This sermon is number 14 in a series of 46
1 Corinthians - Part 14
"Revelation Or Litigation?"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I Corinthians 6:1-11
Let's turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 6, 1 Corinthians chapter 6. This is our fourteenth study this evening, if you haven't been to any of our other studies and you want to be updated, all the tape ministry is available upstairs, and you can get that on your way out.
We're looking tonight at the subject of 'Revelation Or Litigation?', and we're reading the first 11 verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 6, beginning to read at verse 1: "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but 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".
There once was an ancient Greek playwright, who in the course of one of his plays introduces a character who is seen to be looking at a map of the world. He asks the question to those round about him: 'Where is Greece?', and in answer to that question Greece is pointed out to him geographically on the map, and he replies to them: 'Well, there must be some kind of mistake, because I cannot see any lawsuits going on!'. Lawsuits and going to the law were so prevalent in Greece that it was one of the most common characteristics whereby the Greek Empire, if you like, was known. Of course, Corinth in Greece was known and had this reputation of people, for every little reason, taking their friends, their relatives, their neighbours, their countrymen to the law courts over trivia - things that didn't really matter, but they always dragged them to the law courts to sort them out there.
Of course, I think you would agree with me that the United Kingdom is getting a similar reputation today. We seem to be a people that go to the courts quicker than we have ever done, and look for compensation of every kind no matter what has befallen us - and, most likely, a lot of the time things that haven't befallen us, but we'll chance our arm anyway! But you must remember that this letter is written to the church, the church of Jesus Christ in Corinth. You would like to think they would be different, and that they would not have imbibed or assimilated in their lifestyle the way of life of those outside in the world. Of course, the sad fact, as we have found as we have gone through these first five or so chapters of 1 Corinthians, was that this was the biggest problem, perhaps, of the church of Corinth - they were carnal. Paul had to speak to them, and he didn't beat around the bush, he told them: 'Ye are carnal'.
The standards of the wicked, depraved city of Corinth were beginning to filter into the church. The way of life that these men and women had before their conversion, they were starting to revert back to them once again. Here we have it, here they were following the example perhaps of their previous way of life before conversion, and the things that were going on around them in their workplace and in their neighbourhood, and they were taking people to court. But the thing that Paul is really speaking against in chapter 6 is: they were hanging their dirty linen out, as it were, the dirty linen of the church, in public! It wasn't that they were taking unbelievers to court, but they were taking one another to court! Believer taking believer, brother taking brother to the law!
Now verse 1, perhaps in the translation that we're reading tonight, which we love so well, maybe doesn't make it terribly clear. It says: 'Dare any of you, having a matter against another', and the literal 'another' there actually insinuates 'another brother'. It could be literally translated: 'the other', and it is pointing towards those who are sanctified in Christ, washed in Christ, redeemed, their lives are changed, going to the law courts against one another in litigation. So Paul lays down in chapter 6 broad principles that were not just applicable to the legal times of Paul's day and even the ecclesiastical times of Paul's day, but they are applicable to the law today and applicable to the church of Jesus Christ today, because we believe that the word of God is inspired - all of it - and is profitable for our learning. But in saying that we must be balanced, and it's important that we never interpret any portion of Scripture to the exclusion of other portions of Scripture. It would be very easy to run into 1 Corinthians 6 tonight and say: 'You're never ever to go to the law courts, never!'. Of course, that would be wrong, because Paul doesn't say that. He's talking about brethren taking other brethren to the law courts, and you know and I know that in Acts Paul actually went to the law courts of his own free will himself, and he said - we have his words: 'I appeal to Caesar'. He looked to his Gentile patronage that he had through Rome. You might think he's wrong for doing it, and there are scholars that think he made a mistake - well, if you think you know better than the apostle Paul, you're some man or some woman. But nevertheless, he did it, and we could go through the Scriptures tonight and show you that this is not what Paul is meaning here, that you never go to law, and there are some friendly lawsuits - that's what they're called today - that are necessary to go through with regards to red tape and things that have to be done in the eyes of the law of the land that you have to do.
