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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1 Corinthians 6

Verse 1

1. τολμᾷ. The word is a strong one, expressive of what St Paul felt to be the grave evil of a contentious spirit in Christian men.

τις. Some particular person or persons are in St Paul’s mind. It is not an imaginary case. See 1 Corinthians 6:6. But we may observe how carefully St Paul avoids naming any one throughout the Epistle.

κρίνεσθαι. The middle has a reciprocal sense, like βουλεύεσθαι and συντίθεσθαι. See Winer, Gr. Gram. § 38.

ἀδίκων. Chrysostom remarks that whereas St Paul has this word here, he uses ἀπίστων in 1 Corinthians 6:6. Was not this in order to imply that justice was not to be expected from the heathen? See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:30 and on 1 Corinthians 6:9.

καὶ οὐχὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἁγίων. Cf. Matthew 18:17, where we have a precept of Jesus Christ concerning the settlement of differences in the Christian Church.

Verses 1-11


The principle is here laid down which is to guide Christians in their lawsuits. Disputes about property are treated by the Apostle as matters of the most trifling import. To call in the unbelievers to settle the disputes of Christian brethren was an act of audacity almost beyond the belief of the Apostle (1 Corinthians 6:1), and in marked contrast to the feeling prevalent in the Christian Church at its first foundation (Acts 4:32). It were far better for a Christian to suffer the utmost wrong, than to bring such a reproach upon the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:7). The disputes of Christians were therefore settled by private arbitration, a custom which continued until Christianity was formally established as the religion of the Roman Empire. In the so-called Apostolical Constitutions, which were drawn up in the second or early in the third century, we find a provision that these private courts of arbitration should be held early in the week, that any disputes which might arise might be set right before the following Sunday. Such courts of arbitration have given place to the Christian courts of law, before which it often becomes necessary for a Christian to plead, lest violent or covetous men should dissolve the framework of society. Yet the principle of this passage should guide us still, of regarding mutual love as of more importance than ‘the things that pertain to this life,’ of preferring rather to suffer wrong than to appeal to the law, unless some more important matter is at stake than our individual loss or inconvenience.

Verse 2

2. . This word (which is not in the rec. text) gives a life to the sentence. ‘Dare you, in spite of your Christian profession, carry your complaints before heathen tribunals? Or is it that you are ignorant &c.’ It occurs again in 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19, in each case to introduce a new argument.

οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσιν. I.e. at Christ’s second coming. See Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30, and Daniel 7:22.

ἐν ὑμῖν. Before you, i.e. in your presence. Cf. Xen. Cyr. iii. 3, 56 (ed. Dind.) καὶ ταῦτα ἀπαγγέλλετε αὐτῷ ἐν ἅπασιν, and iv. 5, 18 καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τὴν ὀργὴν ἔλεγε. It is very difficult, however, in most passages, as in this, to decide between the renderings before or among.

κριτηρίων. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 4:1. The termination might lead us to the conclusion that [1] the place of trial, the tribunal itself was meant. Cf. δικαστήριον and James 2:6. But [2] κριτήριον is thought to have come to mean the cause before the tribunal. It also means [3], like our word tribunal, the persons before whom the cause is brought. See Polyb. IX. 33, 12, XVI. 27, 2. In Plato, Theaet. 178 B, it has the sense [4] of the means whereby a conclusion is formed (whence our English word criterion). Here, if we do not accept [2], which is the rendering of A.V., we must either translate Are ye unworthy to preside over the most unimportant tribunals? or Are ye unworthy to hold trials of the most insignificant kind? [2] has no authority in its favour, but it seems almost to be required here by ἐλαχίστων. Meyer’s citations in favour of [2] do not bear out his conclusion. Two of them are cited above under [3].

Verse 3

3. ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν. Cf. 2 Peter 2:4, and Judges 1:6. Some have thought that good angels are here meant. But it is difficult to see how [1] men could pronounce sentence upon their conduct openly, or [2] acquit or censure them by the silent sentence of a consistent life. For in the first case there would be no sentence to pronounce, and in the second it would be they who would judge the holiest man that ever lived, and not he who would judge them. And, besides, it is ἀγγέλους, not τοὺς ἀγγέλους, some angels, not all. ‘The interpretation squares well with the argument. We shall judge devils, who not only were so noble in their original condition, but are still even when fallen immortal beings. What then! shall the paltry things which concern the belly be withdrawn from our decision?’—Calvin. ‘The good angels are not hereafter to be judged, but they will form a part of Christ’s glorious retinue when He comes to judgment.’—Bp. Wordsworth.

