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The main design of this chapter is to reprove the Corinthians for the practice of going to law before pagan courts, or magistrates, instead of settling their differences among themselves. It seems that after their conversion they were still in the habit of carrying their causes before pagan tribunals, and this the apostle regarded as contrary to the genius and spirit of the Christian religion, and as tending to expose religion to contempt in the eyes of the people of the world. He, therefore, 1 Corinthians 6:1-7, reproves this practice, and shows them that their differences should be settled among themselves. It seems also that the spirit of litigation and of covetousness had led them in some instances to practice fraud and oppression of each other, and he, therefore, takes occasion 1 Corinthians 6:8-11 to show that this was wholly inconsistent with the hope of heaven and the nature of Christianity.
It would seem, also, that some at Corinth had not only indulged in these and kindred vices, but had actually defended them. This was done by plausible, but sophistical arguments, drawn from the strong passions of people; from the fact that the body was made for eating and drinking, etc. To these arguments the apostle replies in the close of the chapter, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, and especially considers the sin of fornication, to which they were particularly exposed in Corinth, and shows the heinousness of it, and its entire repugnance to the pure gospel of Christ.
Dare any of you - The reasons why the apostle introduced this subject here may have been:
- That he had mentioned the subject of judging 1 Corinthians 5:13, and that naturally suggested the topic which is here introduced; and,
- This might have been a prevailing evil in the church of Corinth, and demanded correction. The word “dare” here implies that it was inconsistent with religion, and improper. “can you do it; is it proper or right; or do you presume so far to violate all the principles of Christianity as to do it.”
Having a matter - A subject of litigation; or a suit. There may be differences between people in regard to property and right, in which there shall be no blame on either side. They may both be desirous of having it equitably and amicably adjusted. It is not a difference between people that is in itself wrong, but it is the spirit with which the difference is adhered to, and the unwillingness to have justice done that is so often wrong.
Against another - Another member of the congregation. A Christian brother. The apostle here directs his reproof against the “plaintiff,” as having the choice of the tribunal before which he would bring the cause.
Before the unjust - The pagan tribunals; for the word “unjust” here evidently stands opposed to the saints. The apostle does not mean that they were always unjust in their decisions, or that equity could in no case be hoped from them, but that they were classed in that division of the world which was different from the saints, and is synonymous with unbelieveRS, as opposed to believers.
And not before the saints - Before Christians. Can you not settle your differences among yourselves as Christians, by leaving the cause to your brethren, as arbitrators, instead of going before pagan magistrates? The Jews would not allow any of their causes to be brought before the Gentile courts. Their rule was this, “He that tries a cause before the judges of the Gentiles, and before their tribunals, although their judgments are as the judgments of the Israelites, so this is an ungodly man,” etc. Maimon, Hilch, Sanhedrin, chapter 26 section 7. They even looked upon such an action as bad as profaning the name of God.
Do ye not know ... - The object of this verse is evidently to show that Christians were qualified to determine controversies which might arise among themselves. This the apostle shows by reminding them that they shall be engaged in determining matters of much more moment than those which could arise among the members of a church on earth; and that if qualified for that, they must be regarded as qualified to express a judgment on the questions which might arise among their brethren in the churches.
The saints - “Christians,” for the word is evidently used in the same sense as in 1 Corinthians 6:1. The apostle says that they knew this, or that this was so well established a doctrine that none could doubt it. It was to be admitted on all hands.
Shall judge the world - A great variety of interpretations has been given to this passage. Grotius supposes it means that they shall be first judged by Christ, and then act as assessors to him in the judgment, or join with him in condemning the wicked; and he appeals to Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30, where Christ says that they which have followed him should “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” See the note at Matthew 19:28. Whitby supposes that it means that Christians are to judge or condemn the world by their example, or that there shall be Christian magistrates, according to the prophecy of Isaiah Isaiah 49:23, and Daniel Daniel 7:18 - Rosenmuller supposes it means that Christians are to judge the errors and sins of people pertaining to religion, as in 1 Corinthians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:16; and that they ought to be able, therefore, to judge the smaller matters pertaining to this life. Bloomfield, and the Greek fathers, and commentators, suppose that this means, that the saints will furnish matter to condemn the world; that is, by their lives and example they shall be the occasion of the greater condemnation of the world. But to this there are obvious objections:
(1) It is an unusual meaning of the word “judge.”
(2) It does not meet the case before us.
The apostle is evidently saying that Christians will occupy so high and important a station in the work of judging the world that they ought to be regarded as qualified to exercise judgment on the things pertaining to this life; but the fact that their holy lives shall be the occasion of the deeper condemnation of the world does not seem to furnish any plain reason for this - To the opinion, also, of Whitby, Lightfoot, Vitringa, etc. that it refers to the fact that Christians would be magistrates, and governors, etc. according to the predictions of Isaiah and Daniel, there are obvious objections:
(1) The judgment to which Paul in this verse refers is different from that pertaining to things of this life 1 Corinthians 6:3, but the judgment which Christian magistrates would exercise, as such, would relate to them.
(2) It is not easy to see in this interpretation how, or in what sense, the saints shall judge the angels, 1 Corinthians 6:3, the common interpretation, that of Grotius, Beza, Calvin, Doddridge, etc. is that it refers to the future judgment, and that Christians will on that day be employed in some manner in judging the world.
That this is the true interpretation, is apparent for the following reasons:
(1) It is the obvious interpretation - that which will strike the great mass of people, and is likely, therefore, to be the true one.
(2) It accords with the account in Matthew 19:28, and Luke 22:30.