Let me also say that what Paul is talking about here in chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians has got absolutely nothing to do with criminal cases, nothing to do with criminal cases! So if you're a rapist, or you're a murder, or you're a child abuser, or you're an extortioner, any sin you like to name that is a criminal offence in the eyes of the law and the state of our particular land - the church will not be a shelter to you! It will not. And although the Catholic Church has decided it would be a shelter, and it was greater than the law of the land, it has found out to its detriment that it is not! Let me show you that this is what the word of God teaches, turn with me to Romans chapter 13, and you would have to believe that Paul was contradicting himself to believe that he's talking about criminal law in 1 Corinthians 6. Romans 13 verse 3, in the whole chapter he's addressing the authorities that are ordained of God - even wicked authorities in lands where the worship of God is prohibited - God has allowed all rulers, kings, and potentates, and presidents, and prime ministers to sit on their seat of rule. Verse 3: 'For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?' - he's asking a hypothetical question insinuating to them that they ought to be afraid of the power of the law of the land - 'do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same'. If you do what's good and you keep the law, you'll not be afraid of those that enforce the law. Verse 4: 'For he', that is, a man who enforces the law, 'is the minister', or the servant, 'of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil'.
Now there it's sanctioned: Paul has put a stamp of inspiration of the Holy Spirit on the fact that we ought to fear the law of the land, obey the law of the land, and it doesn't even matter - let me say - that you get converted...if you've committed something criminal you must pay for it! So I hope you see that Paul isn't legislating any cover-up here, but what Paul is talking about is the airing of petty differences in the church before the world - silly disputes, trivial matters, personality problems, silly gripes and sinful vexations and insinuations. That's what he's talking about. Of course, if you look at the last verse of chapter 5 that we finished off last week, verse 13, he says: 'But them that are without God judgeth'. It's not our job in the church to judge people outside the church, we're not to judge the world. That was the mistake of the Roman Catholic system, they believed in the unification of church and state, and they believed that they should have sway over the state and ruling the state - and even in the Republic of Ireland today there are still laws that I believe will be rectified very soon, that say that the Catholic Church is a law unto itself, and in the matter of paedophiles and so on they can overrule themselves. That will be changed, because we know everything that is going on in Ireland at this present day. But you see there's a mistake of thinking that we can judge the world, we're not here to judge the world, Paul says you're to judge the church - therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. We're to judge the church, not to judge the world.
Now Paul tells them, verse 1: 'Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?'. You're to judge yourselves, so what are you running to the law courts of Corinth for? So the first thing that we see here is a rebuke from the apostle that is based on the Christian's destiny. The motivation for this rebuke is absolute and utter amazement - you can see that in the English: 'Dare any of you, dare any of you?'. Campbell Morgan, the great expositor, said that in that statement there's a balance between amazement and indignation. At the one moment Paul's breath has been taken away at the fact that they're running to the law courts rather than judging among themselves, yet his anger is boiling over righteously because he knows this shouldn't be done, and he knows that even the very gospel is at stake and the name of Christ because of their actions. Morgan says that it could be translated like this: 'How dare any of you?'. You see, that's the sense: 'How dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust?'. But it's more pointed than that, because in the original language the emphasis is on the word 'you' - 'How dare any of you?'. The point that Paul is making is the distinction of those who were running to the law, and their destiny in the future. He's saying: 'Out of all the people on the face of God's earth, in all humanity, you of all people shouldn't be running to the law courts!'.
Now why is that? Well, you will remember, I hope, that at times Paul through this epistle has been talking to these believers positionally - in other words, the way God sees them in Christ, their standing in Christ. In chapter 1 we saw that, in verse 2 he says: 'Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord'. They are saints, they are called, they're in Christ, that's their position. Then there are other times that he talks to them practically - in chapter 3, if you look at, and verse 1 he says to them: 'Ye are yet babes in Christ - I would love to speak to you as unto spiritual, but I have to treat you as carnal'. Verse 3: 'For ye are yet carnal: for there are those among you still envying, strife, divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?'. Now you've got to realise the background here of the apostle Paul: Paul was a Jew of the Jews, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, blameless concerning the law - and in Jewish custom they never ever went to the civil law courts. That's why the Scribes were called lawyers at times within the Bible, because they were experts in the Jewish law, and if you had a complaint against another you went to the synagogue, and it was sorted out in the house of God, in the synagogue. You see, so that's the background of Paul, and then he's had revealed to him the mysteries of the church that have never been revealed before, he's been telling them how they ought to discipline within the church - and they've the power and the presence of Christ, his apostolic seal, to do so - and he's astounded, with all the knowledge that he has and his Jewish background, that with this position that they have in Christ: 'You who are sanctified, you who are called, you who are set apart, you who are the saints of God in Christ, you of all people - how dare you run to the law courts for litigation, rather than revelation that God would give you!'.
