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Paul Rebukes Shameful Lawsuits: 1 Corinthians 6:1-6

January 22, 2023 Preacher: Bob DeWaay Series: 1 Corinthians

Scripture: 1 Chronicles 6:1-6

The Corinthian church loved to make judgments about people’s relative, religious status. They wanted to know who was greater, more honorable, more gifted, and so forth. In that context, Paul was appalled to hear of one having a grievance against another over a trivial matter and bringing legal action before  secular authorities. To rebuke them over this, Paul uses a greater to lesser argument based on eschatology. Christians have an important future reigning with Christ. This implies that now they should at least be able to resolve the mundane matters of this life without dishonoring the gospel by bringing lawsuits before pagans.

There are a number of theological and grammatical  issues in these verses and we address them in the sermon. Verse 4 in particular has been subject much discussion through the centuries. The key point is who is it that has “no standing in the church”? Either it means the secular authorities to whom they appeal to adjudicate their issues (in which case Paul is using irony to rebuke them), or it is an imperative and tells them to bring their dispute to someone with wisdom in the church who is not seen as one of the elite. Such a person who is wise should adjudicate the matter.

Since the church at Corinth was plagued with pride over relative status, and the richer people are more likely to bring such suits to the civil courts, I favor the reading of the imperative to have someone who is not one of the elite within the church to help resolve it. Whatever the case, this is a shameful situation and Paul issues a strong rebuke. We are part of the family of God and should not treat each other in a way that harms fellow Christians or dishonors the gospel before the lost world around us.