Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 6:1 - 6:11

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 6:1 - 6:11

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1Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to the law before the unjust, 2and not before the saints? Do [Or 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 [to say nothing of] things that pertain to this life? 4If then ye have judgments of things 5pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Isaiah 3 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, [a loss to you] because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not 8rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, 9[On the contrary, ἀëëÜ ] ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. [Or ] 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. 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor [not, ïõ ] drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And 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.


[“The connection of this paragraph with the preceding, seems to be, ‘As we have nothing to do with judging the heathen, so we ought not to go to law before them, or suffer them to judge us.’ This question was not new. It was held unlawful among the Jews for any Jew to bring a lawsuit against his countrymen before a Gentile judge, on the ground that in Exo_21:1, it is commanded: ‘These are the judgments which thou shalt set before’—not the Gentiles, but ‘them—the Jews.’ ‘If any one brings the judgments of Israel before the Gentiles, he profanes the name of God, and honors the name of an idol. They who so do give occasion to the strangers to say, ‘See how harmonious they are who worship one God.’ This right of settling their own disputes, was conceded to them by the Romans; and hence the speech of Gallio to the Jews who attacked St. Paul. In the first beginning of Christianity, the same rule would be naturally held to apply. The existence of separate courts for the disputes of Christians among themselves, is implied [?] in this passage. The Apostolic Constitutions (II: 4, 5, 46, 47) and the Clementines, in language evidently founded upon this text, imply the existence of such courts at the time when those works were compiled, i. e. , apparently about A. D. 150. When one of the parties was a heathen, then it was thought lawful to prosecute before a heathen tribunal.

Under these circumstances, it was natural that the same controversy, which in a mixed society of Jewish and Gentile Christians ran through be many other departments of human life, should se felt here also; and that the Gentile Christians should still wish to carry on their litigations in the same courts to which they had been previously accustomed, and to indulge the same litigious spirit which had characterized the Greek nation from the time of Aristophanes downward. But in whatever way this tendency originated, the Apostle [here] treats it altogether irrespectively of any Jewish or Gentile custom, and condemns it solely on the ground of the low views which it implied of the greatness of a Christian’s privileges, and the closeness of the bond of Christian brotherhood.” Stanley.]

1Co_6:1. Here also, as in chap, 5, there is indicated a lack of true Christian spirit in the failure to maintain the honor of the Church. In the former case it arose from a want of moral earnestness, here from an earthly temper, and from stubbornness of opinion. The tone of address is sharp.—Dare any of you.—This is not ironical, as Schrader imagines; but it is the direct outburst of indignation at the unworthy conduct, manifested [and also at the risk run], “The injured majesty of Christians,” says Bengel, “is here noted by a grand word.” Ôïëìᾷí , sustinere, to have the heart to do that from which a just sense of the Christian dignity should have restrained them. Here the culpable party must be regarded, as consisting mainly of Gentile converts, since it was already a custom among the Jews to choose their own umpires—having a matter.— ÉÉñᾶãìá ἔ÷åéí is a phrase denoting civil suits, especially in matters of money and possessions.—against another—of course, a fellow church-member—go to law,— êñßíåóèáé , to separate oneself, to part from, then to contend, to strive, also to debate, and that before a tribunal. “This love of litigation—a remnant of the old leaven which abounded among the traffickers of Corinth—must have derived abundant nourishment from the divisions existing in the Church.”Besser.—before ἐðß , as in Act_23:30the unjust ôῶí ἀäßêùí . These are the heathen. So in Mat_26:45, they are called ἁìáñôùëïß , sinners; while the Israelites, on the contrary, are termed äßêáéïé , just; Wis_18:20; Wis_16:17; Wis_11:15. The designation ‘unjust’ is employed to bring out more prominently the absurdity [and the peril] of seeking for justice in such a quarter. It exhibits those to whom it is applied as devoid of that true righteousness which is found alone in God’s kingdom, as withholding from God His due, and therefore as unqualified to administer justice among His people. On ἁãßùí (= ïἱ ἕóù 1Co_5:12) comp. 1Co_1:2.—[“Paul does not here condemn those who from necessity have a cause before unbelieving judges, as when a person is summoned to court; but those who of their own accord bring their brethren into this situation, and harass them, as it were, through means of unbelievers, while it is in their power to employ another remedy.” Calvin. “And besides the scandal of such a proceeding, as exposing their internal differences to the eyes of the heathen, there were certain formularies to be gone through in the heathen Law Courts, such as adjuration by heathen Deities, which would involve them in idolatrous practices.” Words.]

