Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Corinthians 6
The Corinthians are reproved for their litigious disposition; brother going to law with brother, and that before the heathen, 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. They should suffer wrong rather than do any, 1 Corinthians 6:7, 1 Corinthians 6:8. No unrighteous person can enter into the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:10. Some of the Corinthians had been grievous sinners, but God had saved them, 1 Corinthians 6:11. Many things may be lawful which are not at all times expedient, 1 Corinthians 6:12. Meats are for the belly, and the belly for meats; but the body is not for uncleanness, 1 Corinthians 6:13. Christ's resurrection a pledge of ours, 1 Corinthians 6:14. The bodies of Christians are members of Christ, and must not be defiled, 1 Corinthians 6:15-17. He that commits fornication sins against his own body, 1 Corinthians 6:18. Strong dissuasives from it, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20.
Dare any of you, etc. - From the many things that are here reprehended by the apostle, we learn that the Christian Church at Corinth was in a state of great imperfection, notwithstanding there were very many eminent characters among them. Divided as they were among themselves, there was no one person who possessed any public authority to settle differences between man and man; therefore, as one party would not submit to the decisions of another, they were obliged to carry their contentions before heathen magistrates; and probably these very subjects of litigations arose out of their ecclesiastical divisions. The thing, and this issue of it, the apostle strongly reprehends.
Before the unjust, and not before the saints? - The heathen judges were termed δικασται from their presumed righteousness in the administration of justice; here the apostle, by a paronomasia, calls them αδικοι, unrighteous persons; and it is very likely that at Corinth, where such corruption of manners reigned, there was a great perversion of public justice; and it is not to be supposed that matters relative to the Christians were fairly decided. The Christians the apostle terms ἁγιοι saints, which they were all by profession; and doubtless many were so in spirit and in truth.
The saints shall judge the world? - Nothing can be more evident than that the writers of the New Testament often use ὁ κοσμος, the world, to signify the Jewish people; and sometimes the Roman empire, and the Jewish state; and in the former sense it is often used by our Lord. When, says he, the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, then shall ye sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28. It is supposed that he refers to the same subject as that mentioned here - the saints judging the world; and that St. Paul has his words in view in what he says here to the Corinthians. By judging the twelve tribes of Israel, some have imagined that having authority in the Church is merely intended; but Dr. Lightfoot contends that the words referred to the coming of our Lord to execute judgment on the Jews, and to destroy their state; and that the doctrine of the apostles, not themselves, was to judge and condemn that most disobedient people. The place before us is generally understood to imply, that the redeemed of the Lord shall be, on the great day, assessors with him in judgment; and shall give their award in the determinations of his justice. On reviewing this subject, I am fully of opinion that this cannot be the meaning of the words, and that no such assessorship as is contended for ever will take place; and that the interpretation is clogged with a multitude of absurdities.
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? - Dr. Lightfoot observes that "the apostle does not say here, as he said before, the saints shall judge the angels, but We shall judge them. By angels, all confess that demons are intended; but certainly all saints, according to the latitude with which that word is understood, i.e. all who profess Christianity, shall not judge angels. Nor is this judging of angels to be understood of the last day; but the apostle speaks of the ministers of the Gospel, himself and others, who, by the preaching of the Gospel, through the power of Christ, should spoil the devils of their oracles and their idols, should deprive them of their worship, should drive them out of their seats, and strip them of their dominion. Thus would God subdue the whole world under the Christian power, so that Christian magistrates should judge men, and Christian ministers judge devils."
Things pertaining to this life - They could examine all civil cases among themselves, which they were permitted to determine without any hinderance from the heathen governments under which they lived.
Who are least esteemed in the Church - Τους εξουθενημενους, Those who were in the lowest order of judges; for the apostle may refer here to the order in the Jewish benches, as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, of which there were five, viz.: -
Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? - Have you none among yourselves that can be arbitrators of the differences which arise, that you go to the heathen tribunals?
Brother goeth to law with brother - One Christian sues another at law! This is almost as great a scandal as can exist in a Christian society. Those in a religious community who will not submit to a proper arbitration, made by persons among themselves, should be expelled from the Church of God.
