Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 6

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 6:1. Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbour, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Excellently, says Bengel here, ‘by this grand word “Dare” does the apostle mark the injured majesty of the Christian name,’ thus caused. Not without a special design is the contrast here so sharply drawn between Christians and heathens; for the Jews themselves made it a rule never to carry their disputes before heathen tribunals. Yet let it not be thought that there is any condemnation here of the general principle of having recourse to law for the settlement of differences. For civil government is a Divine ordinance, of which “law” is an essential department; and our apostle himself once and again claimed the protection of law, heathen though the empire then was. Indeed, there are cases, in the best conditioned Christian countries, where nice and intricate points can be satisfactorily and peacefully settled only by a legal tribunal. What is here so sharply rebuked is, exposing before eyes that ought to see in Christians only that which is “lovely and of good report,” what was the opposite of this, as if (by a cruel satire on our Lord’s words) to invite those heathens to ask, “What do ye more than others?” (Matthew 5:47).

Verses 1-8

This topic seems to have been suggested by the closing verses of the preceding chapter, about Christians having nothing to do with judging “them that are without.” ‘Yes (says the apostle), but what is this that I hear, that some of you are dragging “them that are within” before the tribunals of such, to settle your miserable disputes among yourselves. How dare ye thus to scandalize the Christian name?’

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 6:2. What, know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? shall sit, after yourselves have been judged (Matthew 25:41), as Christ’s assessors, in judgment on all others. This is not elsewhere expressly stated; but it is in accordance with Matthew 19:28, and is in strict analogy with angels being represented (in Job 1:2) as in the councils of Heaven sitting as assessors. Perhaps the apostle may refer here to something he himself had taught on this subject.

and if the world is to be judged (Gr. ‘is being judged’) by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? literally, ‘the smallest tribunals.’ (The word means first a ‘test’ or ‘rule of judgment;’ then, a ‘court of judgment,’ and here the cause to be tried an unusual application of the word, but plainly the sense here.)

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 6:3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels? The word “angels” usually means the good ones, but here it is clearly the bad. how much more, things that pertain to this life?

Verse 4

1 Corinthians 6:4. If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are of no account in the church an ironical way of hinting that their differences were so petty that the poorest-witted among them were fit enough to deal with them. [1]

[1] To view this as a question ‘Do ye set, etc.?’ as some do, seems to us very unnatural.

Verse 5

1 Corinthians 6:5. ... Is it so, that there is not one wise man among you? who, etc.: ‘Abounding in gifts, and boasting of your wisdom, are ye incompetent to settle your own small disputes?’ The principle of arbitration is here suggested; but courts of arbitration are a modern invention.

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 6:7. ... Why not rather take wrong? why not rather be defrauded? like your Master, submitting to felt wrong (1 Peter 2:23; and see Matthew 5:40; Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:17; 1 Peter 2:19-20; Proverbs 20:22).

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 6:9. What, know ye not that the unrighteous (‘the wrong-doers’) shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicator, nor idolaters, whose religion was itself voluptuous, particularly at Corinth, nor adulterers, nor effeminate given to voluptuous ease, encouraging their sensual inclinations, nor abusers of themselves with men practising the unnatural vice of Romans 1:27, but which ought not to be named among us as becometh saints. The five grosser forms of vice thus mentioned are next followed by five of a more familiar but not less soul-destroying kind.

Verses 9-20

From wrong-doing in one particular the apostle is now led to speak of wrong-doing in its widest sense, but emphatically of that form of it already dealt with in part.

Verses 10-11

1 Corinthians 6:10. nor thieves, etc.

1 Corinthians 6:11. And such were some of you. Not all but only “some” of his converts are thus spoken of; and when he says of them that “such” they were, he simply means to describe morally the sink of vice “he horrible pit, the miry clay” out of which they had been raised through the Gospel.

but ye were washed, [1] ye were sanctified, ye were justified. These are not to be viewed as three distinct things experienced by the Corinthians; for then “sanctification” would naturally have been placed after “justification” (as in chap. 1 Corinthians 1:30), not before it; and besides there is no real distinction between being “washed” and being “justified.” For though some take “washing” to represent the whole change wrought in conversion, and “sanctifying” and “justifying” to mean two subdivisions of it, this seems very artificial; and it is far best to take the whole as simply a varied expression trebly emphasized of the same great change. And the triumphant “but,” with which each clause starts, confirms this, as if exulting in the wondrous change from the lowest to the highest moral state, expressed in the first clause he had been borne along to reiterate it in a second, and yet again in a third: ‘Yes, time was when ye lay in all that is foul, but now ye have got “washed;” deeply stained was your whole nature then, but now ye are “sanctified;” and then ye stood before a righteous God all condemned, but now ye are “justified.” The rest of the verse almost fixes this as the true sense of the statement in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ [2] that is, by virtue of His saving work, as the Divine Channel, and in (or ‘by’) the Spirit of our God as the Divine Agent of all that flows from the Infinite Fountain of purity into the soul. But not so much to awaken their gratitude are the Corinthians reminded of this here; it is rather to warn them of the danger in which they stood of returning like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. True, indeed, it is that the deepest and most inveterate depravity, provided only it be radically cured, will exclude none from the kingdom of heaven; but it is no less true that none shall inherit the kingdom of God under the final mastery of any one sin.

[1] Not “ye washed them off, as some excellent critics having respect to the middle voice here used would translate. For though “ye had yourselves washed” would convey the strict sense, the real meaning of this statement is, ‘Ye got washed;’ and thus rendered, it best harmonizes with the strictly passiv e sense of the two next verbs.