1Co_6:2. He here goes on to show still further what an entire disregard of the true dignity of the Christian state was evinced in their conduct.—Or do ye not know.—The ‘or’ presents an alternative, suggesting some other cause for their conduct, viz., that of ignorance; and the interrogative form used intimates that it was a culpable ignorance of an indubitable and plain truth. [“ This question,” says Words., “occurs no less than ten times in this Epistle, and only twice in all the rest. It was a very fit mode of remonstrance with those who vaunted themselves most on their knowledge.”]—that the saints shall judge the world?—“This is the only clear, direct enunciation we have of the truth here expressed, though it is in perfect harmony with conclusions elsewhere furnished.” Burger. The words imply more than an indirect participation in the judgment of the world, such as is brought to view in Mat_12:41, where it is said: “The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment against this generation,” etc., viz., that in contrast with the conduct, or faith exhibited by them, the guilt of the world will be set forth in clearer light, [so Chrys. and most of the Greek fathers, Erasmus, Words.]. Nor is it meant that the saints will simply unite in assenting to the sentence pronounced by Christ as assessors on his judgment seat [Barnes, et al.]; nor that they in some general way will be glorified with Him, [Schleus., Heyden., Barnes.]. Still less do they refer to any future judicial functions, which saints are to possess in this world as its princes and rulers, [Lightfoot, Whitby]; nor to any peculiar ability to estimate the value of the world’s opinions and doings, [Mosh. Rosen.] (1Co_2:15, comp. 1Co_6:3). And least of all are they to be interpreters of the church as the perpetual judge of the world, in so far as it carries the light which ever separates the darkness of the world from itself. (Cath.). But they refer to that reigning with Christ which is elsewhere promised to the faithful, (Rom_8:17; 2Ti_2:12), and serve to define more exactly the import of the expression: ‘glorified with Him.’ What was said especially of the Apostles, that they should “sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mat_19:28), is here extended, in general, to all the true followers of Christ—His royal people, in relation to that portion of the race which shall persist in its opposition to the Gospel, viz. , the world. In short, Paul here asserts the active participation by the saints in the judicial work of Christ, such as is ascribed to them in Dan_7:22 : “Until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” [The same prediction reappears again in the Apocryphal Book, Wisdom III: 1 Corinthians 8 : “They (the righteous) shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign forever”]; also Rev_2:26-27; Rev_20:4-6. That this is the element in their glory which the Apostle alludes to, the context clearly shows. [Such is the interpretation also of Calvin, Beza, Alf., Stanley, and others. And it is plainly the only tenable one. The others are either too far fetched, or imply a more general acquaintance with the New Testament, in its present form, than could have been possible for the Corinthians; and we cannot suppose that the Apostle would be likely to consider their ignorance of the matters suggested a fit ground for rebuke. But the prophecy of Daniel was in their hands; and the anticipations of the final triumph and glory of the righteous during the reign of the Messiah, were current among believers; and the ignoring or over-looking of these matters might well have been reproved. In fact the final and complete supremacy of Christ’s kingdom was already assured in the very character of its head, and the former could not be disavowed without offence done to the latter. As to the character of the functions which the saints were to fulfil, opinions will vary according to the views adopted in respect to the nature of the millennial glory, and of the relation which the church will sustain to the world at that time. But whatever these functions may be, the language which describes them plainly implies the exercise of an active supremacy in the affairs of the world. That which saints are expected to do then, must, in some way, be analogous to the duties which the Apostle urges upon the church-members to discharge for themselves in the present age. For this reason the view of Hodge and Barnes and others, who suppose a reference in the text “to the future and final judgment” (with a somewhat uncertain allusion to Dan_7:22, as though the event pointed to here were the same as the other), must be set aside. On that occasion the saints appear only as the retinue of the Judge, and are nowhere represented as taking an active part in the trial. The idea of Barnes that the saints are to judge the world by simply ‘encompassing the throne,’ and ‘assenting to Christ’s judgment,’ and occupying “a post of honor As If they were associated with him in judgment,” hardly suits the style of the Apostle’s reasoning]. The natural conclusion from all this, viz., that persons destined to so lofty an office, ought also to be deemed worthy of passing judgment on the trifling matters of this life, is put in the form of a question, expressive of astonishment. This, as is often the case, is introduced with an ‘and.’ The question, however, is not thereby made dependent on the previous one, ‘Know ye not?’ but it stands by itself.—And if among you the world is to be judged.—The judges are here conceived of as constituting one vast assembly, in the midst of which the adjudication proceeds. The ἕí ὐìῖí is not precisely equivalent to: ‘through you,’ as in Act_17:31; nor to: ὑ ö ὑìῶí , by you, though the sense is about the same; nor: ‘in you,’ i. e., by your example; but properly: in the midst of you, and so; before you: (coram). [Winer § XL.VIII., etc. “Hence,” says Meyer, “it is evident that the saints themselves are to be the judges sitting in judgment. And ἐí is employed in view of the following êñéôçñßùí , since the Christians judging therein, are conceived of as one judicial concourse, for the sake of representing the idea more vividly”]. The åἰ if, in åἰêñßíåôáé , as the context shows, is not meant to exhibit the judgment as at all problematical, but only states it as indubitably presupposed in what follows. The notion of futurity here retires into the background.—Are ye unworthy of the smallest judgments? ÊñéôÞñéá is a word used to denote both places or courts of trials, and also the trials themselves which are there held. Here it means the latter, and the whole clause is to be taken in an active sense, q. d., are ye unworthy of holding trial in the smallest matters? [Many, like de Wette, Olsh., Hodge, Words., understand by êñéôÞñéá , the matters in trial, as better suited to the context, 1Co_6:4; 1Co_6:7, but Meyer says that this is contrary to all usage]. The adjective here ( ἐëá÷ßóôùí ) refers to the matters brought to trial, and which are here designated as of the most trifling sort, having to do simply with the earthly ‘mine and thine,’ Luk_16:10.

