Now as I always do, I want to give a little bit of a brief as to how we got to here from the beginning of the book. You must always keep in the back of your mind that this letter is the second of four corrective letters to the church at Corinth, clearly the one that had the most issues that we read about in the new Testament. We must not initiate the building of theology from this letter without understanding the greater context of the Scriptures as a whole before using 1 Corinthians to draw any theological conclusions. You’ll see what I mean.
In chapter 1, we learned that basically, everyone is some kind of fool, and concluded from our study that if we have to play the fool anyway, we should play the part of God’s fool, because the so-called “foolishness” of our sovereign God will put any of the logic or wisdom of the world to shame. Come, give your life for a carpenter’s son – for “a madman who died for a dream,” according to Dr. Albert Schweitzer. But only the foolish can tell of the wonderful grace of God in their own salvation and the wisdom found in His word through His Spirit.
That brought us to chapter 2, where we had opportunity to examine the nature of this heavenly wisdom, that the world calls foolish. We learned that not only was that true wisdom a spiritual, and nor earthly wisdom, but also that such wisdom could only be revealed to those who are aiming at maturity in Christ by walking “in the Spirit,” where for lack of better words, we obey what the Holy Spirit informs us through the Word of God and the New Nature that Christ gave us to walk in instead of the old nature that we are still very capable of falling into no matter how long you have been a real Christian.
Then in chapter 3, we considered that God’s reality is the reality to which attention must be paid. We like to manufacture our own at times to avoid responsibility toward God, but believers cannot afford that luxury – all believers are doing a great work, and Paul speaks to the details of that. Our conclusion is that because we are actually collectively building the naos of God, that is the Sanctuary, where God sits and lives and speaks and works, we must take great care with the construction in terms of the material we use. There are good and bad choices, and we want to make the best possible choices, because if we are careless, then we will suffer loss. And that loss is unimaginable, though we will still be saved – “yet so as through the fire, according to Paul.
Then the Apostle presents a choice in chapter 4 – which Paul would you like to face? The angry disciplinarian that wrote the letter to the Galatians, or the loving, humble, meek servant that wrote Ephesians and Philippians, etc.? It seems that the dividers were already hard at work trying to separate the sheep from the fold in Corinth, and it had to be explained that although Paul and his fellow servants perhaps appeared to be without honour, instead of discarding them, they should rather be imitated – because the kingdom of God does not exist in eloquent speeches, but in the power of changed lives, and that should be the measure for a preacher. It seems that we need to obey God and walk in the Spirit at this point, because that is what the Lord is mandating.
That brought us to chapter 5 and an example of the use of church discipline. We saw that it was to be used seldomly if possible, relying on the Holy Spirit to resolve our minor differences, but in the case of the persistent sin being expressed without any kind of repentance, it should be engaged to remove the covering of protection from an individual so that he may begin to understand through his own wrong choices that brought him into the place where he is so as to make him repent, and even be brought back in as occasion allows. It is specifically used in cases where a brother or sister WILL not repent, but because most of us want to become more like Christ, it should remain a rare thing.
That brings us to chapter 6, tonight’s consideration. I broke the chapter into paragraphs as follows:
KV12: Consider your spiritual choices – don’t be mastered by any thing.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
1-4: Don’t air your dirty laundry in public…
5-8: It is a shame to have such dirty laundry!
9-11: Change is needed for your inheritance!
12-20: You are not your own – you have been bought with a price!
Right after a chapter that actually exercises church discipline to the maximum of excommunication, we have this chapter telling us about other things about which we should be exercised, not just church discipline. We start with a scolding about airing our dirty laundry in public in the form of lawsuits against other believers, and then a section that tells us that we should rather be wronged and defrauded – not the thing WE do, which is the opposite, we wrong and defraud. Paul lists off a number of people groups that will NOT inherit the kingdom of God, and tells us that a change of life is needed, and has arguably happened in verse 11, which says “and such WERE some of you…” (past tense). Clearly, that change must happen if we are to inherit the kingdom of God. Paul has some advice for us in the rest of the chapter if we will really hear it. Let’s hop into the chapter.
KV12: Consider your spiritual choices – don’t be mastered by any thing.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
My internet pests are already at it this evening, reminding me that I adhere to the Doctrines of Grace, and they are chattering about how I’ve been speaking lately a great deal about making choices, an act of a free will. Indeed I have been, my bothersome friends. No real Calvinist denies free will as a moral choice for which God will hold us accountable, and neither will I. In fact, my suggestion goes a bit further – if you want to pull against what is so clearly taught and entrenched in Scripture, and you are damned for it, I suggest you got what you wanted – that is to be a rebel. Everything has some kind of price. Don’t complain because you didn’t pay attention to the clear warning of Scripture. Besides, I’m not primarily addressing unbelievers, I am addressing those who have come by the power of God to know Jesus Christ as Lord, those who have been justified before God. That’s something God did for you, nothing you did. Not even your “decision” was actually yours. God made you alive, and you responded to your new nature irresistibly, just like you did with your old nature. Except your new nature from God allows you now to choose for Him, and your old nature never could. It should be no wonder we’re always talking about walking in the Spirit, that new nature, as opposed to walking in the old nature, the flesh.
