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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
1 Corinthians 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20

(c) 6:1-11. Christians and Litigation

St. Paul reproves the Corinthians for referring their disputes about ordinary affairs to heathen judges. The subject was suggested by rumours he had heard; and the mention of 'judgment' in 1 Corinthians 6:13 of the previous chapter prompted its treatment at this stage.

1-6. Paraphrase. 'How is it that when you quarrel with one another you go before heathen judges and do not let some of the brethren decide your matter? (2) You spoke of the saints judging the world, why not allow them to settle these trifles? (3) You spoke of Christians as looking to sit in judgment on angels; why not then let them deal with the ordinary affairs of life? (4) And if you must have these things settled formally, make umpires of unimportant Church members rather than heathen. (5) I write thus to make you ashamed. Is there really no wise man among you who can be trusted to judge between his brethren, (6) and to prevent this unseemly practice of calling in unbelievers to settle your disputes?'

1. Dare any of you] Such action was antagonistic to the Christian spirit. The unjust] RV 'the unrighteous,' i.e. the heathen. The name is used in irony for 'unbelievers' (1 Corinthians 6:6). 'Do you call the heathen unjust, and yet dare to go to them alone for justice?' Saints] i.e. Christians.

2. That the saints shall judge the world] This v. and the two following vv. are written sarcastically. They appeal to the 'knowledge' of the Corinthians, and it is probable that they were suggested by expressions in the letter sent by the Corinthians to St. Paul. They were puffed up with spiritual pride (1 Corinthians 5:2), and in their conceit and vanity had spoken of their hope to judge both men (1 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 6:2) and angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). If this be their expectation, says the Apostle, surely they are capable, even the meanest of them, of judging in matters of daily life. To take these expressions, about the saints judging the world and angeis. seriously, is to miss the point of the Apostle's argument. Besides, he has already said that the Christians (both he and they) had nothing to do with judging the world, which was God's part (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). (See Ramsay, 'Hist. Com. on Corinthians,' in 'Expositor,' VI. 4, p. 278.)

6. Before the unbelievers] The Corinthian converts referred their disputes about matters of daily life, such as 'prices and ownership' (Ramsay), to heathen judges or arbitrators. St. Paul urges them, if quarrel they must, to choose arbitrators from among the brethren.

7-11. Paraphrase. 'But the fault lies deeper than this, for you should have no such disputes at all. Far better be wronged and defrauded (8) than wrong and defraud your brethren. (9, 10) After all, in the end the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And who are the unrighteous but the unchaste, the greedy, the drunken, and the extortionate, none of whom have any part in that kingdom? (11) Such indeed were some of you Corinthians; but since your baptism you have professed that you are seeking to become pure and holy through the influence of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.'

7. There is utterly a fault] RV 'Already it is altogether a defect in you.' St. Paul here ceases to employ raillery, the weapon he has used so effectively in the previous vv., and remonstrates with them in the most serious fashion. The real fault was not in going to heathen judges to get their disputes arranged, but in having occasion to call in any one at all.

9. Shall not inherit the kingdom] i.e. have no share in its present privileges and future blessings. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36); its blessings and privileges are spiritual; how then could such unspiritual men as those enumerated, whose conduct tended to harden the heart and dull the spiritual insight, have any part in it? cp. Acts 8:21.

11. Ye are washed] RM 'ye washed yourselves,' i.e. submitted to baptism as the sign of the washing away of your sin.

Sanctified] set apart, dedicated to God's service. Justified] accepted as righteous.

In the name of the Lord] i.e. through spiritual union with Him and continual submission to His influence.

(d) 6:12-20. The Obligation of Purity

The Corinthians seemed to have claimed that they were free to satisfy all bodily desires now that the gospel had set them free from the association of eating with idolatry.

St. Paul points out, first, that there are qualifications of this freedom even in things that are morally indifferent, and then that fornication is not one of these things. The subject arises naturally out of what he has said in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:10.

12-20. Paraphrase. 'It is true as you suggest that “all things are lawful” but this is not an absolute but a relative principle. You must not argue that the existence of appetites proves the lawfulness of their gratification: you must take care that what is lawful is also wise, and that appetite does not make you its slave. (13, 14) Both food and the organ which digests it are perishable. But the body has an eternal element, and unchastity harms that eternal element, designed as it is for the service of Christ and participation in the Resurrection. (15-17) You know that your bodies partake in the mystic union that exists between Christ and His people. How shameful is it, therefore, to violate this union by acts of immorality. Such acts cause a carnal union between those who participate in them, just as Scripture speaks of husband and wife being "one flesh": whereas the Christian is united to Christ in a spiritual union. And the immoral union is destructive of the spiritual union. (18, 19) Therefore keep yourselves unspotted by this sin; for there is none that defiles the body like this and makes it unfit for the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. (20) Remember that you are not your own possession; you have been purchased by Christ who has given His life for you; therefore, see that you honour Him by consecrating your very bodies to His service.'

12. All things are lawful] cp. 1 Corinthians 10:23. St. Paul seems to have stated this as a principle in regard to the use of certain kinds of food (e.g. meats offered to idols, 1 Corinthians 10:25, 1 Corinthians 10:27), and the Corinthians had applied it generally to sensual indulgences. The Apostles, therefore, while still asserting the principle, points out two qualifications of it; (a) that what is lawful should also be beneficial, and (b) that no one should become a slave even to a lawful habit. We shall best understand the principle and its application if we think of it in relation to some such modern practice as, e.g., the use of strong drink.

13. Meats] An instance of things indifferent: cp. 1 Corinthians 8-10, where this matter is treated at length. St. Paul grants liberty in respect of meats; but the liberty does not excuse violating another man's conscience or becoming a slave to gluttony. Now the body is not, etc.] The Corinthians regarded the use of food and fornication as exactly on the same level, as both satisfying appetites: they held that the existence of bodily appetites justified their gratification. St. Paul, on the contrary, draws a sharp line of distinction between these two things.

14. Will also raise up us] St. Paul's argument in the whole passage is based on his view of the Resurrection which he explained in 1 Corinthians 15 : see esp. 1 Corinthians 15:35-53. Man's body is eternal; death and the grave do not destroy but purify and change it, as the earth removes the husk and glorifies the corn cast into it.

16. Saith he] i.e. God in Scripture (Genesis 2:24).

One flesh] The words spoken first of marriage are applied here to an unholy union. St. Paul does not place the two on the same plane, but only points out that in this one respect they are similar.

17. One spirit] i.e. he shares in the life of the Lord: cp. John 15:4, John 15:5.

18. Without the body] i.e. outside it; do not affect its spiritual nature and destiny in the same way as this sin. Sinneth against his own body] see on 1 Corinthians 6:14.

19. The temple] i.e. the shrine wherein He dwells: cp. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16.

Ye are not your own] The best of all reasons for not defiling the body.

20. Bought with a price] Christ has given Himself for you, and you are His; yea, God has given Christ for you, and you belong to God through Him.

Glorify God in your body] RV omits the rest. St. Paul is dwelling on the necessity of bodily purity, and appropriately concludes with this appeal.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/1-corinthians-6.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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