The Tenth in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
Only Americans could love Judge Judy–the uni-mom, as I call her, because of her matronly ability to make grown men look like disobedient children. Yet I’m sure that if the Corinthians had the technology we have, they would love Judge Judy also. The public airing of personal disputes makes for great theater. This explains Judge Judy’s huge audience in contemporary America. In Corinth, legal disputes were aired in large public buildings known as basilicas which were part of the city’s forum. Whenever the court met, the public gathered around to take in the spectacle of well-known townsfolk accusing each other of all kinds of wrong-doing before the court, while a leading citizen who served as judge made his ruling. Although the public airing of personal disputes attracted large audiences in cities like Corinth, the Apostle Paul sees this as yet another manifestation of the wisdom of this age. Christians are to settle their disputes based upon the wisdom and power of God as revealed in the cross. Those who will judge the world, need to learn to settle their disputes in a God-honoring manner, and not resort to a public spectacle like that in the courts of Corinth.
We are continuing our series on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. We have made our way through the first five chapters of this letter in which Paul is dealing with a number of problems facing this congregation. Because of their lack of maturity and love of Greek wisdom, the church has divided into factions. Paul reminds them that the wisdom and power of God is revealed through the message of Christ crucified, even though the Greeks regarded this message as foolishness. Paul has told them that the foundation of this church is the gospel, and that the members of the church compose a living temple in which dwells the Spirit of God. This is why the church must not be torn apart by divisions, and explains why those who are engaging in scandalous behavior–like the man who has his father’s wife–must be removed from the church.
Yet another indication of the spiritual immaturity within the Corinthian church can be seen in the fact that members of this congregation were taking each other to court to engage in civil litigation. Having spoken of the judgment to come upon those excommunicated in the previous chapter (v. 12), this brings to the apostle’s mind the situation reported to Paul by members of Chloe’s family (or others) regarding the fact that church members were suing each other in the city’s courts. In verses 1-6 of chapter 6, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for this immature behavior, while reminding them that Christians ought to be able to settle their own disputes without such litigation. Paul then goes on to point out in verses 7-8 that church members were actually defrauding each other and cheating, a practice which Paul says must stop. Finally, in verses 9-11, Paul sets forth that conduct which excludes people from the kingdom of God so as to contrast that prior conduct with the current status of sinners who are trusting in Jesus Christ. Once again, it is important to note that Paul does not focus upon the particulars of these lawsuits, nor does he name any of the individuals involved. In fact, the focus really hasn’t changed much from chapter 5. The issue in chapter 6 is still the failure of the Corinthian church to be the church.
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