That is the choice for all believers. We can choose differently, and so we do. In fact, I don’t think we can quite help it, although we still have a fleshly body that we live in that is still under the corruption that is in the world because of our forebear’s first sin, the original disobedience against God in the garden by Adam. That needs to be “made holy,” or sanctified, and that causes us to suffer sometimes in the choices we have to make to stand for Christ. Paul’s advice is for just that purpose in this chapter, and we as new creations in Christ need to heed it. With that, we’ll get right into the chapter.
1-4: Don’t air your dirty laundry in public…
I will confess that “dirty laundry” is a somewhat euphemistic generalization here, but it is one with a point. There are occasions where we as believers can get involved with things, with causes, with political parties, with organizations, that don’t always advance the cause of Christ, even without realizing it. I am not condemning anyone for doing so, I’m sure I have been at times party to doing things that are not truly Christian or letting my kids do things like that and not looking closely enough at the causes that they were involved in also. Such things can put the Christian in a place of compromise or even animosity towards Christ and His people if care is not taken to follow that Matthew 18:15-20 pattern for self- and church-disciplining work. One such thing was that there were believers in Corinth that had what we may understand as lawsuits against other actual believers! This in my thinking is a proverbial airing of dirty laundry from within the body of Christ in public, the one place that should see a unified and holy body. And Paul isn’t saying we need to hide the behaviour, he’s telling us that it needs to cease and desist. Let’s see the text.
1: Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?
- Paul begins by putting his finger right on the issue he wants to address – lawsuits between believers. The word used for “case” here is the Greek pragma, where we get our word pragmatism meaning to be practical. However, it means something a little less English than that, and can be translated “matter.” In fact, one could understand this to mean “lawsuit,” as it is a frequent use of the word in legal papyri of the day. So, “lawsuit” is an actual translation from usage, not a dynamic equivalence, for those that pay attention to that, and there are at least one of you that I know does.
- It’s like Paul is saying here, “What are you doing, people? By taking one another to the unrighteous (that is profane, unsanctified) law courts, you are airing dirty laundry – and you shouldn’t even have the dirty laundry, never mind be airing it in public! Now Paul doesn’t let us in on what the suit or suits was (were) about, but that is because it is irrelevant. They shouldn’t have been in the first place, and he’s not telling us so we won’t be “inspired” to take sides – he knew what we are like, then and now.
- The chiding here isn’t so much that things happened and they took it to court, it’s the court to which they took it, and we’ll look at that in a couple of verses.
2: Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
- Paul’s point in asking the question in verse 1 is to point out that in fact the saints, that is God’s people, set apart (the original meaning of holy – to be separate or separated) for Himself, will someday be judges over the kosmos, the world order itself. And if we are to be judges (Gk., krino), that is judicial decision-makers that decide how things should work, how is it we are not competent to do that now?
- Paul is discussing something we have referred to before as inaugurated eschatology – the idea that Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God when He was here the first time, but that kingdom will only be set up in reality when He returns again. We are now in what George Ladd called the “in-between times” now, and it is a time where we are to live like the kingdom has come (it’s a witness to the kingdom of God), right up until it actually does, in whatever form it does. I know, that sounds like I’m hedging, and I am. My eschatology is more or less classic premillennial, but there’s this thing that the Scriptures talk about called the harpazo event in Greek that I have a hard time placing in a classic view of future events. I’m not really a complete dispensationalist, but I do believe there will be this harpazo. I don’t call it, like critics of the position do, a “secret” rapture, because I don’t think that when it happens that its going to be any kind of secret! I know this is a bit of a side-trip, so I’ll get back on track by saying that it’s all in the future at this point, and I don’t know when it will occur – but the important part isn’t when, it is your readiness when it finally does happen. That event will end the “in-between” time and will place us on the road to the millennial kingdom of Christ I n my view. I am aware not everyone agrees with that, but they all have their own versions of the return of Christ to earth, and I will respect them as I hope they will respect me. And if not, no big deal. I’ll explain that in a moment too.
3: Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
- I once quoted this verse to my mom’s mother, who I think was a believer. She was familiar with Paul’s writings, but she didn’t remember this verse. I had the joy of showing it to her (well, over the phone verbally, as she was blind), and we rejoiced together that the Lord thinks so much of His children. The point here is not so much that we will then have authority over angels – that will be the will of God, and as His servants we and they (the angels) will submit to what God wants. I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to be learning how to do now anyway.
- All of this is for Paul to say something like, “Hey, since you’re going to someday be in the position of judging angels and giving them instructions, how about practicing that now?” And that’s a reality, beloved. If you are a real believer, you will really be placed in a position that you will at least administratively have more authority from God than an angel. Still think being a Christian is about going to heaven when you die? I don’t…
4: So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
- I admit I struggled a little with the meaning of this verse until I calmed down from all the pressure I put on myself to be right about the text and just let the Holy Spirit guide me. Listen to this alternate literal translation that I did myself (remember, I am not a Greek scholar), that seems to me to be much clearer with the sense of it.
- “So – dealing with matters of this life – if you have law courts, who are of no account to the church, do you appoint them as judges?” All I did was take that out of an interlinear Bible and try to put them into a sentence that made sense in English. I think the sense is all there.