1Co_6:3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels? to say nothing of things that pertain to this life?—[A still wider contrast.] But are there here two questions, or only one or are we to take the second clause as a corollary? Since ìÞôéãå in the first instance means, not at all (Passow ÉÉÉ . p. 230. [ Rob. Gr. Lex.]), and then: yet much less, it would seem to indicate that there is also a second question here. The sense then would be: ‘Our judicial power, as ye ought to know, extends even beyond, even unto celestial beings; should it not then be now first applied to terrestrial matters’? i. e., how much more now ought it to be applied to these?—In respect to the fact first alluded to, ‘the judging of angels’, we must at the outset put aside every explanation, which makes the phrase expressive of something inferior to the work of judging the world, instead of something which is an advance upon it—whether this be done by taking ‘angels’ to mean church officers, or priests, or teachers distinguished for devilish cunning; and by supposing the judgment spoken of to be of a spiritual kind, as relating to the errors of these parties, or to be even a mere ability to judge, (Gal_1:8). The only point in doubt is, whether angels in general are referred to, or merely good angels, or merely bad ones. Besser says: ‘both classes; to the damnation of the bad, but on the good, to pronounce a judgment of blessing, since they will be united with us under one Head in Christ’. (Eph_1:10). Since, however, the idea that good angels are meant, finds support only in that relation which they sustain to believers, hinted at in Heb_1:14, and in the hypothetical expression found in Gal_1:8, and inasmuch as good angels are represented as furnishing a part of Christ’s retinue in judgment, and as acting the part of organs and witnesses of His judicial work, (Mat_13:39; Mat_16:27; Mat_24:31; Mat_25:31, 2Th_1:7, Rev_20:1 ff.), we are constrained to adopt the explanation, which supposes evil angels to be referred to, as the only correct one. [So Chrys. and most of the Greek fathers, and Calvin and Beza, and Bengel, Poole, and most of commentators. Whitby, with the same reference understands the judgment to denote that expulsion of the devils from their dominion over the world by the power of the Gospel, of which our Saviour speaks in Joh_12:31; Joh_16:11. On the contrary, Meyer, Alf. and Hodge, following the usage of the N. T., where the word áããåëïé , without any qualifying epithet always means good angels, interpret it so here. But they do not profess to explain how these are to be judged, or they give to the word, ‘judge’, a very comprehensive meaning, implying only superiority of a general sort. Billr., de Wette, Stanley, leave the matter undecided. See Pool and Whitby.] At the same time it must be said that the unqualified term ‘angels’ indicates the superhuman nature of the beings contemplated, and puts them in contrast with the world; [and ‘the argument will be not less conclusive in this way.” Calvin;] while the position they are in, so analogous to that of the world, marks them as standing in an abnormal relation to God, and implies that the judgment spoken of will be one of condemnation, the same as in 1Co_6:2, and not one that merely decides upon honors and rewards.— ÂéùôéêÜ =things serviceable for this life (Luk_8:43), which belong to bodily sustenance, and are therefore of an earthly, temporal sort, as is every thing which forms a ground for suits respecting property, debts or inheritance. [“The Latin translation of this word by sæcularia, is probably one of the first instances of the use of that word, in its modern sense of ‘worldly’ as opposed to spiritual, instead of its ancient sense, ‘belonging to a cycle of a hundred years’; and from this has sprung the signification of the word ‘secular’ in modern European languages”. Stanley].

1Co_6:4. Secular trials indeed then would ye have.—[ ÂéùôéêÜ is repeated with emphasis, and so stands first, and] êñéôÞñéá is to be construed as in 1Co_6:2, not as equivalent to ðñÜãìáôá , matters to be judged, for this rendering is void of support. ̔ Ἔ÷åéí might denote in this connection: to have on hand; or, to have a just comprehension of; consequently: to be in a condition to manage (as in the phrases, ἔ÷åéí åðéóôÞìçí , ôÝ÷íáò , ôὴí ἰáôñêÞí , etc.), and this would fit well with what precedes. The ìÝí , introducing a clause correlative to the one following, might remain untranslated, and ïὖí be rendered by, then, accordingly, or by some word of transition, which would indicate that the point mentioned has been established, and that the clause where it occurs also stands in inward connection with some previous expression. Properly: ‘Have ye then indeed such trials? but ye by no means proceed in a manner suitable to this fact!’ This thought would then be expressed by a protasis and apodosis, of which the latter is to be regarded as a question of astonishment at such procedure. An interrogation similar to this we have in Joh_10:36 (comp. Joh_6:35), “how happens it that ye do this?” But such an explanation would necessitate our taking ἐÜí as equivalent to åἰ , which could only be justified on the score of the laxity of the later Greek in this respect, and provided another interpretation were inadmissible. But we may interpret the ἐὰí êñéôÞñéá ἔ÷çôå , of the actual existence of such trials among them; in which case ἐÜí would mean, if, in case that, and we should interpret the clause thus: ‘if now it should happen that trials, involving secular matters, are held among you,—those despised in the church these do ye set up?i. e. as judges. By ‘the despised,’ he means the unjust or the unbelievers, before spoken of, who, as such, pass for nothing in the Church, and enjoy no confidence or authority there. [“This translation,” Hodge says, “is generally preferred as best in keeping with the context,” and Wordsworth adopts it also. See, however, the note below]. But if any do not choose to construe it as a question of astonishment, it may be taken as a simple affirmation, stating once more what was actually occurring among them. [“So in the main, Luther, Calvin, Rückert, Olsh., de Wette, Neander, and otters]. The ïὖí would then be an ecbatic particle. Yet the form of the question would in any case, be the more emphatic. The use of êáèéæåôå is also a remarkable way of expressing an appeal to heathen judges on the part of Christians, for it implies that such judges were formally set up in office by the Christians themselves, when they could have had no hand in their appointment, and only seemed to do so by appealing to them for decision in cases over which they ought to have no adjudication.— Ôïýôïõò , these, an emphatic repetition of the persons alluded to [involving also contempt]. Others, objecting partly to the use of êáèßæåéí in relation to heathen authorities, who are supposed to be already existing, and partly to the application of ôïὺò åîïõèåíç ìÝíïõò to the heathen as unsuitable [and inconsistent with the respect which Paul inculcates toward heathen magistrates], understand the latter to denote church members, and construe the whole in the Imp. as an injunction [of rather an ironical sort]: ‘If you must have trials, those least esteemed in the Church, these set up rather as judges.’ But in such a case the text ought to read: ôïὺò ἐí ôç ἐêêëçóßᾳ ἐîïèåí , and the word ‘rather,’ would be an arbitrary insertion. This insertion would, however, be necessary, if we understood the Apostle to mean such persons as might be suitable for the office in question, but who, for some reason, were of little repute. But, however this may be, still our first interpretation is favored by what follows.