(3) It is the only one which gives a fair interpretation to the declaration that the saints should judge angels in 1 Corinthians 6:3. If asked “in what way” this is to be done, it may be answered, that it may be meant simply that Christians shall be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and shall encompass his throne; that they shall assent to, and approve of his judgment, that they shall be elevated to a post of honor and favor, as if they were associated with him in the Judgment. They shall then he regarded as his friends, and express their approbation, and that “with a deep sense of its justice,” of the condemnation of the wicked. Perhaps the idea is, not that they shall “pronounce” sentence, which will be done by the Lord Jesus, but that they shall then be qualified to see the justice of the condemnation which shall be passed on the wicked; they shall have a clear and distinct view of the case; they shall even see the propriety of their everlasting punishment, and shall not only approve it, but be qualified to enter into the subject, and to pronounce upon it intelligently. And the argument of the apostle is, that if they would be qualified to pronounce on the eternal doom of men and angels; if they had such views of justice and right, and such integrity as to form an opinion and express it in regard to the everlasting destiny of an immense host of immortal beings, assuredly they ought to be qualified to express their sense of the smaller transactions in this life, and pronounce an opinion between man and man.
Are ye unworthy - Are you disqualified.
The smallest matters - Matters of least consequence - matters of little moment, scarcely worth naming compared with the great and important realities of eternity. The “smallest matters” here mean, the causes, suits, and litigations relating to property, etc.
Shall judge angels - All the angels that shall be judged, good or bad. Probably the reference is to fallen angels, as there is no account that holy angels will then undergo a trial. The sense is, “Christians will be qualified to see the justice of even the sentence which is pronounced on fallen angels. They will be able so to embrace and comprehend the nature of law, and the interests of justice, as to see the propriety of their condemnation. And if they can so far enter into these important and eternal relations, assuredly they ought to be regarded as qualified to discern the nature of justice ‘among men,’ and to settle the unimportant differences which may arise in the church.” Or, perhaps, this may mean that the saints shall in the future world be raised to a rank in some respects more elevated than even the angels in heaven. (Prof. Stuart.) In what respects they will be thus elevated, if this is the true interpretation, can be only a matter of conjecture. It may be supposed that it will be because they have been favored by being interested in the plan of salvation - a plan that has done so much to honor God; and that “to have been” thus saved by the “immediate and painful” intervention of the Son of God, will be a higher honor than all the privileges which beings can enjoy who are innocent themselves.
Ye have judgments - Causes; controversies; suits.
Things pertaining to this life - Property, etc.
Set them to judge ... - The verb translated set καθίζετε kathizete may be either in the imperative mood, as in our translation, and then it will imply a command; or it may be regarded as in the indicative, and to be rendered interrogatively, “Do ye set or appoint them to judge who are of little repute for their wisdom and equity?” that is, pagan magistrates. The latter is probably the correct rendering, as according to the former no good reason can be given why Paul should command them to select as judges those who had little repute for wisdom in the church. Had he designed this as a command, he would doubtless have directed them to choose their most aged, wise and experienced men, instead of those “least esteemed.” It is manifest, therefore, that this is to he read as a question: “Since you are abundantly qualified yourselves to settle your own differences, do you employ the pagan magistrates, in whom the church can have little confidence for their integrity and justice?” It is designed, therefore, as a severe reproof for what they had been accustomed to do; and an implied injunction that they should do it no more.
Who are least esteemed - (ἐξουθενημένους exouthenēmenous). Who are “contemned,” or regarded as of no value or worth; in whose judgment and integrity you can have little or no confidence. According to the interpretation given above of the previous part of the verse this refers to the pagan magistrates - to people in whose virtue, piety and qualifications for just judgment Christians could have little confidence; and whose judgment must be regarded as in fact of very little value, and as very little likely to be correct. That the pagan magistrates were in general very corrupt, there can be no doubt. Many of them were people of abandoned character, of dissipated lives, men who were easily bribed, and people, therefore, in whose judgment Christians could repose little confidence. Paul reproves the Corinthians for going before them with their disputes when they could better settle them themselves. Others, however, who regard this whole passage as an instruction to Christians to appoint those to determine their controversies who were least esteemed, suppose that this refers to the “lowest orders” of judges among the Hebrews; to those who were least esteemed, or who were almost despised; and that Paul directs them to select even them in preference to the pagan magistrates. See Lightfoot. But the objection to this is obvious and insuperable. Paul would not have recommended this class of people to decide their causes, but would have recommended the selection of the most wise and virtuous among them. This is proved by 1 Corinthians 6:5, where, in directing them to settle their matters among themselves, he asks whether there is not a “wise man” among them, clearly proving that he wished their difficulties adjusted, not by the most obscure and the least respected members of the church, but by the most wise and intelligent members.
In the church - By the church. That is, the pagan magistrates evince such a character as not to be worthy of the confidence of the church in settling matters of controversy.
I speak to your shame - I declare that which is a reproach to you, that your matters of dispute are carried before pagan tribunals.
Is it so ... - Can it be that in the Christian church - the church collected in refined and enlightened Corinth - there is not a single member so wise, intelligent and prudent that his brethren may have confidence in him, and refer their causes to him? Can this be the case in a church that boasts so much of its wisdom, and that prides itself so much in the number and qualifications of its intelligent members?
But brother ... - One Christian goes to law with another. This is designed as a reproof. This was wrong:
- Because they ought rather to take wrong and suffer themselves to be injured 1 Corinthians 6:7;
- Because they might have chosen some persons to settle the matter by arbitration without a formal trial; and,
- Because the civil constitution would have allowed them to have settled all their differences without a lawsuit.
