A Study of 1 Corinthians 6
Introduction: Tonight’s message is entitled: “Don’t You Know?” Those are the words parents say to their children. “Don’t you know you shouldn’t play in the street? Don’t you know better than to pull the dog’s tail? Don’t you know you shouldn’t eat that much candy?” We use that phrase to reinforce things our children should certainly know, things they should have learned by now. Well, in today’s chapter – 1 Corinthians 6 – the apostle Paul uses the phrase, “Don’t you know,” six times: Do you not know… do you not know… do you not know…? As we read this chapter we can tell he is exasperated. He is frustrated with these Corinthians, as he has been all the way through the book. The congregation in Corinth was dysfunctional and difficult from the beginning. The converts had come to Christ from hard-core paganism, and they were having a lot of trouble establishing a consistent Christian lifestyle and a unified Christian congregation. In the first four chapters, Paul dealt with issues of division and quarreling. In chapter 5, he dealt with church discipline. And tonight, in chapter 6, he is going to deal with wrongdoing, to use the word he uses in verse 9. The specific wrongdoing Paul had it mind was cheating others and using the corrupt legal system to do it, and sexual immorality, including prostitution. I think the best thing will be tackling this chapter one verse at a time. As we go through these verses, notice the repetition of the phrase: Do you not know.
Verse 1: 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?
This is discouraging but not necessarily prohibiting Christians going to court. The main emphasis, as we’ll see, is on cheating one another and wrongdoing—treating one another wrong (see verses 8-9). In our American system of justice there may be times when Christians will find themselves in some kind of legal situation that will need to be settled by a court of law. There are difficult issues that arise, and I’m not sure this verse gives a blanket prohibition against every kind of legal activity among Christians. But it relates to lawsuits, I do think this passage discourages it. I’ve already said that the Corinthians were having a lot of problems getting along with each other, and evidently some of this was spilling into the Roman courts. The church fights were becoming public spectacles, and Paul was beside himself over it. And in the next verse – 1 Corinthians 6:2 – he uses his first “don’t you know” in this chapter.
Verse 2: Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?
When I read that I want to say, “Actually, Paul, I didn’t know that. What do you mean that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” I honestly don’t know all this means means. But at the very least it means this. The Bible teaches that we will reign with Christ, we have a part of His kingship; in some sense, we are seated with Him in the heavenly places. And when He judges the world, we will be there to agree with Him that His judgment is righteous. We’ll be there to agree with Christ when He condemns the world at the Day of Judgment. Much of this is mystery; I don’t fully understand it. But look at these references
- Matthew 19:28: Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
- Ephesians 2:6: God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
- Revelation 3:21: To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with Me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with My Father on His throne.
- 2 Timothy 2:12: If we endure, we will also reign with Him.
- Jude 1:15: The Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone and to convict them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness.
- Revelation 20:4: I saw thrones on which were seated those who have been given authority to judge.
We may not fully understand this, but we can say this: When Jesus comes again those of us how know and love Him have a part with Him in His rule and reign, and we will join in agreement with Him when He judges the world. The point the apostle Paul is making is this: Why do you take all your interpersonal and inter-congregational arguments to a pagan courtroom when one day you’ll be judging the nations? He goes on to say in the last part of verse 2:
And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?
Now we come to the second “don’t you know.” And it is even more startling.
Verse 3: Do you not know that we will judge angels?
This is evidently referring to the fallen angels, to demons. In what way will we judge the fall angels? Well as I said above, at the very least we’ll be there to agree with Christ when He condemns the fallen angels at the Day of Judgment.
How much more the things of this life!
This is a very practical matter. If we are going to judge the world and if we are going to judge angels, don’t you think we should be able to work out our disagreements without going to court?
Verses 4-5: 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? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?
Remember what Jesus said in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I’ve seen this over and over here at TDF. Two members have a disagreement, and someone wise and seasoned will come along and help them resolve it. That’s what should be happening. In fact, that’s what marriage counseling is, isn’t it? Sometimes we need someone to be a mediator, to be a go-between, to be a peacemaker.
Verse 6-8: But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers! 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? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.
That last phrase adds another dimension to our understanding. In ancient society as well as in much of the world today, there wasn’t much of middle class. People were either very wealthy or very poor; and many times the wealthy would exploit the poor. The church in Corinth was made up of both classes of people, and now they found themselves sitting side-by-side in the pews. It’s likely that some of the wealthier people were exploiting the poorer people, and trying to use the corrupt Roman legal system for leverage. Paul told them to stop cheating each other and exploiting each other and doing wrong to each other, for now they were brothers and sisters. And that brings us to the next “do you not know” in this passage as Paul pivots to his next point.
Verse 9a: Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?
In other words, if you consistently exploit the poor and don’t treat them like brothers and sisters, it’s an indication you haven’t been truly born again. Furthermore there are other items in that same category.
Verses 9b-11: Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards, nor slanders nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 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.
I love that phrase: “That is what some of you were. But we were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” That’s what the church is. The church is made up of all of us who were sinners in all kinds of ways, but we have been washed and sanctified and justified. And since we have been washed and sanctified and justified, we can no longer live the way we once lived. When we are born again, our lifestyle changes. For some reason, some of these Corinthians didn’t seem to understand that. They thought they could add Christ to their lives without changing their behavior. They were claiming: “I have the right to do anything. It’s true I go to church. It’s true I am a Christian. But I still have a right to live anyway I want to.” But Paul said, “No you don’t. Not everything is beneficial. Not everything is good. Not everything is godly.” Look at verse 12:
Verse 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.
Verse 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.
The Corinthians were slaves to their appetites and they had saying: I might as well eat as much as I want to eat, because tomorrow I might be dead and food will be meaningless to me. I’ll enjoy all I want today, because tomorrow I might be dead to food and food might be dead to me. I might as well indulge in sexual immorality because tomorrow I might be dead.” This is a version of the old saying, “Let’s eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die.” But Paul said, “Wait a minute. Jesus died to save you body, mind, and spirit. He wants to sanctify your body and raise it up on the day of resurrection. You shouldn’t keep stuffing yourself and overeating and over drinking and being gluttonous. And you shouldn’t be sexual immoral, for you should glorify God with your body—which is His temple and which He is going to raise from the dead.
Verse 14: By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.
And here we have the next “don’t you know,” in verse 15.
Verse 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!
And now, another “do you not know.”
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.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.
That is plain and plainspoken. When you come to Jesus Christ, He comes to live within you and you belong to Him body, mind, and spirit. It is no longer appropriate to engage in sexual immorality.
Verse 18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body; but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.
And now we have the last “do you not know.”
Verse 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; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
At the moment we’re saved the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and our bodies become His temples. He lives His life out through us. Our hands and brains and feet—all the parts of our bodies—become instruments of obedience and ministry. So we should take care of ourselves the way a priest would take care of a temple or a homeowner should take care of his house. This is why Christians should be motivated to keep ourselves as healthy as possible.
Conclusion: This chapter is a little difficult because the first part talks about lawsuits an the last part talks about gluttony and immorality; but the pivot occurs in verses 8 and 9 and the word “wrong-doing.” The point is that when we come to the Lord Jesus Christ we must live differently from the pagans and that’s something we should know.
- Don’t you know that the Lord’s people will judge angels?
- Don’t you know we will judge angels?
- Don’t you know wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?
- Don’t you know your bodies are members of Christ Himself?
- Don’t you know that if you unite with a prostitute you become one with her?
- Don’t you know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?
Those are things we should know—and never forget.