- So let’s think about this for a minute. We have lawsuits between believers. These are to the people involved, perhaps critical matters of this life. We are told here by Paul that we will be placed at least administratively above angels in the future, and should be practicing our sound judgement powers now. If we have courts of law, but they are of no account at all in the very House of God today, why are we bringing our important matters to non-Christians, who are not qualified to understand them, for judgement?
- Did I miss any meaning there? Because I don’t think so.
Many of you know that I am a former licensed Financial Advisor, an industry filled with regulation as a principle. Some of it is necessary regulation, but not all of it. Much of the modern regulation in that industry today is as a result of regulators trying to keep themselves in a good job. Originally, the job of the regulators was to enforce existing regulations, but then of necessity, they had to make new regulation as the industry started to change with society. Today, what we have is the office of regulation, as opposed to regulators that have the good of the public and the advisor in mind. And what is the job of the office of the regulation? Why, to make regulations, of course! It is the same, sadly with our national judiciary in some ways – what? You have a legal issue? Gotta go to court! Nonsense. The average Elder in a Christian gathering is better qualified to answer issues between brothers and/or sisters than any non-Christian law court, because the average Elder in a Christian gathering has the Holy Spirit to lean upon for guidance, and the average judge today probably does not. So why air our dirty laundry in the public arena? Or a better question, why do we have this dirty laundry at all?
5-8: It is a shame to have such dirty laundry!
The precise problem with dirty laundry is that it is – now pay attention, this is very important – dirty!!! My implication here, in case it is not absolutely clear is that dirt is symbolic in my analogy of SIN! Yes, I’m saying that to hold things against your brothers and sisters, or to put them through silly little tests of so-called friendship, or to have things bad enough to put into some kind of lawsuit is just plain wrong in the first place. We’re not supposed to HIDE dirty laundry, we’re supposed to clean dirty laundry. To have it lying around outside of the regular laundry cycle is not right in my analogy, and it is NEVER right to have sin lying around in the disguise of these and other issues. No, get rid of it!
5: I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
- Paul’s line of reasoning here is that to even have the dirty laundry in the face of the Spirit of Grace, the Holy Spirit, when He has been sent to help us live in the Spirit and resolve such conflicts as these peacefully with our believing brothers and sisters, is flat-out wrong, and is a matter for which you should hang your head in shame.
- Now Paul starts to ask one of his favorite types of questions – a rhetorical one. Listen to how he starts the question. “Is it really so, that there is not among you on single wise man who can decide between his brethren?” Now this verse ends in a comma, so it continues in the next verse, where we will pick it up.
6: but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
- “Apparently not,” Paul has continued, “because we find you at each other’s throats in the law courts that are administered before unbelievers, where you continue to air that shameful dirty laundry!”
- Sometimes, it seems, that a situation is clearly evident to onlookers, and the people who are involved are far to close to see the forest because of the trees. Can you hear the discussions? “He cheated me!” “Did not, he didn’t pay, and I’m exercising my ‘keep everything’ clause right here, ‘your honour!'” And we carry on arguments that are basically he said – she said arguments like immature children – IN PUBLIC. “GREAT job, people,” says Paul.
7: Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
- Paul then tells us that if you are behaving in this fashion, you are already defeated. And to be clear, Paul isn’t saying the defeat is in your childish behaviour. The defeat is in the fact that you have reasons for the behaviour in the first place. And then in his usual style, Paul says something absolutely revolutionary.
- Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? No, don’t be mistaken here – Pau is NOT saying that we should just be doormats and roll over when people are mean and try to take away things from us. What Paul seems to be saying in my understanding is the same reason we should never try to return vengeance on someone – you know, the art of getting even. Of standing on our rights. First, if our rights as citizens are violated by someone, that’s par for the course, and Jesus told us it would happen when He was here. The world hated Him, and it will also hate us.
- Think about this. In a culture where we are always supposed to be putting other peoples’ concerns above our own, we have willingly surrendered our “right” to react when someone tries to abuse the privilege. And that is the very culture where God left us. He has said that we should not try to get even or ahead, but we should leave the “making right” to Him. We can ask for God’s justice, I suppose, but when God’s justice lands us in burning hell for eternity, why would we do that again?
- So, beloved brothers and sisters, we can stand on our rights if we want, but is that really what we should be doing? Why not rather be wronged? And with that, I can hear the questions before their stated. “But Pastor, that person is trying to get more than he deserves and taking advantage of me!” Um…so? Christ gave Himself freely for others – how can we do any different? How dare we do any different? “But Pastor! He’ll get away with it!” No, he won’t. He will answer to God. And who do you think does payback better? You or God? If you said “God,” full marks. And besides, that SAME God requires US to be forgiving!
8: On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.
- Oh, wait – NOW the skunk is out of the BAG! You want HIM to suffer justice while you get away with the very same nonsense you’re complaining HE is doing to YOU! WELL! Look at that, you are human after all, and not just some “super saint.” Imagine that!
- There is a principle here that I would be less than faithful if I didn’t point out. The ones that shout the loudest for the other fellow to have justice performed against him often have the most to hide. The people that file the lawsuits are often the ones hiding something that you are blocking them from receiving. Those that upbraid others for silly little things are those that have the biggest issues.