μήτι γε. To say nothing of.

βιωτικά. βίος relates to our manner of living in this life. Hence βιωτικά means matters concerning this life, worldly affairs, as we now say. Epictetus (in Arrian. Diatrib. I. 26) distinguishes between the θεωρία of the philosopher and the distractions of worldly affairs (βιωτικά).

Verse 4

4. μὲν οὖν. Stronger than the simple οὖν, and making βιωτικά still more emphatic.

κριτήρια. Here at first sight the A.V. causes would seem to give the best sense once more. But the translation ‘if then ye should possess tribunals relating to matters of this life,’ is equally admissible.

τούτους καθίζετε. Three renderings of this passage are possible. [1] with A.V. we may take καθίζετε as imperative, ‘put the most contemptible members of your body to decide questions of so slight importance;’ [2] καθίζετε indicative and affirmative, ‘ye are setting the most insignificant persons in the eyes of the Church,’ i.e. the heathen, to settle these questions; [3] καθίζετε indicative and interrogative, with R.V. ‘is it your custom to set such persons to decide such questions?’ Either [1] or [3] will make good sense, while [2] is open to the objection that the Apostle was not likely to encourage a tendency which his Master had emphatically condemned, and which was too likely to exist—that toward regarding the heathen as fit objects of contempt. [1] is preferable, from the emphatic position of ἐξουθενημένους, and also from the position of καθίζετε, as well as from what follows. See next note. And also from the reason that it was very obviously not the fact that the Corinthians were setting persons of no repute in the Church to decide such trifling questions, but on the contrary, were considering them important enough to take before heathen tribunals.

Verse 5

5. πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λέγω. ‘You are not to take my words literally. I only say this to shame you for the undue value you set on the things of this life. Such matters might fitly be left to the decision of the most insignificant member of your community. But there is no necessity for that. Surely there are plenty of persons among you who are competent to settle such questions, and thus save you the scandal of carrying your disputes before the heathen, when you have pledged yourself to lead a life above such considerations.’

ἔνι. For this form see Winer, Gr. Gram. § 14.

διακρῖναι. To decide after a judicial hearing. See ch. 1 Corinthians 4:7, note.

ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ. The singular is here put for the plural. ἀνὰ μέσον is a Hebraism. Cf. Genesis 23:15 (LXX.).

Verse 6

6. ἀλλὰ ἀδελφός. ‘It is not a question between ecclesiastical and civil courts, but between Law and Equity, Litigation and Arbitration.… The remedy is not more elaborate law, nor cheaper law, nor greater facility of law, but more Christianity.’ Robertson. Cf. note on 1 Corinthians 6:1.

ἐπὶ ἀπίστων. Before unbelievers, the fact of appearing before unbelievers at all on such matters being the point to which attention is directed. ‘Beside the scandal of such a proceeding, as exposing their internal differences to the eyes of the heathen, there were certain formularies to be gone through in the heathen law-courts, such as adjurations by heathen deities, which would involve them in idolatrous practices.’ Bp. Wordsworth. Cf. also Blunt, Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, pp. 110, 149.

Verse 7

7. κρίματα. Here, clearly, suits at law. The word is not used in this sense in classical Greek.

ἀδικεῖσθεἀποστερεῖσθε. Middle, ‘permit yourselves to be wronged, defrauded.’ See Winer, Gr. Gram. § 38. For the sentiment cf. Matthew 5:38-42; 1 Peter 2:23.

Verse 8

8. ἀλλὰ ὑμεῖς ἀδικεῖτε. Not only are you not willing to suffer injury, but you inflict it, and you inflict it upon those with whom you are conjoined in relations as affectionate as the ties of blood. ‘One is your Master upon earth and all ye are brethren.’ And this was not to be a convention or a sentiment, but a fact; witnessed to by the affectionate name ‘the brethren’ by which everywhere Christians were known. ὑμεῖς gives emphasis to ‘you’—‘you members of the Christian brotherhood.’

Verse 9

9. ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε. The Apostle in this verse sums up what he has been saying in this chapter and the last. First generally, the unjust, wrong-doers, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, that is, His final kingdom in the ‘restitution of all things,’ for which we daily pray. He then proceeds to particulars, and declares that all who lived for themselves, whether set upon sensual indulgence or upon gain, would deprive themselves of the inheritance obtained through faith in Christ.

μὴ πλανᾶσθε. Some, says Chrysostom, might say ‘God is good and kindly, He will not go to extremities over our transgressions. Let us not fear.’ Into such self-deception as this men might easily fall in a corrupt Society like that of Corinth.