Josephus says that the Romans (who were now masters of Corinth) permitted the Jews in foreign countries to decide private affairs, where nothing capital was in question, among themselves. And Dr. Lardner observes, that the Christians might have availed themselves of this permission to have settled their disputes in the same manner. Credibility, vol. 1:p. 165.
There is utterly a fault - There is ALtogether a fault; or you are entirely wrong in this thing.
That ye go to law ... - That is, in the sense under discussion, or before pagan magistrates. This was the point under discussion, and the interpretation should be limited to this. Whatever may be the propriety or impropriety of going to law before Christian magistrates, yet the point which the apostle refers to was that of going to law before pagans. The passage, therefore, should not be interpreted as referring to all litigation, but only of that which was the subject of discussion. The apostle says that that was wholly wrong; that they ought by no means to go with their causes against their fellow Christians before pagan magistrates; that whoever had the right side of the question, and whatever might be the decision, “the thing itself” was unChristian and wrong; and that rather than dishonor religion by a trial or suit of this kind they ought to be willing to take wrong, and to suffer any personal and private injustice. The argument is, that greater evil would be done to the cause of Christ by the fact of Christians appearing before a pagan tribunal with their disputes than could result to either party from the injury done by the other - And this is probably always the case; so that although the apostle refers here to pagan tribunals the same reasoning, on the principle, would apply to Christians carrying their causes into the courts at all.
Why do ye not rather take wrong? - Why do ye not suffer yourself to be injured rather than to dishonor the cause of religion by your litigations? They should do this:
(1) Because religion requires its friends to be willing to suffer wrong patiently; Proverbs 20:22; Matthew 5:39-40; Romans 12:17, Rom 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15.
(2) Because great injury results to the cause of religion from such trials. The private wrong which an individual would suffer, in perhaps all cases, would be a less evil on the whole than the public injury which is done to the cause of piety by the litigations and strifes of Christian brethren before a civil court.
(3) The differences among Christians could be adjusted among themselves, by a reference to their brethren. In 99 cases out of 100, the decision would be more likely to be just and satisfactory to all parties from an amicable reference, than from the decisions of a civil court. In “the very few” cases where it would be otherwise, it would be better for the individual to suffer, than for the cause of religion to suffer. Christians ought to love the cause of their Master more than their own individual interest. They ought to be more afraid that the cause of Jesus Christ would be injured than that they should be a few pounds poorer from the conduct of others, or than that they should individually suffer in their character from the injustice of others.
To be defrauded? - Receive injury; or suffer a loss of property. Grotius thinks that the word “take wrong” refers to personal insult; and the word “defrauded” refers to injury in property. Together, they are probably designed to refer to all kinds of injury and injustice. And the apostle means to say, that they had better submit to any kind of injustice than carry the cause against a Christian brother before a pagan tribunal. The doctrine here taught is that Christians ought by no means to go to law with each other before a pagan tribunal; that they ought to be willing to suffer any injury from a Christian brother rather than do it. And by implication the same thing is taught in regard to the duty of all Christians, “that they ought to suffer any injury to their persons and property rather than dishonor religion by litigations before civil magistrates.” It may be asked then whether law suits are never proper; or whether courts of justice are never to be resorted to by Christians to secure their rights? To this question we may reply, that the discussion of Paul relates only to Christians, when both parties are Christians, and that it is designed to prohibit such an appeal to courts by them. If ever lawful for Christians to depart from this rule, or for Christians to appear before a civil tribunal, it is conceived that it can be only in circumstances like the following:
(1) Where two or more Christians may have a difference, and where they know not what is right, and what the law is in a case. In such instances there may be a reference to a civil court to determine it - to have what is called “an amicable suit,” to ascertain from the proper authority what the law is, and what is justice in the case.
(2) When there are causes of difference between Christians and the people of the world. As the people of the world do not acknowledge the propriety of submitting the matter to the church, it may be proper for a Christian to carry the matter before a civil tribunal. Evidently, there is no other way, in such cases, of settling a cause; and this mode may be resorted to not with a spirit of revenge, but with a spirit of love and kindness. Courts are instituted for the settlement of the rights of citizens, and people by becoming Christians do not alienate their rights as citizens. Even these cases, however, might commonly be adjusted by a reference to impartial people. better than by the slow, and expensive, and tedious, and often irritating process of carrying a cause through the courts.
(3) Where a Christian is injured in his person, character, or property, he has a right to seek redress. Courts, are instituted for the protection and defense of the innocent and the peaceable against the fraudulent, the wicked, and the violent. And a Christian owes it to his country, to his family, and to himself, that the man who has injured him should receive the proper punishment. The peace and welfare of the community demand it. If a man murders my wife or child, I owe it to the laws and to my country, to justice and to God, to endeavor to have the law enforced. So if a man robs my property, or injures my character, I may owe it to others as well as to myself that the law in such a case should be executed, and the rights of others also be secured. But in all these cases, a Christian should engage in such prosecutions not with a desire of revenge, not with the love of litigation, but with the love of justice, and of God, and with a mild, tender, candid and forgiving temper, with a real desire that the opponent may be benefited, and that all his rights also should be secured; compare the notes on Romans 13:0.
Nay, ye do wrong ... - Instead of enduring wrong patiently and cheerfully. they were themselves guilty oi injustice and fraud.