1Co_6:5-6.—To your shame I speak.—Comp. on 1Co_4:14. The expression applies, as in 1Co_15:34, to what precedes; and what follows, in part, explains more fully how far that spoken of in 1Co_6:4 is disgraceful to them, and, in part, repeats emphatically the case as it stood.—So is there not among you not even one wise man.—The ïὔôùò is either climacteric, meaning: ‘so completely are ye wanting in wise men,’ which rendering does not well suit a strong negation [but is adopted by Chrys., Luther, Billr., Calvin, Alf., Olsh., Rückert]; or it is: ‘in this way,’ ‘under these circumstances,’ referring back to 1Co_6:4 : ‘seeing that ye set up those persons despised in the Church for judges.’ [So Meyer. The rendering here must be determined by the view taken of the import of 1Co_6:4. If that last advocated be the correct one, it would be more natural to understand ïὔôùò in the former sense. King James’ translation places the stress of the interrogation here, deviating in this respect from the previous versions which translate it, “utterly,” “at all,” and supposes an ellipsis: “Is it so that there is not?”]. ̔́ Åíé is for ἕíåóôé , an adverbial use of the ἔí without the copula=‘is there,’ ‘does there exist.’.— Ïí ̓ äὲ åἷò , a strong expression, like non ullus, nemo unus, ‘not even one.’ Considering how wise they were in their own conceit, the question here is a very cutting one. At the same time it suggests a strong reason for their altering their conduct. By it he would urge them to the practical exercise of their vaunted wisdom—a matter in which they sadly failed. Óïöüò , skilful, expert in resources, experienced, discreet.—who shall be ablei. e., when a cause comes up—to decide. äéáêñῖíáéto arbitrate in a formal manner—between his brother, ἀíὰ ìÝóïí ôïῦ ἀäåëöïῦ áὑôïῦ ,—a wise expression, where a person understanding himself to be meant, supplies in thought: ‘and a brother.’ Meyer regards the party distinctly mentioned as the complainant (the defendant he understood as a matter of course, who is specified by way of distinction, as the party in fault). Had the plural been used, the two litigants would then have been equally brought to view. In the use of the term ‘brother,’ a rebuke is intended which is still further enlarged upon—but brother goeth to law with brother.—This is not a question, whether considered independently, or as continuing the previous one; but it is an affirmation full of severe reproof. [“’ ÁëëÜ , after a question, passes rapidly on to the other alternative, the particle, which negatives the question being supressed, q. d., ‘nay; but.’ ” Alf.]. Êñßíåôáé , goeth to law, stands opposed to äéáêñßíåéí , to arbitrate. Then, by way of contrast with the “wise man among you,” before whom they ought to have settled their difficulties, we have the sad opposite:—and that before unbelievers.—[“and that,” a form of expression used when particular stress is to be laid on the circumstance indicated.” Hodge].