Now that rebuke, 'How dare you?', is based on two factors of the destiny of the child of God. The first is verse 2: 'Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?' - do you not know? Now this is very interesting, because you remember that Paul was rebuking these Corinthians because of their puffed up pride, you remember that. They had pride about their sects - they followed Apollos, Paul, Cephas, and even the Lord - and they had broken up into their factions, and they were proud about these servants of God that they followed. Then they were proud about their sin, we saw that last week, that there was incest in the house of God, and yet they were proud about it! Well, they're still proud, but of course you remember in chapter 1 what he really addresses is their pride about their wisdom. They thought that the human wisdom that they had intellectually was far superior to the apostle Paul, and by default they were saying that it was more superior than God's revealed will and God's wisdom. Paul says right throughout this passage, verse 2: 'Do you not know?', verse 3, 'Know ye not?', verse 15, 'Do you not know?', verse 16, 'Do you not know? Know ye not?', verse 19, 'What, know ye not?'. They thought they knew everything, and they knew nothing! So Paul says to them: 'Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?'.
Now if you know the sermon that Paul preached in Acts chapter 17, you will know that in verse 31 he said this: 'Because God hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead'. One day very soon, praise His holy name and thank God for it, because this place is in a mess, one of these days Christ is coming again! But He's coming to rule with a rod of iron, and to dash the potter's vessel in pieces, and He is the Man that God hath appointed to judge the world! Remember in John chapter 5 the Lord Himself said that 'the Father judgeth no man, but He committed all judgment unto the Son', and it is the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge this world. But Paul is saying: 'Do you not know that just as He will judge the world, and positionally you are in Christ, called to Him, sanctified by Him, saints according to His name, that you in Him will judge the world also?'.
Now the obvious question is: when will this happen? If you turn to chapter 4 and verse 8, you remember Paul rebuked these people because they were living it up spiritually, and sarcastically he said in chapter 4 and verse 8: 'Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you'. 'I wish we were reigning today, because that would speak that we are in the millennium reign of Christ, the thousand years when Christ will reign as far as the sun shines'. They were attributing to themselves the blessings and the rewards of the millennium kingdom before the millennium kingdom had come. You see, you get this pattern right throughout the whole of Scripture - Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2 and 12: 'If we suffer with him, we will reign with him: but if we deny him, he will deny us'.
This realm that we are living in is the realm of sacrifice, this realm is the realm of suffering, this is the realm where we take up our cross and follow Christ day by day, when we deny ourselves, when we lose our soul that we might find it one day. But the millennium kingdom is the time when we will receive reward, and when Jesus says, and Paul says, and the apostles say that we will reign with Him and we will judge the earth. Sure, isn't that tremendous? Did He not say to the apostles in Matthew 19 that they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel? Look at chapter 2 of Revelation for a moment, and let me say that I'm not sure that this is just for every believer, because there seems to be a measure of faithfulness that is attached to reigning with Christ right throughout the whole of the Scriptures. In chapter 2 and verse 26 the Lord says: 'And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations'. Look at chapter 20, and of course that's the chapter where there's the Great White Throne judgement for all those who are outside of Christ, and in verse 4 John says: 'I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years'. There seems to be this connection that, if we suffer for Him, we will reign with Him.
Now I'm not going to go into all that tonight, for I'm not sure that I can do that, but all I know is that this should stimulate us to become overcomers. It should stimulate us to endure hardship with undeviating fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ, because there's a day coming when this world will be judged, and we may be called to judge the world with Him! What a privilege! Look at verse 11 of chapter 20 in Revelation, John goes on: 'I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire'. Now you often hear it said that the believer will not be at that judgement, that is nonsense! The believer will be at that judgement, but he will not be being judged, he will be doing the judging! Have you ever thought of that? At the beginning of chapter 20, we read it, in verse 4 who is sitting on those thrones? The saints who are judges with Christ. This is tremendous! Every man that has ever lived in humanity, I feel, is going to be here, all standing before God - those who are being judged. Praise His name, we'll never be judged for our sin...that was a very weak 'Amen'!