- I’ve seen this plenty of times in my Christian walk, and clearly from both sides of it, and sadly even as a participant. There is a “brother” I used to fellowship with that I will call Stuart. That’s not even close to his name, so stop trying to figure it out. Stuart thought he was better at being a Christian than, well everyone, but singled me out for his particular brand of “discipleship.” When he was around, I couldn’t do anything right enough for him. There was always a comment, always a put-down, and more than the occasional threat. That’s a bad mix for an abused kid, by the way, and it does figure into this, but not the way you might think. This all came to a head when I first started courting a sister to see if the Lord was leading the two of us toward marriage. (It turned out not if you were curious.) He kept demanding to know where we were, like he didn’t already know (we weren’t hiding anything from anyone).
- If I had taken this case to court as a former abused child that had all kinds of issues with overbearing authority and stood on my rights, I probably could have made quite a bit of money off of this. Instead, when the last straw finally broke THIS camel’s back, I asked himself to wait right where he was, I wouldn’t be a moment. From his perspective, I disappeared into the room we had both been in for worship for a moment. A moment or so later, I re-emerged with our pastor in tow. He was fully aware of everything (because I had been seeking his advice from the start). He looked at me with a nod, and said wait for me upstairs, Gerry. Lunch is on me today. Then He disappeared into a private room with Stuart in tow. Just a few minutes later, the Pastor and Stuart came upstairs and Stuart wouldn’t even meet my eyes. The Pastor let him stalk off, and then explained to me that he had turned to this passage in scriptures and explained that if I wanted, I could cost the brother quite a bit of money, and that I had a real case. As the brother tried to defend himself by telling him that it was part of my discipling, the Pastor simply said that doesn’t seem like a proper format for discipling. Some other things were said too, along the lines of what we studied last week as a potential issue for church discipline. Stuart had apparently been a very busy boy “discipling” others the same way, and I wasn’t the only one that complained.
- How does that equate with this verse? I believe that at the time, Stuart was a false convert, and was out to gain followers for himself. He was prosecuting that case vigourously, too, and with others than just me. ALL of us, it turns out could have sued for abusive behaviour in civil court and won. But we did not, largely because the Lord in His mercy did several things at once. First, He kept all of us from retaliating in a worldly way and actually going to un-Christian civil authorities. Second, God in His mercy was reaching out to Stuart, and ultimately (a number of years later) winning Stuart to Himself as His own child. When I next met Stuart, he was married with kids, and he had really changed, and he even apologized to me, with offers to make things right if I wanted. By then I had grown too, and let the matter drop, because it no longer mattered.
You see, those that will not walk in the Spirit will perpetrate their fraud and deception on their “brothers and sisters” if they will allow it. And it isn’t a situation where you just simply choose to not engage, because you are BEING engaged like it or not. Respond with mercy, forgiveness, and understanding. From what I’ve seen, there will be joy in the end. And brothers and sisters, don’t think you’re not capable of this – I’ve seen it in just the last two weeks in OUR midst. Given that it was handled with great humility on the side that was offended I’m letting it drop. But God saw, and He never lets anything drop. You might want to consider that.
9-11: Change is needed for your inheritance!
Look, do you think that someone – anyone – that carries on with this “I have every right” kind of behaviour is going to get away with it ultimately? Look at the Lord Jesus Christ regarding this. If anyone in the universe ever had the right to retaliate, He did. Here was the very agent of creation Himself, the very Word of God, the one that spoke everything into being from nothing, being crucified by the very ones that He came to save. When they came to arrest Him at Gethsemane, he said something VERY telling. In Matt. 26:51-54, Peter has already cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest with the sword, and Jesus has stopped him and healed the ear. Then He says something profoundly disturbing and in direct relation to our consideration. “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus *said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?'” He not only had the right, he had the means to ENFORCE His rights. And HE. DID. NOT. As I asked before, How can we do differently? How DARE we do differently?
Now as I read that and considered what the Lord is asking us all to do here, I find myself asking with the disciples in Matt. 19:25, “When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?'” Thank God for Jesus’ answer! 19:26 – “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” Why would I ask that? My friends, I am also but sinful flesh, and there are things that I don’t want to give up either in that sinful flesh. Things that I struggle to love less than the Saviour. And as I considered this, one thing became very, very clear – crystal clear – that I need to change! Oh beloved, HOW I need to change.
9: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,
- There are two very important things in the next two verses, because this verse also ends with a comma. We’ll view first things first. Paul asks the all-important question in this consideration: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Now those of us that are regulars here and participate in our book study in John Owen at the moment, in worship on Sundays, and in our Prayer times on Mondays already know this – but have you ever considered what this actually says from the point of view of someone hearing it for the first time? We run into a lot of this these days, don’t we? “Do you not know” may also be translated “Have you not perceived,” or “do you not realize.” It occurs to me that someone that may be new to Christianity is about to have a load of really controversial stuff on them if it isn’t explained properly.
- The word for “unrighteous” [adikos] here is defined as “those that are not in conformity with what is right.” My friends, that means those that are unbelievers, because Jesus is very clear that if you are “right,” you are doing the works of God, which according to John 6:29 says: “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'” Jesus, of course, is He whom He has sent. My friends, if you have not believed and really been convinced for real that Jesus came to take your sins away, or if you have given mental assent to that idea but your life has not changed, we confidently assert that you are among the unrighteous. You don’t have to stay there, though. Believe! If you need help with that’ we can talk later. And being among the unrighteous means that you will NOT INHERIT the kingdom of God. My friends, that’s very serious – if you’re not in the kingdom of God, it means that you’re in hell for eternity. That would definitely “put a cramp” in anyone’s style, so repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!
