First Corinthians 6:1–11 . . .

Settling Disputes Among Believers

Our national motto seems to have changed from "In God we trust" to "See you in court!" What we see today is nothing new. Two thousand years ago in ancient Greece, the church in Corinth was "sue happy." Yet, Apostle Paul states clearly that Christians, of all people, ought to be able to settle their own disputes. The key in doing so is to understand our true identity in Christ; then we won't have to wage war with other believers over material possessions or legal rights. Paul's point is that we should live out who we are; in 6:1-11 (see below), Paul provides two exhortations to show us how.

1)  Commit to settle disputes in the church (6:1-8). In this section, Paul poses eight questions in eight verses. By peppering the Corinthians with questions, he hopes to help them clearly see that they're in contempt of God's court. Paul is going to argue that believers should keep their civil conflicts out of the courts. When there's a conflict, it should be settled within the confines of the local church.

In 6:2–3, Paul continues his righteous rant with three more questions, all of which are designed to demonstrate how foolish it is for the Corinthians to throw their legal disputes before judges of the world. In 6:4–8, Paul tells the Corinthians what they should do when they have strife in their church. Paul is telling us that it's better to be a victim than a victor.

[In our first section (vv. 1–8), Paul exhorts us to commit to settle disputes within the church. In this concluding section (vv 9–11), Paul reminds us that the unbelieving judges in these courts will have no part in the kingdom of God.]

2)  Live out your new identity. In the next three verses, Paul lists ten vices that characterize unbelieving sinners, in order to exhort believers to live like saints. He reminds the Corinthians that the judges they seek will not spend eternity with them. They're not brothers and sisters in Christ; consequently, they do not have Christians' best interests at heart.

In 6:11, Paul informs the Corinthians that they too "were" previously like the wicked in Corinth. In spite of their serious behavioral problems, Paul insists that these Christians have a new identity; he insists that they've been completely forgiven ("washed"), set apart as God's children ("sanctified"), and declared righteous in God's eyes ("justified"). Far from threatening their standing with God because of their sins, he affirms the security of their standing with God, in spite of their sins!

Years ago, in a worship service, Pastor Ray Stedman stepped to the pulpit and read the text for the day: "Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people — [pause for reflection] — none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that" (6:9–11).

Then Ray looked up, a bemused smile on his face, and said, "I'm curious: How many of you have one or more of these sins in your background? If so, will you please stand up?"

There was a young man there who had never been in a church before. He had recently been saved at a Billy Graham crusade and came to church that Sunday with fear and trembling, not knowing what he'd find. He later said that when he heard the pastor's question, he looked around to see if anyone would stand. At first, no one did, but then most of the congregation was on their feet. He said to himself, "These are my kind of people!"

We can all find ourselves in Paul's list. But when we confess our sin and accept the gift of eternal life paid for by Jesus' death and resurrection, we become a new creation saved by grace (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus washed my sins away
One glorious morning
He blessed my soul
And He made me whole
Ever since that happy day I'm tellin' the story
How He washed my sins away
When He blessed my soul

— The Gaithers

(Click to hear the Gaither Vocal Band sing this classic.)

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  Is it ever legitimate for a believer to use the secular court system?
  • Q. 2  Are Christians forbidden to prosecute other Christians?
  • Q. 3  Which of the ten sins listed in 6:9–10 are a temptation for you? How have you sought to overcome these sins?

This Week’s Passage
1 Corinthians 6:1–11

New International Version (NIV)
[You can view it in a different version by clicking here; you can also listen to this chapter.]

Lawsuits Among Believers

6 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord's people? 2Or do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

7The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. 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.