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1 Corinthians 6:1. Before the unjust, and not before the saints— The heathen judges, as St. Paul here in effect declares, were generally unjust; Christians at that time were generally good, righteous, and holy men: there might be exceptions on each side; but the Apostle's argument turns on what might commonly be supposed: the saints who are to judge angels, and not merely professing Christians. See Locke, Doddridge, and Whitby.
1 Corinthians 6:3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels?— "Even the fallen angels themselves, who, notwithstanding all their malignity and pride, shall be brought to that tribunal, at which you, having gloriously passed your own trial, shall be seated with Christ, your victorious Lord; when by his righteous sentence he shall send these rebellious spirits to that flaming prison, which divine justice hath prepared for them?" Had the Apostle, as Dr. Whitby and others suppose, referred to the power which many Christians had of driving out demons from those who were possessed by them, he would not have spoken of this as afuture thing; nor can we suppose it to have been common to all Christians; nor would it have afforded an argument equally forcible with that which the interpretation that we have given suggests. There seems a peculiar dignityand propriety in this determination of the great God, that when the devils, who are expressly said to be reserved in chains of darkness, to the judgment of the great day, shall be condemned; the saints, being raised to the seats of glory which these wicked spirits have forfeited and lost, should assist in that sentence, which shall display the victory of Christ over them in these his servants, once their captives; and will, no doubt, render the sentence itself yet more intolerable to creatures of such malignity and pride. See Locke, Whitby, Doddridge, and Reynolds, "of angels," p. 183.
1 Corinthians 6:4. If then ye have judgments— If therefore you have controversies relating to affairs of this life, do you set them to judge, who are of no esteem in the church;—that is to say, the heathen magistrates? Some critics say that the word δικαστηρια, rendered judgements, like κριτηρια, signifies judicial courts, not causes; and they would render the passage thus: Appoint secular judicatories, if you have in the church this contemptible sort of men, who are so ready to go to law, 1 Corinthians 6:7. But the first interpretation seems preferable. SeeBp. Overall, Camerarius, Knatchbull, Limborch, and Elsner. Mr. Locke observes, that there was among the Jews Concessus triumviralis authenticus, an authentic court of judicature governed by three judges, who had authority, and could hear and determine causes, ex officio,—by virtue of their office: and there was also another Concessus triumviralis, chosen by the parties. The latter court, though not authentic, in the before-mentioned sense, could judge and determine the causes referred to it; and the members of this court were they whom St. Paul calls here τους εξουθενημενους, judices non authenticos; that is, "Referees chosen by the parties." That he does not mean by the original those who are least esteemed, is plain from the next vers
1 Corinthians 6:5. A wise man— If St. Paul uses this word in the sense of the synagogue, it signifies a rabbi, or one ordained, and so capacitated to be a judge; for such were called wise men. If in the sense of the Greek schools, then it signifies a man of learning, study, and parts. If it be taken in the latter sense, it may seem to be used with some reflection on their pretences to wisdom. See Locke.
1 Corinthians 6:6. Brother goeth to law with brother— Josephus observes, 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 hence may be argued the justice of this rebuke of St. Paul, as there is no room to doubt but Christians might have had the same privilege, as they were looked upon as a Jewish sect. Exclusive of that, however, they might doubtless, by mutual consent, have chosen their brethren as referees. See Lardner's Credibil. vol. 1: p. 165 and on 1 Corinthians 6:4.
1 Corinthians 6:8. Nay, ye do wrong— That the wrong here spoken of was the fornicator's taking and keeping his father's wife, the words of St. Paul, 2Co 7:12 instancing this very wrong, are a sufficient evidence; and it is not wholly improbable that there had been some hearing of this matter before a heathen judge; or at least that this had been talked of; which, if supposed, will give a great light to this whole passage, and several others in this Epistle; for St. Paul's argument, ch. 1Co 5:12-13 ch. 1 Corinthians 6:1-3, &c. runs plainly thus, coherent and easy to be understood, if it stood together as it ought, without the division into two chapters: "You have a power to judge those who are of your church, therefore put away from among you that fornicator. You do ill to let the case come before a heathen magistrate;—Are you, who are to judge the world, and angels, not worthy to judge such a matter as this?" See Locke.
1 Corinthians 6:11. But ye are washed— "You are not only baptized, but divine grace has made a happy change in your state and temper, and you are purified and renewed, as well as discharged from the condemnation to which you were justly obnoxious, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of him, whom we are now taught, through that common Saviour, to call with complacency our God." See Heb 9:10-23 ch. 1 Corinthians 10:10; 1Co 10:18 compared.
1 Corinthians 6:12. All things are lawful unto me— Are all things lawful for me?—However, all things are not expedient. Are all things lawful for me?—However, I will not be a slave to any. Heylin.