1Co_6:7-8. Looking away now from the point last mentioned, i. e., going to law before unbelievers, he here passes to rebuke the entire practice of litigation among Christians as in itself wrong.—indeed therefore ἥ äçìὲíï ὖí . The ìÝí gives a peculiar prominence to the point to be mentioned as being the worst of all; ïὗí is simply transitional and conjunctive; but ἥäç (see Passow ÉÉ .1326ff.) is a determinative particle, which serves, in part, to strengthen the whole clause, and, in part, to call particular attention to certain thoughts about to be presented.—it is in any case a loss for you.—̔́ Ïëùò presents the aspect of the case generally, without reference to any peculiar, aggravating circumstances, such as going to law “before unbelievers.” [Stanley renders it: “certainly”] ̔́ Çôôçìá . lit.: a falling short; it is used, partly, of failings and imperfections (hence the var. ἐíὑìῖí ), and, partly, of injuries, or damage, whether it be in an ethical sense, as caused by the outbreak of sin and the violence of passion (comp: ἡôôáóèáé , 2Pe_2:20; íéêᾶóèáé , Rom_12:21), or as some evil consequence upon these outbreaks, such as hinderance to our salvation, and to our participation in God’s kingdom. It is here undoubtedly the latter, and points to what is more fully stated in 1Co_6:9. This is undoubtedly the more correct interpretation, and it forms an implied contrast to any supposed temporal advantage they might gain by any legal process. [So Meyer, de Wette, Words., Alf., Hodge. But Calvin, Beng., Billr., Stanley, Rückert, Olsh., all prefer the meaning: ‘fault,’ ‘imperfection,’ ‘weakness.’ And there is strong ground for their interpretation]. Neander: “A backsliding of the Church, and sinking down from the high standard of pure Christian feeling.” ὑìῖí , Dative of interest—that ye have lawsuits with yourselves. Êñßìá elsewhere means, judicial decision, sentence, also judgment. With this rendering the sense would be: ‘that it comes to this, that ye have legal decisions,’ etc. The same sense substantially is obtained if we adopt the meaning which attaches to êñßíåóèáé , and which does not elsewhere appear, viz.: lawsuits. [So Rob. Lex. sub. voce; but Alf. says: ‘matters of dispute’]. Ìåè ἑáõôῶí : ‘with yourselves;’ more expressive than ἀëëÞëùí : one another. [It suggests the unity of the Christian body, so in contrast with the segregated condition of the world].—How Christians ought to conduct themselves in cases affecting the ‘mine and thine,’ he states in the more striking form of a question.—Why do ye not rather take injustice? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?—The verbs ἀäéêåῖóèå ἀðïóôåñåῖóèå are both middle and to be rendered as above. They imply the suffering of a ‘loss.’ It is one, however, only in appearance, being a victory in fact (Osi.). Comp. Mat_5:39 ff. What follows may be taken as a strong assertion, or as a question, which either stands independently, or is depending still on ‘why,’ since the question ‘or do you not know,’ of 1Co_6:9, has also its logical relations in the ‘why’ (so Meyer, ed. 2). But the former construction, which makes the sentence direct and independent, would be more expressive, and it is supported by êáὶ ôïῦ ôï ἀäåëöïò . The ἀëëÜ a then will have its proper force.—But ye ( ὕìåῖò . emphatic, ye Christians) do injustice and defraud—[the same verbs as in the previous clause, but active transitive] and that brethren.—[“This passage is remarkable as being founded on the spirit of Mat_5:40.” Stanley]. [On the nature of ecclesiastical jurisdiction maintained by the early Church in secular affairs, its relation to that of the State, and the evils resulting from it, see Neander’s Church History, Vol. II. p. 139ff., Torrey’s Translation].

1Co_6:9-10. Or know ye not.—The question presupposes a self-evident answer respecting the conduct spoken of. ‘Such proceedings should not hate been allowed by you, a people whose hope takes hold on God’s kingdom, and who profess to be the children, and so the heirs of the Most High. “Or,” etc., i. e, your conduct can only be explained on the supposition of such ignorance.’—that the unjust God’s kingdom shall not inherit?—Here ( ἄäéêïé ) the idea I involved in ἀäéêåῖí , to do injustice, must be kept in view, yet looking away from the point wherein they as members of the Church were especially guilty. The ‘unjust’ (“a term used of the heathen in 1Co_6:1, and here designedly brought in for the purpose of putting all who were unjust on a par with the heathen” Neander) are properly those among whom the practice of injustice has become habitual, who persist in wrong without repenting.—But here the word denotes the immoral generally, those who offend God and man by iniquities of every kind, such as are specified in the following context.—In reference to ‘God’s kingdom,’ see on 1Co_4:20. Considered in its perfection, as the object of Christian hope, the kingdom of God is the blessed state, wherein the will of a holy, loving, all-restoring, beatific God is fully realized; or, in other words, a condition wherein men and angels are unitedly and perfectly controlled by the Divine will, lead a life of righteousness and peace, and together with this, possess the highest good which it is desirable for men to participate in. And this participation is expressed by the word ‘inherit’ ( êëçñïíïìåéí ). It is something that properly belongs to the believer as a child of God (Rom_8:17; Gal_4:7), and involves a gracious right and an enduring possession. The expression, meaning literally, to obtain by lot, and then, to receive as an inheritance, belongs to the language of the Theocracy, and is used in the Old Testament to denote the entrance into the promised land, and into the society of those who are governed by the will of God. And this was but the type or shadow ( óêßá ) of the kingdom, of God that was to be set up on a renovated earth (2Pe_3:13; Mat_5:5). (That the verb takes after it the Accusative instead of the Genitive, belongs to the later Hellenic usage). The ‘not inheriting,’ implying an exclusion from the possession of the highest good, explains what is meant by êáôáêñßíåóèáé . and ἀðüëëõóèáé .—That all conduct, which contravenes the justice of God, or the ordering of holy love, should cause a forfeiture of this inheritance, lies in the very nature of the case. In the Corinthian Church, however, there appear to have been some light-minded people who sought to persuade themselves and others that God did not mean exactly what he said, that this inheritance could never be withheld from any who had joined the Church. [“Such a divorce of morality from religion has been manifested in all ages, and under all forms of religion. The pagan, the Jew, the Mohammedan, the nominal Christian, have all been exact in the performance of religious services, while unrestrained in the indulgence, of every evil passion. This arises from looking on religion as an outward service, and God as a being to be feared and propitiated, not loved and served.” Hodge]. Against all such false conceptions and vain words (Eph_5:6), Paul here warns the Church with his oft-recurring—Be not deceived (1Co_15:33; Gal_6:7, etc.)—To this he appends a full catalogue of such immoralities as exclude from God’s kingdom:—neither fornicators.—This indicates the vice prevalent in Corinth, and points back to chap. 5. To this he annexes, that wherewith fornication was closely connected in Heathendom, and which I when practised by God’s people, was termed both ‘fornication’ and ‘adultery:’—nor idolaters.—Then comes that inordinate indulgence of the sexual passion which violated alike the Divine ordinance of marriage, and the rights of the married parties:—nor adulterers.—The series of this class ends with the mention of that unnatural gratification of lust indicated in the words:—nor effeminate, nor Sodomites.—These express correlative ideas. The former denotes those who allowed themselves to be used as women (qui muliebria patiuntur); the latter, such as used the former in this unnatural way—a wide-spread vice in that period (comp. Wetstein on this passage, and on Rom_1:27). Next follow classes of the ‘unjust,’ in the more restricted sense, such as violently seized upon others’ possessions, or more indirectly sought for them:—nor thieves, nor covetous,—(comp. on 1Co_5:10 ff.).—In like manner in regard to the following—nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners.—The enumeration is not strictly logical, since those last mentioned would naturally come in after the ‘covetous.’ But drunkards and revilers naturally go together, since the vice of the latter commonly results from that of the former. After asserting solemnly that such—shall not inherit the kingdom of God,—he goes on to remind the Corinthians that for them these trials belonged to the past, and that indulgence in such vices was for them a backsliding into their old heathenish state, which utterly contradicted their high Christian experience.

