For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

6:1.  “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?”

Paul here moves from the matter of judging sin in the assembly, to the judgment of disputes between brethren (the context makes it clear that another refers to another believer), and he continues to point out their failure in this area also.  As they had failed to judge the moral impurity in their midst, so had they also failed to exercise judgment relative to other matters, and were instead submitting such matters to the heathen judges in the heathen courts.  Such things, he declared, were to be judged in the assembly.  Disagreements between believers are not to be paraded before the unsaved.

6:2.  “Do you 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?”

It is interesting to see that six times in this chapter Paul asks, “Do you not know?” or “Know ye not?” see verses 2,3,9,15,16,19.  For all their vaunted wisdom, they were lamentably ignorant relative to spiritual things.  And so is it today.  There are many, professing to be believers, whose spiritual knowledge is in inverse proportion to that which is earthly, and unfortunately that lack has resulted all too often in their mistaking carnal men for spiritual, with the evil result that they have accepted as evangelists, elders and teachers, men without the necessary spiritual qualification.

There are two schools of thought relative to this matter of the saints judging the world, one taking it to mean that we shall have a part in the Lord’s judgment of the nations when He returns with us to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial kingdom, the other taking it to mean that we will rule over the world with Christ, judge being taken to mean govern or rule.

Scripture makes it clear that we certainly will rule over the earth with Christ from the heavenly Jerusalem during the Millennium, and it is possible that we may have a part in His judgment of the nations at the end of the Tribulation, but what is important is that we remember our high calling, and conduct our­selves accordingly.  Our government of the millennial earth will obviously include the authority to make judgments relative to disputed matters, and that being so, we ought to realize that we are capable of judging the relatively more trivial disputes between brethren here on earth.

That capacity, however, is linked with Scripture, for just as the judges who sit in earthly courts must give judgments according to written law, so must we make every judgment according to the written Word.  We are not free to make capricious judgments.  In addition it is obvious that not every member of an assembly is capable of giving judgment relative to matters of dispute between brethren.  Such work requires the spiritual maturity associated with eldership.

6:3.  “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”

Again, scholars are divided in opinion as to whether the reference is to our passing judgment on angels, or to their being placed under our government in the Millennium, the latter being the more likely, since there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that the holy angels have disputes, or that they will ever undergo judgment; nor does Scripture indicate wheth­er we will have any part in the judgment of the fallen angels, unless of course that is what is meant here.  As with the preceding verse, what is important is that we continue to remember our exalted position as men and women in Christ. Whatever the nature of our rule in the Millennium and in the following eternity, the very fact that we will reign with Christ implies our fitness to exercise judgment now relative to earth­ly things, and again it must not be forgotten that that fitness is inseparable from a knowledge of Scripture.

6:4. “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.”

The thought connected with “judgments” here is that of a tribunal, implying not the selection of just one man, but of several to adjudicate the dispute.  The KJ rendering of this verse has re­sulted in much misund­er­standing, for it seems to teach that believers who were “least esteemed” in the assembly should be allowed to adjudicate disputes between believers.  Other renderings make it clear that what Paul is saying is that by going out to the heathen courts they were entrusting judgment to those who were “least esteemed” in the assembly, i.e., not insignificant believers lightly es­teemed, but heathen judges who had no place among­st God’s people, and who should therefore have no part in settling their dis­putes. 

The common misunderstanding surrounding this verse points up the need to interpret any part of Scripture in the context of the whole Word, for its clear teaching is that judgment is not to be entrusted to novices, e.g., a novice may not do the work of an elder (1 Tim 3:6), and the restoration of the erring is to be undertaken only by the spiritual amongst God’s people (Ga 6:1).

We find believers being described as young, weak, babes, novices, etc., but never anything that would even hint that they were esteemed of little worth, which is the thought here relative to the heathen judges.  As far as believers are concerned the judgment of even the most immature would be better than that of the unconverted judges in the pagan courts.  That being said, however, the fact remains that it is the spiritually mature who are to adjudicate the disputes of brethren.

6:5.  “I speak to your shame.  Is it so that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?”

This continues Paul’s disparagement of their vaunted worldly knowledge.  In spite of their pretension to wisdom, their going before the unconverted for settlement of their disputes was the tacit acknowledgement that there wasn’t one of themselves with enough wisdom to settle disputes between brethren.  Their practical state stood in stark and shameful contrast to their standing as men in Christ.

6:6.  “But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.”

In a few words Paul heaps scathing denunciation upon their carnality, the very paucity of language sharpening the arrow, which undoubtedly, he hoped would pierce their consciences.

