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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
1 Corinthians 6

 

 

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Verses 1-11

1 Corinthians 6:1-11. The Scandal of Christians Suing each other before Heathen Tribunals.—Paul has prepared for his next rebuke by his reference to the function of the church to judge its own members. But alas, Christians are to be found who will go so far as shamelessly to carry their disputes with each other before a tribunal of the unrighteous (what a paradox to appeal for justice to the unjust!) instead of submitting them to their fellow-Christians. They cannot be so ill-instructed as to be unaware that Christians are to judge the world; if so, they cannot be unfit to settle such trumpery squabbles. Yes, if even the angels, the world's loftiest order, are to stand at their bar, how much more are they competent to judge matters of everyday need! When they have such cases, they actually set heathens to decide them, who as such are of no account in the estimation of the church. The statement of the fact should shame them. Is their case so desperate that there is not one among them wise enough to arbitrate? so that Christian sues Christian, and that before heathens! Indeed, they are to blame not merely for having recourse to heathen judges, but for going to law with each other at all. Better far to be wronged and defrauded. But they practise these things rather than suffer them, and that on their brothers. Then they are unrighteous, and as such disqualified for inheriting the Kingdom of God. Let them beware of deluding themselves with vain hopes; the unchaste, idolaters, thieves, the grasping, the drunkards, the revilers, the extortioners (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11) will not inherit the Kingdom. Such some of them had been, but they had had themselves baptized, had been made holy, been declared righteous in virtue of Christ's name and the efficacious working of God's Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:1. any of you: the singular does not imply that Paul knows only of one case. 1 Corinthians 6:7 f. shows there are more.

1 Corinthians 6:2. The formula, "know ye not." has occurred before (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 5:6), but in this chapter it occurs no fewer than six times (1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 6:15-16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). With all their boasted knowledge, are they ignorant of such truths as these? (John 3:10); one could not have credited such ignorance but for their conduct. That the saints will judge the earth is an article of Jewish belief (Daniel 7:22, Wisdom of Solomon 3:8, Sirach 4:15); in Matthew 19:28 the apostles are to judge the twelve tribes; Revelation 20:4 supplies a close parallel to our passage.

1 Corinthians 6:3. Angels are included in "the world" (1 Corinthians 4:9); the reference is not exclusively or perhaps even primarily to evil angels. There are several passages in the NT which negative the popular doctrine of angelic sinlessness, and in this the writers agree with the contemporary Jewish belief.

1 Corinthians 6:4. Difficult. We may take the sentence as interrogative with RV and understand "those who are of no account in the church" as heathen; do you set heathen, whom as such you hold in no esteem, to judge? Or we may take it as a statement of what actually happens, explaining "those of no account" either as heathen judges (so above) or the most insignificant members of the church. Or we may take it as imperative (so mg.), the language being sarcastic, the least weighty of your members can deal with such trifles as these.

1 Corinthians 6:11. Here again Paul humbles the conceit of the church by recalling the moral degradation from which some of its members had been rescued.


Verses 12-20

1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Impurity is no True Expression of Christian Freedom, but Incompatible with the Believer's Union with Christ.—The special case of incest and the warnings against impurity in the last section (1 Corinthians 6:9 f.) have prepared the way for this explicit and reasoned denunciation. Impurity was defended on the principle that all things were lawful, possibly a maxim in which Paul had expressed his own doctrine of Christian freedom. If so, here, as elsewhere, illegitimate inferences were drawn from his antinomianism, here to defend licence, elsewhere to discredit his doctrine of freedom by exhibiting its moral dangers. More probably the maxim was coined by those who defended licentiousness; Paul opposes to it the counter-maxim, "All things are not expedient," i.e. there are things which involve moral and spiritual loss. "All are lawful," he repeats, retorting: "Yes, but if they are at my disposal, they shall not dispose of me; no habit shall make me its slave; slavery is what your boasted ‘freedom' really means." Next he quotes an analogy by which impurity was defended, the organs involved are, in fact, fulfilling their natural function, just as properly as the belly in receiving food. He replies that the belly is but a temporary organ fitted to this sphere of existence not to the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50); it will disappear as completely as the meats it consumes and digests (Colossians 2:21 f.). The retort might be made that the sexual organs belonged similarly just to this lower order (Mark 12:25), their gratification therefore was as legitimate as the gratification of the appetite for food. Paul does not state this, nor as yet explicitly meet it. He proceeds to speak of the body; the relationship of the body to the Lord is as completely reciprocal as that of meats for the belly. But in the one case the end is destruction, in the other permanence. The perishable has no such moral significance as the abiding; the immortality of the Lord (Romans 6:9) involves the immortality of the body. The body, therefore, as belonging to Christ and destined for immortality, must be used in harmony with its lofty destiny; impurity and Christ are utterly incompatible, the body cannot be dedicated to both. Speaking more concretely he now refers (1 Corinthians 6:15-17) to the partner of the sin rather than to the sin itself. The primal law of marriage (Genesis 2:24) affirms that husband and wife are "one flesh." And this is true of illicit unions, the man and his paramour become in the act one flesh, his members become hers. But in the case of Christians their bodies are the Lord's members; what impious desecration to make them members of a harlot! He who is joined to the Lord in mystical union (in this context and in this sentence the union must obviously be mystical not merely ethical), coalesces into a single spirit with Him. Paul now touches the principle which justified him in speaking of the body rather than the specific organs in reply to the analogy from the belly. Fornication involves the body itself in a sense in which no other sin does, not even if it be a physical sin like gluttony or drunkenness. It is sacrilege against the temple of the Holy Ghost, and implies a claim to dispose of himself which no Christian can make. He does not belong to himself, he has been bought with a price. We have Pagan inscriptions from Delphi in which the manumission of a slave is represented as his purchase by the god with a view to his freedom (Galatians 5:1). The price here is no doubt the death of Christ (1 Peter 1:18 f.), but the metaphor of ransom must not be pressed, else the question arises, as in patristic theology, "To whom was the ransom paid?" It is most unlikely that Paul thought of the answer, for many centuries so popular, that since the devil was man's master the price must have been paid to him. The stress lies on the fact that they have been set free from the old bondage. But Christian freedom is bondage to Christ, whose slave Paul delights to call himself.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/1-corinthians-6.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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