1 Corinthians 6:18. Every sin, &c.——"Every other sin which a man practises is without the body; its effects fall not so directly upon the body, but often more immediately upon the mind; but he that committeth fornication or any kind of lewdness, sinneth particularlyagainst his own body; not only pollutingand debasing it, by making it one with so infamous a creature, but perhaps infecting and enfeebling, wasting, and consuming it,which these vices, when grown habitual and frequent, have an apparent tendency to effect." It would be unreasonable to insist on the most rigorous interpretation of the words, Every sin that a man doth, &c. but the general sense is plain and true; and probably, on the whole, there is no other sin by which the body receives equal detriment, considering not only its nature, but how much it has prevailed. See Doddridge, Raphelius, and Grotius.
1 Corinthians 6:19. What! know ye not, &c.— This question is repeated six times in this chapter, and seems to carry with it a very strong irony on their pretence to extraordinary wisdom. See ch. 1 Corinthians 4:10. Locke, Wetstein, and Cicero de Leg. lib. 1: ad fin.
Inferences.—How great a reproach do we bring on our Christian profession by so immoderate an attachment to our secular interests! How much does the family of our common Father suffer, while brother goes to law with brother!—What are these little interests of mortal life, that the heirs of salvation, by whom angels are to be judged, should wrangle about them, and for the sake of them do wrong, and that even to their brethren! 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. Men had need, where such a temper prevails, to examine themselves, and take heed that they be not deceived; for though good men may fall into some degrees of this evil, through negligence, mistake, or the infirmities of our common nature; yet certainly it looks too much like the character of those, concerning whom the Apostle testifies that they should not inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
We may observe, that in the catalogue here given are contained, not only the most infamous and enormous offenders, but some who perhaps may be tempted, because of their freedom from flagitious crimes, to think much better of themselves than they ought. We find here the effeminate and covetous, the revilers and extortioners, ranked with adulterers and fornicators, with thieves and drunkards, with idolaters and sodomites. We can never be secure from danger of falling into the greatest sins, till we learn to guard against the least; or rather till we think no evil small, viewing every sin in its contradiction to the nature of God, and in the sad aspect that it wears with regard to an eternal state.
But how striking is it to reflect, that when the Apostle is speaking of persons of such infamous character, he should be able to add, in his address to his Christian brethren at Corinth, (1 Corinthians 6:11.) and such were some of you! Who must not adore the riches of divine grace?—Were such as these the best of the heathen world?—Were such as these prepared by their distinguished virtues to receive further assistance?—Let us pay our homage to the all-conquering grace of God; and let the greatest sinners hence learn not to despair of salvation, when made sincerely desirous of being washed and sanctified, as well as justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
It is that Name, it is that Spirit alone, which accomplishes wonders like these; and, blessed be God, all the wonders of this kind were not exhausted in those early ages; but some have been reserved for us, on whom the end of the world is come. The Gospel has had its triumphs in our own days, and they shall be renewed in those of our children: only let none hence presume to turn the grace of God into wantonness, lest, instead of being among those who are made trophies of the divine mercy, they should perish with the multitude of the ungodly world.
With what incomparable advantages does our holy religion, in this respect peculiarly excellent, enforce all the lessons of moral virtue which it teaches!—With what holy disdain should we look on the baits of sense, and the pollutions which are in the world through lust, if we seriously and often reflected on these two things,—that our bodies are the members of Christ, and that they are the temples of the Holy Ghost!—It should be our unwearied care, as it will be our peculiar happiness, that they may not only nominally, but really be such; that by a living faith we may be united to the Lord, so as to become one Spirit with him, animated by that Spirit which resides in him, and dwells in all who are truly his, 1 Corinthians 6:15-19.
Whenever we are tempted to alienate ourselves from the service of God, we should reflect upon the price with which we are bought; 1 Corinthians 6:20.—That great, that important price, which we should never think of, but with secret shame, as well as with love and admiration. O Lord! hast thou paid such a ransom for me, and shall I act as if I thought even this not enough?—as if thou hadst acquired only a partial and imperfect right to me, and I might divide myself between thee and strangers, between thee and thine enemies?—Oh may I be entirely thine, and make it the business of the latest day and hour of my life, to glorify thee with my body, and with my spirit, which are, and ought to be, for ever thine!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle proceeds to censure another grievous abuse among them. A litigious spirit prevailed, and, to the shame of their holy profession, brother went to law against brother, and that before the unbelievers, the heathen magistrates.
1. He rebukes them for thus going to law among themselves, and that too, as appears, 1Co 6:2; 1Co 6:7 on matters of small importance, which, without great detriment to themselves or families, they might have quietly passed by, and borne the loss of, rather than seek a litigious redress: and, worst of all, they chose rather to carry their causes before the heathen tribunals, than refer them to the decision of their own members, the saints of God; thereby giving the enemy occasion to triumph in their quarrels.
2. He suggests, as an aggravation of their fault, the honour and dignity to which the saints of God must shortly be exalted, as assessors with the eternal Judge on his throne, while fallen angels and a guilty world stand at his bar, and receive from his lips their eternal doom. And if so, how strange must it be that they should not now be able to judge of the smallest matters, and determine concerning the trivial affairs of this life. (See the Annotations.)
