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Ironside's Notes on Selected Books Ironside's Notes
1 Corinthians 6
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ isn/ 1-corinthians-6.html. 1914.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
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On Going To Law
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye 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? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 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? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 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? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. 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, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 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. (vv. 1-11)
We have noticed in our study of this epistle that the apostle was used of God to correct a great many erroneous thoughts, and to suggest a remedy for many wrong practices in the church of God in ancient times, also that this letter with its varied instructions was intended not only for the church of God some nineteen hundred years ago but that it is addressed “to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” If the churches of God today would be subject to the teachings of the first letter to the Corinthians, we would be delivered from a great many things that hinder the progress of the gospel and impede the working of the Spirit of God among us.
In this section Paul inveighs against a practice which was growing in Corinth, and which I am afraid has been in evidence in many other places since, of Christians quarreling with other Christians about temporal matters, and dragging one another into the world’s law courts for the adjudication of their difficulties. This is utterly abhorrent to the spirit of Christianity. It puts the Christian in a false position before the world and before his brethren. It is saying to the world, “We Christians are just as covetous and just as quarrelsome, we are just as much concerned about having our own way and about self-pleasing as you of the world are. We recognize your judges as having authority over the church of God,” and it is degrading to the Christian thus to act.
The apostle says, “Dare any of you?” He is stirred with indignation and his language is very strong, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another”-he means, of course, another brother-”go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” This chapter does not teach that a Christian should never go to law. It is quite impossible at times to avoid it, and even the writer of these words when falsely accused before a Roman governor said, “I appeal to Caesar,” and stood upon his natural rights as a Roman citizen and insisted that his case should be heard in the imperial court. I know some brethren are wiser than the apostle Paul and feel that he made a mistake. They are quite sure that if they had been in his place, they would have acted more wisely. It is a pity that the apostle could not have availed himself of their advice! He acted quite within his right as a Christian, for that was a matter not of going to law with his brethren before the unjust but of having things heard in a clear, straightforward way before the supreme tribunal of the Roman empire. When in Philippi, the judges would have dismissed him and would have him go out under cover without a clear, public justification, but he said, “No, we have been wrongfully accused and unjustly treated. You admit you have made a mistake; make the admission publicly.” That was perfectly right and proper.
But here is an entirely different case. Now we have brethren dragging each other before the world’s courts. He says, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” If Christians have disagreements which they are not able to iron out between themselves, let them consult their brethren, bring in others in whom they have confidence, and let them agree to abide by their brethren’s judgment just as truly as they would have to abide by a decision from a worldly court.
“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” This refers to something that many Christians have lost sight of. Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again to reign for a thousand wonderful years. Then judgment shall return to righteousness, and when He reigns we shall reign with Him. It is written, “The time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22). If we are going to reign with Christ, going to sit on thrones of judgment with Him in that coming glorious kingdom age, what an absurd thing to think that we are not fit to judge matters having to do with temporalities here on earth when our brethren are in difficulty.
“Do ye 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?” After all, these things are so trivial; matters of money, of property, matters concerning personal reputation, are such small things when viewed in the light of eternity. We may make a great deal of them, we may magnify them and give them a place of importance altogether beyond that which they deserve, but the apostle declares they are very small matters indeed, and he strengthens his position as he adds, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” What is that? Angels who are greater in power and might, are we going to sit in judgment upon them? Are angels coming into judgment? Yes, we read twice in the New Testament of angels coming into judgment. In 2 Peter 2:4 we read, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” and then certain conclusions follow. Then in the epistle of Jude, verse 6, we read, “And the angels which kept not their first estate [their own principality], but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Now it is the final judgment that is in view, and at that last great assize these fallen angels shall be all brought into judgment. And who will sit upon that throne of judgment? Our Lord Jesus Christ, and all the redeemed throughout the ages will be associ- ated with Him. We will be there with our Lord as assessors, we may say, in that last great assize. If this dignity is to be ours, if we are to judge the world during the kingdom age, if we are to judge angels when eternity begins, are we then unfit to judge affairs of this life? How much more should we be able to judge between our brethren!
