1 Corinthians 6:1-11
This evening I want us to focus on 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. In the past, a common
approach to a scripture like this was to dissect it. We take out our spiritual dissecting
kit and begin to cut and probe. We often come to seriously flawed conclusions
because convictions are based on our opinions that we support with our dissecting.
Many of you took a biology class. At some point in your biology class, you likely
went to a laboratory and dissected something. For years biology students dissected
frogs. Hopefully you understood what a frog was before you dissected a frog. The
purpose of dissecting was not merely to have an experience that developed skills in
dissecting. The purpose of the dissecting was to better understand a living frog.
In our study of the Bible, too often we dissect a scripture before we understand
God's purpose. For example, often we have a poor understanding of the nature and
purposes of God's people. Too often we dissect to find reasons to support our
ignorance or misconceptions. Too often our conclusions are not focused on God's
purposes. Too often our dissecting is more concerned about us than it is about God.
This evening I want to attempt to show you something that hopefully causes you
to think. I hope your thinking will better focus you on who we are to be because we
place our faith and hope in Jesus whom God declared to be the Christ by his
resurrection from the dead.
- Let's begin by a broad overview of the failure of the Christians in Corinth [let's
make sure we have a picture of the frog before we begin to dissect].
- Allow me to begin with this emphasis: never forget that with all their failures and
problems, Paul addressed the Christians at Corinth from the beginning of his
letter as "the church of God which is at Corinth" (1 Corinthians 1:2).
- Because they placed their faith in Jesus Christ, they were God's people.
- They were God's people because of what God did and was doing in them,
not because of some incredible human correctness or achievement.
- They were God's people even though they had a lot to learn about how to act
like God's people.
- They had the responsibility to understand how to act like God's people.
- But their hope was to be placed in what God did for them, not what they did.
- These Christians had a horrible understanding of what it meant to be God's
- The problems they had among themselves were continuing proof that they
had a terrible understanding of what it meant to be God's people.
- Existing as God's people always has been about "being," not about
- Are Christians responsible to "do"? Of course!
- But our "doing" must arise from our "being."
- What we "do" arises out of what we "are."
- A person can "do" without "being," but "being" will always affect our
- Those of you who are Christian parents understand that reality in
providing guidance for your children.
- Look at the problems that existed in their Christian community.
- They did things that supported and encouraged division among
themselves (Paul powerfully argued that their division was destroying
God's purpose in them).
- They were too proud, too arrogant to address an incest situation that
openly existed among them. (They were more concerned about their
reputation than they were about God's reputation.)
- They settled their disagreements by using judges who did not even know
the living God. (They were more concerned about defending themselves
and their interests than misrepresenting God and His concerns.)
- They defended their immoral sexual practices (prostitution) because they
had a basic misunderstanding of God's purposes. (Sexual gratification is
about physical desires, not about spiritual purposes.)
- They had some fundamental misunderstandings of relationships in
marriage. (Marriage was primarily about human desires, not about divine
- As was common in Roman cities, they were really deceived by the status
that economic and social positions conferred. (Life was about who you
were in society, not about who you were in Christ.)
- There was some fundamental confusion about idols being gods. (Many
had a very poor understanding of the living God.)
- Their many worship problems arose from a concern about promoting self
instead of praising God. (Worship was about them and their position, not
about God and His position.)
- Christians in Corinth had a very poor understanding of who they were
because God placed Christ in them.
- In a lot of specific ways they acted like the people who did not have Christ
- Their understanding of "being" as people who belonged to God was very
To me, the basic problem Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 is this: the
Christians who composed the Christian community at Corinth had what even
their local pagan societies considered an inferior sense of "being" as a people
dedicated to God.
- First, in most Roman cities the judicial system expected religious organizations
to take care of their own problems "in house."
- In 1892-93 an archeological team excavated a large room in an area near
Athens, Greece (which is less than 100 air miles from Corinth).
- In that excavated room they found a number of altars and a number of
- They also found the minutes of a group known as the Bacchic society who
honored the god Dionysus.