μαλακοί, effeminate, i.e. self-indulgent. See Arist. Nic. Eth. VII. 7, ὁ δὲ περὶ λύπας μαλακός, ὁ δὲ καρτερικός, and again, ἡ τρυφὴ μαλακία τίς ἐστιν.

Verse 10

10. πλεονέκται. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 5:10.

μέθυσοι, λοίδοροι. Here, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 5:11, where the latter word is translated railer in A.V., we have the inevitable conjunction between drunkenness and strife. μέθυσος was applied only to women until Menander’s time.

Verse 11

11. ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε. The past tense is employed in the original—‘ye were washed, sanctified, justified.’ The allusion is to baptism, where by a solemn profession the disciple entered into covenant with—and so put on (see Galatians 3:27) Christ. The meaning of ἀπελούσασθε is either ye washed yourselves clean from them, by a voluntary act, cf. Acts 22:16, or ‘ye allowed yourselves to be washed.’ So Winer, Gr. Gram. § 38. 4. b. There has been much controversy as to the meaning of ἡγιάσθητε and ἐδικαιώθητε here, as their position is inverted from the usual order in which they stand. It is best to take ἡγιάσθητε in the sense of dedicated to a holy life (halowed, Wiclif), see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:2, and ἐδικαιώθητε as referring to the actual righteousness of life which is brought about by union with Christ through the operation of the Spirit. See also Romans 1:17.

ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι. The name of Christ stands for His power, almost, we might say, for Himself. Something more is probably conveyed by ἐν than a mere instrumental agency, though it is often used in this way (as in 1 Corinthians 6:2 of this very chapter). A comparison of this passage with others in which the indwelling of the Spirit is implied, as in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and Romans 8:11, teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the instrument of our sanctification and justification by virtue of our dwelling in Christ and He in us, making Christ’s death to sin, and His life in righteousness an accomplished fact in our hearts and lives. See also John 3:6.

Verse 12

12. πάντα μοι ἔξεστιν. All things are possible to me. See Soph. Aj. 346, προσβλέπειν ἔξεστί σοι τὰ τοῦδε πράγη, Marc. Aurel. Medit. IV. 17, ἕως ζῇς, ἕως ἔξεστιν, ἀγαθὸς γένου. So also Xen. Oec. II. 7 ἐξόν σοι ‘you are able’. The translation ‘all things are lawful’ encumbers the argument with a proposition St Paul has not advanced. Chrysostom, however, combats the difficulty, thus proving that he interprets by lawful. Observe the contrast between ἔξεστι and ἐξουσιασθήσομαι, which may be expressed in English thus, ‘I have the power to do all things, but I will not be under the power of anything.’ These words are repeated four times in this Epistle, and the clause which follows twice. See ch. 1 Corinthians 10:23. The limitations thus imposed on the actions which it is in our power to commit are three. First, the action must tend to our own benefit and that of others; next, the power to do a thing must not be held to involve us in any necessity of using that power, and lastly, the power, when used, must produce edification.

ἀλλ' οὐ πάντα συμφέρει. συμφέρω, lit. to bring together, means here to profit. Aristotle, Nic. Eth. VIII. 9, uses the word in connection with the pay of sailors, the booty or victory of soldiers, the mutual advantage of citizens, and the like. So the English word expedient (profitable, margin, spedeful, Wiclif) from ex and pes, signifies originally, the condition of one who has his feet free; and hence that which frees us from entanglements, helps us on, expedites us, as we are accustomed to say. Its opposite, that which entangles us, is similarly called an impediment. Cf. the word speed. The sense ‘that which is advisable for the sake of some personal advantage,’ ‘expedient’ as opposed to ‘on principle,’ is a more modern sense of the word. Hence the meaning here is profitable: i.e. for others as well as ourselves. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 7:35, 1 Corinthians 10:33, where the derivative of the verb here used is translated ‘profit.’ Robertson gives a valuable practical illustration of the principle here laid down, accepting, however, the translation ‘all things are lawful.’ ‘In the North on Sunday, men will not sound an instrument of music, or take a walk except to a place of worship. Suppose that an English Christian found himself in some Highland village, what would be his duty? “All things are lawful” for him. By the law of Christian liberty he is freed from bondage to meats and drinks, to holidays or Sabbath days; but if his use of this his Christian liberty should shock his brother Christians, or become an excuse for the less conscientious among them to follow his example, against the dictates of their own conscience, then it would be his Christian duty to abridge his own liberty, because the use of it would be inexpedient,’ or rather, unprofitable. See also ch. 1 Corinthians 14:31-33.