In John 5 the Lord said: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life'. There is now therefore no condemnation for them which are in Christ Jesus - hallelujah! We'll be there, but we'll be on the bench with the Master helping Him in the judgement! Now don't ask me how we'll be doing it, I don't know whether we'll be called to witness - that man heard the gospel, you gave him a tract, you spoke to him about his soul, and he's unrepentant - I don't know whether that's what will happen. The Bible doesn't declare those things, but I know that it says: 'Know ye not that we shall judge the world?'.
Another thing, verse 12, that everything fled from the face of Him that sat upon the Throne - everything, everything! 'I saw God', the One that is sitting on the Throne, John 5 says, is the Lord Jesus Christ - for the Father doesn't judge any man, He committeth all judgement to the Son, and here we find it says: 'I saw God' - are you going to tell me He's not God? He's God alright, and all the world flees from standing before the face of the Lord Jesus Christ on that Throne, and it says that the earth and the heavens will flee away - and if you had any doubt about where in the whole universe is going to hold every person that has ever lived in humanity, well have no doubt about it, because the whole universe will flee from the face of God, and the only one that will be left is the unrepentant sinner! If that's you, I urge you in the name of the Lord to flee from that wrath to come! Flee to your Saviour, as He stands now not as your judge, but as your potential Redeemer.
What is the point of Paul's rebuke? It's this: you're going to judge the world one day, can you not even judge a little bit of trivia that's in the assembly, but you have to drag it before the law courts and hang your dirty linen out in front for all the world to see? Do you know what he's talking about? These people, and some of them can be Christians, who make mountains out of molehills, and love to make mountains out of molehills. The insinuation in verse 2 about these smallest matters, matters of trivia is a translation, is that they weren't even worth being judged upon - they're not genuine, they're sinful vexations. Yet these people that want the thing judged, for them it's the end of the world - it means everything! You know what I'm talking about: people that are hyper-sensitive, and if you look at them the wrong way, well that's you finished - and you mightn't even be looking at them the wrong way at all! People who are vengeful in their spirit, this is what I'm talking about, people who want to get their own rights and their own back, and wants their pound of flesh. The Bible says that a child of God with that attitude and that spirit denies their identity as a son of God, and denies their destiny as a judge of the world. Do you see it?
The second reason he gives for this rebuke is based on the fact that we will judge angels. Verse 3: 'Know ye not that we shall judge angels?'. Now if we go to Jude verse 6, just before the book of the Revelation, you have this here - turn with me to Jude verse 6: 'And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day'. This is talking about fallen angels of course. I believe it's talking about Genesis chapter 6, where the sons of God came down on earth and defiled themselves with the daughters of men - demons! And from that prodigy there was giants that walked across the whole earth - nephilim! And God had to come in a flood because the wickedness of man's heart had got so great, and man had made himself so vile in the sight of God, and He wiped the whole face of humanity out by the flood! But these angelic fallen beings have been reserved for judgement in eternity, and you need to know - believer - you're going to take part in that judgement of them!
How does that make you feel? That's a great dignity, that's a great destiny. Don't you think that this is too much for a child of God, because one day God brought the sons of God before Him - those angelic beings - even some of them fallen, and Satan was among their host. God said to Satan: 'Have you seen My servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth?'. It will be men like Job, men like Noah, who it says when all humanity was whoring after the flesh, and men were defiling themselves with men, and women with women, and humans with animals, and sons of God - demonic beings - with the daughters of men - there was one man, it says in Genesis chapter 6, who remained pure and blameless in his generation. The Bible says that Noah was perfect. Do you know what that word for 'perfect' means? It's the word that is used 44 times in the Old Testament Scriptures for a lamb without blemish and without spot. It is the Hebrew word 'tamim' (sp?), it is the word that we derive 'contaminated' from, and when all of the world was thinking only evil continually in their imagination, there was one man that remained uncontaminated from it all! There was another man called Enoch, and there are other men throughout the Scriptures, and they will be men who are worthy to judge these angelic figures - and you may be among their host, isn't that wonderful?
I can see those poor people that were sawn asunder, those people who were counted the scum of the earth for Christ, the off-scouring of all things, and the devil gave them hell! Yet I can see it, they are facing him, the tempter, the accuser, who has dogged their heels from birth to death - and he is judged of them! That's tremendous, isn't it? But do you see the point? This is your destiny: but you can't even judge over trivia?
