is suggesting his own view, not the Lord’s command. He also sees how those who are not married have more time to work for the Lord, and again as he is not married he thinks that that is a good reason to be single! (Verses 26-35)


Now Paul returns to the question of what should people do during the present crisis? Obviously, to unmarried Paul, it is better to be as he is (It saves so many problems!) so he feels that at the moment, it is best for people to stay single (v8, 26-28, 32 & 33, 36-40). But he is quick to point out that the Lord’s command is not to take that as a reason for divorce (v10-13, 27).


Another concern relates to unbelieving partners: look at verses 12-17

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.

13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.

14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

17 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.


Verses 12 and 13 are straightforward. In those days separation and divorce was commonplace and easy. But the bond of marriage, both for Christians and Non-Christians, is one ordained by God as the lifelong permanent relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife.


Jesus himself confirmed that when two people marry they become ‘one flesh’. Adultery is a sin against that marriage bond and only if that bond has been adulterated and thus broken could there be a valid reason for divorce Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18.


So becoming a Christian was no reason to leave a marriage. As Paul is answering specific questions here, it may be that some people in Corinth had thought that one way or another the believing partner might become defiled by living in such close company with someone who was opposed to the Gospel, but Paul argues that the opposite is true.


14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

So how do we understand v14?

What doesn’t it mean?


It can’t mean:


It is possible that those asking the questions wondered if their marriage would now be looked upon as impure or offensive because the other party is not a believer. Or that their children may be regarded as somehow illegitimate or unclean. Paul is simply saying that the opposite is true.


But this now raises a further question – are there other areas of my life that should change now I have become a Christian? Again we should remember that Paul is replying to specific questions, and what they were we can only guess.


17 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.

18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.

19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts.

20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you— although if you can gain your freedom, do so.

22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave.

23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.

24 Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.


So what areas of my life should change now that I have become a Christian? Obviously if a person is in an adulterous relationship, Paul has already taught that it must stop. Again if someone earned his living dishonestly, that also must change.


There can also be situations where our boss (master) can instruct us to do something which is against our Christian conscience, and this may mean that we are unable to continue in that employment.

 

But what about those in normal secular employment – should they leave and seek employment with other Christians?


No – v 20 and 24. It is tempting to think that Christians working together must be what the Lord wants but the opposite is true. We are called to be disciples in the world, and until he moves us, we are to stay where we are. How can we be a witness to unbelievers if we keep away from them?


The argument seems to be that we were called to become a Disciple while we were in a particular situation, so it is most probable that that is where we are to witness. For those people we work amongst, we may be the only Christian contact that they will have.


How about the topic of slavery (v21-23)? How might it apply in our society?





1 Corinthians 91 Corinthians 7








Study 8    1 Corinthians 6:1-8, 7:1-40
Privileges of a Christian. Judging Angels.

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