ἐξουσιασθήσομαι. Compare the use of the same Greek word in Luke 22:25, ‘exercise authority,’ and also in ch. 1 Corinthians 7:4.

Verses 12-20


In this and the next two verses the main argument of the rest of the Epistle is sketched out, though not in the order afterwards followed by the Apostle. At present he takes them in the order of their importance. First he touches on the comparatively unimportant question of the distinction of meats, treated of at length in ch. 8, 10. Then he alludes to the relations of the sexes, the subject of ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12 to 1 Corinthians 7:40. And lastly he speaks of the great doctrine of the Resurrection, which stands in a close practical relation to the two former, and which is dealt with in ch. 15. The words in this verse appear to have become a watchword with some among the Corinthian Christians. Starting from the doctrine of Christian liberty taught by Christ (John 8:32; John 8:36), and proclaimed with one mouth by His Apostles (Romans 8:2; James 2:12; 1 Peter 2:16), they declared that the Christian was bound to a ‘service’ which was ‘perfect freedom.’ St Paul accepts the principle, but with limitations. All actions placed within our power might be performed, provided [1] that they were in accordance with God’s design in creation; [2] that they were calculated to promote the general welfare of mankind; and [3] that we were masters of our actions, not they of us. Bengel well remarks: ‘Sæpe Paulus prima persona eloquitur quæ vim habent gnomes in hac præsertim epistola. 1 Corinthians 6:15, 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 10:29-30, 1 Corinthians 14:11,’ and throughout Romans 7.

Verse 13

13. τὰ βρώματα τῇ κοιλίᾳ καὶ ἡ κοιλία τοῖς βρώμασιν. Foods for the belly and the belly for foods. St Paul here points out that the view of these questions taken by himself is the very reverse of that taken by the Corinthians. To them fornication is a light matter, and the question of food offered to idols of supreme importance. To him fornication is a violation of the first principles of human society, the eating or refraining from certain kinds of food a thing in itself entirely indifferent.

ὁ δὲ θεὸς καὶ ταύτην καὶ ταῦτα καταργήσει. Both foods and that which digests them are perishable things. They therefore shall one day become useless, and therefore cease to be. For καταργήσει see notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:28, 1 Corinthians 13:8.

τό δὲ σῶμα οὐ τῇ πορνείᾳ. St Paul is led, by the importance he attaches to this point, to treat it first. The abominable licentiousness of heathen cities in general, and of Corinth in particular (see Dean Stanley’s note on 1 Corinthians 6:12) had led to a general conviction that the body was for fornication. St Paul contradicts this, and most emphatically proclaims that what was always permitted among heathens, and even in some cases enjoined as a religious rite, was distinctly in itself an unlawful act, not excusable on the plea of necessity, which he had admitted in the case of meats, nor, like them, a question of ‘nicely calculated less or more,’ but contrary to the laws laid down by God for man, and calculated to deprive men of the blessings of the Resurrection.

ἀλλὰ τῷ κυρίῳ. It is noteworthy that St Paul does not say that the body will be brought to nought. There is a sense in which it will, but (see ch. 15) another and more important sense in which it will not.

καὶ ὁ κύριος τῷ σώματι. It was to save the body originally designed for Him, that Christ came. See Romans 7:11; Ephesians 5:23; Philippians 3:21. Also 1 Corinthians 6:20, ch. 1 Corinthians 15:36-44, and the article in the Apostles’ Creed, ‘I believe in the Resurrection of the Body.’

Verse 14

14. καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐξεγερεῖ. Christ’s Resurrection is the pledge of our own. See ch. 1 Corinthians 15:23.

διὰ τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ. It is impossible to say for certain whether the word αὐτοῦ refers to the Father or to Christ; but the analogy of John 5:21; John 5:25; John 5:28; John 11:25, and especially 2 Corinthians 4:14, would lead us to the conclusion that Christ is here meant. Yet see Ephesians 1:19-20. There seems to be a distinction implied here between the raising of Christ (ἤγειρεν), who saw no corruption, and the raising us (ἐξεγερεῖ) from our state of corruption through the power of Christ.

Verse 15

15. οὐκ οἴδατε. A fresh argument. Not only will our bodies be raised up hereafter, but they are the members of Christ now. This solemn truth, that by our calling as Christians we are so closely united to Christ as to be ‘members of His Body, of His Flesh and of His Bones’ (Ephesians 5:30 if the reading be correct) is employed here to remind us of the restrictions placed upon our Christian liberty. Our body is Christ’s, nay it is, in a sense, a part of Christ Himself. It may not be used in violation of the laws imposed upon it from the beginning by God. Nor may it be used to the detriment of others, who equally, with ourselves, belong to Christ. And the sin here reproved leads to all kinds of misery and wretchedness, and that because (1 Corinthians 6:18) it is a violation of the eternal law of God impressed upon the human body.