1Co_6:11. And these things some (of you) were.—The neuter ôáῦôá carries a contemptuous implication, q. d., ‘such a set,’ ‘such stuff’ (Meyer). Ôéíὲò : ‘some, not all. What otherwise would be a too sweeping and severe imputation is thus limited in its application and softened in tone. [Calvin and Hodge regard the ôéíὲò as redundant or as distributive, q. d., some were one thing and some another]. The simple ἧôå , or ὑìåῖò ἧôå , would imply too much, since all the Corinthian converts, without exception, had not been addicted to either one or all the immoralities specified; yet, on the other hand, ôéíὲò ὑìῶí ἧôå would have implied too little. “It would bring the whole body prominently to notice, and intimate that only a part would agree with the description.” Osiander. The change which, however, had passed over them, is indicated by three expressions introduced with the emphatic repetition of ‘but,’ designed to set forth the contrast more strongly.—But ye were washed clean. áðåëïýóáóèå —[ ἀðü ; off, all off, clean, intensive. This refers to their joining the Church in baptism. Comp. Tit_3:5. In like manner Act_22:16, where the verb is aor. mid., and signifies, baptize thyself, or, cause thyself to be baptized, not, ‘be baptized,’ as ‘though it were passive. And so the verb here is middle, and must be taken in a reflexive sense, though it is difficult to translate it thus in English]. The term ‘wash,’ points to the defilement incurred by the sins before spoken of, and to the purification effected through the forgiveness obtained in baptism, or the removal of guilt then pledged (Act_22:16). It is analogous to êáèáñßóáò (Eph_5:26). The moral purification, by the doing away of all that is sinful (Rückert), we cannot therefore take to be here meant: although repentance and faith are presupposed in baptism. In this washing of baptism, however, the cleansing through the blood of Christ (Rev_1:5; 1Jn_1:7) must be considered as included.—Ye sanctified yourselves, ἡ ëéÜóèçôå —This, too, is middle. It cannot therefore be supposed to denote the inward, progressive sanctification accomplished by the Spirit; but, as in 1Co_1:2, the act of personal consecration to God, of separation from the world and translation into fellowship with God; yet this, not putatively, nor externally merely, but as involving also some operation of the Divine Spirit on the heart (comp. Tit_3:5; 1Pe_1:2).—Ye were justified, ἐäé êáé þèçôå .—This, in accordance with the usage of Paul and of the Bible generally, is to be construed, not after Augustine and the Council of Trent, as if it meant: ‘made righteous’ inwardly. This is contradicted by the aorist tense of the verb. But it implies an introduction into the state of the ‘just,’ admission to a participation in the salvation of God—to a place in His kingdom and a share in His blessings. This exhibits the positive side of God’s salvation (the removal of guilt being the negative side), and is the result of consecration to God. Hence it fitly concludes the series. All three taken together denote an entrance into the state of grace [“ and refer to the first conversion.” Stanley. The view given by Kling is substantially that of Calvin, Hodge, Alf., Words. But the words also carry a further implication in the way of contrast. ‘Having become thus, ye are not to defile and pollute yourselves afresh and incur, renewed condemnation’].—in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God.—These qualifying phrases are by some referred to all three of the foregoing verbs, and by others to the last alone. Others still make a division, referring the words, ‘in the name’ to ‘justified,’ or to this and ‘washed;’ but the words, ‘in the Spirit’ to ‘sanctified.’ These attempts are a failure; although it is indeed true that the ‘washing’ and the ‘justification’ are grounded upon the name of Christ. ‘Even as, on the other hand, sanctification comes through the Spirit. Again the reference of these phrases to all three of the verbs appears to be opposed by the separation of the verbs effected by ‘but,’ as well as by the unsuitableness of connecting the fact of the washing with the Spirit, since according to the rule (to which Act_4:7 is no exception) the reception of the Spirit is consequent on baptism (Meyer). But the first reason given cannot be decisive; and so far as the second goes, we find that in Tit_3:5, the ‘renewal of the spirit’ is connected directly with baptism, as epexegetical of ðáëéããåíåóßáò . And as the phrase ‘in the name of Christ,’ indicates the objective ground on which the washing rests, so does the phrase, ‘in the Spirit,’ indicate the subjective ground of the same, that is, the principle which inwardly imparts and applies the absolution implied in the washing. On the name of Christ comp. on 1Co_1:2. The entire personality of Jesus, so far as it is made known to us in the work of redemption and indicated in the name, is the objective ground both of the pardon granted in baptism and of our justification and sanctification, according to the sense of the terms above given. But the Spirit of God applies to each individual what is offered to us in that name. He brings it directly to our consciousness, insures and imparts it to us, and enables us to realize it all within our own hearts. [“By the ἡìῶí : our, added to ‘God,’ he binds the Corinthians and himself together in the glorious blessings of the Gospel state, and mingles the oil of joy with the mourning which by his reproof he is reluctantly creating.” Alford],