And that your brethren - Your fellow Christians. As if they had injured those of their own family - those to whom they ought to be attached by most tender ties. The offence in such cases is aggravated, not because it is in itself any worse to injure a Christian than another man, but because it shows a deeper depravity, when a man overcomes all the ties of kindness and love, and injures those who are near to him, than it does where no such ties exist. It is for this reason that parricide, infanticide, etc. are regarded everywhere as crimes of special atrocity, because a child or a parent must have severed all the tenderest cords of virtue before it could be done.
Know ye not ... - The apostle introduces the declaration in this verse to show the evil of their course, and especially of the injustice which they did one to another, and their attempt to enforce and maintain the evil by an appeal to the pagan tribunals. He assures them, therefore, that the unjust could not be saved.
The unrighteous - The unjust ἄδικοι adikoi - such as he had just mentioned - they who did injustice to others, and attempted to do it under the sanction of the courts.
Shall not inherit - Shall not possess; shall not enter into. The kingdom of heaven is often represented as an “inheritance;” Matthew 19:29; Matthew 25:34; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25; Luke 18:18; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 5:5.
The kingdom of God - Cannot be saved; cannot enter into heaven; see the note at Matthew 3:2. This may refer either to the kingdom of God in heaven; or to the church on earth - most probably the former. But the sense is the same essentially, whichever is meant. The man who is not fit to enter into the one is not fit to enter into the other. The man who is fit to enter the kingdom of God on earth, shall also enter into that in heaven.
Be not deceived - A most important direction to be given to all. It implies:
(1) That they were in danger of being deceived:
- Their own hearts might have deceived them.
- They might be deceived by their false opinions on these subjects.
- They might be in danger of being deceived by their leaders, who perhaps held the opinion that some of the persons who practiced these things could be saved.
(2) It implies, that there was “no necessity” of their being deceived. They might know the truth. They might easily understand these matters. It might be plain to them that those who indulged in these things could not be saved.
(3) It implies that it was of high importance that they should not be deceived. For:
- The soul is of infinite value.
- To lose heaven - to be disappointed in regard to that, will be a tremendous loss.
- To inherit hell and its woes will be a tremendous curse. O how anxious should all be that they he not deceived, and that while they hope for life they do not sink down to everlasting death!
Neither fornicators - See Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:4-5; Hebrews 12:14; Hebrews 13:4. See the note at Romans 1:29.
Nor effeminate - μαλακοὶ malakoi. This word occurs in Matthew 11:8, and Luke 7:25, where it is applied to clothing, and translated “soft raiment;” that is, the light, thin garments worn by the rich and great. It occurs no where else in the New Testament except here. Applied to morals, as it is here, it denotes those who give themselves up to a soft, luxurious, and indolent way of living; who make self-indulgence the grand object of life; who can endure no hardship, and practice no self-denial in the cause of duty and of God. The word is applied in the classic writers to the Cinaedi, the Pathics, or Catamites; those who are given up to wantonness and sensual pleasures, or who are kept to be prostituted to others. Diog. Laer. Luke 7:5, Luke 7:4. Xenoph. Mem. Luke 3:7. Luke 3:1. Ovid Fast. 4:342. The connection here seems to demand such an interpretation, as it occurs in the description of vices of the same class - sensual and corrupt indulgences - It is well known that this vice was common among the Greeks - and particularly prevailed at Corinth.
Abusers of themselves with mankind - ἀρσενοκοῖτοι arsenokoitoi. Paederastae or Sodomites. Those who indulged in a vice that was common among all the pagan; see the notes at Romans 1:27.
Nor covetous; - See the note at 1 Corinthians 5:10. It is remarkable that the apostle always ranks “the covetous” with the most abandoned classes of people.
Nor revilers - The same word which in 1 Corinthians 5:11, is rendered railer; see the note at that place.
Nor extortioners - See the note at 1 Corinthians 5:11.
Shall inherit - Shall enter; shalt be saved, 1 Corinthians 6:9.
And such - Such drunkards, lascivious, and covetous persons. This shows:
(1) The exceeding grace of God that could recover even such persons from sins so debasing and degrading.
(2) It shows that we are not to despair of reclaiming the most abandoned and wretched people.
(3) It is well for Christians to look back on what they once were. It will produce:
(c)A deep sense of the sovereign mercy of God,
(d)An earnest desire that others may be recovered and saved in like manner; compareEphesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 3:7; Titus 3:3, Titus 3:6 - The design of this is to remind them of what they were, and to show them that they were now under obligation to lead better lives - by all the mercy which God had shown in recovering them from sins so degrading, and from a condition so dreadful.
But ye are washed - Hebrews 10:22. Washing is an emblem of purifying. They had been made pure by the Spirit of God. They had been, indeed, baptized, and their baptism was an emblem of purifying, but the thing here particularly referred to is not baptism, but it is something that had been done by the Spirit of God, and must refer to his agency on the heart in cleansing them from these pollutions. Paul here uses three words, “washed, sanctified, justified,” to denote the various agencies of the Holy Spirit by which they had been recovered from sin. The first, that of washing, I understand of that work of the Spirit by which the process of purifying was commenced in the soul, and which was especially signified in baptism - the work of regeneration or conversion to God. By the agency of the Spirit the defilement of these pollutions had been washed away or removed - as filth is removed by ablution - The agency of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is elsewhere represented by washing, Titus 3:5,” The washing of regeneration.” compare Hebrews 10:22.
Ye are sanctified - This denotes the progressive and advancing process of purifying which succeeds regeneration in the Christian. Regeneration is the commencement of it - its close is the perfect purity of the Christian in heaven; see the note at John 17:17. It does not mean that they were perfect - for the reasoning of the apostle shows that this was far from being the case with the Corinthians; but that the work was advancing, and that they were in fact under a process of sanctification.
