1 Corinthians 6:1-11

This evening I want us to focus on 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. In the past, a common approach to a scripture like this was to dissect it. We take out our spiritual dissecting kit and begin to cut and probe. We often come to seriously flawed conclusions because convictions are based on our opinions that we support with our dissecting.

Many of you took a biology class. At some point in your biology class, you likely went to a laboratory and dissected something. For years biology students dissected frogs. Hopefully you understood what a frog was before you dissected a frog. The purpose of dissecting was not merely to have an experience that developed skills in dissecting. The purpose of the dissecting was to better understand a living frog.

In our study of the Bible, too often we dissect a scripture before we understand God's purpose. For example, often we have a poor understanding of the nature and purposes of God's people. Too often we dissect to find reasons to support our ignorance or misconceptions. Too often our conclusions are not focused on God's purposes. Too often our dissecting is more concerned about us than it is about God.

This evening I want to attempt to show you something that hopefully causes you to think. I hope your thinking will better focus you on who we are to be because we place our faith and hope in Jesus whom God declared to be the Christ by his resurrection from the dead.

  1. Let's begin by a broad overview of the failure of the Christians in Corinth [let's make sure we have a picture of the frog before we begin to dissect].
    1. Allow me to begin with this emphasis: never forget that with all their failures and problems, Paul addressed the Christians at Corinth from the beginning of his letter as "the church of God which is at Corinth" (1 Corinthians 1:2).
      1. Because they placed their faith in Jesus Christ, they were God's people.
      2. They were God's people because of what God did and was doing in them, not because of some incredible human correctness or achievement.
      3. They were God's people even though they had a lot to learn about how to act like God's people.
      4. They had the responsibility to understand how to act like God's people.
      5. But their hope was to be placed in what God did for them, not what they did.
    2. These Christians had a horrible understanding of what it meant to be God's people.
      1. The problems they had among themselves were continuing proof that they had a terrible understanding of what it meant to be God's people.
        1. Existing as God's people always has been about "being," not about "doing."
        2. Are Christians responsible to "do"? Of course!
        3. But our "doing" must arise from our "being."
        4. What we "do" arises out of what we "are."
        5. A person can "do" without "being," but "being" will always affect our "doing."
        6. Those of you who are Christian parents understand that reality in providing guidance for your children.
      2. Look at the problems that existed in their Christian community.
        1. They did things that supported and encouraged division among themselves (Paul powerfully argued that their division was destroying God's purpose in them).
        2. They were too proud, too arrogant to address an incest situation that openly existed among them. (They were more concerned about their reputation than they were about God's reputation.)
        3. They settled their disagreements by using judges who did not even know the living God. (They were more concerned about defending themselves and their interests than misrepresenting God and His concerns.)
        4. They defended their immoral sexual practices (prostitution) because they had a basic misunderstanding of God's purposes. (Sexual gratification is about physical desires, not about spiritual purposes.)
        5. They had some fundamental misunderstandings of relationships in marriage. (Marriage was primarily about human desires, not about divine purposes.)
        6. As was common in Roman cities, they were really deceived by the status that economic and social positions conferred. (Life was about who you were in society, not about who you were in Christ.)
        7. There was some fundamental confusion about idols being gods. (Many had a very poor understanding of the living God.)
        8. Their many worship problems arose from a concern about promoting self instead of praising God. (Worship was about them and their position, not about God and His position.)
      3. Christians in Corinth had a very poor understanding of who they were because God placed Christ in them.
        1. In a lot of specific ways they acted like the people who did not have Christ in them.
        2. Their understanding of "being" as people who belonged to God was very deficient.