[Obs. This whole passage 1Co_6:1-9, is memorable as laying the foundation for that ecclesiastical jurisdiction in civil affairs which in the lapse of centuries grew to such mighty proportions as to overshadow for a time the temporal sovereignty, and even threaten to subjugate it altogether. There are traces of the existence of church-courts for civil causes among Christians as early as the middle of the second century, and in the Apost. Const. , II. 47, the rule for the regulation of their proceedings is laid down. Ordinarily, however, the bishop became the referee in such disputes, and his office as umpire contributed largely to the increase of his importance and authority, and also greatly endangered his spirituality. When the State became Christian, this jurisdiction was conferred by law, and made binding on all parties that appealed to it. The custom once established, gradually extended itself with the increase of ecclesiastical pretensions, and the decay of secular power, until the Church assumed the form of a political association, with a well defined system of ecclesiastical polity that divided the control with the State both over the laity and the clergy, even in temporal matters, and aimed steadily at exempting the latter in particular from all amenability to the State. The history of this wonderful and yet perverse development of authority from the positions laid down in the text, furnishes a most instructive commentary on its meaning, and shows us the necessity of correctly interpreting it.

The limitations by which the precept is beset are as follows: 1. The litigants must be both church-members. Redress from wrongs inflicted from without may be sought at civil tribunals when public justice seems to require it—Paul, e. g., appealed to Cæsar. 2. The causes, comparatively trivial, the minor matters of property, for example, in relation to which it were better that covetousness be mortified by quietly enduring the wrong, than indulged by the enforcement of rights. 3. The tribunals, heathen, or of a heathenish kind. The case may be altered when the judges are Christians. Yet even under such circumstances litigation between “brethren” ought, if possible, to be avoided. 4. The nature of the adjudication, informal—that of umpires chosen for the purpose by the contestants, and not of regular church courts. Paul’s aim was to preserve the peace and spirituality of the Church by the avoidance of litigation, not to convert the Church into an arena for conflicts, and thus to secularize it. The Church was never constituted to be “a ruler and a divider” among men. 5. The evil condemned is not the practice of going to law, as though this were wrong in itself, for the magistrate, too, is a “member of God for good,” but the litigious spirit so contrary to the Christian temper. There are instances when it would be a manifest sin not to seek justice. But in doing so, a Christian should take care to show that he was actuated, not by feelings of revenge, but by a supreme regard to law and order, and by a desire that even the wrong-doer may be reconciled to Him.]


1. [The judicial function of the Saints in the age to come]. Those are mighty words, “the saints shall judge the world,” “we shall judge angels.” Through them we catch a glimpse into the mysteries of the Heavenly kingdom, especially into the fundamental mystery of the creating and judging Word, and into the vital fellowship which believers have with their Lord, likewise also into the mystery of the future, when the inward life of the saints, which is now hid with Christ in glory, will be made manifest as a life of Divine power and holiness. Those of whom Christ said, “I in them and they in me,” of whom it is grandly sung,

“ Devoid of strength they are guardians for all;

Poor, yet they win, let the worst befall,”—

who here on earth have shared with their Redeemer in His sufferings and shame, these very ones will share with Him hereafter in the manifestations of His glory. “When Christ, who is their life, shall appear, exhibiting Himself as He really is, then will they also appear with Him as gods of earth, to the astonishment of the world. They will reign and flourish eternally, shining as stars in the firmament of God.”