But ye are justified - Your sins are pardoned, and you are accepted as righteous, and will be treated as such on account of the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ; see the note at Romans 1:17; note at Romans 3:25-26; note at Romans 4:3. The apostle does not say that this was last in the order of time, but simply says that this was done to them. People are justified when they believe, and when the work of sanctification commences in the soul.
In the name of the Lord Jesus - That is, by the Lord Jesus; by his authority, appointment, influence; see the note at Acts 3:6. All this had been accomplished through the Lord Jesus; that is, in his name forgiveness of sins had been proclaimed to them Luke 24:47; and by his merits all these favors had been conferred on them.
And by the Spirit of our God - The Holy Spirit. All this had been accomplished by his agency on the heart - This verse brings in the whole subject of redemption, and states in a most emphatic manner the various stages by which a sinner is saved, and by this single passage, a man may obtain all the essential knowledge of the plan of salvation. All is condensed here in few words:
(1) He is by nature a miserable and polluted sinner - without merit, and without hope.
(2) He is renewed by the Holy Spirit, and washed by baptism.
(3) He is justified, pardoned, and accepted as righteous, through the merits of the Lord Jesus alone.
(4) He is made holy - becomes sanctified - and more and more like God, and fit for heaven.
(5) All this is done by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
(6) The obligation thence results that be should lead a holy life, and forsake sin in every form.
All things are lawful unto me - The apostle here evidently makes a transition to another subject from that which he had been discussing - a consideration of the propriety of using certain things which had been esteemed lawful. The expression, “all things are lawful,” is to be understood as used by those who palliated certain indulgences, or who vindicated the vices here referred to, and Paul designs to reply to them. His reply follows. He had been reproving them for their vices, and had specified several. It is not to be supposed that they would indulge in them without some show of defense; and the declaration here has much the appearance of a proverb, or a common saying - that all things were lawful; that is, “God has formed all things for our use, and there can be no evil if we use them.” By the phrase “all things” here, perhaps, may be meant many things; or things in general; or there is nothing in itself unlawful.
That there were many vicious persons who held this sentiment there can be no doubt; and though it cannot be supposed that there were any in the Christian church who would openly advocate it, yet the design of Paul was to “cut up” the plea altogether “wherever it might be urged,” and to show that it was false and unfounded. The particular flyings which Paul here refers to, are those which have been called “adiaphoristic,” or indifferent; that is, pertaining to certain meats and drinks, etc. With this Paul connects also the subject of fornication - the subject particularly under discussion. This was defended as “lawful,” by many Greeks, and was practiced at Corinth; and was the vice to which the Corinthian Christians were particularly exposed. Paul designed to meet all that could be said on this subject; and to show them that these indulgences could not be proper for Christians, and could not in any way be defended - We are not to understand Paul as admitting that fornication is in any case lawful; but he designs to show that the practice cannot possibly be defended in any way, or by any of the arguments which had been or could be used. For this purpose, he observes:
- That admitting that all things were lawful, there were many things which ought not to be indulged;
- That admitting that they were lawful, yet a man ought not to be under the power of any improper indulgence, and should abandon any habit when it had the mastery.
(3)That fornication was positively wrong, and against the very nature and essence of Christianity,1 Corinthians 6:13-20; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.
Are not expedient - This is the first answer to the objection. Even should we admit that the practices under discussion are lawful, yet there are many things which are not expedient; that is, which do not profit, for so the word συμφέρει sumpherei properly signifies; they are injurious and hurtful. They might injure the body; produce scandal; lead others to offend or to sin. Such was the case with regard to the use of certain meats, and even with regard to the use of wine. Paul’s rule on this subject is stated in 1 Corinthians 8:13. That if these things did injury to others, he would abandon them forever; even though they were in themselves lawful; see the 1 Corinthians 8:0 note and Romans 14:14-23 notes. There are many customs which, perhaps, cannot be strictly proved to be unlawful or sinful, which yet do injury in some way if indulged in; and which as their indulgence can do no good, should be abandoned. Anything that does evil - however small - and no good, should be abandoned at once.
All things are lawful - Admitting this; or even on the supposition that all things are in themselves right.
But I will not be brought under the power - I will not be subdued by it; I will not become the “slave” of it.
Of any - Of any custom, or habit, no matter what it is. This was Paul’s rule; the rule of an independent mind. The principle was, that even admitting that certain things were in themselves right, yet his grand purpose was “not to be the slave of habit,” not to be subdued by any practice that might corrupt his mind, fetter his energies, or destroy his freedom as a man and as a Christian. We may observe:
(1) That this is a good rule to act on. It was Paul’s rule 1 Corinthians 9:27, and it will do as well for us as for him.
(2) It is the true rule of an independent and noble mind. It requires a high order of virtue; and is the only way in which a man may be useful and active.
(3) It may be applied to “many things” now. Many a Christian and Christian minister “is a slave;” and is completely under the power of some habit that destroys his usefulness and happiness. He is the slave of indolence, or carelessness, or of some vile habit - as the use of tobacco, or of wine. He has not independence enough to break the cords that bind him; and the consequence is, that life is passed in indolence, or in self-indulgence, and time, and strength, and property are wasted, and religion blighted, and souls ruined.
(4) The man that has not courage and firmness enough to act on this rule should doubt his piety. If he is a voluntary slave to some idle and mischievous habit, how can he be a Christian! If he does not love his Saviour and the souls of people enough to break off from such habits which he knows are doing injury, how is he fit to be a minister of the self-denying Redeemer?