In verse 4 he says something that evidently was not very clear, it seems to me, to the minds of those who years ago prepared this wonderful King James Version of ours. It says, “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.” The thought then would be, these matters are so trivial, they are of so little importance that even those who are least esteemed in the church ought to be fit to adjudicate in such cases. And yet I question if that is what the apostle is really saying, for in the next verse he tells us, “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?” There he implies that if the church is to take up matters of this kind, there should be wise men giving decisions, and that would hardly seem to be in harmony with the rendering that we have in verse 4. But if you put an exclamation point after that verse, it changes the entire meaning of it. “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church!” The Revised Version makes it a question, “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, do you set them to judge who are of no account in the church?” If you drag your Christian brother before one of the unconverted judges of this world, you are bringing him before a man who, whatever his place in the world, is of no account in the church of God unless he himself happens also to be a Christian. So I take it this is what the apostle means to say: “Don’t you see what you are doing? You are dragging your brother before men who have no place in the church of God whatever; their dignity and probity do not give them place in the church of God. Whether honorable or not, if they have not been born again, if not converted men, they are of no account in the church of God.”
“I speak to your shame [in doing this you are degrading yourselves and you might well bow your heads in 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? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.” This is altogether wrong. He says, “There is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another.” Even though you say, “I do not know of any Christian to whom I could submit this case,” there is another way out. “Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” You do not have to stand on your own rights, it is not necessary that you should always be cleared, it is not necessary that you should always prove that you have been wronged in matters of this kind. You can, if you will, bow your head and say, “I leave all with God. I am not going to say anything about it; if they wrong me, He understands.”
Many years ago as a little fellow I attended a meeting in Toronto where some difficulty had come up between brethren and they did as the apostle suggests. My dear mother took me along. “Little pitchers have big ears,” and I well remember how horrified I was to see men I esteemed and had been taught to respect apparently so indignant with each other. I can remember one man springing to his feet and with clenched fists saying, “I will put up with a good deal, but one thing I will not put up with, I will not allow you to put anything over on me; I will have my rights!” An old Scotch brother who was rather hard of hearing leaned forward holding his ear and said, “What was that, brother? I did not get that!” “I say, I will have my rights,” said the man. “But you did not mean that, did you? Your rights? If ye had your rights, you would be in hell, wouldn’t you? And you are forgetting-aren’t you?-that Jesus did not come to get His rights, He came to get His wrongs, and He got them.” I can still see that man standing there for a moment like one transfixed, and then the tears broke from his eyes and he said, “Brethren, I have been all wrong. Handle the case as you think best,” and he sat down and put his face in his hands and sobbed before the Lord, and everything was settled in three minutes. When in this spirit it is so easy to clear things up; when we bow before the Lord, He straightens them out.
And then think of what grace has already done for you. Think how marvelously God has dealt with you in spite of all the sin and iniquity that you have been guilty of in the past. In the next verse he reminds them that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and then he sets forth a fearful catalogue of sins and transgressions against God, nature, and man, and as he repeats this awful list, he turns to that redeemed company and says, “And such were some of you.” These are the things from which you have been saved, these are the transgressions that have been forgiven you, from these unholy, wicked, impure things you have been cleansed. You were sinners’ of five hundred pence, but God has forgiven all. Shall you hold your brother accountable because he owes you a small debt when God has so graciously dealt with you?
“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.” Notice the order here: “washed-sanctified-justified.” I went into a mission in San Francisco years ago and sat for perhaps half-an-hour listening to marvelous testimonies of redeeming grace. One after another rose and painted a dreadful picture of his past life and then told how God had saved him. I had come to that meeting with a little sermon all made up, but as I sat listening to these testimonies, I said, “O dear, my stupid little sermon! To think I imagined I could go into my study and develop a little discourse that would suit a congregation like this, when I had no idea of the kind of people I was going to address.” So I just “canned” my sermon; I put it out of my mind, and when I rose to speak, I took this text: “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.” It was easy to preach to them then without a lot of study. These sermons that you get up are so hard to preach, but those that come down are so much easier. At the close a dignified personage came to me and said, “Do you know, you got your theology terribly mixed tonight?”
“Did I?” I said. “Straighten me out.”
“You put sanctification before justification. You have to be justified and then you get the second blessing.”