ἄρας οὖν. The deliberateness of the act is here pointed out, as well as the violence it does to our Christian calling.

Verse 16

16. ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε. Not what? as in A.V. Rather, ‘Or do ye not know,’ introducing a fresh consideration to that in the last verse.

εἰς σάρκα μίαν. No words could more plainly shew than these and the words of the last verse, what a monstrous perversion the sin here mentioned is of the mysterious union between the sexes sanctified by God in Holy Matrimony. No words could more strongly imply than those which follow, that he who is ‘joined to a harlot’ thereby separates himself from the Lord.

Verse 17

17. ὁ κολλώμενος τῷ κυρίῳ. Literally, cleaveth to the Lord. No words, save perhaps those in John 17, could more forcibly express the closeness of the union between Christ and His faithful disciple. The use, moreover, of the identical word in this verse with that which in the last verse is used of a very different kind of union is intended to intensify the contrast.

Verse 18

18. πᾶν ἁμάρτημα. This word signifies some particular error, ἁμαρτία the general tendency to error. See Arist. Nic. Eth. 1 Corinthians 6:8, VI. 8. It is remarkable that ἁμάρτημα is common in classical, rare in Biblical Greek. Precisely the reverse is the case with ἁμαρτία. And this because both the Law and the Gospel recognized sin as a principle. See 1 John 3:4; 1 John 5:17.

ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος. That is, every other sinful act which affects the body approaches it from without or affects particular members. But this sin takes the body itself as a whole and makes it an instrument of sin.

εἰς τὸ ἴδιον σῶμα ἁμαρτάνει. The precise meaning of ἁμαρτάνω is to miss the mark. Thus what is meant here is that one guilty of this sin runs counter to the fundamental laws impressed on the human body from the first. The sexes were created simply and solely with a view to the Divine institution of the family. The mutual affection of parents is absolutely necessary to the welfare of the family, and this, again, can only be secured by the exclusive and permanent character of the marriage relation. See Genesis 2:24. The formation, therefore, of any physical ties between the sexes, short of this exclusive and permanent one, is a violation of the first principles of human society. The Divine anger is therefore plainly manifested against those who do such things. See Romans 1:24; Romans 1:27-32. In particular, history shews abundantly that no sin has such power as licentiousness to dissolve the very framework of society, by loosening the bonds of mutual confidence and mutual respect on which that framework reposes.

Verse 19

19. ναὸς τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν ἁγίου πνεύματός ἐστιν. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 3:16. Observe also that God in Christ acts through the Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 6:15 of this chapter), so that ‘we are the temple of God’ because ‘the Spirit of God dwelleth in us.’ Nothing can be more effectual than the thought of such an inhabitation, as being the result of our Christian calling, to restrain us from the sin here mentioned.

οὗ ἔχετε ἀπὸ θεοῦ. Whom ye have from God, referring to the Holy Spirit. Cf. John 3:5; John 14:26; John 15:26; Acts 2:33. The A.V. and R.V. ‘which’ is very misleading here.

οὐκ ἐστὲ ἑαυτῶν. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 6:18; Romans 6:22; John 8:36; also Romans 14:8. The Scriptures frequently remind us that we have passed from slavery to sin into slavery to Christ, the latter slavery, however, being the true freedom of man, enabling him to fulfil the law of his being.

Verse 20

20. ἠγοράσθητε γὰρ τιμῆς. Ye were bought with a price, the ‘one sufficient Sacrifice, Oblation and Satisfaction made for the sins of the whole world’ by the Death and Passion of our Saviour Christ. Cp. Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 5:9, &c. For the construction see Winer § 30 and Matthew 10:29; Matthew 26:9; Acts 7:16.

δοξάσατε δή. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 5:13, note. δή with the imperative gives urgency to the command. ‘Now glorify,’ not ‘therefore,’ as in A.V.

ἐν τῷ σώματι. It is impossible to help seeing how much the insertion of the words in the rec. text has weakened the force of the exhortation here. After a most striking passage deprecating the misuse of that body which God created and which He has promised to raise, St Paul concludes with the two forcible arguments that the body is the shrine of the Holy Ghost, and that the most precious price was paid for its redemption. And he then ends with the emphatic and somewhat abrupt summing up of the whole argument, ‘Glorify God, I beg, in your body.’

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.