There is utterly a fault among you - There is a most manifest defect among you,
Nay, ye do wrong - Far from suffering, ye are the aggressors; and defraud your pious, long-suffering brethren, who submit to this wrong rather than take those methods of redressing their grievances which the spirit of Christianity forbids. Probably the apostle refers to him who had taken his father's wife.
The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom - The unrighteous, αδικοι, those who act contrary to right, cannot inherit, for the inheritance is by right. He who is not a child of God has no right to the family inheritance, for that inheritance is for the children. If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17. There are here ten classes of transgressors which the apostle excludes from the kingdom of God; and any man who is guilty of any one of the evils mentioned above is thereby excluded from this kingdom, whether it imply the Church of Christ here below, or the state of glory hereafter.
Several of the evils here enumerated will not bear to be particularly explained; they are, however, sufficiently plain of themselves, and show us what abominations were commonly practised among the Corinthians.
And such were some of you - It was not with the prospect of collecting saints that the apostles went about preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. None but sinners were to be found over the face of the earth; they preached that sinners might be converted unto God, made saints, and constituted into a Church; and this was the effect as well as the object of their preaching.
But ye are washed - Several suppose that the order in which the operations of the grace of God take place in the soul is here inverted; but I am of a very different mind. Every thing will appear here in its order, when we understand the terms used by the apostle.
Ye are washed, απελουσασθε ; ye have been baptized into the Christian faith, and ye have promised in this baptism to put off all filthiness of the flesh and spirit: and the washing of your bodies is emblematical of the purification of your souls.
Ye are sanctified - Ἡγιασθητε ; from α, privative, and γη, the earth; ye are separated from earthly things to be connected with spiritual. Ye are separated from time to be connected with eternity. Ye are separated from idols to be joined to the living God. Separation from common, earthly, or sinful uses, to be wholly employed in the service of the true God, is the ideal meaning of this word, both in the Old and New Testaments. It was in consequence of their being separated from the world that they became a Church of God. Ye were formerly workers of iniquity, and associated with workers of iniquity; but now ye are separated from them, and united together to work out your salvation with fear and trembling before God.
Ye are justified - Εδικαιωθητε· Ye have been brought into a state of favor with God; your sins having been blotted out through Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God witnessing the same to your conscience, and carrying on by his energy the great work of regeneration in your hearts. The process here is plain and simple: -
All things are lawful unto me - It is likely that some of the Corinthians had pleaded that the offense of the man who had his father's wife, as well as the eating the things offered to idols, was not contrary to the law, as it then stood. To this the apostle answers: Though such a thing be lawful, yet the case of fornication, mentioned 1 Corinthians 5:1, is not expedient, ου συμφερει - it is not agreeable to propriety, decency, order, and purity. It is contrary to the established usages of the best and most enlightened nations, and should not be tolerated in the Church of Christ.
They might also be led to argue in favor of their eating things offered to idols, and attending idol feasts, thus: - that an idol was nothing in the world; and as food was provided by the bounty of God, a man might partake of it any where without defiling his conscience, or committing sin against the Creator. This excuse also the apostle refers to. All these things are lawful, taken up merely in the light that none of your laws is against the first; and that, on the ground that an idol is nothing in the world, there can be no reason against the last;
But I will not be brought under the power of any - Allowing that they are all lawful, or at least that there is no law against them, yet they are not expedient; there is no necessity for them; and some of them are abominable, and forbidden by the law of God and nature, whether forbidden by yours or not; while others, such as eating meats offered to idols, will almost necessarily lead to bad moral consequences: and who, that is a Christian, would obey his appetite so far as to do these things for the sake of gratification? A man is brought under the power of any thing which he cannot give up. He is the slave of that thing, whatsoever it be, which he cannot relinquish; and then, to him, it is sin.
Meats for the belly - I suppose that κοιλια means the animal appetite, or propensity to food, etc., and we may conceive the apostle to reason thus: I acknowledge that God has provided different kinds of aliments for the appetite of man, and among others those which are generally offered to idols; and he has adapted the appetite to these aliments, and the aliments to the appetite: but God shall destroy both it and them; none of these is eternal; all these lower appetites and sensations will be destroyed by death, and have no existence in the resurrection body; and the earth and its productions shall be burnt up.
