6:1 When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? 6:2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters! 6:4 So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 6:5 I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians? 6:6 Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? 6:7 The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 6:8 But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters!
The saints will judge the world – ‘Hagioi‘, God’s people; Christian believers.
‘Some hold that judge is to be taken in the Hebraic sense of “rule”. This is possible, but the context deals with lawsuits, not government.’ (Morris)
Fee and Stuart (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth) urge that since Scripture gives us no further instruction in this matter, we should not speculate beyond what the text itself says: ‘we know very little as to what this means or how it is going to be worked out. Everything beyond the affirmation itself is mere speculation.’ However, passages such as Dan 7:22; Mt 19:28; Lk 22:28ff; Jude 14–15; Rev. 2:26–27; 20:4 may help us to fill out the meaning.
‘The Christ community, the hagioi, will judge the world, not because they have deeper insight or higher righteousness, but because they, as the people who belong to the one who rules the earth, will participate in the final judgment.’ (Vang)
Presumably, evil angels are meant. Cf. Jude 6.
6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, 6:10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 6:11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
- damaged by sin, vv9-11
- saved by God, v11 (‘…and such were some of you’)
- still vulnerable, v12
- for the Lord, vv13f
- a member of Christ, vv15-17
- a temple of the Holy Spirit, vvv18f
- bought with a price, v20
See this by David Murray
The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God – According to Soards, ‘Paul is not saying that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God because they are not good enough; the Corinthians were once just as wicked. Rather, he is reminding the Corinthians that God’s triumph over evil eliminates unrighteousness. Wickedness has no future with God, and so those who are devoting themselves to ungodly behaviors are forming lifestyles that are contrary to God’s will and work and that will not be given a place in God’s kingdom.’
Blomberg offers a similarly nuanced interpretation: ‘As in 5:10–11, [Paul] warns against being sucked into the vortex of behavior that eventually calls into question one’s very salvation.’
Male prostitutes…homosexual offenders – ‘The translation issue arises with the Greek terms malakoi and arsenokoitai, which the NRSV renders as “male prostitutes” and “sodomites.” A literal translation would be something like “soft people” and “men who go to bed,” though clearly something far more colloquial is meant—perhaps “male prostitutes and the men who hire their services”? The range of standard translations indicates how difficult the passage is: “boy prostitutes nor sodomites” (NAB), “male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders” (NIV), “both participants in same-sex intercourse” (CEB), “male prostitutes, homosexuals” (NLT), “passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals” (NET), “homosexual perverts” (TEV), and “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind” (KJV).’ (Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, art. ‘Homosexuality’).
Ciampa & Rossner understand these terms as referring to ‘those who willingly play the passive and active roles in homosexual acts.’ Vang concurs, defining the two relevant words as follows: ‘(1) Malakoi means those who are “effeminate” or “soft” and usually refers to men or boys who are sodomized by other males (the passive partners in same-sex relationships). (2) Arsenokoitai refers to the active partners in same-sex relationships (cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13; LXX uses arsenos).’
Ciampa & Rossner continue: ‘Paul is not discussing “homosexuals” per se, but homosexual acts (commonly engaged in by Roman men who were also active in heterosexual relationships). In the Roman world, homosexual relations were invariably exploitative relations between men of quite contrasting social statures. It was not uncommon for married men to practice heterosexual sex with their wives (and female slaves and prostitutes) and to also engage in homosexual relations with male prostitutes or slave boys or other young men of lower class who had little freedom to refuse. Romans did not think in terms of sexual orientation or identities, but that proper masculinity was to be expressed in taking the active, dominant role in any sexual act. To desire or willingly play a passive homosexual role was considered shameful, but it was expected that men of stature would penetrate people of lesser status (whether women or men) but not be penetrated themselves. The Jewish and Christian perspective affirmed by Paul was quite different.’
Others, however, understand this passage as referring to all forms of male homosexual behaviour (and, by implication, female homosexual behaviour). So Blomberg: ‘It is…linguistically invalid to limit the type of homosexual behavior Paul describes either to pederasty (adult men with underage boys) or to homosexual prostitution (casual sex for profit between individuals not committed to a lasting relationship with each other).’
Blomberg observes that the claim of some homosexual people that ‘God made me that way’ must be rejected. If there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, then this no more excuses homosexual behaviour that, say, a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or to aggression excuses an alcoholic or violent lifestyle. On the contrary, those who are predisposed in such ways may need to imposes more severe restrictions on themselves (such as total abstention from alcohol).
Blomberg continues: ‘None of this is to deny that conservative Christians have often treated homosexuals far more abusively than they have other sinners. There is real discrimination against the gay community that must be fought—for example, restricted employment opportunities for jobs in which sexual behavior is irrelevant. There is genuine homophobia (fear of association with homosexuals, not merely opinions about their moral condition), especially in our churches. But the “politically correct” movement has often grossly exaggerated p 124 the extent of that homophobia and incorrectly applied that label to believers who are lovingly and compassionately trying to uphold biblical standards.’
