"SAINTS IN SUITS"
First Corinthians 6.1-8
1. I want you to remember that this Corinthian letter that we are studying is divided into three large sections. And the way in which the sections can be very easily discerned is by noting the specific way in which Paul was made aware of the problems that he addresses in each section.
2. For example, in the first portion of the book, beginning with 1.10, we find that the problems Paul dealt with, mainly having to do with Church unity and problems that the Corinthians were having with their leader's personalities, were reported to Paul by members of the household of Chloe.
3. And all through chapters one, two, three and four, Paul is addressing a situation that he was first made aware of by that family. Not that they were tattling, for we can be quite sure that Paul would not have entered into their Church squabble until Chloe's household had first tried to deal with the matters by the procedure Christ outlined in Matthew 18.15 and following.
4. Then, last week, we moved into the second major section of Paul's letter. This section, occupying only chapters five and six, addresses problems that were of such a severe nature that it was commonly reported to Paul from a variety of sources . . . even though he was some 200 miles away, in an age when there was no regular mail delivery, no telephone or telegraph, and no newspaper or nightly news broadcast.
5. Folks, that's like you and me hearing, through the gossip grapevine, of problems in a Baptist Church in San Diego! And for folks in Monrovia to hear about the spiritual problems of a Church in San Diego, the problems have to be very serious indeed.
6. And as we began to learn last week, in our study of chapter 5, the problems found in this Church, if the first problem is any indication at all, were serious beyond belief. A Church member was actually committing sexual sin with the wife of his father!
7. And what did the Corinthian Church do about this sin in their midst? Nothing! In classic fashion, they fumbled the ball and completely mishandled sin inside their Church. But that was last week's study. In this week's study we see the Corinthians this time completely mishandle sin outside the Church, as well.
8. Shall we stand for the reading of God's Word? First Corinthians 6.1-8: "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2Do 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? 3Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5I 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? 6But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7Now 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? 8Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren."
9. What extremes we see in the Corinthian's behavior. When they had a ravaging sin like fornication in their midst they did nothing about it until Paul intervened and ordered them to take action. Then, when they have some petty squabble about something apparently too insignificant to mention, they make a federal case out of it by dragging each other to court over the matter.
10. Friends, it doesn't really even matter what the issue was that these two Christians wanted to settle in court. It is so secondary to the real issue that Paul doesn't even tell us what the original problem was.
11. The point that Paul is emphasizing, in these eight verses he devotes to the issue, is that the last thing a Church member should ever do is publicly air out grievances he may have with another Church member.
12. Paul's opposition to members airing out their dirty laundry within earshot of the unsaved is seen in four remarks.
"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" What an outburst we see from Paul. Makes you wonder how he could wait six chapters into his letter to deal with an issue he is so obviously upset about. Two things come to our attention in this verse.
1B. First, There Is An Alarm
We actually get some idea of the intensity of Paul's alarm by taking note of two very strong words he uses to sound his alarm.
1C. First is the word "dare." One scholar points out that this word that Paul uses is an argument in itself. This is a challenging word designed to wither the opposition and to end the discussion before it even starts. How dare they do what they are doing?
2C. Then he uses the word "unjust." Folks, they had taken a dispute before an unsaved magistrate to settle, apparently in some kind of civil lawsuit. Why did they do that? Were they after justice? If so, Paul would suggest, why do you air the matter out before someone who is inherently unjust? There can be no real expectation of justice from those who are unsaved.
4C. It's obvious why he is alarmed. What a great testimony to the unsaved world it is when two Church members are fussing in front of them.
2B. Second, There Is An Alternative
1C. Why did they not take the matter before the Church members for a just settlement? You know, I bet these two were so busy fussing with each other, they probably never even thought about doing things in a Christian way.
2C. You see, Christians are supposed to do things differently than do lost people. And it's a good thing. How likely are you to get justice from a system that is administered, by and large, by folks who are by nature unjust?
3C. Paul provoked a great deal of thought, I am sure, in his remark about the problem.
"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? 3Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?"
Here Paul discusses the fact that someday those Church members are going to be in positions in which they will judge great and weighty matters. Of course, this will occur when we are ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ. But when considering this problem in Corinth in light of the future that is in store for every Christian, more thought is provoked.
1B. As To Perspective, In Verse 2, We See Their Problem To Be A Small Matter "Are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?"
1C. Folks, it could be that one Church member ripped the other Church member off for $100,000. Or it could be that he just wanted the piece of chewing gum that was stolen from him.
2C. Regardless of how important or unimportant their dispute might seem, Paul throws some perspective on the situation in light of really important issues . . . such as judging the world.