Now the body is not for fornication - Though God made an appetite for food, and provided food for that appetite, yet he has not made the body for any uncleanness, nor indulgence in sensuality; but he has made it for Christ; and Christ was provided to be a sacrifice for this body as well as for the soul, by taking our nature upon him; so that now, as human beings, we have an intimate relationship to the Lord; and our bodies are made not only for his service, but to be his temples.
And God hath both raised up the Lord - He has raised up the human nature of Christ from the grave, as a pledge of our resurrection; and will also raise us up by his own power, that we may dwell with him in glory for ever.
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? - Because he has taken your nature upon him, and thus, as believers in him, ye are the members of Christ.
Shall I then take, etc. - Shall we, who profess to be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, connect ourselves with harlots, and thus dishonor and pollute the bodies which are members of Christ? God forbid! These passages admit of a more literal interpretation. This, if given at all, I must give in a strange language.
Membra humana, ad generationem pertinentia, vocantur Membra Christi, quia mysterium conjunctionis Christi et Ecclesiae per conjunctionem maris et faeminae indigitatur, Ephesians 5:32. In Vet. Test. idem valebat de membro masculino, guippe quod circumcisione, tanquam signo faederis, honoratum est. Vide Schoettgen, Hor. Hebr.
He that is joined to a harlot is one body - In Sohar Genes., fol. 19, we have these remarkable words: Whosoever connects himself with another man's wife, does in effect renounce the holy blessed God, and the Church of the Israelites.
Is one spirit - He who is united to God, by faith in Christ Jesus, receives his Spirit, and becomes a partaker of the Divine nature. Who can change such a relationship for communion with a harlot; or for any kind of sensual gratification? He who can must be far and deeply fallen!
Flee fornication - Abominate, detest, and escape from every kind of uncleanness. Some sins, or solicitations to sin, may be reasoned with; in the above cases, if you parley you are undone; reason not, but Fly!
Sinneth against his own body - Though sin of every species has a tendency to destroy life, yet none are so mortal as those to which the apostle refers; they strike immediately at the basis of the constitution. By the just judgment of God, all these irregular and sinful connections are married to death. Neither prostitutes, whoremongers, nor unclean persons of any description, can live out half their days. It would be easy to show, and prove also, how the end of these things, even with respect to the body, is death; but I forbear, and shall finish the subject with the words of the prophet: The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not; wo unto their soul, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost - What an astonishing saying is this! As truly as the living God dwelt in the Mosaic tabernacle, and in the temple of Solomon, so truly does the Holy Ghost dwell in the souls of genuine Christians; and as the temple and all its utensils were holy, separated from all common and profane uses, and dedicated alone to the service of God, so the bodies of genuine Christians are holy, and all their members should be employed in the service of God alone.
And ye are not your own? - Ye have no right over yourselves, to dispose either of your body, or any of its members, as you may think proper or lawful; you are bound to God, and to him you are accountable.
Ye are bought with a price - As the slave who is purchased by his master for a sum of money is the sole property of that master, so ye, being bought with the price of the blood of Christ, are not your own, you are his property. As the slave is bound to use all his skill and diligence for the emolument of his master, so you should employ body, soul, and spirit in the service of your Lord; promoting, by every means in your power, the honor and glory of your God, whom you must also consider as your Lord and Master.
There are strange discordances in MSS., versions, and fathers, on the conclusion of this verse; and the clauses και εν τῳ πνευματι ὑμων, ἁτινα εστι του Θεου, and in your spirit, which is God's, is wanting in ABC*D*EFG, some others, Coptic, Ethiopic, Vulgate, and Itala, and in several of the primitive fathers. Almost every critic of note considers them to be spurious. Whether retained or expunged the sense is the same. Instead of price simply, the Vulgate and some of the Latin fathers, read, pretio magno, with a great price; and instead of glorify, simply, they read glorificate et portate, glorify and carry God in your bodies. These readings appear to be glosses intended to explain the text. Litigious Christians, who will have recourse to law for every little difference, as well as the impure, may read this chapter either to their conviction or confusion.
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