6:7.  “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another.  Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”

The Apostle continues to point out that their going to law was completely wrong, and simply advertis­ed their carnal state.  As another has pointed out, “The Greeks were notoriously litigious,” and for these Greek believers to be continuing this practice demonstrated that they had learned little of putting off the old man and putting on the new.

The proper Christian spirit was, and is, to take wrong, and permit themselves to be defrauded, rather than bring dishonor on the name of Christ, and mar the testimony of the assembly.

6:8.  “Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.”

Not only were they unwilling to suffer wrong, they themselves were the wrongdoers, and that against fellow believers; and while without doubt the primary application is to business matters, we may not ignore what is far more important: spiritual things.  Their evil conduct was robbing the whole assembly of blessing, for the wrongdoers were in no fit state to contribute to its upbuilding.  That principle still operates.  The well-being of the whole assembly is in proportion to the obedience of each member.

6:9.  “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,”

6:10.  “Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

This does not teach, as might at first appear, that believers who fall into sin lose their salvation.  What it does teach is that the manner of life is a barometer by which to measure whether there is spiritual life in the individual.  All of the sins men­tioned, and many more besides, are associated with an unsaved state, but that doesn’t mean to say that a believer who, in an unguarded moment, falls into sin, has become “unsaved.”   Such sins are the normal outcome of the natural state, and when a professed be­liever continues to habitually practice sin there is every reason to question whether there has ever been a conversion at all.  In the life of the genuine be­liever, sin is not habitual, but accidental, and it is regretted, not enjoyed.

Paul’s warning was that their committing such sins cast doubt on their profession, and they would do well to examine themselves as to whether they were indeed believers.  That warning applies no less to us.

Fornication, incidentally, refers to sexual relations between unmarried persons; such relations are adulterous when one or both of the participants are married.

Regarding idolatry, we tend to associate it with heathenism, forgetting that we may be idolaters without realizing it.  Inordinate love of money, for example, is the worship of Mammon.  Similarly, we may be guilty of worshipping sports, pleasure, the arts, education, etc.  Anything that takes what belongs to God is no less idolatry than is the worship of a literal idol.

Homosexuality may express itself in effeminacy - dress, speech, manner, etc., - or in an actual sexual relationship.  The one as much as the other is abhorrent to God.  It is to be noted that this sin is unique in that it is the perversion of nature, the OT penalty being death.

6:11.  “And 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.”

Some of them had been guilty of these sins prior to conversion, but the Apostle reminds them that they had washed themselves (that is recognized as the proper rendering here), reminding us that the human will is involved in salvation.  They had washed themselves (made the washing possible) through that act of their own will by which they had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  That faith had removed every sin stain, so that in God’s sight they were as spotless as the Lord Himself. 

Sanctified means to be set aside to or for something, and in the case of the believer it is to be set aside to and for God.  Here, however, the emphasis is not upon the believer’s will, but on the activity of the Holy Spirit.  The believer’s faith brings about the washing, but sanctification is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is by His indwelling that we are sanctified, or set apart to and for God, and nothing we might do will ever alter that state.

Justification (being made right, or brought into right standing) likewise is apart from the believer’s will.  It is another of the blessings bestowed by grace in response to faith in Christ as Savior.  (It is to be noted, however, that in regard to sanctification and justification, there is a sense in which the believer’s will is involved, for apart from his belief in Christ as Savior, the sanctification and justification would have been as impossible as the washing).

6:12.  “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

Early in the history of the Church there developed the pernicious doctrine that since the believer was washed, sanctified, justified, all his sins (past, present and future) being forgiven, and since all sin emanated from the old nature which God reckoned to be dead, it didn’t matter then how he lived.  It may have been that Paul had this in mind when he wrote the words we are now considering.  Certainly no sin the believer might ever commit can take away his salvation, but for him to view that knowledge as license to live in sin is to reveal abysmal spiritual ignorance, or worse, that there had never been a conversion.

“I will not be brought under the power of any” declares that the believer is not to permit himself to be brought under the control of any bodily appetite.

6:13.  “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them.  Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.”

Paul goes on to remind them that while it is true that the stomach’s craving for food must be met, this is related to a natural condition which is only temporary.  The day is coming when these earthly bodies, with their earthly appetites, will be replaced with new spiritual bodies without natural appetites.  That there is to be restraint on the gratification of our natural appetites is declared in his further assurance that sexual appetite is not to be gratified outside of marriage.  The stomach’s cravings are not to be gratified to the point of gluttony; the body’s need of rest is not to be indulged to the point of slothfulness: there is to be moderation in all things. 