“Pardon me, but you are mistaken,” I said. “I did not put sanctification before justification.”
“You most certainly did.”
“I most certainly did not; it was the apostle Paul who did.”
“Why, you cannot blame your wrong theology on him.”
“I was simply quoting Scripture.”
“You misquoted it. It reads, ‘Ye are justified, ye are sanctified.’”
“No, no,” I said; “read it.”
And he began to read, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified,” and then he said, “Why, there is a misprint there. Wait a minute; I will get a Revised Bible.”
He got it and looked at it, and read, “Washed, sanctified, justified.”
“Why,” he said, “I never saw that before; but all I have to say is the apostle Paul was not clear on the holiness question when he wrote that!”
But what does the apostle really say? “Ye are washed.” What does that mean? It is the washing of regeneration. When the Word of God is applied to the heart and conscience, when first awakened and turned to the Lord, it results in deliverance from the impurity of the old life. We are cleansed by the washing of water by the Word.
“But ye are sanctified.” What is it to be sanctified? It is to be set apart to God in Christ, and that is true of everyone who turns to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a work that begins even before a man is conscious of his justification. Were it not for that, not one of us would ever turn to Christ. The Spirit begins that work which exercises and convicts and leads us to feel our need, and through the Word we are washed and cleansed, and thus Christ is revealed to our souls, and putting our trust in Him we are justified from all things.
Washed-that has to do with the practical cleansing. Sanctified-set apart to God in Christ. Justified-that means we are judicially cleared before the throne of God. God has nothing against the man who stands justified before Him. These are our blessings, they are true of every believer. How our hearts ought to thrill with worship and praise as we think how God has dealt with us!
The Believer’s Body: The Temple Of The Holy Sprit
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
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. 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. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (vv. 12-20)
Following what we have seen in the early part of this chapter as to the believer’s cleansing, sanctification, and justification in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God, we are now asked to consider some of the practical results of all this. If we have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of His beloved Son, if we have been regenerated by the Word and the Holy Spirit, then we are no longer to live to please ourselves but the One who has made us His own at such a cost. And so the apostle stresses particularly the importance of recognizing our bodies as belonging to our risen Lord.
The honor of the body was never really revealed until our Lord Jesus Christ came. If you are at all familiar with the different heathen philosophies and pagan religions, you know that men as a rule distinguish between the inner man and his relation to God and the body and its relation to earth. A great many of these philosophers and teachers said, “It does not make any difference to what use you put the body. It is merely physical, and when you die it is gone. Even though your soul may persist after death the body will never rise again, and it is impossible to defile the soul by anything you may do with the body.” That was the very essence of the philosophy that was taught in Corinth where the apostle had been used of God for the calling out of this company of redeemed ones whom he addresses as “the church of God,” and therefore, there was very grave danger that they might bring over to the new Christian position some of the old pagan conceptions, and in that way fail to appreciate the holiness, the purity, that should be connected with the physical life of the believer as well as with his spiritual life.
The apostle shows that the believer has not come into any legal relationship with God. He is not under law; he has marvelous liberty, but not liberty to do wrong. He must distinguish between license and liberty. An instructed believer will never say, “I am in Christ, and it does not make much difference what I do.” A man who talks like that shows that he has never apprehended the reality of what “in Christ” means. The very fact that I am in Christ means that God has claims upon me that He did not assert when I belonged to the world. Then I was allowed to take my own way, but now that I am in Christ I am called upon to present my body, not merely my spirit, as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). And so He tells us here, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient,” or befitting. If it is just a question of law, I am not under law but under grace. But on the other hand, there are many things that are utterly unsuited to a Christian; things that would bring my testimony into disrepute. There are a great many things about which there is no direct instruction in the Word of God, and because of this some think of them as things indifferent. But the question is, “What effect would it have on other people if I as a Christian were to indulge in them?” I belong to Christ, and men will judge of Christ as they look upon me, and my behavior therefore must be such as will commend Christ. And then again, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” It is an answer to those who say, “Well, why should not a Christian feel perfectly free to indulge himself if he wants to?” And so they excuse the use of intoxicants and tobacco. It is a bad thing to create habits that are not easily broken, and the apostle says, “I will not be brought under the power of any.” I will not allow myself to be a slave to appetite. There are things with which one cannot tamper without being brought under their power. Your liberty is gone when you say, “I have liberty to form habits like this,” for you become a slave.