- The other thing that is really importance is a list of the behaviours that you must cease if you have become one of the righteous, that is a believer, a real Christian. We’ll go through that list a word at a time, because sometimes word usage changes over time.
- The first thing here is a warning not to be deceived about this. There are plenty of people that will tell you that certain things don’t matter anymore, it’s not sin, it’s just fulfilling and animal drive or need. That’s wrong thinking, part of the lie that God will allow people who refuse this to fall for.
- First in the list? Fornicators. That’s the word “pornos,” and last week we looked at the meaning of this because of the man that was being excommunicated because he was having sex with his own mother or stepmother. The word means those who participate in the act of sex outside of a marriage relationship, those that enable such acts, or those that sell the act (KJV translates this as “whoremonger, or a pimp). Nothing hard to understand here.
- Idolaters is next. That is those who make something other than God the most important thing in their life. TV can be an idol. Your health can be an idol. Even theology can become an idol if not continued in real humility before God. You want to know what could possibly be your idol? What do you spend most of your time doing?
- Adulterers. These are people who have sexual relations with someone who is married – to someone other than you! You know, Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” It’s like these things are so bad, that God is reserving something special for those categories of sin. All I know is that I don’t want to find out.
- Effeminate. What does that mean? Again, this is dealing with sexual sin. The Greek word is malakos, which has an equivalent in modern Greek. If you call someone a malaka in Greek today, you are calling them a butthole. The original Koine word has a connotation of being effeminate by perversion. Specifically, this is the one who participates in sodomy who receives, but the term in Koine has been figuratively extended to mean any kind of sexual perversion.
- Homosexual. The Greek word is arsenokoites, and after spending a very long time, and multiple times to make absolutely sure of the meaning of this Koine Greek word, I can tell you that it is a compound Greek word. The first part, arsen, is a word that is referring to males, that is to men as a sex. The second part comes from the Greek koite, which means a bed, and by extension has the connotation in Koine Greek itself of sexual promiscuity. Overall, this is men in bed with men for the purposes of promiscuous sex. We call that homosexuality. Folks in Old Testament Israel just called it Sodomy, after the first place we know it occurred in Scripture, the city of Sodom, where Lot lived with his wife and two daughters. Next verse.
10: nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
- Thieves. Kleptes. We get our English word kleptomaniac (compulsive shoplifter) from it. It simply means people taking what is not theirs without the intent of returning it. This is the literal sense of the word, and there is no reason from the context that we should believe that this is anything other than a literal thief.
- Covetous. Pleonektees. The word actually means one who is eager to have more. We would call this one greedy, but there is more to it than just plain greed. It carries the meaning of having what belongs to others as well, but not in the sense of stealing it, but in the sense of having a nicer and better one. More and better. Coveteous.
- Drunkards. This one is straight up – it means someone who drinks to excess. Reasons here are not communicated, simply the act itself.
- Revilers. This also is very easy to understand. This is someone who rails against things, and who is abusive towards others with their words. You’ve all heard those folks I assume. They’re angry all the time and never say anything nice ever. In the modern church (not ours), some people just call them deacons.
- Swindlers. Harpax. It literally means “ravening wolves,” but is best translated as extortioners. These folks want you or your stuff and will stop at nothing to get it.
- Paul says again for emphasis, that anyone that is practicing these particular sins will not inherit the kingdom of God. And my friends, that list covers almost everyone in existence. Sure there are other sins, but the ones on this list – is there anyone here that hasn’t committed at least one of them? I’ll fess up – I’m a drunkard apart from Christ. You don’t have to say here, don’t worry. But that’s a pretty powerful list of reprobates, is it not? Change is needed if we are to inherit God’s kingdom, friends. Thank God for the next verse!
11: Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
- Did you catch that? Such WERE some of YOU! Before I became a Christian, I was guilty of a number of these things. (Sadly, even after for a while until God worked in me. It didn’t happen all at once for some things.) But as Christians, now such behaviours are in the past, and we are among those who conform to what is right. And this is the very thing that many today deny – that Christ can change the heart and life so that these things will fade from being in us. Sometimes all at once, sometimes a little at a time, but they fade from being, not just view. I could be VERY specific here, but I’ll leave that to private conversations and fellowshipping.
- No, we were (again, past tense – it’s a done deal) washed! The literal Greek for that phrase is “you washed yourselves clean.” Now that is speaking about more than a simple justification before God. There is nothing we could do with respect to that, but we cooperate with our own sanctification, also part of salvation – they literally by obedience to the faith, voluntarily gave witness to the complete spiritual change that God did in them. They were sanctified, that is made holy! Why? Because God justified them, that is, He declared them righteous, and therefore these other things were possible.
- They were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Thank you Lord, for doing all the work necessary to save us, and to make us holy so that we could be like You.
Paul in this paragraph is being very specific – a change is necessary, and God has to make that change – and He did in those individuals in Corinth, and they needed to remember it.
12-20: You are not your own – you have been bought with a price!