We must keep in mind also the distinction between the amoral and the moral.  There is no moral quality connected with eating, but there is with sex.  Gluttony is inadvisable, but it isn’t immoral.  Fornication is both.  Paul’s mentioning both is to refute the argument that there is no difference between the body’s appetites, and that one is to be gratified just the same as another.  We are to remember that our bodies belong to the Lord, and are to be placed at His disposal, see Ro 12:1.  Anything that would impair their usefulness to Him must be avoided.

“... and the Lord for the body” is rendered by one translation as “the Lord is for the body to serve”; but by another “God is the answer to our deepest longings.”  These meanings are not mutually exclusive.

6:14.  “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.”

This is to remind them, and us, that life in these earthly bodies is only a temporary state.  Following the resurrection of life (for us of this Church age, at the Rapture), the bodies of the “sleeping” (dead) believers will be raised and changed to spiritual bodies at the same instant that the bodies of the living believers will be similarly changed as all are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, see 1 Thes 4:13-18; 1 Co 15:51-52.

The Lord’s resurrection is the guarantee of ours, for the grace that imputes His death to us, imputes also His resurrection.  For the believer, earthly life is simply the brief preface to the full experience of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ so perfectly accomplished at Calvary.  As far as our bodies are concerned, they have not yet experienced the blessings of that redemption, nor will they until the Rapture.

6:15.  “Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot?  God forbid.”

This declares the completeness of the believer’s union with Christ.  We are as much a part of Him as the members of our own bodies are of us, see 12:12-27; Ro 12; Ep 4:15-16; 5:22-33.  This invests sexual sin with a very serious significance, for our participation in such sin makes Christ also an unwilling participant.  The very thought ought to preserve every believer from bringing such dishonor upon His Savior.

We should note, incidentally, Paul’s repeated “Know ye not ....”  They who prided themselves on their knowledge and wisdom were lamentably lacking in both relative to spiritual things.

6:16.  “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.”

Again he points to their lack of spiritual knowledge as he proceeds to remind them of the peculiar nature of sexual union, whether within the marriage bond, or outside of it.  It makes the participants “one flesh.”  But since, as seen already, the believer and Christ are one, the believer’s activity involves the Lord Jesus Christ also.

6:17. “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”

Implicit in such a union is harmony of purpose in all things, so that the believer’s thoughts, words, and deeds ought to be the same as Christ’s.  The lives of many would be dramatically altered if this truth were more clearly grasped.

6:18.  “Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”

The seriousness of sexual sin is emphasized by Paul’s command, “Flee fornication.”  As Joseph fled out of the presence of Potiphar’s wife, so ought we to flee from everything (beginning with our own thoughts) that might tempt us to engage in this wickedness.  It may be asked in what way sexual sin, more than say murder or theft, involves the body of the perpetrator, and the answer is that the fornicator sins, not only against the other participant, but also against his own body.  He becomes one with the other participant, something that does not occur in connection with any other form of sin.

6:19.  “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have from God, and ye are not your own?”

He continues to indirectly rebuke the pride they had in their worldly knowledge, by mentioning yet again  their lack of spiritual knowledge.  Either they had forgotten, or had never learned that the Holy Spirit resides permanently in the body of every believer.  This knowledge should have kept them, as it should us, not only from such sin as Paul had to deal with, but from all sin.  What a re­straint it would be to sin if we lived in the constant remembrance that God the Holy Spirit resides within us and is cognizant of every thought, word, and deed.

His assurance that they (and we also) belonged to another - God, reminds us of how that state came about.  It is the result of Calvary’s terrible travail when the Lord Jesus Christ bought us with His own precious blood.  Here is an additional reason for holy living.  He bought us, not to make us unwilling slaves, but to deliver us from our bondage to Satan, sin and death, giving us freedom.  The response of every redeemed heart, however, must surely be to obey His will, obedie­nce being the only adequate expression of gratitude for the redemption He paid for with His life.  It should be our joy to be what Paul so often confessed himself to be: the Lord’s willing bondslave.

6:20.  “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

We have already noted the price that was paid to redeem us and make us Christ’s: now Paul declares that the fitting response should be a life dedicated to the glory of God, that glorification involving our bodies, as he reminded the Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship),” his further admonition being, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Ro 12:1-2).

Everything begins in the mind.  Reformation that doesn’t begin there is simply a charade which may deceive men, but not God.

The remainder of the verse is generally believed to lack the support of original manuscripts.

[1 Corinthians 7]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough