1st Corinthians Chapter
Commentary by Ron Beckham
"Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to
go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?"
Paul sees this as a DEFIANCE of
the love we are supposed to have, that we would sue each other and go to
court. He has in mind all of the negative emotions and lack of
forgiveness which accompany lawsuits. It doesn’t stop there, for after
we win the suit, other events occur, such as the attachment of the
loser’s assets to satisfy the judgment (and of course, it means the loss
of a friend). There is little room for love in such a setting.
The real reasons for most
lawsuits are: to gratify covetousness, to satisfy pride, for ambition,
for revenge, and of course, selfishness. There is an old Christian
saying, "Right and rights, how often they part company; rather take
Some authors have concluded that
Paul was permitting them to go to court when dealing with
non-Christians, because no other remedy would be possible (the Church
could not be an arbiter). However, I see the remedy of PRAYER in
relation to our difficulties with ALL people, and we should always
remember that our Lord urged us to NOT be litigious persons (Matthew
5:40 & context).
There really should never be
disputes between us, but God knew from the beginning that such problems
would occur. Our Lord laid down the rule that brothers ought to settle
quarrels (we’re HUMAN - quarrels do happen), first by themselves, then
by bringing in someone to adjudicate, and finally taking the issue to
the whole Church (Matthew 18:15-17).
In verse 2, we will see that in the
future, we are to hold the office of judge. Why would God need us in
that role? (God is the all-sufficient Judge, all by Himself). I do
not know, but then, why does He use us in prayer? You could also ask,
why does the carpenter use a hammer to drive in the nail? He could just
as easily pound with a rock. The answer is that the hammer was created
for that purpose: to pound in the nail, or perhaps to pull one out.
In the same manner, we are created to be men and women of prayer, people of
judgment. The hammer and the person are each created for the pleasure and
purpose of those who created them.
"Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world
is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law
Somehow, we are to participate
as judges in the Judgment that will come upon the earth. Incredible. I
keep wondering why we are needed and keep concluding that, no, we are
NOT needed, but we are instead LOVED by the Lord.
When my children were little, I
would carry them high on my shoulders so they could feel tall. They
would try to lift something far too big for them, and I would support
part of the weight so they would get satisfaction from lifting such a
large thing. When they wrestled with me, I would let them win (not
always, but they enjoyed winning so MUCH!). The bottom line is that I
gave participation and success to my children as often as possible,
because I LOVE them! Just like God the Father loves you and me.
"Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of
The Greek word "angelos"
(angels) translates as "messenger" and the meaning of the word can
include anyone who is sent on a mission by our Lord God. But here it
seems to imply "angels" as representatives of a race of beings created
apart from humanity. In a previous study in Ezekiel, we saw still other
races, including "cherubim" and "seraphim." Jude 6 describes angels who
did not stay where they should have been, and are, as a result of rebellion,
being kept in "everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of
that day." Fallen angels may be the reference here, as the "angels" we
someday are to judge.
Many in the early Church,
including Tertullian and Chrysostom, viewed this passage as referring to
"those who ONCE were good angels but are NOW fallen spirits."
"So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you
appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?"
Paul is gently (or possibly not
so gently) leading these people to the understanding that part of our
function as a people in Christ is to accurately function as arbiters
(judges). When Jesus said "Judge not lest ye be
judged," He was speaking of a bitter, unregenerate, unforgiving
person (someone judgmental) - this is not the focus here.
However, there have been many
poor decisions made by bodies of "Christians." It has been said that
if you "take all the economists in the world, and lay them out, end to
end around the world, none of them would agree about anything." You
could say the same about Christians, though, unlike economists, we CAN
be one in love, if we look to God. Jesus, in a last public prayer for
us (John 17), could have prayed for anything, but chose to pray that we
might be "one" (in Him). The implication of
His prayer is that we tend to NOT be one, and need God’s intervention in
order to find true unity.
Paul is concerned that those
chosen to judge might not be among the most qualified to do the job. In
Acts 6, a dispute arose in relation to the widows of the Hebrews and the
Hellenists. The non-Jews thought their widows were being cheated in the
distribution of food. Disputes will arise, even among the best of
people. Seven men were chosen, "of good reputation, full of the Holy
Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). There are people of wisdom among us, and we should
use them more. You can extend Paul’s words here to include the meaning
that even the LEAST among us has direct access to the Holy Spirit of God
--- We look to GOD, first and then we can make good decisions about
"I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one
wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,"
We must ask the question, who is
wise in the Church? In 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 and context, it is
observed there are "not many wise after the flesh" among us. (The
"wise", by the way, are not necessarily the most intelligent). While
researching for this section, I read an excellent, anonymous quote, that
helps in understanding:
"The more spiritually pure a man
is, the more readily will he detect the wrong." I recommend that, as
judges in the Church, we need those who really love the Lord.
Intelligence is good, but to truly love the Lord is better and far more
"but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?"
The label we wear does not
necessarily define what we are. I was a Superior Court Clerk for many
years and heard a lot of trials. One criminal trial I recall, involved
a boy scout troop leader who molested pretty much his whole scout
troop. I was ashamed to note (while marking the exhibits for evidence)
the picture of the back of his VW van (where most of the problems
occurred), was covered with Christian bumper stickers. Just because he
wore Christian "signs" did not mean he was a Christian.
Whether we are in Christ or not,
people do "read" us by our behavior. Jesus told us to "let
your light so shine before men that they may see your GOOD works and
glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). It is better to
have less, than to always insist on our "rights" in relation to other
"Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits
with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be
The people of that time and
place loved to go to court. You may not believe this, but they loved to
sue each other even more than we do! One author stated they "prided
themselves on the passionate resentment of injuries, as though it was a
virtue." Jesus told us "do not resist him who is
evil" (Matthew 5:38) and went on to advise us that if someone
wants our shirt, let him have our coat as well. He also told us to "love
our enemies" (Matthew 5:44) in the same context. What a contrast
this was for the Corinthians! What a contrast this is for you and for
"On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to
Paul and James agree: "Faith
without works is dead!" God Himself is both the example and the
definition of holiness for us, and we have seen that God who loves,
expects us to do the same. If we "do wrong and defraud" others, we
certainly do not love them. Our walk in Christ is not merely an outward
thing, but instead the manifestation of the Spirit Who is within us.
The one who confesses he is a sinner is much further along than he who
thinks he is without sin ("let he who is without
sin among you, cast the first stone" - John 8:7).
Titus 3:5 says we are saved "Not
by works of righteousness which you have done, but according to His
mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of
the Holy Spirit." It is God Who saves us; it is God Who does good works
through us. The true Christian will be renewed by the Holy Spirit of
God, looking to HIM for our sufficiency. We defraud others if we try
and deal with them in our own strength.
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of
God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,"
Paul and James continue to be in
agreement: We are saved to lives of good works. Keep in mind that the
sin of the man comes from the heart of the man. And gross sins are
preceded by the more subtle. In Ezekiel 16:49-50, we are given this
"Look, this was the sin of your
sister Sodom, she and her daughters had pride, fullness of food, and
abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor
and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me;
therefore I took them away as I saw fit." Yes, Sodom and Gomorrah were
destroyed because of their gross sins. Homosexuality and adultery were
rampant among them. But they also had all the food, and all the idle
time in the world, like here in much of our "modern" world (and all the pride), and they
did not help those in need.
It is well to be concerned about
the sins of the Sodomites. Their worst sins, from God’s perspective,
was that they had much and gave little. Something for us to think
about, here in our time and place in history.
"nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God."
Those who continue in unholy
behavior, and yet claim they are religious, should read these verses.
Most, including those in prison,
eventually want to reform. The drunk wants, at some point, to dry out.
The reviler hates himself when he yells at his wife. The extortioner
comes to regret robbing his employer.
There was a point in my life
when I wanted to change. I didn’t want to be the way I was anymore and
actually did something about it. The change was not complete, though,
and did not satisfy. I was still a sinner, filled with unholiness,
emptiness, and unbelief --- there was always that nagging feeling I
needed more. Now I understand that I needed Christ. We simply
sinners, and no matter how good we might act, we need a Savior. We need
to be redeemed by the power of God --- Not our power but only His will
What is this "kingdom of God"
Paul talks about? Romans 14:17, provides an excellent definition: It
is defined as "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Our
King is with us, literally IN us, and in Him, we find peace. We are
(Matthew 6:33) to "seek FIRST the kingdom of God
and His righteousness…" I used to wonder, where is the JOY in the
Christian walk? I am beginning to find out - It is in HIM!
"Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified,
but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the
Spirit of our God."
Actually, such were ALL of us.
The one who has not DONE the bad thing, has THOUGHT the bad thought.
Jesus was clear in Matthew 5:28, that the one who has THOUGHT about
adultery, has, from God’s perspective, already DONE it in his heart.
We can go through life, thinking "I am good," and it is only later we
discover we are NOT good.
Years ago, I did not know what to expect as
a Christian, because I didn’t really know any Christian people. I had
my preconceived ideas, but I really knew little. When I continued to
have problems in life after I came to the Lord, it just seemed natural,
because life was full of trouble anyway. I didn’t expect much. In
retrospect, I am astonished at how much God has given to me. He is
giving me, for example - truth.
Some people seem naturally to be
very honest, but as a young man, I never learned the concept. God is
using a wonderful PROCESS to bring me to honesty. I did not say "I
receive you" to my Lord, and then stand up a completely honest man,
though I was forgiven in Him. We are gradually cleansed in Him. He’s
Alive. He’s Real. And He lives in us! Even in me. And He intends to
be just that real, and more, to all those who are reading these words.
Jesus said (He is) the "truth" (John 14:6)
– He has been that and more, for me.
"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All
things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."
Romans 14 has a similar theme to
this chapter, and it has spoken to me for many years. Because each of
us is an individual, each one has differing needs, unique to our
situation in life. Therefore, the work of God in Christ will differ
somewhat from person to person. One of us CAN do something that is a
"problem" for someone else. You may be able to attend a movie that
would cause me to stumble in my walk with God (or I can go and you can
not). As it says in this verse, we may legally do something that will
lead us into a kind of mental (and even physical) slavery. We CAN
smoke cigarettes but it is not a good decision to do so.
A Christian can go to Holland,
where many Evangelical Christians regularly drink beer. But, before you
rush out and buy your plane ticket, consider that one person can drink
and another cannot. Certain behavior is like Russian Roulette: we don’t
know who will become the alcoholic until we walk down that road. And it
is a very tough road.
Augustine intelligently said "He
alone does not fall into unlawful things who sometimes abstains by way
of caution even from lawful ones." Joseph Exell said "The pretense of
moral freedom may end in moral bondage."
You may have more moral freedom
than I do. My job is to love you and be glad for you, but also, in our
"freedom," we must ask ourselves some questions: 1)
What is the effect of my actions on myself? 2) What is
the result on my liberty in Christ? 3) How does this
effect others? 5) How does my conduct appear to God?
"Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do
away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the
Lord, and the Lord is for the body."
If our focus is on our senses,
do we have any time left for God? We are all needy, one way or another
--- If all we think about is ourselves and what we might want or need, how
can we have anything left to give to others?
My body is given to me, but I
prefer to think of it as ON LOAN. That is, it really belongs to God, as
YOUR body really belongs to God, as well. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 is clear
that "God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness…" and verse 8,
"he who rejects this idea does not reject man’s ideas, but God’s, who
has also given us His Holy Spirit."
You have probably heard an
argument that sex should never be forbidden, because "it is so
beautiful." Actually, it IS beautiful, but then, marriage is also
beautiful (though often it is marred by selfishness). Sex was created
by God, and is to be expressed in the marriage of a man and a woman.
The act is not complete without both love and lifetime commitment.
"Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through
There are those religious people
who don’t think much of the human body. This is especially true of
"Eastern" religions, where many feel the only way to rid life of
problems is to become some kind of bodiless spirit; mind without
matter. Interesting thought, but we don’t look to "ideas" as our source
of affirmation and information --- we look to the written Word of God.
In 1 Corinthians 15, we will
"see" the resurrection of the body. This old "bag of bones" we are
dragging around, is going to be changed. As the song goes, which was
taken from Ezekiel 37, "dem bones, dem bones, de’ gonna’ walk around!"
Frankly, I do not know why we have a physical state in eternity, but we
will. Adam and Eve were literal people with bodies in a sinless state.
The resurrected saints in the Book of Revelation are presented in bodily
form. That which was imperfect will be brought to perfection, and in
some kind of bodily form. We will be like our Lord. Incredible. He
walked through walls, and changed His appearance at will. Yet He walked
with a body in the shape of a man.
This is Paul’s point in the
context of these verses. Yes, we are frail, and yes, we have limited
physical and mental abilities, locked in a decaying spiral of time and
space. Depressing? Yes and no, for if we choose Christ, our loss is
temporary, and so are our limitations. That which is to be changed (our
bodies) are to be treated with the respect due to a place where the Holy
Spirit decides to live --- in you.
"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then
take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?
May it never be!"
Your body is His body. This
"tent" we live in has been loaned to us for a lifetime. At some point,
He will change it into an imperishable body which will last throughout
eternity. Like computers, the old programs are fading, passing out of
existence. But wait, we are not going to be without "programs" in the
future. He is preparing a new "program" for us, vital and alive with
unprecedented information. God is going to change you and me.