Meats for the belly ... - This has every appearance of being an adage or proverb. Its meaning is plain. “God has made us with appetites for food; and he has made food adapted to such appetites, and it is right, therefore, to indulge in luxurious living.” The word “belly” here κοιλία koilia denotes the “stomach;” and the argument is, that as God had created the natural appetite for food, and had created food, it was right to indulge in eating and drinking to any extent which the appetite demanded. The word “meats” here βρώματα brōmata does not denote animal food particularly, or flesh, but “any kind” of food. This was the sense of the English word formerly. Matthew 3:4; Matthew 6:25; Matthew 9:10; Matthew 10:10; Matthew 14:9, etc.
But God shall destroy - This is the reply of Paul to the argument. This reply is, that as both are so soon to be destroyed, they were unworthy of the care which was bestowed on them, and that attention should be directed to better things. It is unworthy the immortal mind to spend its time and thought in making provision for the body which is soon to perish. And especially a man should be willing to abandon indulgences in these things when they tended to injure the mind, and to destroy the soul. It is unworthy a mind that is to live forever, thus to be anxious about that which is so soon to be destroyed in the grave We may observe here:
(1) This is the great rule of the mass of the world. The pampering of the appetites is the great purpose for which they live, and the only purpose.
(2) It is folly. The body will soon be in the grave; the soul in eternity. How low and grovelling is the passion which leads the immortal mind always to anxiety about what the body shall eat and drink!
(3) People should act from higher motives. They should be thankful for appetites for food; and that God provides for the needs of the body; and should eat to obtain strength to serve him, and to discharge the duties of life. Man often degrades himself below - far below - the brutes in this thing. they never pamper their appetites, or “create artificial” appetites. Man, in death, sinks to the same level; and all the record of his life is, that “he lived to eat and drink, and died as the brute dieth.” How low human nature has fallen! How sunken is the condition of man!
Now the body is not ... - “But δέ de the body is not designed for licentiousness, but to be devoted to the Lord.” The remainder of this chapter is occupied with an argument against indulgence in licentiousness - a crime to which the Corinthians were particularly exposed. See the Introduction to this Epistle. It cannot be supposed that any members of the church would indulge in this vice, or would vindicate it; but it was certain:
- That it was the sin to which they were particularly exposed;
- That they were in the midst of a people who did both practice and vindicate it; compare Revelation 2:14-15.
Hence, the apostle furnished them with arguments against it, as well to guard them from temptation, as to enable them to meet those who did defend it, and also to settle the morality of the question on an immovable foundation. The first argument is here stated, that the body of man was designed by its Maker to be devoted to him, and should be consecrated to the purposes of a pure and holy life. We are, therefore, bound to devote our animal as well as our rational powers to the service of the Lord alone.
And the Lord for the body - “The Lord is in an important sense for the body, that is, he acts, and plans, and provides for it. He sustains and keeps it; and he is making provision for its immortal purity and happiness in heaven. It is not right, therefore, to take the body, which is nourished by the kind and constant agency of a holy God, and to devote it to purposes of pollution.” That there is a reference in this phrase to the resurrection, is apparent from the following verse. And as God will exert his mighty power in raising up the body, and will make it glorious, it ought not to be prostituted to purposes of licentiousness.
And God hath both raised up ... - This is the “second” argument against indulgences in this sin. It is this. “We are united to Christ. God has raised him from the dead, and made his body glorified. Our bodies will be like his (compare Philippians 3:21); and since our body is to be raised up by the power of God; since it is to be perfectly pure and holy, and since this is to be done by his agency, it is wrong that it should be devoted to purposes of pollution and lust.” It is unworthy:
(1) Of our connection with that pure Saviour who has been raised from the dead - the image of our resurrection from the death and defilements of sin (compare the notes at Romans 6:1-12); and,
(2) Unworthy of the hope that our bodies shall be raised up to perfect and immortal purity in the heavens. No argument could be stronger. A deep sense of our union with a pure and risen Saviour, and a lively hope of immortal purity, would do more than all other things to restrain from licentious indulgences.
Know ye not ... - This is the third argument against licentiousness. It is, that we as Christians are united to Christ (compare the notes at John 15:1 ff); and that it is abominable to take the members of Christ and subject them to pollution and sin. Christ was pure - wholly pure. We are professedly united to him. We are bound therefore to be pure, as he was. Shall that which is a part, as it were, of the pure and holy Saviour, be prostituted to impure and unholy embraces?
God forbid! - See the note at Romans 3:4. This expresses the deep abhorrence of the apostle at the thought. It needed not argument to show it. The whole world revolted at the idea; and language could scarcely express the abomination of the very thought.
Know ye not ... - This is designed to confirm and strengthen what he had just said.
He which is joined - Who is attached to; or who is connected with.
Is one body - That is, is to he regarded as one; is closely and intimately united. Similar expressions occur in Classic writers. See Grotius and Bloomfield.
For two, saith he ... - This Paul illustrates by a reference to the formation of the marriage connection in Ger. Romans 2:14. He cannot be understood as affirming that that passage had original reference to illicit connections; but be uses it for purposes of illustration. God had declared that the man and his wife became one; in a similar sense in unlawful connections the parties became one.
But he that is joined to the Lord - The true Christian, united by faith to the Lord Jesus; see John 15:1 ff.