  2. To me, the basic problem Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 is this: the Christians who composed the Christian community at Corinth had what even their local pagan societies considered an inferior sense of "being" as a people dedicated to God.
    1. First, in most Roman cities the judicial system expected religious organizations to take care of their own problems "in house."
      1. In 1892-93 an archeological team excavated a large room in an area near Athens, Greece (which is less than 100 air miles from Corinth).
        1. In that excavated room they found a number of altars and a number of sculptures.
        2. They also found the minutes of a group known as the Bacchic society who honored the god Dionysus.
        3. The minutes included the reorganization of this religious society.
        4. Included in those minutes were the specified ways in which they internally took care of their problems.
        5. It included a section that declared the rules of group and the penalties for breaking those rules.
        6. They resolved their own difficulties between members, and even if a member went outside this religious society with his complaint, he was still subject to the punishments of the group.
      2. The point I want you to see is this: not even pagan religious societies sanctioned what the Christians in Corinth were doing to each other.
      3. There are many questions you can ask me about this passage that I could not declare a definitive answer in regard to the question.
        1. I cannot tell you in what way God's "holy ones" (saints) will participate in judging the world (the forces that defied God). (6:2)
        2. I cannot tell you in what way those who were physical shall judge angels. (6:3)
    2. Instead of "spiritually dissecting" situations that we cannot know for a certainty, focus on the obvious that we can know.
      1. The situation: Christian individuals were resolving their problems and differences by taking each other to pagan courts.
        1. Judges, who had neither knowledge of or allegiance to the living God, who worshipped idols and embraced the moral concepts and principles of idolatry, were resolving differences among those who placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
        2. And that is what Christians wanted!
      2. In Paul's two comments about Christians judging the world and judging angels (comments they had at least some understanding about), Paul said, "This is a ridiculous situation!
        1. "You mean you do not have even one wise person among you who can resolve these differences?"
        2. "You mean you do not realize that you are causing the idolatrous part of the community (which was a greater majority) to view the Christian community as behaving disgracefully?"
      3. "As a group of people who represent the holy God, you should be ashamed of what your are doing!"
        1. "You actually think the a judge who worships idols is in a better position to resolve differences among Christians than is a wise person who is a Christian?"
        2. "You actually think it is better for the community of Christians to be disgraced in the eyes of the pagan community if that allows you to have what you want? You had rather for the whole community of Christians to be disgraced than for you to endure an injustice?"
        3. "You mean you actually think God rather you cheat another Christian than for you to suffer an injustice?"
    3. Do you notice there is a lot of similarity in what happened in chapter 5 in the case of incest among them and what happened in chapter 6 when Christians took Christians before pagan judges?
      1. In both situations, Christians had a very poor understanding of who they were as the holy ones of God who represented God.
      2. They were behaving in ways that even idol worshippers regarded to be disgraceful.
      3. How could they possibly expect to demonstrate the desirability of God's nature as the living God if they acted in ways that were inferior to people who worshipped things that were not even gods?

  3. Bottom line principle: the unrighteous will not inherit God's kingdom.
    1. Being unrighteous included these things:
      1. Sexual injustice.
      2. Worshipping things that are not God.
      3. Practicing homosexuality.
      4. Practicing stealing.
      5. Being controlled by greed.
      6. Being controlled by alcohol.
      7. Being controlled by pleasure.
      8. Cheating people.
      9. If anyone tells you other wise, he is deceived. If you believe him, you are deceived.
    2. That is who you were, not who you are.
      1. That is what your baptism, your sanctification, your justification in Jesus Christ was all about.
      2. You cannot be alive in Jesus Christ and let God's Spirit live in you and act like the person you used to be before you belonged to Jesus Christ.
      3. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian was changing your "being."
      4. You desperately need to understand who you are and what you are about as people who represent God and the resurrected Jesus Christ.

There is a powerful temptation, a seemingly overwhelming desire, to make New Testament scripture a rule book. There is a powerful temptation, a seemingly overwhelming desire, to confine our spiritual responsibility to (a) finding the rules and (b) technically keeping the rules.

Paul said if you take another Christian before a pagan judge to resolve a dispute, you fail long before you reach the judge's "court room." If you have such a horrible relationship with another Christian, you have a basic failure to understand what God intends in Christian existence and relationship--and likely you both have the same basic failure.

The question most preachers are asked fairly frequently is this: "Does this act break the rules?" Wrong question! The appropriate question: "Is the holy God properly represented in what is happening?" This is an entirely different question.

Each of us as Christians represent the holy, pure God. Represent Him well!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 18 May 2003
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