This is something we ALL need to remember. We who call ourselves Christians need to understand that we are NOT our own any longer. You may not have bargained on that, you may not have realized at the time, but that is in fact the case. And it is something that you need to realized just like you need to keep breathing. Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He died on the cross, offered this final word (It’s Greek here, I don’t know what language He said it is, but if I had to guess, I would guess Hebrew) – “Tetelestai.” That word means “It is Finished.” It can also be translated as “Paid in Full.” What was paid in full? How about our price of ransom?
You see, we had incurred a sin-debt. Yes, we incurred it by our own thoughts, words, and deeds. But we also incurred it just by the fact that we existed as humans, and we could do nothing about it. Our first parents (we call them Adam and Eve, the first human couple) fell from innocence in the garden when they disobeyed God, and Adam spread that through every living human just by being the father of all humans. Now that sin-debt could be paid, but it would take a very special individual to do it. First, it would have to be a man, since a man screwed it up in the first place. Sorry to the ladies, and a bit jealous, really. Next, that man would have to live a life of perfect submission to God, to the point of fulfilling God’s law. Third, that man would have to willingly give his own life to pay for the sins EVERYONE had incurred, well, ever. You an see the problems, right? Because of the nature we inherited from Adam, no one can actually do any of those things of their own free will unless there is something that overcomes that Adamic nature.
Enter Jesus. He was the agent of creation, God Himself, who made everything. So He became a man, and was both God and Man at the same time. Because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in cooperation with Mary His virgin mother, He didn’t have the Adamic nature to fight. His heavenly nature allowed Him to live a life of sacrifice and submission for all the time He was human. He was still God the whole time. Theologically, this concept is called the Hypostatic Union, that Jesus was both God and Man at the same time. He was a man, and was able to live that perfect life, and he was able to willingly lay it down for the sins of everyone! And when He died on that Roman Cross, He KNEW it was paid for! And He told us. Now Beloved, that has some implications that Paul will spell out for us.
12: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
- What is Paul actually saying here? He is actually saying that all things are permitted. What? That’s right, everything is allowed. But not all things bring results we will like or appreciate. That word Paul uses for “profitable” here is a compound Greek word, sumphero, from sun, to be together with, or to accompany, and phero, to bear or to bring forth. Combined, it means “to bring together, usually in terms of profitable circumstances for the person.” Paul here is telling the Christians in Corinth that they may do what they wish, but not all things are going to come together for their benefit. (I bet Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, Creflo Dollar, or Kenneth Copeland never EVER said THAT, and the irony here is that 1 Corinthians is where they twist out most of their warped theology.) And this isn’t all Paul said.
- Yes, indeed, all things for a Christian are allowed. But that Christian should take care that he is not “mastered by anything.” “Mastered” here is the Greek exsusiazo, meaning “to exercise power.” The Power here being considered is referred in the secular sense as dunamis, used in the normal sense of might or ability. Look, you want to have the occasional beer? I as a pastor have literally nothing to say about it. The Scriptures don’t forbid alcohol, and I’m not actually a tea-totaler, so go for it. But you need to be aware of your settings, your surroundings, and your company. But there are those that are mastered by alcohol. This should not ever be for the Christian. Given alcohol, they become drunkards, so they should refrain, so as not to be mastered by this thing.
- More recently, I have encountered an individual that feels that playing a certain card game called “Magic: The Gathering” is submitting to sorcery and any player of that game will pay an eternal price in hell for it. Folks, not to put too fine a point on this, but it’s just a card game. It doesn’t master me. (Now, there is another point we have looked at in the past about not doing things that stumble your brothers in Christ which I WILL exercise in this case, but I remain of the firm opinion that it’s just a card game. I have not been mastered by anything other than to try to build up my brother in Christ, and being mastered by THAT is the entire point of BEING a CHRISTIAN.)
- Paul overall is warning that we afree, but that freedom misapplied can bring us to things, events, and consequences that we may not like and could avoid if we choose more wisely as Christians.
13: Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.
- Here is the point restated. Paul no doubt is relating to the food issue that we will look at in Chapter 8 of this letter, having this in mind as he leads up to that point: “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” Why would he say this?
- Well, read the verse again with me. Clearly, food is for our benefit, and there are no longer any foods that are “unclean” unless an individual makes it so for some reason for themselves. It is for our stomach (lit. “belly”), and the belly is for food! But both of these things are passing away, and at a time of His own choosing, He will end the need for both of those things. Something that may help you remember this is that Christianity is not a religion of the physical and temporal things. It is about spiritual things, like decisions and choices that we make. It is about our heart and our motivations far more than games we may play to entertain ourselves and others or food we eat or don’t eat according to made-up rules or old rules taken out of historical context.
- And then Paul shifts his analogy to something else entirely. He shifts it to the physical body. Our bodies, he tells us, are not for porneia. That’s the word our New Testaments translate as “fornication,” that is sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman, to be as precise here as possible. No, Paul tells us, that our bodies are for the Lord! And what is more, the Lord is for the body! Should I have to point out that the Lord isn’t talking about having relations with anyone like that, but that He understands what we go through as humans that have strong desires, especially in a creative sense, because that’s what I think we’re actually talking about, and that creation of well, anything, really, is a very intimate process to say the least. Beloved, He understands! And I think it also means He will provide, because He provides food for the stomach as well. What we must do is wait for Him to bring it to us in His proper context. And I bet some of you already know that, but it’s here so we addressed it.