Well, we must move on: Paul continues by saying that it's ridiculous, the attitudes concerning Christian behaviour that have worked themselves out. We see that Paul was looked down on, we found that right throughout this book, they thought their wisdom was greater than his - but Paul says in verse 1 that these judges in the secular system were unjust. He says in verse 6 that they are unbelievers, in verse 9 he says that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God - these people are unrighteous. In verse 5 he uses sarcasm again, and he says: 'I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?'. You're all puffed up in your wisdom, but there doesn't seem to be a wise man among your company! That statement, 'Is it so?', could be read like this: 'Has it come to this, that there isn't one wise man among you?'. They were some of the most educated men in the whole of Greek society, but they were ignorant of the spiritual things of God. That's a good lesson to learn, because I find today that some men who had a zeal and a fire for God, they get education - and I'm not against education - but they lose all the fire and the zeal that they ever had.
These ridiculous attitudes are threefold, I think. In verses 4 and 5 we see the lack of discernment and wisdom. Now this verse has often been misunderstood, if you look at verse 4: 'If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church'. Now you could read that as thinking: get the most ignorant, immature Christians, the most carnal believers that you have - forget about those elders - and let them judge in this matter. That's the way it seems to read here, and there have been two interpretations of this. The first is that Paul is saying: 'If this is your destiny to judge the world, and to judge angels, even the least people among you, the most immature people among you, because they are children of God, should be able to judge in such trivial matters as this'. Now that could well be the meaning here, and that's the meaning that the Authorised Version gives us - but I prefer more this meaning, which is in most of the revised translations, and it reads like this: 'If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this life, do ye set them to judge who are of no account in the church?'. That seems to be what the Greek is saying: 'If you are the ones who are to judge the church, do you bring men into the church, as it were, who are not esteemed by the church, who are unbelievers, unsanctified, unrighteous to judge over you?'.
I think you see what he's saying, I believe this is the interpretation because in verse 5 he says: 'I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man' - it's a wise man he's looking for, not an immature man, not an unskilled, unspiritual man. Whatever the interpretation is, both keep the train of thought which is his total and utter amazement at how they go to the secular world to sort out their internal disputes. Now can I say this: secular status means absolutely nothing in the church of Jesus Christ - nothing! They found this out to their detriment, but the problem was the foundation of their belief in verse 28 of chapter 1: they didn't realise that the wisdom of men is foolishness with God. What men esteem is not what God esteems, the base things of the world, the things which are despised hath God chosen; yea, the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things which are. That's God's order of importance.
Now I'm led to believe that the third stage of higher education among the Greeks in this particular time, as Paul was writing to them, was to be trained as students in legal studies. The likelihood is that there was, among the believers in Corinth, legal minds - young men who were competent in litigation, yet they still couldn't do the thing right! What they lacked was someone spiritual. A brother said to me last Monday night: 'Does it not amaze you that elders aren't mentioned right throughout the whole book, and they're not even addressed like they are in other books where Paul encourages the elders to sort out the problems?' - and he's right! But do you know why that is, I think? Perhaps because there wasn't a wise man among them - they were running to other sources to rule and to judge in the church! When they should have been looking within for men that they could recognise to rule, they were looking outside to men who weren't even believers.
Why were they doing it? This is the tragedy of it all: because they were esteeming and reckoning human ability, the way pagan Corinth did things, as better and more effective than the way God wanted to do things. Oh, we can get a lesson out of this, can we not? I know there are times when the children of this world are wiser than us, but I do know that in the churches of our land and parts of our world tonight, people are setting aside the revelation of God for the way they think they can do things better. Whether it's reaching the lost dressing up as a clown, or swallowing a goldfish, or doing all sorts of things from the pulpit to bring people in to a false gospel - my friends, let's do it God's way, for God's way is the way! The main point Paul was making here, and this is what we have to grasp, is that to go to the world, and to look to the world's way as the best way, is to effectually demean the gospel of Christ! They were communicating to the world around: our doctrines are right, but we have neither the grace to get along, nor the government to get together.