[2] So the true text would seem to read.

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 6:12. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient. ‘In things indifferent, such as the eating of meats forbidden under the ceremonial law, the Gospel has made all things clean, and I can use my liberty without scruple; but there are some of tender conscience who are still afraid to meddle with such things. For their sake, therefore, I must consider whether that which in itself is perfectly lawful is at the same time expedient.’

all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any of anything (not ‘any person’), to become its slave.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 6:13. Heats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them: ‘Meats, no doubt, are indifferent, but since both they and the mortal body to which they minister are destined to perish in their corruptibility, scorn to become enslaved to them.’

Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body: ‘As the body was not made to be pampered by “meats,” much less to be prostituted to vile uses, so the body of every believer is redeemed to be the Lord’s property, and the Lord belongs to it in return.’

Verse 14

1 Corinthians 6:14. And God both raised the Lord, and will raise up [1] us through his power see Romans 8:11. As the body of Christ was endued at His resurrection with imperishable properties, and stamped with a spiritual and celestial character, so will it be with all that are His (chap. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

[1] The addition of the word ‘up’ in the second verb is designed to mark the difference between the compound form of the verb here used and the simple form in the first clause. The form would seem to be varied merely from variety’s sake; but since (as Meyer observes) the simple form is invariably used in the fifteenth chapter, both of the resurrection of Christ and that of believers and there, indeed, no fewer than eighteen times whereas the compound form is used here only of the resurrection of believers, it is as well that the distinction should appear in the translation also. And as it was the resurrection of believers that was denied by “some” at Corinth, and that of Christ is brought in only to show what would follow if the views of this party were right, possibly the apostle intentionally departed from his usual style by employing the compound form as more emphatic for the resurrection of believer.

Verse 15

1 Corinthians 6:15. Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ? He expects this to be recognised as a first principle (see Ephesians 5:30).

shall I then take away [1] the members of Christ? ‘alienate’ them from their proper use. and make them, etc.

[1] ἀ ρας

Verse 16

1 Corinthians 6:16. What, know ye not that he that is joined to a harlot is one body! for the twain, saith he, shall become one flesh. As the sexes, by marriage, become one natural life, an abhorred unity of nature is formed by the action here referred to.

Verse 17

1 Corinthians 6:17. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit becomes by that union partaker of a life in common with the Lord, spiritual and imperishable.

Verse 18

1 Corinthians 6:18. Flee fornication. Note the studiously curt and stringent language (as that in 1 Corinthians 5:13), and not for nothing is “flight” here urged. This was what Joseph did (Genesis 39:12), and what the great mediaeval schoolman Thomas Aquinas, when a youth, literally did in exactly similar circumstances.

Every sin that a man doeth is without the body. Surfeiting and drunkenness, for example, are produced by the introduction into the body of foreign elements in excess.

but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body against its proper nature and use, prostituting it to base and blasting uses. Viewed in this light, that sin is like nothing else. It is a leprosy, which, when systematically practised, renders the body loathsome, enervates and slowly destroys the whole animal nature, and, what is worse, stupefies all the intellectual and moral powers.

Verse 19

1 Corinthians 6:19. What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you (see on chap. 1 Corinthians 2:11), which ye have from God as His gift through the risen Saviour, and whose presence in you is the presence of God Himself, by reason of their essential oneness: “Will ye then pollute and profane such a temple?” and ye are not your own?

Verse 20

1 Corinthians 6:20. For ye were bought with a price [1] “with precious blood, even Christ’s,” says Peter (1 Peter 1:19). Is it so? then, as the purchased property of another, ye are at no liberty to dispose of yourselves for uses of your own.

glorify God therefore in your body. The words of the received text that follow were beyond doubt wanting in the original text, and have crept in to fill up the supposed sense. [2] But since the subject in hand was the abuse of the body, the seeming abruptness of this way of closing the subject will be seen to give it a telling effect.

[1] The Vulgate renders this ‘with a great price’ ( magne pretio): Luther, ‘Ye were dear-bought’ (theuer erkauft); De Wette, much as the Vulgate (um theuren Preis erkauft). But, as Bengel well says, the emphasis is best conveyed by being left to speak for itself, as in chap. 1 Corinthians 7:23.

[2] They are wanting in all the Uncial MSS. save three (two of these of less value); they are found only in one good Cursive; they are wanting in both the old Latin and the Vulgate, as also in other versions; and they are wanting in the oldest and best patristic authorities.

Note. It is impossible not to be struck with the contrast between the views of even the most cultivated portions of the heathen world on the subject of morality and religion and those of Christianity. It is to Christianity alone that we owe that purity of feeling which has expelled almost the knowledge of those unnatural lusts which were current in heathen lands, which has banished to the darkest caverns of secrecy such of them as still live, and has made the mention of even the less abhorrent impurities which were unblushingly practised and freely spoken about to be offensive to Christian ears, and felt to be tainting to Christian lips. But another thing, the counterpart of this, should not escape notice that although Christianity furnishes motives to holiness peculiar to itself, motives inappreciable save to its genuine disciples, it is so far from disdaining considerations favourable to virtue which are derived from natural ethics, that it readily avails itself of them all, and both kinds of motives are found so readily to fit into each other as to shew that they come from one Divine source. In the present case, for example, while Christians are asked with astonishment if they are not aware that their bodies are members of Christ and temples of the Holy Ghost a sphere with which only Christians can intermeddle they are at the same time reminded that unnatural sexual connections are of such an intrinsic character as to be a species of corporeal suicide. Thus are the lower ethical principles taken up into the higher and thereby consolidated and sublimed.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.