‘As in Romans 1:24–27, homo- and heterosexual sins are paired in a way that suggests that neither is any better or any worse than the other. One can scarcely use these verses to claim that no one can simultaneously be a Christian and engage in homosexual actions unless one is prepared to say the same thing of one who commits adultery or exhibits greed!’ (Blomberg)
Blomberg urges: ‘Like 3:16–17, verses 9–11 must be seen as a real and not merely hypothetical warning. Verse 11 suggests that Paul does think a majority of the Corinthian church is really saved, but there would be no point in his twofold affirmation that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom (vv. 9–10) if he did not fear that at least a few in his congregation might be masquerading as believers.’
Hays reminds us that we should remain mindful of the context: ‘We should remember…that Paul’s present purpose in 1 Corinthians 6 is not to set up new rules for sexual behavior but to chastise the Corinthians for taking each other to court. All the items in the list of verses 9–10 are merely illustrations of what the Corinthians used to be prior to their coming into the church. But a life-transforming change has occurred: “you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). In light of this transformation, they ought to stop acting like adikoi by taking their property disputes into courts where the powerful can take advantage of the less influential members of the community. Unless we keep this basic aim of the argument in view, our reading of and preaching on this text will become severely out of focus..
That is what some of you were – ‘It was no promising material that confronted the early preachers, but people whose values were exactly the opposite of those of Christ. It had required the mighty power of the Spirit of God to turn people like that away from their sins, and to make them members of Christ’s Church.’ (Morris)
This teaching reminds us (as Blomberg remarks) that sexual immorality, including homosexual behaviour, can be abandoned. Indeed, the warning of the previous verses is not properly understood without what Paul goes on to affirm.
‘If for Christians the future has invaded the present, a decisive break has also been made with the past; the once/now motif is just as important as the already/not yet.’ (Ciampa & Rosner)
You were washed – ‘Paul emphasizes the connection of baptism with enduement by the Spirit. It is “by the Spirit” that the baptized is initiated into the church, made to drink of one Spirit, and sealed for ultimate redemption. Paul regularly refers to the believer’s reception of the Spirit in a tense signifying a certain point in time (“baptismal aorists”), speaks of baptism as being “washed. in the Spirit,” (1 Cor 6:11) and so can assume that everyone baptized “has” the Spirit. (Rom 8:9) Yet he nowhere argues this, as by recalling Jesus’ baptismal enduement; he takes reception of the Spirit in baptism for granted and life under the rule of the Spirit as the norm of Christian experience. (Rom 8:2-5) Even so, the Spirit given at baptism is but an earnest, a down payment, guaranteeing immeasurable future blessings.’ (2 Cor 1:22 5:5) (EDBT)
You were sanctified, you were justified –
You were justified…by the Spirit of our God – ‘All the persons in the blessed Trinity have a hand in the justification of a sinner: opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa. God the Father is said to justify. ‘It is God that justifieth.’ Rom 8:33. God the Son is said to justify. ‘By him all that believe are justified.’ Acts 13:39. God the Holy Ghost is said to justify. ‘But ye are justified by the Spirit of our God.’ 1 Cor 6:11. God the Father justifies, as he pronounces us righteous; God the Son justifies, as he imputes his righteousness to us; and God the Holy Ghost justifies, as he clears up our justification, and seals us up to the day of redemption.’ (Thomas Watson)
Flee Sexual Immorality
6:12 “All things are lawful for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me”—but I will not be controlled by anything. 6:13 “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both.” The body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 6:14 Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power. 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 6:16 Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 6:17 But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. 6:18 Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body”—but the immoral person sins against his own body. 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 6:20 For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
“Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything” – There is a play on words here, reflected by Barclay: “All things are allowed me, but I will not allow anything to get control of me.”
