The Problem of Lawsuits Page 1 of 12 (Lessons on 1 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?

November 13, 2012

Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson 4.0: The Problem of Lawsuits
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6.1-6.11

1 Cor 6.1-11 (KJV)

Section 4-A: Christians must not go to law against each other

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.
7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
Section 4-B: The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God
8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

The main purpose of this chapter is to administer what amounts to a slap on the wrist to the Corinthians for their practice of taking other believers to court (vv. 1-7), instead of settling their differences among themselves. It seems that after their conversion they were still in the habit of taking their causes before heathen courts, and the apostle considered this practice contrary to the spirit of the Christian religion, and that it tended to expose the Christian religion to disrespect in the eyes of worldly men. Therefore, he chastises them for the practice, and explains why their differences should be settled among themselves. It also seems that the character of lawsuits and the spirit of covetousness had led them in some instances to defraud and oppress each other; and therefore he takes this occasion (vv. 8-11) to show that this was entirely inconsistent with the nature of Christianity.

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
Or “How dare you, when you have a disagreement with another Christian, take him to a heathen court, and not before the saints?”

Dare any of you, having a matter against another,
After the apostle had settled the issues surrounding the young man who committed fornication with his father’s wife, he complains to them of another evil he has discovered; which was, that anytime differences arose between them over worldly concerns they would quickly elect to settle their differences before the common courts of that day. The question is whether it is lawful for one of the faithful to drag another of the faithful before the judgment seat of an infidel? He answers that it is NOT lawful because it is an offence for the faithful to do this, because it is not evil in itself to bring a matter before the judgment seat, even of an infidel.

“Dare any of you” is strong wording; Paul simply can't believe what these Corinthian Christians are doing. There were some very prominent families among the members; but there was no one person who possessed any public authority to settle differences within the assembly. Problems surfaced anytime one party would not submit to the decisions of another, and they were obliged to take their disputes before heathen magistrates. The local judges sat in what was known as the bema seat of the civil magistrate, which was located in the heart of the marketplace. Because Greek culture found a good legal battle entertaining, anyone's lawsuit soon became public knowledge. Some of the subjects of litigations arose out of their ecclesiastical divisions; which was the first issue Paul addressed in this epistle.

The reasons why the apostle introduced

this subject at this point may have been:
1. That he had mentioned the subject of judging—“But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor 5:13; KJV)--and that naturally suggested this topic.

2. This might have been a prevailing vice in the church of Corinth, and demanded correction. The word dare implies that it was inconsistent with religion, and improper.

Paul uses the phrase “having a matter” to mean the subject of litigation; or a suit. There may be differences between men in regard to property and what is right, in which there is no blame due on either side. They may both want to have it settled equitably and amicably. It is not a disagreement between men that is wrong, but it is the spirit with which the difference is embraced, and the unwillingness to have justice done, that is so often wrong.

Against another means another member of the church, a Christian brother, or a Christian neighbor, because it would be impossible to force a pagan into a Christian tribunal which is not recognized by the law of the land.

The apostle directs his accusation against the plaintiff, since he is the one who chooses the tribunal before which he would bring his case. When they appeared before the civil court, Brother went to law with brother (1 Corinthians 6:6), one member of the church against another. This close relationship could not preserve peace and good understanding. The bonds of brotherly love were broken and a brother was offended. As Solomon says; “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Prov 18:19; KJV). How difficult is it to regain a brother that has been offended—Solomon says it is more difficult than capturing a city that is well fortified. Note, Christians should not challenge each other, because they are brethren. If we would only practice this concept it would prevent law-suits, and put an end to quarrels and lawsuits.

go to law before the unjust,
“The unjust” is used here to represent the unrighteous, in the sense of "not being justified before God, not saved." Why are the Corinthian Christians trying to find justice from those who aren't justified before God? Paul is using the term unrighteous in a religious sense, not a moral sense. It isn't that Corinthian judges were necessarily bad judges, but they were not Christians.

The apostle is NOT saying that all the pagan judges were unrighteous, but he distinguishes between those within the church (The saints according to the next clause.) and those without, all of the latter being unrighteous in the sense of them not being Christians. He does not mean that they were always unjust or unfair in their decisions, but that they were classified in that faction of the world which was different from the saints, and is synonymous with unbelievers, as opposed to believers. It is as if he said, "Have you become so disrespectful, that you are not ashamed to make the Gospel a laughing stock to profane men?" It is very likely that at Corinth, where corruption reigned, there was a great perversion of public justice; and we should not suppose that matters relative to the Christians were fairly decided.

The Corinthian believers who brought matters before the heathen magistrates went to law before the unjust, not before the saints, and the result was that it caused controversy before unbelievers: “But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers” (1 Cor 6:6; KJV) which could have been avoided if they would have settled it among themselves. This tended to bring criticism and reproach upon Christianity. It presented a vivid picture of foolishness and disharmony; while they pretended to be the children of wisdom, and the followers of the Lamb, the meek and lowly Jesus, the prince of peace. And therefore, the apostle says, "How dare you, when you have a controversy with another, go to court, and bring the matter to a hearing before the unjust?" Note, Christians should not dare to do anything that tends to bring criticism of their Christian name and profession.

and not before the saints?
Christ himself had laid down the rules, in Matthew 18.15-17, for any follower of the Lord having a disagreement with his brother; and this rule involved:
1. a personal confrontation between wronged and wrongdoer,
2. another attempt at reconciliation if the first failed, with witnesses present, and
3. a general examination before the whole church.

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