14: Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.
- Paul is essentially reminding us here that not only has He raised Jesus from the dead, but that He will at the right time, a time of His own choosing, He will also raise US from the dead though his dunamis, His might, His miraculous, His awesome, His explosive ability, His power!!! Praise the Lord!
15: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!
- This insight should give those of you who have been with us as we have gone through John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin some real insight. Our bodies, our soma, the same word Paul has just been using for our bodies in the immediate previous verses, are members of Christ! The Greek here is melos, a limb! Have you ever heard His church referred to as His hands and His feet? It is true in a greater and spiritual sense, beloved! We are His members!
- Oh brethren! I ask as Paul, how can we then take away the very limbs of Christ, and make them members of a fornicator? The Greek is porne, one that participates in the acts or sale of the acts of porneia? The Greek carries a connotation, that is an understood meaning, of an export for sale. This can be a physical reality, or this can relate to higher and more spiritual realities. Let me use Paul’s words. What is it out there in the world that you find important enough and more worthy that Christ that you would go out and prostitute yourself with it? Because we all have some kind of price – probably on more than one issue – that we have that will make us think about it.
16: Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.”
- I will admit publicly now that for years, I only saw this as a physical kind of prostitution, dealing with the natural joining of a man and woman, or even more perverse versions of this physical reality. Well, as I studied this, God very powerfully made me aware that there is a whole lot more to the truth than physical reality. There is also spirituality.
- Here’s a bit of a thought for you. If you have noticed, Paul all along has been using the idea of porneia to indicate a joining to a porne, something that powerfully attracts you to a joining with a person in a physical sense, but what if this is more than just a physical thing? Like what Gerry?
- What if the thing you are joining yourself to, in this powerful, more than physical, this spiritual sense, is another kind of worldview? What if in that worldview, it is okay to murder children in the wombs of their mothers? What if we could get rid of those that are old and suffering indignity at the low quality of their lives, bearing up under “physical pain” that no one should have to bear? (Yeah, right, according to whose standard, among other blatantly obvious questions.) What if no parent should ever abuse their child by infringing on that poor confused child’s idea of gender? What abusive parent would ever stop them from changing their sex at the age of 8 or younger?
- I’ll tell you who. Christ. That’s who. Beloved, do you see how the kosmos, the world system eats at your understanding, how it attacks our ability to reason, and “reeducates” us with redefinitions of language and concepts that already have clear definitions? Christ stands against all of that.
- But no, the porne of the kosmos still entices you with its porneia through mass media, through others we meet, though politicians it has enticed, through so-called unbiased “news” reporting from every, and I mean EVERY side? Beloved, it isn’t that CNN puts up fake news and that FOX is better, its that both FOX and CNN narratives are against Christ and His purposes. And it gently calls you to “become on flesh” with itself in the biblical sense. I won’t take the time here to show you how this concept of how a man “knows” his wife is how God “knows” His people runs through the entirety of Scripture. Steven Lawson actually shows this relationship as a peripheral point in his book on the doctrines of grace, Foundations of Grace. It’s very compelling, and more to the point completely relevant here.
- My friends, the only One we should be uniting with this way in a spiritual sense is Christ! So says Luther, so says Zwingli, so says Calvin, so says Walden, so says Own, so says Baxter, so says Sproul, MacArthur, and every other reform-minded paster I have ever heard preach on the topic! So say I, and so says the Apostle Paul right here! In Acts 20:28, Paul says to the Ephesian elders, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” John says so in his first general epistle, in 1 John 5:21, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”
- And there is the connection I saw SO clearly as I was prayerfully preparing this study. This kind of spiritual fornication and adultery is in fact idolatry. And Beloved, it isn’t hard to detect your potential idols. Just look at where you spend your time. Forgive my examples here, I have no wish to offend anyone – but do you spend the majority of your free time playing cards? Watching movies, TV, or YouTube? Do you find it difficult to show up at the prayer meetings on Mondays because you’re tired when all it is, is a little tiredness (meaning you’re paying more attention to your health than to Christ)? Is it a fight to get to the Bible Study that you don’t even have to leave your house for because its online? Is it a pain to get to worship on time on Sundays because you were out late with friends (not even doing sinful things) on Saturday?
- And that is not the only thing that can betray your spiritual idolatry. Again, I apologize for my words, I really do not want to offend anyone, but the Lord put these things on my heart, and I MUST speak them. How do you treat others? Are you forgiving about little slips people make about locations, words, time limits, and the like? Or do you nail someone with stupid things like that every chance you get? Do you have to demonstrate that you are the smartest person in the room every time you speak with others? Are you impatient with people when they are running a few minutes, or maybe even a lot of minutes late? Do you call or text at all hours without considering that the person may be busy and not have time to chat at the moment? If you could answer “yes” to an honest examination of any two or more of those questions, your idol may actually be yourself. And here’s a question to you if you say “no” to all of those that you really need to ask yourself – how do you know? You cannot trust your own data, it will always be skewed in favour of your idol – you. Beloved, Remember what Paul said in his letter to the Roman church (8:13): “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
- Moving on.