Is one spirit - That is, in a sense similar to that in which a man and his wife are one body. It is not to be taken literally; but the sense is, that there is a close and intimate union; they are united in feeling, spirit, intention, disposition. The argument is beautiful. It is, “As the union of souls is more important than that of bodies; as that union is more lasting, dear, and enduring than any union of body with body can be, and as our union with him is with a Spirit pure and holy, it is improper that we should sever that tie, and break that sacred bond, by being joined to a harlot. The union with Christ is more intimate, entire, and pure than that can be between a man and woman; and that union should be regarded as sacred and inviolable.” O, if all Christians felt and regarded this as they should, how would they shrink from the connections which they often form on earth! Compare Ephesians 4:4.
Flee fornication - A solemn command of God - as explicit as any that thundered from Mount Sinai. None can disregard it with impunity - none can violate it without being exposed to the awful vengeance of the Almighty. There is force and emphasis in the word “flee” φεύγατε pheugate. Man should escape from it; he should not stay to reason about it; to debate the matter; or even to contend with his propensities, and to try the strength of his virtue. There are some sins which a man can resist; some about which he can reason without danger of pollution. But this is a sin where a man is safe only when he flies; free from pollution only when he refuses to entertain a thought of it; secure when he seeks a victory by flight, and a conquest by retreat. Let a man turn away from it without reflection on it and he is safe. Let him think, and reason, and he may be ruined. “The very passage of an impure thought through the mind leaves pollution behind it.” An argument on the subject often leaves pollution; a description ruins; and even the presentation of motives against it may often fix the mind with dangerous inclination on the crime. There is no way of avoiding the pollution but in the manner prescribed by Paul; there is no man safe who will not follow his direction. How many a young man would be saved from poverty, want, disease, curses, tears, and hell, could these two words be made to blaze before him like the writing before the astonished eyes of Belshazzar Daniel 5:0, and could they terrify him from even the momentary contemplation of the crime.
Every sin ... - This is to be taken comparatively. Sins in general; the common sins which people commit do not immediately and directly affect the body, or waste its energies, and destroy life. Such is the case with falsehood, theft, malice, dishonesty, pride, ambition, etc. They do not immediately and directly impair the constitution amid waste its energies.
Is without the body - Does not immediately and directly affect the body. The more immediate effect is on the mind; but the sin under consideration produces an immediate and direct effect on the body itself.
Sinneth against his own body - This is the FourTH argument against indulgence in this vice; and it is more striking and forcible. The sense is, “It wastes the bodily energies; produces feebleness, weakness, and disease; it impairs the strength, enervates the man, and shortens life.” Were it proper, this might be proveD to the satisfaction of every man by an examination of the effects of licentious indulgence. Those who wish to see the effects stated may find them in Dr. Rush on the Diseases of the Mind. Perhaps no single sin has done so much to produce the most painful and dreadful diseases, to weaken the constitution, and to shorten life as this. Other vices, as gluttony and drunkenness, do this also, and all sin has some effect in destroying the body, but it is true of this sin in an eminent degree.
What! know ye not ... - This is the fifth argument against this sin. The Holy Spirit dwells in us; our bodies are his temples; and they should not be defiled and polluted by sin; see the note at 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. As this Spirit is in us, and as it is given us by God, we ought not to dishonor the gift and the giver by pollution and vice.
And ye are not your own - This is the sixth argument which Paul uses. We are purchased; we belong to God; we are his by redemption; by a precious price paid; and we are bound, therefore, to devote ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, as he directs, to the glory of his name, not to the gratification of the flesh; see the note at Romans 14:7-8.
For ye are bought - Ye Christians are purchaseD; and by right of purchase should therefore be employed as he directs. This doctrine is often taught in the New Testament, and the argument is often urged that, therefore, Christians should be devoted to God; see 1 Corinthians 7:23; 1Pe 1:18-19; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 5:9; see the note at Acts 20:28.
With a price - τίμῇ timē. A price is that which is paid for an article, and which, in the view of the seller, is a fair compensation, or a valuable consideration why he should part with it; that is the price paid is as valuable to him as the thing itself would be. It may not be the same thing either in quality or quantity, but it is that which to him is a sufficient consideration why he should part with his property. When an article is bought for a valuable consideration, it becomes wholly the property of the purchaser. He may keep it, direct it, dispose of it. Nothing else is to be allowed to control it without his consent - The language here is figurative. It does not mean that there was strictly a commercial transaction in the redemption of the church, a literal “quid pro quo,” for the thing spoken of pertains to moral government, and not to commerce. It means:
(1) That Christians have been redeemed, or recovered to God;
(2) That this has been done by a “valuable consideration,” or that which, in his view, was a full equivalent for the sufferings that they would have endured if they had suffered the penalty of the law;
(3) That this valuable consideration was the blood of Jesus, as an atoning sacrifice, an offering, a ransom, which “would accomplish the same great ends in maintaining the truth and honor of God, and the majesty of his law, as the eternal condemnation of the sinner would have done;” and which, therefore, may be called, figuratively, the price which was paid. For if the same ends of justice could be accomplished by his atonement which would have been by the death of the sinner himself, then it was consistent for God to pardon him.
(4) Nothing else could or would have done this. There was no price which the sinner could pay, no atonement which he could make; and consequently, if Christ had not died, the sinner would have been the slave of sin, and the servant of the devil forever.
(5) As the Christian is thus purchased, ransomed, redeemed, he is bound to devote himself to God only, and to keep his commands, and to flee from a licentious life.
Glorify God - Honor God; live to him; see the Matthew 5:16 note; John 12:28; John 17:1 notes.
In your body ... - Let your entire person be subservient to the glory of God. Live to him; let your life tend to his honor. No stronger arguments could be adduced for purity of life, and they are such as all Christians must feel.