‘In chapters 8-10 we shall see Paul arguing passionately and persuasively that the essential Christian freedom is the freedom not to be free, i.e. a deliberate choice to restrain my freedom for the sake of the gospel.’ (Prior)
“Everything is permissible for me” – The quotation marks reflect the view of most commentators, which is that Paul is quoting an expression that was current in Corinth, (possibly amongst the gnostic party, who may even have being quoting a saying of Paul’s against himself; they in their disparagement of the material could have argued that nothing done in the flesh really matters). Paul ‘gives qualified agreement to the words themselves but not to the conclusions drawn from them.’ (Barrett)
‘It is because he does not seek to curb licence by a relapse into legalism that he refuses to retract the principle, though he guards against its further abuse by a double qualification.’ (Wilson)
‘Whether a Corinthian password or a Pauline motto, [this expression] needed reinterpretation in rather the same way as Augustine’s oft-quoted dictum, “Love God and do what you like.”‘ (Prior)
‘Paul’s dilemma was accentuated by the presence in the church at Corinth of both antinomians and legalists. He was bound to fight the battle on both points: if he conceded too much in one direction, he would give too much leeway to those at the opposite extreme. Walking in the Spirit is always a matter of steering the middle and narrow course between too much licence and too many rules and regulations.’ (Prior)
But not everything is beneficial – ‘In truth, only love, and actions based on love, are expedient for the people of God, since only these build up (1 Cor 8:1), and though obedience to law is not completely discounted as a means of justification God’s law still stands (1 Cor 9:21), or rather has been simplified and reinforced in Christ (the law of Christ, Gal 6:2), and may be regarded as marking out for men not a way of salvation but ways that are inexpedient, because they will lead inevitably to the collapse of society and the ruin of men’s lives. Christian freedom must be limited by regard for others.’ (Barrett)
‘Paul seems to be saying that rights of any kind are of no determinative value in his daily life. That is an extremely revolutionary statement and denotes a measure of freedom unfamiliar to most Christians, let alone the unbelieving world in general.’ (Prior)
So, when faced with a difficult choice, ask, “Is it beneficial – will it make my life more useful to God and to others,” Ask, “Will it tend to enslave me:” even things lawful in themselves can be enslaving, occupying too much of our time and energy.
‘There is a great tendency among young people to use their bodies not as temples, but as amusement arcades.’ (Helen Lee)
Here, ‘Paul speaks of the future resurrection as a major motive for treating our bodies properly in the present time’, and, in 1 Cor 15:58, ‘as the reason, not for sitting back and waiting for it all to happen, but for working hard in the present, knowing that nothing done in the Lord, in the power of the Spirit, in the present time will be wasted in God’s future.’ (Wright, Surprised by hope, p37)
‘Here [Paul’s] thought owes nothing to any antecedent notions, and displays a psychological insight into human sexuality which is altogether exceptional by first-century standards. The apostle denies that coitus is…no more than an appropriate exercise of the genital organs. On the contrary he insists that it is an act which…engages and expresses the whole personality in such a way as to constitute a unique mode of self-disclosure and self-commitment.’ (D.S. Bailey, cited by Keller, the Meaning of Marriage, p225)
He who sins sexually sins against his own body – But what about drug and alcohol abuse, gluttony, self-cutting, and suicide? Are these not sins against one’s own body? But the word translated ‘body’ (soma) ‘can also mean the human person in his or her most intimate acts of communication or communion with others’ (Blomberg). This helps to explain why we use the word ‘intercourse’ both for conversation and for sex. Blomberg continues: ‘Plenty of sins damage one’s own body but don’t affect the bodies of other people. Sexual intercourse, by definition, requires two people. It is the most intimate of expressions of self-giving love; two people naked before each other, in postures and position that are meant to express ultimate vulnerability and therefore trust and ultimate allegiance, at least at the human level. Someone once said that what is most wrong with sex outside of marriage is not the risk of pregnancy or STDs…Rather, what’s most wrong is that it takes from someone else what was designed to reflect the most intimate of human commitments without being willing to promise the ultimate loyalty intended to go along with that intimacy.’
Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit – ‘Earlier he had referred to the church as a whole as God’s temple (3:16), but here body is singular, so that each believer is a temple in which God dwells. The word is naos, which means the sacred shrine, the sanctuary, the place where deity dwells, not hieron, which includes the entire precincts. This gives a dignity to the whole of life, such as nothing else could do. Wherever we go we are the bearers of the Holy Ghost, the temples in which God is pleased to dwell. This rules out all such conduct as is not appropriate to the temple of God. Its application to fornication is obvious, but the principle is of far wider application. Nothing that would be amiss in God’s temple is seemly in the child of God.’ (Morris)
You are not your own – ‘We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.’ (Calvin, Institutes, I, 690)
Cf. 1 Cor 3:16
You were bought at a price – The word agorazo originally ‘to frequent the forum’, then ‘to acquire, to buy in the forum’; or, more simply and more usually, ‘to buy’. It is used in this latter sense some 24 times. On six occasions it is used of Christians being ‘bought’, as here. In Hellenistic Greek the commercial meaning is quite common, and the word is often used in connection with the buying up of slaves (although not in connection with manumissions).
‘Negative injunctions about sexual practices have their place; warnings about the consequences of disobedience are necessary. But the most attractive aspect of a truly biblical sexuality is its power to provide what Os Guinness has called “both the basis and the balance for human love – its height, its depth, its realism and its romanticism.”‘ (Prior)
Cf. 2 Cor 5:15.