17: But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
- Do you now see and understand the importance of “joining yourself” in that biblical “knowing” sense, that close and intimate knowing, to the Lord? Because the one that will join themselves, like glue is the sense of the Greek, to the Lord, get this, this is CRUCIAL – “Is. One. Spirit. With. Him.” Amen, end of discussion. John 17:6-12 says, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”
- Brothers, sisters – Jesus was praying there for US! We are one Spirit with Him, if we will “join” like glue, in the Biblical sense (given that this is a Bible study after all) ourselves to Him. There is an important thing you need to know here. You must be a Christian for any of this to be true of you. If you are not, they are not. Oh, believe that He is! Believe that God raised Him from the dead because He paid for your sins, paying that price in full! And confess Him with your mouth that He is YOUR Lord now also! And email me to let me know so we can rejoice together!
18: Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
- Yes, beloved, flee porneia. Flee is physically, obviously, but flee also those spiritual forms we also discussed. Paul here is saying that every other sin that can be committed is outside the body, but that the porneuo, that is the one who participates in the porneia, is actually sinning against his own body. Certainly that is true of the physical act. But does that logic hold to the spiritual whoredom of which I spoke earlier? I think it does. There is something about giving yourself over to a thing, a cause, an idea, a concept or principle that is somehow physically palpable, isn’t there. I’m not asking. I’ve felt both what I’m talking about and its consequences. I hope you never will – and if you already have, you have my sympathy. No, beloved, avoid that at all costs.
19: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
- Here, it is like we are coming full circle to what I opened up with at the beginning of this point, and even spoke of last time. Beloved, Paul has been talking about this since chapter 2 at least, and is the main point of the entire Christian life! YOU are building up this temple, this naos, this sanctuary of God. YOU are the stones, that God is refining and fitting for your exact desired and foreknown position in that sanctuary.
- All of us together are working to build up this sanctuary as we meet together for the study of the Word of God, for fellowship, for worshipping God, for prayer we are built into that working, functioning, operating sanctuary where God Himself lives with US! Beloved, this is the very reason you were foreknown, foreordained to belong to His Son, called, justified, and (eventually) glorified! You are part of His sanctuary! HIS place of refuge, HIS dwelling!
- Do you see how there are both individual and corporate implications for each of us and all of us together, and then all of us through time and space over the whole earth? Beloved, BE the living stone that Peter talks about, and that Paul talks about! Let it happen! Cooperate with it! Suffer what God allows to come your way! Be joyful for it! Rejoice when He brings you good things! Serve Him! Study Him! KNOW HIM! By yourself and together with others of like precious faith!
- Because you are RIGHT NOW the naos of the Holy Spirit, a kind of guarantee of what is to come. And beloved, you have HIM from GOD the FATHER and GOD the SON – and you are most decidedly NOT your own to do as you please. You can, but how could you? Really, how DARE you?
20: For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
- Beloved, He owns you. He bought you by paying your price of redemption. He paid your sin-debt in full. Remember the word Tetelestai? We talked about it when we started the evening. Paid. In. Full. And we are nothing but better for it!
- For that reason, we need to glorify God in our bodies, and not give ourselves over to the porneia that the kosmos offers. Forgive my use of the Greek words here, but they express precisely what I need to say. Don’t go whoring after the world system and its trappings. It is ALL a lie, and if you give yourself to that lie, God will give YOU over to that lie, just like it says in Romans 1:18-32. It has its own rules, its own “rewards” that are nothing but empty and deceitful. Seek rather the Lord, and to “know” Him in the Biblical sense, because He wants you to know Him that well. This is how you give glory to Him in your body.
Okay, I said a lot of things that may have disturbed you without meaning to just by speaking these truths. Although it was not my intention to disturb anyone, I believe it may have been necessary, and that’s why God instructed me to say them, and for THAT, I am not sorry.
What the Christian MUST understand, and what Paul was trying to tell the Christians at Corinth is that they were not their own. They had been bought with a very high and precious price, the blood of Christ. They were, like YOU ARE, HIS. What you do with that information is completely up to you, but like Paul says, in your doings of what you are permitted, you may well find yourself in circumstances you did not design, foresee, or even want.
Because you belong to Christ, you will never find any kind of satisfaction apart from Him, no matter where you look for it, no matter your means or circumstances. There are more than one of us at this study this evening that can tell you that with personal examples, incidentally. We at BereanNation.com know about which we speak, my friends.
We should also remember that we were not only bought with that high price, but we were bought with the glorious purpose in mind of being His very temple, His very sanctuary, His most holy place, where He sits, where He reigns. Praise His name, beloved! And so we find ourselves in the place of needing to consider with great care our spiritual priorities. Do we go to the movies with our buddies, or do we go to the prayer meeting? That kind of choice. I won’t be legalistic about this, you don’t have to go to the prayer meeting, or Bible study, or worship time, or whatever. But your priorities are seen by your choices, beloved. You can’t hide from God, and you can’t hide them from your pastor either. Just because we try to be gracious and loving in our conversations with you doesn’t mean we don’t see and know, my friends.
Keep that in mind as you choose your pathway, and don’t be mastered by the garbage that the world system offers you as a substitute gospel to un-focus you on Christ and make you focus on the wrong thing. Rather make good choices as His servant.
And that’s chapter 6!