1. We see from this chapter 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. The evils of lawsuits, and of contentions among Christians. Every lawsuit between Christians is the means of greater or less dishonor to the cause of religion. The contention and strife; the time lost and the money wasted; the hard feelings engendered, and bitter speeches caused; the ruffled temper, and the lasting animosities that are produced, always injure the cause of religion, and often injure it for years. Probably no lawsuit was ever engaged in by a Christian that did not do some injury to the cause of Christ. Perhaps no lawsuit; was ever conducted between Christians that ever did any good to the cause of Christ.
2. A contentious spirit, a fondness for the agitation, the excitement, and the strife of courts, is inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel. Religion is supposed to be retiring, peaceful, and calm. It seeks the peace of all, and it never rejoices in contentions.
3. Christians should do nothing that will tend to injure the cause of religion in the eye of the world, 1 Corinthians 6:7-8. How much better is it that I should lose a few pounds, than that my Saviour should lose his honor! How much better that my purse should be empty of glittering dust, even by the injustice of others, than that a single gem should be taken from his diadem! And how much better even that I should lose all, than that “my” hand should be reached out to pluck away one jewel, by my misconduct, from his crown! Can silver, can gold, can diamonds be compared in value to the honor of Christ and of his cause?
4. Christians should seldom go to law, even with others; never, if they can avoid it. Every other means should be tried first, and the law should be resorted to only when all else fails. How few lawsuits there would be if man had no bad passions! How seldom is the law applied to from the simple love of justice; how seldom from pure benevolence; how seldom foe the glory of God! In nearly all cases that occur between men, a friendly reference to others would settle all the difficulty; always if there were a right spirit between the parties. Comparatively few suits at law will be approved of, when people come to die; and the man who has had the least to do with the law, will have the least, usually, to regret when he enters the eternal world.
5. Christians should be honest - strictly honest - always honest, 1 Corinthians 6:8. They should do justice to all; they should defraud none. Few things occur that do more to disgrace religion than the suspicions of fraud, and overreaching, and deception, that often rest on professors of religion. How can a man be a Christian, and not be an honest man? Every man who is not strictly honest and honorable in his dealings, should be regarded, whatever may be his pretensions, as an enemy of Christ and his cause.
6. The unholy cannot be saved, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. So God has determined; and this purpose cannot be evaded or escaped. It is fixed; and men may think of it as they please, still it is true that there are large classes of people who, if they continue such, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The fornicator, the idolater, the drunkard, and the covetous, cannot enter heaven. So the Judge of all has said, and who can unsay it? So he has decreed, and who can change his fixed decree? And so it should be. What a place would heaven be if the drunkard, and the adulterer, and the idolater were there! How impure and unholy would it be! How would it destroy all our hopes, dim all our prospects, mar all our joys, if we were told that they should sit down with the just in heaven! Is it not one of our fondest hopes that heaven will be pure, and that all its inhabitants shall be holy? And can God admit to his eternal embrace, and treat as his eternal friend, the man who is unholy; whose life is stained with abomination; who loves to corrupt others; and whose happiness is found in the sorrows, and the wretchedness, and vices of others? No, true religion is pure, and heaven is pure; and whatever people may think. Of one thing they may be assured, that the fornicator, and the drunkard, and the reviler shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
7. If none of these can be saved as they are, what a host are traveling down to hell! How large a part of every community is made up of such persons! How vast is the number of drunkards that are known! How vast the host of extortioners, and of covetous people, and revilers of all that is good! How many curse their God and their fellow man! How difficult to turn the corner of a street without hearing an oath! How necessary to guard against the frauds and deceptions of others! How many men and women are known to be impure in their lives! In all communities how much does this sin abound! and how many shall be revealed at the great Day as impure, who are now unsuspected! how many disclosed to the universe as all covered with pollution, who now boast even of purity, and who are received into the society of the virtuous and the lovely! Verily, the broad road to hell is thronged! And verily, the earth is pouring into hell a most dense and wretched population, and rolling down a tide of sin and misery that shall fill it with groans and gnashing of teeth forever.
8. It is well for Christians to reflect on their former course of life, as contrasted with their present mercies, 1 Corinthians 6:11. Such were they, and such they would still have been but for the mercy of God. Such as is the victim of uncleanness and pollution, such as is the profane man and the reviler, such we should have been but for the mercy of God. That alone has saved us, and that only can keep us. How should we praise God for his mercy, and how are we bound to love and serve him for his amazing compassion in raising us from our deep pollution, and saving us from hell?
9. Christians should be pure; 1 Corinthians 6:11-19. They should be above suspicion. They should avoid the appearance of evil. No Christian can be too pure; none can feel too much the obligation to he holy. By every sacred and tender consideration God urges it on us; and by a reference to our own happiness as well as to his own glory, he calls on us to be holy in our lives.
10. May we remember that we are not our own; 1 Corinthians 6:20. We belong to God. We have been ransomed by sacred blood. By a reference to the value of that blood; by all its preciousness and worth; by all the sighs, and tears, and groans that bought us; by the agonies of the cross, and the bitter pains of the death of God’s own Son, we are bound to live to God, and to him alone. When we are tempted to sin, let us think of the cross. When Satan spreads out his allurements, let us recall the remembrance of the sufferings of Calvary, and remember that all these sorrows were endured so that we might be pure. O how would sin appear were we beneath the cross, and did we feel the warm blood from the Saviour’s open veins trickle upon us? Who would dare indulge in sin there? Who could do otherwise than devote himself, body, and soul, and spirit, unto God?
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26