3C. That problem they were trying to settle, just being an in this lifetime problem, was a small problem. Compared to eternity, we simply do not have really big problems to judge.
2B. As To The Problem, We See In Verse 3, The Problem Is Not Eternal
1C. The thrust of Paul's comment here is along this line. Since you are someday going to judge angels, don't think that a problem like this one is all that hard to deal with.
2C. Folks, this is a classic illustration of the truth found in Hebrews 5.11-14. These Corinthians, being immature believers, being rather ignorant of the Word of God, couldn't tell the difference between right and wrong. They had no discernment! Let's read [Read].
3C. And how were the Corinthians manifesting their immaturity? They minimized the importance of matters important to God, fornication in their Church, and they maximized the importance of matters deemed unimportant to God, being jilted in a business deal by another member.
3A. THIRD, THE REMARK ABOUT THE PRACTICE (6.4)
"If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church."
Paul is saying in so many words, "Look, these kinds of problems are so unimportant that you ought to just let the least esteemed member of your Church settle them."
And what do Paul's comments show us?
1B. First, His Remarks Prove How Unimportant These Kinds Of Things Really Are
1C. Folks, I'm beginning to get the notion that if Christians are not really careful to be spiritual, we can easily become really petty people. Do you get the same notion?
2C. And Paul is just trying to keep us in focus, as he tries to get the Corinthians to get back in focus.
3C. Hey, let's be logical and honest in our various situations and disputes. Let's allow spiritual concerns to have their proper weight and consideration when settling our differences. Amen?
2B. Second, His Remarks Point People To The Man Of God
1C. What was the Corinthian's first problem that Paul dealt with? They had a problem with their spiritual leadership. You will remember that all of the various spiritual leaders that were mentioned, did you notice that the pastor was never mentioned?
2C. You see, when Christians are not careful they can begin to minimize the importance of a pastor's ministry in their lives. Not that a pastor is any great thing, as a man. I'm certainly not. But my ministry is important.
3C. And you will remember Paul's remarks in First Thessalonians 5.13, to "esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." Folks, this refers to a pastor, not a Campus Crusade coordinator, not a Child Evangelism Fellowship missionary, not a Women's Bible Fellowship teacher. A plain old, wrapped in brown paper, vanilla flavored, ordinary pastor.
4C. But the Corinthians ignored the role of the pastor's ministry in their lives. So, I'm convinced, and this is just my personal opinion, that when Paul is suggesting that they take their grievances to those least esteemed in the Church, he is making a back handed reference to the pastor.
5C. Have a difficult situation between two Christians that needs to be settled? Since it's not really that big a deal, being a matter of here and now and not a matter of eternal import, just let the slowwitted pastor referee the dispute.
1B. First, Paul Shames Them (6.5-6)
"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? 6But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers."
1C. And you know something? When Church members air their dirty linen out in front of lost people, whether it be by taking another believer to court, or just arguing out in front of the Church where an unsaved visitor can hear, we ought to be ashamed. Amen?
2C. That's the reason we need to be so careful with what we talk about in Church or at an activity. Some of the people there are lost. Others are baby Christians, who could be greatly offended by hearing such childish fussing.
3C. Folks, we are family. And there are just certain things that need to be kept in the family. Amen? And it's shameful not to keep certain matters within the family. Wouldn't you agree?
2B. So, Paul Corrects Them (6.7-8)
"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? 8Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren."
1C. When Paul uses the word "fault" to describe the consequences of going to court before lost men, he is talking about a failure. Friends, whenever Christians say or do anything that violates the spirit of unity that we ought to have, based as it must be on truth, there has been a failure somewhere, a real breakdown.
2C. Rather than exhibit before the unsaved of this world a failure, why don't we just take the loss and go on? "But he wrecked a very beautiful car." I know. Let the Church deal with the issue. Better to let the Church settle the matter, even if you lose your nice car, than to be a bad testimony to your neighbor.
3C. And do you see the word "defrauded?" It refers to something being stolen. When Church members fuss with each other in front of lost people they steal something very valuable from each other. They steal testimony. They steal unity. They steal that which could have been used to bring people to Christ.
1. What great sin we commit when our Church member to Church member bickerings discredit the cause of Christ in the eyes of lost people.
2. This is a result of not living to bring lost souls to Christ.
3. And though you might not have taken a fellow Church member to court, have you ever argued and bickered in front of a lost person?
4. Perhaps you did it to see which one of you the lost person would side with in a personal dispute. It's the same thing as this issue here. And just as wrong.
5. Let us remember the rule: Family matters are settled within the family. Issues between Church members are settled within the Church.