Now, let’s take a look at this text and why Paul is bringing in this idea of the future kingdom with this lawsuit at Corinth.
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!
So why does Paul mention the fact that Christians are going to judge the world in the future kingdom or the future millennium in the context of this lawsuit? It is to shame them. Paul considers this a trivial case.
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?
Here is Paul’s advice to the church – appoint as judges the people in the church. Work it out in the church. This is a church discipline matter and we covered that in chapter 5. Chapter 5 and then again here in chapter 6, you can’t obey these verses without being part of a local church. If I have a dispute with some random person off the street, even a random Christian, then who would we go to? You could find a mediator whom you knew, but it wouldn’t be fair to the other person and the other person wouldn’t agree to meeting with the person whom you chose to mediate because they would assume that the mediator is your friend and is therefore biased.
But if it is my fellow brother at LBC, then I can go to one of the leaders who know me and know the other brother so that we have a chance of reconciliation. Paul says in v4, appoint as judge even a person of little account IN THE CHURCH. The idea being, you could go to any other brother whose a committed member of this church and who knows me and who knows the other person and they can be the mediator between us.
Why is it important to take care of such matters within a church context instead of taking it to a public court?
6 But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers!
For Paul, it’s bad enough that the first instinct of these brothers is not to go to a trusted Christian leader or member of the church. What’s worse, they are taking this internal fight, a case they should be able to handle in-house and they are making it a public spectacle in front of nonbelievers.
“And this in front of unbelievers” — Paul is underscoring an important truth here. For Christians, our witness toward others is important. Why do many nonbelievers not want to consider Christianity? It’s because of so-called believers. They see many people call themselves Christian and they are just as greedy and ambitious and selfish and they cheat and lie and slander like everyone else. So the nonbeliever thinks, what’s the point of going to church? Jesus makes no different in a Christian’s life. That’s what people think and you can’t blame them.
This lawsuit between believers, Paul concludes in v7, reveals that they have been completely defeated. It’s not a defect, but it’s a total defeat. A defeat in terms of their unity. A defeat in their inability to judge these matters for themselves. A defeat in terms of their witness to nonbelievers.
Instead of going to court, Paul proposes an alternative.
7 …Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
When I hear these verses, I can’t help but think of our ultimate example in Jesus Christ. This is basically the way of the cross which Jesus took — utterly wronged and cheated and unjustly treated. But Jesus did not retaliate. As believers, I wonder how you and I react when we are wronged or cheated?
You mean to tell me, when someone wrongs me or cheats me, I need to just take it. Are you asking me to be a doormat?
The motivation is key. Christians as well as non-Christians can be doormats in the way they waver and waffle and care so much what others think. But for the Christian, the motivation is not people. The motivation is God’s glory.
Carrying our crosses like Jesus did will feel like being doormats at times. It will feel like weakness, but it’s not. It’s a position of strength. The cross symbolizes death, but it doesn’t stop there. There is a resurrection. There is being a doormat, there is dying, it feels like death to be wronged and cheated and not to fight back. Because it’s in our base human nature to fight for our rights. To seek vindication. You wrong me and I will get at you. Our pride will not allow us to let it go. Because if you do, you seem wimpy. You’re not a man if you are not willing to stick up for yourself.
But Jesus tells us, on the other side of our death is a resurrection. We can die to our rights because Jesus promises, one day, we will be raised from the dead. Our eternity is secure so who cares if we are cheated and wronged in this life? Wasn’t Jesus cheated and wronged? In the midst of his mockers and those who were nailing him to a cross, didn’t Jesus offer words of forgiveness? This is the way of the cross. It’s a position of immeasurable strength.
Forgiving a fellow brother or sister who wrongs you when you have every right to lash out is one mark of a Spirit-filled, born again Christian. You are never more like Christ than when you forgive someone who wrongs you.
Paul does not deny that wrongdoing was done. Somebody cheated and wronged somebody else. Paul is not condoning the wrongdoing, but he is critiquing the response. Instead of responding like Christ and taking up one’s cross, they responded by taking the brother to court.
You may hear that and think, do I have to? Do I have to take up my cross? What’s the big deal? Isn’t it my right as an American to retaliate when someone wrongs me, even if it means taking them to court? The problem is–Paul links this action of taking a fellow brother to court, which is the way of the world, not the way of the cross, Paul links this lawsuit with v9.
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?…
What’s the link between v1-8 and v9? Paul argues that a brother who would take another brother to court on a trivial case in front of nonbelievers should be lumped in with the sexually immoral, the idolaters, adulterers, those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.
9 …Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
When I read these verses, I think, who can be saved? Man, it seems impossible, doesn’t it? Some of the sins in this list, maybe I can understand why a portion of the sins listed might disqualify us from inheriting the kingdom of God, but others, you and I still struggle with them, don’t we? Taking a brother to court, being a poor witness, sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, swindling–some of these things we probably wouldn’t do as believers, but to some degree, don’t we all struggle with certain sins on this list? Like greed. Or slander.
If none who commit these sins can inherit the kingdom of God, then who can be saved? We are all sinners, some are ignorant sinners, they don’t know they are sinning or they don’t consider what they are doing a sin because they are not saved and the Holy Spirit is not in them. I can understand why they wouldn’t be saved because they don’t even think they need a Savior. Some are hidden sinners, some are exposed sinners, some are forgiven sinners, but we are all sinners. Both Christians and non-Christians. We all have a sinful nature.