Exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:5b-8, Confusing the church with the world

1 Corinthians 6:5b-8

5b Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court and this in front of unbelievers!

7 The 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? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.

It is important to remember that the Christians in Corinth consider themselves both spiritual and wise as well as full of knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1). In the second half of verse 5, Paul indicates that he can see only one scenario that might explain how one Christian could take another before a civil court: apparently there is not a single person in the Corinthian church with the wisdom to render a decision in a dispute between two members. Gordon Fee says, This is biting sarcasm, which scarcely needs further comment.[1]

After crafting this scenario and making this sarcastic remark, Paul hammers it home by saying that such a scenario is apparently the true situation since one believer is actually taking another to court before unbelievers (1 Cor. 6:6). In our culture, we call this giving them both barrels [of a shotgun]!

Anthony Thiselton puts his finger on one way this issue plays out in contemporary culture: Paul might have something to say about the manipulative use of media and the published word by Christians who want to score [i.e., berate] fellow believers, even at the price of heightening the profile of their lack of respect for the other in the eyes of the world.[2] This type of attack goes on regularly between self-confessed Christians in politics, on blogs and in print.

Paul expresses the view — speaking as Christs apostle — that such pitched battles in a worldly forum demonstrates a profound failure of the spirituality, wisdom and knowledge that the Corinthian believers claim (1 Cor. 6:7). Using the worlds own tactics (you yourselves cheat and do wrong) is bad enough, but to do this to your brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 6:8) demonstrates a misunderstanding of what following a crucified Christ is about.

David Garland helps us question how Corinth might compare to our own situation: Corinthian society was riddled with competitive individualism , and this ethos spilled over into the church . … For some, the Christian community had become simply another arena to compete for status according to societal norms.[3] Could that be true of us?

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987)237.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000)435.

[3] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003)6.

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