The second ridiculous feature and attitude that they had was a lack of concern over their witness to the lost. They couldn't get on - their fighting and their petty differences, verse 6 - and they're ignoring the serious consequences. The irony of this is that they're fighting, probably over pieces of land with one another; amounts of money with one another; reputations of their name; and spiritual prestige - that's probably the things that they were fighting over - yet in chapter 5 there's a man in the assembly sleeping with his stepmother, and they don't want be bothered! You see, that's a characteristic of carnality: you fight over nonsense, and you're not concerned about what's important. The world saw it, and the world concluded: 'Well, this is the Christian, this gospel doesn't work, this gospel is a farce, this gospel is deficient' - and the deficiency was not in the gospel, the deficiency was in Corinthian carnality. The gospel was muffled by their moaning, by their griping, by their fighting - the gospel was suffering because their carnality was prospering - and the faith of the gospel was being dwarfed because their witness was defective!
In verse 6 what does it say? 'Brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers'. Let me tell you this, do you know what Paul's saying? We need to hear this - this assembly, every assembly in our land, some of them being wrecked with splits, and bickering, and fighting, and backbiting, and you-name-it - and most of it's over trivia! Paul is saying: the only one that wins when brother takes brother to the law is the wicked one! The world watch on, the power of the gospel is diminished because the power of the gospel goes hand in hand with the purity of the gospel, and the church and the Christian can never go higher than they go deeper - they are like the well-developed tree: the taller they stand the deeper they go down. In the strategic place that the Corinthians were in, the filthy depraved city, what was important to the gospel going forward was that they had a clean heart, because a clean heart gave them a strong character, and a strong character gave them a fruitful career. They needed that purity.
The third attitude that was ridiculous was a lack of humility to suffer wrong. I think the first insinuation here was Paul was saying: 'Well, if you bring a judgement to the church, accept the judgement'. You see you find - and don't desire to be a judge, it's alright in the razzmatazz and in the limelight of being up at the front all the time; it's a different thing when everybody comes to you with problems and they want you to judge, but they always want you to judge for them, don't they? If you don't judge for them, well, boy, you'll know about it. That's why James said in chapter 3: 'Don't desire to be many masters, because you come into a greater condemnation'. I think that's what Paul was saying: 'These things shouldn't even be brought to be judged upon' - but in verse 4 it's seen more when he says: 'Even if you bring these'...these things are things of small business, he uses the word 'to defraud a brother', a brother defrauding a brother, you ought to let yourself be defrauded. That speaks of land and money and reputation, and that's what believers are still fighting over today! But the point that Paul makes is: don't just stop from bringing these things to be judged, but you ought to suffer wrong, you ought to be willing to be judged in the wrong, to be defrauded by another. Their ridiculous attitude was seen in the lack of humility to suffer wrong, yet they made a fuss over nothing.
The third thing that Paul tells them is that they required reflection on the Christian's cleansing. Now we see that from verses 9 to 11 Paul knows a lot about the classification of sin, and let me say this to anybody aspiring to ministry of any kind - and elders know this - that part of the fallout of being responsible in the church is to get an education in sin that you don't really want to know about. I'm sure Paul didn't want to think about incest and fornication of the kind in chapter 5, but he had to, because that's one of the pitfalls, by default, that you deal with. There are so many terrible sins in society today, and Paul had to know what was going on in the church - but he was reminding them of the nature of the kingdom of God: that there are certain sins and certain sinners that can never get in.
He goes through the list in verse 9, there's a reason for doing that and you'll see it in a minute: 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators', that's unnatural, unusual sexual affairs - it has such a wide meaning, and we couldn't go into it this evening, but some of these people had dabbled in this before their conversion, and Paul had to be trailed through all the definitions of these things because he had to deal with them! 'Neither idolaters', people who worship other gods, and there was all sorts of that in Corinth, 'nor adulterers', you know what that is, another man or another woman's partner and spouse, 'nor effeminate', that simply means those who want to look and behave like women - Darby translates it 'those who make women of themselves', and that didn't start in Hollywood, it started way back! 'Nor abusers of themselves with mankind', that was in Corinth - homosexuality. It was in Sodom, it was in Noah's day - it's nothing new, it destroyed Greek and Roman society, and it will destroy ours eventually. What all of this is telling us is that it's not the environment that makes a man depraved and evil, that's a lie - it can affect you, I'm certain of that, but it's not the environment, because you go through all the epochs of humanity and you'll see that it is the heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. 'Nor thieves, nor covetous', you might say, some people have said: 'Why does Paul link covetousness with all these other filthy sins?'. Well, let's work backward: why do men steal? Covetousness. Why do men abuse themselves with mankind? Because a depraved lust within them causes them to covet another man. Why do men dress up and look like women? Because they want to. You can go right through this list: adulterers, wanting another person's spouse; idolaters, wanting another god to sit on the altar of your heart; fornicators, wanting another satisfaction - and covetousness is the root of all these sins. It's serious, and what Paul is saying right throughout this whole list: if you continually, habitually, are characterised by this type of lifestyle listed here, be not deceived - you are not saved, and you will not be in heaven!