3. With a warm expostulation on their folly and perverseness, he points out to them a remedy for the evil. I speak to your shame. In what an unbecoming and unchristian manner do you act? Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? Where they boasted of such high attainments in wisdom, it would be very strange if they could not find a better umpire of their disputes among the whole body of their church, than to have recourse to Gentile tribunals. There was therefore, no doubt, a fault in this matter; and far better was it for them to suffer some wrong and loss, than to seek redress in such a way. But, instead of this meekness, patience, and forgiveness, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren, to the great dishonour of your Christian profession. Note; All differences among Christians should be amicably determined by their brethren: at least, in lesser matters, it were better to quit our right than have recourse to the wrangling bar.
2nd, The Apostle, having warned them against some particular offences, passes on to enumerate a black catalogue, of which they had formerly been guilty, and under the power of which, whoever continued to walk, he never could inherit the kingdom of God.
1. The sins mentioned are fornication, idolatry, adultery, effeminacy and lasciviousness, sodomy, theft, avarice, drunkenness, reviling, extortion, crimes which, if indulged, must necessarily exclude the soul from any part in the kingdom of grace, and for ever banish it from the presence of God in glory.
2. He warns them against all self-delusion in this matter. There was a lie in their right hand, if they flattered themselves with any vain imaginations that they had yet hope towards God, while walking in such abominations; which then, now, and for ever, if not forsaken and forgiven, must inevitably destroy both body and soul in hell.
3. He reminds them of the blessed change which had passed upon them, that they might not again return unto folly. Such were some of you. But glory be to God's rich and boundless grace, ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God: ye are washed in the Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness: by the atoning Blood of the adored Redeemer your iniquities are pardoned, great and aggravated as they were; and you are not only accounted righteous, but made pure in heart by the mighty operation of the Divine Spirit, and in body, soul, and spirit renewed, that you might be made meet for the inheritance among the saints in light. Note; (1.) The greatest crimes exclude none from salvation who fly to the atoning blood of Jesus. In him there is grace abounding for the chief of sinners. (2.) All who are justified by grace, are in a blessed measure sanctified by the Spirit. We deceive ourselves, if we think that we have an interest in the one, if we do not experience the effectual operation of the other. (3.) Nothing is so strong an argument to a genuine Christian to fly from sin, as the remembrance of the mercy that he has tasted, and of the ransom which has been paid.
3rdly, As some at Corinth appeared to have too light thoughts of the sin of fornication which the Apostle ranked under the damning sins, and seem to have set it on a footing only with the meats forbidden to the Gentile converts, (Acts 15:29.) the Apostle strongly sets himself to shew their dangerous error. With regard to meats forbidden by the Levitical law, or offered to idols, all things are lawful unto me, which Christ has not forbidden, and are not in their own nature sinful; but all things are not expedient; even in indifferent matters, for the sake of others, it is right to forego our Christian liberty. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any, so as to have my affections enslaved by them, or to have my conscience subjected to any human arbitrary authority. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; all wholesome food is designed for our use; but these are things of trivial consequence, since God shall shortly destroy both it and them. In the eternal world the glorified will not need these bodily refreshments, for they shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more: but respecting fornication, the matter is very different; though the belly is not at all defiled by meats, the body is by fornication.
He urges this matter by various arguments.
1. Now the body is not for fornication; it was not made to be prostituted to impurity; but for the Lord, to be employed for his glory, and the Lord for the body, who, as the bridegroom of his church and people, requires their bodies as well as souls to be under his holy government. And,
2. God hath both raised up the Lord Jesus from the dead, that his quickened body might be the pledge and earnest of our resurrection; and will also raise up us by his own power: our bodies therefore, which, if we be faithful to his grace, shall be fashioned like to his glorious body, ought not now to be polluted by fornication and uncleanness.
3. Know ye not, that your bodies are the members of Christ? Through faith we are united to Christ as our living head, and compose a part of his body mystical: shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? How horrid the very suggestion! and every Christian heart, with detestation of the thought, cannot but cry, God forbid! What, know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot, is one body? Such an unhallowed connection is most contrary to the union of the heart with Jesus: for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. A fornicator becomes united to a harlot, and not to Christ; but he that is joined unto the Lord, in real vital union of heart and person, is one spirit, actuated and influenced by the same divine Spirit, which in all its fulness dwells in our exalted head. Therefore flee fornication, as one of the highest indignities that we can offer to the Lord, of whose body we are members. Note; In temptations to lewdness, flight is often the only preservative.
4. Every other sin that a man doeth, is without the body, and terminates upon an object without himself, not immediately defiling the body, though it brings guilt upon his soul; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body; not only offending against God and his neighbour, but immediately contaminating his own flesh by such an abomination.
5. What shall I farther urge? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God? And, since he hath been pleased to take up his abode in your hearts, ye are not your own, but bound to yield yourselves to his will and guidance, and to do nothing which should provoke the divine Inhabitant to quit his temple with abhorrence.
6. For, to finish with one argument more, ye are bought with a price, even the amazing price of a Redeemer's blood, from the curse of the law, and the bondage of corruption, that you might be restored to the service and enjoyment of the blessed God. Therefore, since this was one great end of your redemption, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's, nor dare to alienate your affections from him, or to dishonour your bodies by fornication, which should be employed in his blessed work, and wholly and unreservedly devoted to his glory.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26