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Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

1 Corinthians 6

Verses 1-20

1 Corinthians 6 .

(V. 1). Having dealt with the unjudged immorality in their midst, the apostle now exposes the inconsistency of Christians going to law before worldly tribunals to settle disputes between brethren in things pertaining to this life. In plain language he reproves any brother, who has a matter against another brother, for daring to seek a legal settlement by the “unjust”, instead of appealing to the saints. In speaking of the world's tribunal as that of the “unjust”, he is viewing the men of this world in relation to God.

(V. 2). To show the inconsistency of this course, the apostle asks them to view their actions in the light of the world to come. They know that in that day the saints will be associated with Christ when He rules over the world and angels. How inconsistent, then, to seek the judgment of those whom we are going to judge.

(Vv. 3, 4). Further, he shows the futility of appealing to the world, for, if the saints are going to judge the world and angels, they must surely be capable of adjudicating in the comparatively small affairs of every-day life. This being so, if matters that pertain to this life arise between brothers, the least esteemed in the assembly are able to settle them, as they call for no great spirituality or gift, but rather common sense and honesty.

(Vv. 5, 6). If the apostle has to speak thus, it is really to their shame, for their going to law before the world would seem to prove that, in spite of all the knowledge and gifts in which they boasted, there was not amongst them a wise man able to settle these little matters, and so brother went to law with brother, and that before unbelievers. It is evident that the apostle is speaking of matters that need not be brought before the assembly, for they can be settled by “a wise man”.

(Vv. 7, 8). Having condemned this worldly procedure, the apostle now deals with the low moral state that led to such practices. As so often behind wrong practices there exists a wrong spirit and ignorance of divine principles. They were evidently not prepared to take wrong, or suffer wrong, for Christ's sake. On the contrary, in going to law with one another they did wrong and in result defrauded one another. Where, then, was the patience and suffering for well-doing? As one has said, “They came behind in no gift, and they came forward in no grace”, and again, “If I can keep Christ's character, I would rather do that than keep my cloak” (J.N.D.). We may show a good deal of temper and strong feeling when we fancy someone is over-charging us, and thus prove we are more ready to lose Christ's character than lose our coppers.

(Vv. 9-11). The apostle passes on to speak of the wrongs that provoked the law suits. He gives a solemn description of evil in its corruption, rather than its violence, which was rampant at Corinth, but which has no place in the kingdom of God. Having given this terrible list of the corruptions of the flesh, he says, “Such were some of you”. Wonderful grace that can take us up from the lowest place of degradation in the far country and associate us with Christ in the highest place of glory in the Father's house! Having lived in such conditions, these saints were in special danger of lapsing into old habits unless kept cleaving to Christ.

However sad the evils that needed to be dealt with, the apostle can still say, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified”. In saying they are washed, it is evident that the apostle is not referring to the constant need of the application of the word to remove all the daily defilements that put us out of touch with Christ, and which is set forth in figure by feet-washing. He refers rather to the work of the Spirit in new birth, which is done once for all, and by which is imparted a new nature that shrinks from the filth of the flesh.

Sanctification carries us further, for, if by washing we are set apart from the filth of the flesh, by sanctification we are set apart to God. Other Scriptures, such as Joh_17:19 and 1Th_5:23 , speak of the progressive sanctification by which the believer becomes increasingly devoted to the interests of God. Here, however, it is the absolute setting apart of the believer, of which we read in Heb_10:10 , “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. The stone, when once cut from the quarry, is set apart from it for ever, though afterwards it may be worked and carved to make it more fitted for the designer's purpose. By justification the soul has been cleared of all charge before God through the work of Christ. By the Holy Spirit these great truths are made good in our souls.

(Vv. 12-20). As we have a new nature, have been set apart for God, and justified from the guilt of our sins, the apostle, in the remaining verses of the chapter, reminds us that our bodies are for the Lord. On the one hand, therefore, let us beware of using them for the gratification of the flesh; on the other hand, let us use them for the glory of God (verse 20).

“All things” (and here he speaks of right things - food and natural relations) are lawful for the Christian, but even so we have to beware, for, though all may be lawful, it by no means follows that all things are expedient. There is the danger that in using right things we may come under the power of them. The apostle refers specially to meats. As meats are needed for the body and they are naturally suited the one to the other, we are at liberty to use meats. It is possible, however, to use meats and the body for self-indulgence and become a glutton.

The apostle then passes on to speak of that which is not lawful for the body - actual sin. Here we are reminded that the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. He reminds us, too, that these bodies are destined for high honour, for even as God hath raised up the Lord, so will He also raise up these bodies by His own power. Moreover, our bodies are members of Christ, and he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit. The apostle learnt something of this great truth at his conversion, for the Lord said to him, “Why persecutest thou Me?”. To touch the bodies of the saints was to touch Christ. How solemn is all sin, but how specially solemn is sin against the body which is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and belongs to God, and which it is our privilege and responsibility to use for the glory of God. To press upon us the deep importance of holiness, the apostle re-minds us in the course of the chapter that we are washed, sanctified and justified, and, further, that our bodies are for the Lord, joined to the Lord, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, belong to God, and are to be used for the glory of God; and, too, the Lord is for the body, and God will raise it up by His power.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/1-corinthians-6.html. 1832.