But by virtue of this union with Christ in glory, they become partners also in His judicial authority. Having been exempted from judgment through faith in their Lord, they will join with Him in executing judgment over all, whether men or angels, who amid the exhibitions of Divine love and wisdom and power and righteousness have continued hostile to God’s truth, disregardful of His grace, contemptuous toward His salvation, and opposed to all the ways of His kingdom—hardening themselves evermore in their enmity, until past hope. And this judgment will be an act both of deepest insight,—piercing through to the very centre of the heart, and detecting there the inexcusableness of sin, and of highest moral power—exhibiting a righteousness full of decision and vigor—allowing of no further protests—exposing the fallacy of excuses, and annihilating them all as false and untenable through the might of an all-enlightening truth.

And this power to discern and judge at that period, is a living principle imparted to Christians now, through the indwelling life of Christ, and it unfolds itself onward unto perfection with the growth of their spiritual life, until it reaches its highest state of exercise in the future kingdom of glory. There is always implied in it a demonstration of the mind of Christ, as well in that pitying love which goes out after the lost, tracks them in their wanderings, and wisely and patiently applies the means of their restoration, as in that holiness which should keep them from all fellowship with sin, consecrate them entirely to God, and maintain them in the obedience of faith amid manifold temptations from within and from without, in joy and sorrow, in honor and dishonor, in abundance and want, in health and sickness, even unto death; so that, as the instruments of Christ’s truth and love, they shall have done what they could towards awakening, convincing and converting those who still walk in darkness—thus proving themselves fit and warranted to act the part of judges with their Lord at the last.

But as their authority is also to be exercised over the world of spirits, these too must in some way be regarded as coming under this saving influence. For is not the blood of Christ’s cross said to be God’s means for reconciling all things unto Himself, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven? (Col_1:20). And is not the manifold wisdom of God to be proclaimed by means of the Church, even unto principalities and powers in heavenly places? (Eph_3:10). Shall we then mistake if we imagine that even in the extra mundane sphere there are also fallen beings, yet capable of salvation; and that into this sphere, whence came temptation and ruin unto our race, there shall in return go forth blessed agencies of deliverance from this very race, according to the wonderful council of God, and by virtue of the advent of His Son, through whom every thing above and beneath has been created? This is indeed an operation which, like that of the operation of this spirit-world upon us, comes not within the direct consciousness of believers; yet this fact does not militate against its reality, and like much that is now concealed, it will be made known to believers, as they enter upon their heavenly state. And if it be true, this circumstance will the more qualify believers for sitting in judgment over those bad spirits who obstinately close themselves against all such gracious influences, and scorn the salvation offered in Christ. These are conjectures indeed, and they might be carried out still further into the consideration of the particular duties in which the departed saints might engage in the other world. But it will not do to reject them as idle dreams, since they are in accordance with the analogy of Scripture, and are supported by the essential connection which exists between the judgment, and prevenient efforts directed to the recovery of the fallen.

Since the judicial work of the saints is not simply a corroboration of the sentence pronounced by Christ, but also an active participation in the judgment carried on by Him, as the organs of His office, a training preparatory to this high function will naturally be required of them. To this there belongs—1, a learning to speak what is true and right, not only in public, but also in private stations, so that a readiness may be acquired in distinguishing between right and wrong, and there shall be no danger of being misled, either through the purblindness of the foolish, or by the corrupt sophistries and wretched infatuation of the self-opinionated and dogmatic (analogous with Luk_16:10 ff; Luk_19:17 ff.); 2, a calm, self-denying willingness to accept justice as set forth in the sentence rendered, whether it come from a judge or an umpire; for here the rule holds good, that obedience to authority is the best qualification for exercising authority; 3, the still loftier self-denial shown in a readiness to suffer wrong rather than to gain aught by going to law at the expense of love and unity. On the other hand, the habit of over-reaching and defrauding, originating in a spirit of selfish greed, as it disqualifies for admission into God’s kingdom, so does it in an especial manner unfit a person to exercise judgment. And this is true also of every act which violates the rights either of God or man; for all such acts virtually disown and entirely neutralize that state of grace into which a person has been brought through the name of Christ and by the Spirit of God. The persons who practise them have washed and consecrated themselves, and been justified (in baptism) to no purpose.

[2. The natural condition of man, depraved and lost (1Co_6:9-11). When unchecked, the original sin of our constitution breaks out into the most flagrant vices and crimes, which reveal the inherent corruption. The most refined Pagan civilization has no power to restrain and cure it. Rather it serves to intensify the evil. The most demoralized society in the old world was to be found in the most refined of its cities. And the character, thus vitiated, forever excludes from a state of glory. It shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The strong negation here precludes all hope for such as possess it, and together with this puts the stamp of falsehood upon the figment of a universal salvation. No statement could be more explicit and conclusive]

[3. The change which fits the sinner for heaven is a radical one, wrought in Christ and through the Spirit, yet not independently of human volition. “Ye have washed yourselves clean, ye have sanctified yourselves, ye are justified.” The filth of sin is voluntarily removed. From being his own, the person consecrates himself to God, and becomes forgiven and reconciled to God through faith in the work of Christ, and by the influence of the Spirit. Thus old things pass away, and all things become new, under the operation of Divine grace, and through the consent of the individual. There is, therefore, in renewal a voluntary assumption of the weightiest obligation to keep one’s self unspotted from the world].


[Litigation on the part of Christians—1, involves great risk, and betokens a corresponding ‘daring,’ for it is a seeking for justice before the avowedly unjust, 1Co_6:1 a; 2 is a repudiation of their prop