- The minutes included the reorganization of this religious society.
- Included in those minutes were the specified ways in which they internally
took care of their problems.
- It included a section that declared the rules of group and the penalties for
breaking those rules.
- They resolved their own difficulties between members, and even if a
member went outside this religious society with his complaint, he was still
subject to the punishments of the group.
- The point I want you to see is this: not even pagan religious societies
sanctioned what the Christians in Corinth were doing to each other.
- There are many questions you can ask me about this passage that I could
not declare a definitive answer in regard to the question.
- I cannot tell you in what way God's "holy ones" (saints) will participate in
judging the world (the forces that defied God). (6:2)
- I cannot tell you in what way those who were physical shall judge angels.
- Instead of "spiritually dissecting" situations that we cannot know for a certainty,
focus on the obvious that we can know.
- The situation: Christian individuals were resolving their problems and
differences by taking each other to pagan courts.
- Judges, who had neither knowledge of or allegiance to the living God,
who worshipped idols and embraced the moral concepts and principles of
idolatry, were resolving differences among those who placed their faith in
- And that is what Christians wanted!
- In Paul's two comments about Christians judging the world and judging
angels (comments they had at least some understanding about), Paul said,
"This is a ridiculous situation!
- "You mean you do not have even one wise person among you who can
resolve these differences?"
- "You mean you do not realize that you are causing the idolatrous part of
the community (which was a greater majority) to view the Christian
community as behaving disgracefully?"
- "As a group of people who represent the holy God, you should be ashamed
of what your are doing!"
- "You actually think the a judge who worships idols is in a better position to
resolve differences among Christians than is a wise person who is a
- "You actually think it is better for the community of Christians to be
disgraced in the eyes of the pagan community if that allows you to have
what you want? You had rather for the whole community of Christians to
be disgraced than for you to endure an injustice?"
- "You mean you actually think God rather you cheat another Christian than
for you to suffer an injustice?"
- Do you notice there is a lot of similarity in what happened in chapter 5 in the
case of incest among them and what happened in chapter 6 when Christians
took Christians before pagan judges?
- In both situations, Christians had a very poor understanding of who they were
as the holy ones of God who represented God.
- They were behaving in ways that even idol worshippers regarded to be
- How could they possibly expect to demonstrate the desirability of God's
nature as the living God if they acted in ways that were inferior to people who
worshipped things that were not even gods?
Bottom line principle: the unrighteous will not inherit God's kingdom.
- Being unrighteous included these things:
- Sexual injustice.
- Worshipping things that are not God.
- Practicing homosexuality.
- Practicing stealing.
- Being controlled by greed.
- Being controlled by alcohol.
- Being controlled by pleasure.
- Cheating people.
- If anyone tells you other wise, he is deceived. If you believe him, you are
- That is who you were, not who you are.
- That is what your baptism, your sanctification, your justification in Jesus
Christ was all about.
- You cannot be alive in Jesus Christ and let God's Spirit live in you and act
like the person you used to be before you belonged to Jesus Christ.
- The whole purpose of becoming a Christian was changing your "being."
- You desperately need to understand who you are and what you are about as
people who represent God and the resurrected Jesus Christ.
There is a powerful temptation, a seemingly overwhelming desire, to make New
Testament scripture a rule book. There is a powerful temptation, a seemingly
overwhelming desire, to confine our spiritual responsibility to (a) finding the rules and
(b) technically keeping the rules.
Paul said if you take another Christian before a pagan judge to resolve a
dispute, you fail long before you reach the judge's "court room." If you have such a
horrible relationship with another Christian, you have a basic failure to understand what
God intends in Christian existence and relationship--and likely you both have the same
The question most preachers are asked fairly frequently is this: "Does this act
break the rules?" Wrong question! The appropriate question: "Is the holy God
properly represented in what is happening?" This is an entirely different question.
Each of us as Christians represent the holy, pure God. Represent Him well!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
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