I want you to get that tonight if you need to hear it: revilers, that's one maybe you haven't counted on - a man that uses abusive language, and talks about others. If that's your way of life you'll not be in heaven. That's the word of God! Extortioners, if you squeeze the poor and make it look as if you're helping the poor, but all you're doing in trying to help them is to take more money off them - whether you're a paramilitary or whether you're a landlord, or whatever you are, or a boss, it doesn't matter: if that's your way of life, the word of God says 'ye shall not receive'. Don't you be deceived! These things aren't palatable, but Paul gave it out anyway. Here's the tremendous thing - and give me five minutes please - Paul says that the nature of the cleansing must be understood by you: such were some of you - literally 'these things were some of you'! 'You were steeped in it when I came and found you in Corinth and led you to Christ, I lifted you out of this, and all that you needed was the gospel, and the gospel was the power of God unto salvation'. Think of it! All it was was a wee rickety old man, bald and with a crooked nose, walking into a hell-hole like Corinth: 'I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified' - and he turned it upside-down!
Isn't it amazing grace, how sweet the sound? 'Ye are washed' - He has washed us in His own blood, and He had washed these Corinthians in His own blood, and washed them in the water of sanctification because they were new creatures in Christ Jesus, they were born-again. He goes on: 'But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified' - and they were sanctified, it says here, before they were justified. Now what does that mean? He's pointing here to the fact that God saves us, primarily, that the life of God should be seen in us through the life that we live. That's what the world sees, isn't it? What's the point that Paul is making? If you're forgiven, and you're arguing over the smallest things possible, and you're running to the world for your defence: just as Christ has forgiven you, you forgive your brother.
I wonder is there someone here tonight and you've something against a brother, or someone has something against you? Can you see what Christ has done for you? Are you forgiven by Him? Then, for Christ's sake, forgive your brother. Harry Ironside tells a story of when he was a wee lad, and he belonged to an assembly in the city of Toronto. There was a bit of strife and trouble in the assembly, and they followed these principles of getting together and sorting the thing out, and his mother took him along to that particular meeting. He says little pitchers have big ears, and he remembered absolutely everything that happened at that meeting. But he was horrified, he says, as he saw two men that he esteemed as men of God - and he had been brought up by his mother to respect these men - so indignant, so cruel, so hateful to one another. All he said he could remember was one man springing to his feet with clenched fists, and saying: 'I will not put up with this! I will put up with a great deal, but I will not let you get one over me! I have my rights!'. There was an old Scots brother in the meeting who was hard of hearing, and he cupped his ear, and he said: 'Brother, I didn't catch that one, could you say that again? What was that?'. He said: 'I have my rights!' - the old brother looked him eyeball to eyeball, and he said: 'Do you really mean that? What are your rights? If you had your rights', he said, 'you would be in hell'. Wasn't he right? If Jesus had His rights, you would be in hell; but Jesus didn't come for His rights, He came for His wrongs - and He got wrongs done to Him. Harry Ironside said that that man looked at the old Scotsman transfixed for a few seconds, and then he began to break down and tears rolled down his face, and he said: 'I've been wrong brethren, you judge this whatever way you will'. He sat down and he put his head in his hands, and in three minutes that problem was sorted.
'Ye are washed', and as God has forgiven you, so forgive one another. Isn't it wonderful to be washed, and to be cleansed? Imagine if you had committed one of those things, but if you're washed it's all gone! Hallelujah! It's gone for all of us, praise God!
Father, we thank Thee for Thy blessed Son, we thank Thee that when we see the face of Jesus it will not be wrath, and we'll not flee away; but He will bring us into His bosom, into His very bleeding side. He will take us to be with Himself, to His home for all eternity - and we shall be forever with the Lord. What a prospect and a destiny we have in Him! Lord, we pray that we will live down here as heavenly citizens, and live up to our calling as the saints of God. Lord, help us to love one another, for by this shall men know that we are Thy disciples. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourteenth tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "Revelation Or Litigation?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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