When we were young, many of us could
identify with the old song, "cigarettes and whiskey, and wild, wild
women." I did not particularly care for the song, but we liked the idea,
for that was what we thought about in those days. We were caught up in
the compulsion of the moment, just as surely as someone is taken by a
sudden current in the ocean. We were swept away by the cares of this
Paul, through the Holy Spirit,
says a great deal in this verse. He presents adultery and fornication
as OBVIOUSLY wrong behavior. It (and this would include homosexual as
well as heterosexual behavior) is self-destructive and in complete
error. That which God has given to us as a lovely vehicle for the
bringing of life into this world, is not to be used for selfish
"Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is
one body with her? For He says, ‘the two shall become one flesh.’"
In classical literature,
innocence is portrayed as something beautiful, and it is. We are
becoming ugly as a people, taking sweet innocence and flinging it into
the mud of life. Like attracts like, and we reach a point where, if the
one we had been hoping for came along, the relationship would no longer
work for us, because we would no longer be fit for them.
There is so much more than just
the physical in sex. The two become one. You might begin to consider
who you are spending your time with, for by being joined together with
other persons, you are becoming like them. There is a uniting of
people, in what we call the "sexual act" (as though it was merely some
kind of outward physical behavior). Keep in mind there are things
physical that join themselves together, when two unite as one.
"But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him."
The Lord is joined with those
who love Him. When I am in prayer in the morning, I am not alone, for
He is with me. That aching loneliness of my childhood --- is gone. He
touches me, deep inside what used to be the lonely place of my soul.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of
things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). And that is the unexpected benefit of
faith in Christ. We touch Him with the faith He has created in us
(Hebrews 12:2) and He reaches back with love. Indeed we are one with
"Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the
body, but the immoral man sins against his own body."
The great example of fleeing
sexual immorality is Joseph, son of Jacob. When Potiphar’s wife was
after him, he didn’t stop to discuss the matter, he ran out of the
room. Notice, however, that even though he did the right thing, he
ended up in prison. The woman was irritated and told on him to her
husband, lying through her teeth that Joseph had attacked her (it’s in
Genesis 39). Sometimes, when we do the right thing, as Joseph did, it
seems to blow up in our faces. But it is good to do that which is right,
as God leads, for He is in the business of turning "bad" into good,
because he loves us. God turned Joseph’s trouble into a great blessing,
not only for Joseph, but for a lot of other people, as well.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is
in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?"
This verse probes deeply into
the idea of abortion. The statement is often made, "It’s my body and I
can do with it what I want." No, it’s not. The body of the "fetus" is
not yours and the body you call "yours" is not yours either. Your child
belongs to God and so do you. When I was young, I participated in an
abortion. That is, I drove a young lady out of our country, to Mexico,
in order to pay for our child to be aborted by a "doctor" of
questionable ability. Finally, after a couple of days, the mother
stopped bleeding. "Phew," I thought; "that’s over." But it was not.
Not for me; not for the mother. This would have been our first born
The truly noble acts of history
have always been based on self-renunciation. In order to do what is
considered right, a man or woman loses themselves in some great cause,
for country, for science - some all-absorbing aim into which people find
something much greater than themselves. Christians have found the true
secret of losing in order to find something much better: We are not our
own, for we are bought and now are literally owned by God, who moves
right into our bodies; and there is a sign on our front "lawn" which
says "Sold, property of Almighty God!"
You might say, "I don’t believe
that." You can say that. Denial takes many forms. The death, burial,
and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not some religious belief, it is a
historic fact. He not only died, He died for you, and you are not your
own; you were bought with a price.
We have been asked the question
(in some sermon or another), "how would we act, if Jesus Christ walked
into our midst right now?" Carry that thought a little further: He
lives closer to you than that. He lives IN you, if you have received
Him. Every thought is known to Him of every person. Every movement of
your body is seen by Him. Paul says we should "pray without ceasing"
(1 Thessalonians 5:17) and in the light of these verses, we can see why.
"For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your
There was a time when we thought
of ourselves as "our own." We followed our own desires and went, as
much as possible, our own way. But we were really in bondage, slaves to
sin, and it left cruel marks upon us. The evil in us carried the
delusion of liberty, flattered our pride, and fostered selfishness in
us. All the while, the chains of spiritual bondage tightened around
us. Then came Christ Who shed His Blood for us.
Oh the PRICE that was paid for
you! It was a price you could not have paid, for no human could possibly
pay such a price. Someone walked into your debtor’s prison, where you
were sentenced to death, paid the price for your release, and then died
in your place. Therefore, you are not your own. You are His. Your
thoughts are not yours, but His, who lives in you. Your time is not
your own, but is Redeemed for the Redeemer. Your abilities and
influence are not yours but consecrated to Him who bought you. You are
not your own. Therefore, glorify God in your bodies
Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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