You can apply this in a great many different ways. “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” I am the Lord’s free man, and I am going to preserve my liberty in Christ. I am free to please Him, not free to please myself. And then if it is a question of food, we read: “The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty” (Proverbs 23:21). Notice, it is not only the drunkard but also the glutton. In their heathen festivals the people gorged themselves in the most disgusting way in honor of their heathen gods, and we as Christians need to be careful as to overeating. “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats.” The two are suited the one to the other. Food is suited to the digestive tract and the digestive tract is suited to food, but you are not to live for these things, you are not to live to feed the belly. “But God shall destroy both it and them.” Do not live therefore as though your great business in life was the gratifying of your appetite. Let there be something higher before you. As Christians your business is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then he speaks of the sex instinct, for there were those who said, “God has implanted certain appetites in the very bodies of men and women, therefore it does not make any difference how people indulge these appetites in or out of the marriage relationship.” “The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” It is not to be used for vile gratification, that is contrary to the holiness of God, but it is to be kept for the Lord, and as it is kept for the Lord, the Lord is for the body. What a wonderful relationship we have been brought into. It is the resurrection of the body of the Lord Jesus that has put dignity upon all our bodies. If I am going to have my body in resurrection, then I must remember it is not to be used for any degrading purpose here on earth.
“God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” You know that your spirit is a member of Christ, you know your soul belongs to Christ, but do you think as often as you should of the fact that your body is a member of Christ? We read of the church as the body of Christ. It is not merely as an aggregation of redeemed souls that the church is the body of Christ, but as men and women having physical constitutions we belong to Christ, and my body is to manifest the holiness of Christ, my body is to be used in devotion to Him. I am to present my body as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto the Lord,” as already intimated.
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” Very well, shall I take the members of Christ, this body of mine, and defile it, put it to an unholy purpose? How can I do that, I who profess to have been bought with the blood of God’s dear Son? “Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” What a mystic union this is into which we have been brought! The same Holy Spirit who dwells without measure in the Head now dwells in every member of Christ’s body here on earth. Then, the body is for the Lord. How this will solve every problem in regard to sensual pleasure and worldly folly. You are invited out somewhere where you are not quite sure you can glorify God, and you stop a moment and say, “My body is a member of Christ; is it consistent for me, as a member of Christ, to go where He will be dishonored?” You must not go where you cannot glorify Christ. That is the Christian standard.
“He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” Then I must flee everything that is of a carnal, corrupt nature. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body.” Other sins do not affect the body, but this one sin is ruinous to body and soul alike, and so, Paul says, “Flee fornication,” run from anything that would tend to stir the body to unholy lust. In his Confessions, St. Augustine tells how in his unconverted days he had allowed himself to become the willing victim of vile and fleshly lusts. He lived his careless life as the pagans of that day, and associated with the corrupt and wicked members of society. When he got converted, the great question upon his mind was this, “Will I ever be able to live according to the Christian standard of holiness, will I ever be able to keep myself from the vile, sensuous life in which I have lived so long?” When he first yielded himself to Christ, he took as his life-text Romans 13:13-14, where the apostle exhorts the believer to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. For long after his conversion he did not dare even to go near that part of the city where his godless companions of former days lived. But one day a matter of business called him there, and as he was walking along the street he suddenly saw one of the beautiful yet wicked companions of his folly. The moment her eyes lit upon him her face was illuminated with delight, and she came running with outstretched arms and said, “Austin! where have you been for so long? We have missed you so,” and he turned and gathered up his long philosopher’s gown and started to run. It was not a very dignified proceeding for a doctor, a professor of rhetoric, to run up the street with a godless girl running after him. She called to him, “Austin, Austin, why do you run? It is only I!” He looked back and exclaimed, “I run because it is not I.” And he was off again. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). That is our standard, and so in all our behavior in the use of the body we are thus to glorify Him.
Now he comes to the crux of the whole matter. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple [the sanctuary] of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” See how the Holy Spirit links us again with Christ. When He was here on earth, He said to the Jews of His day, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), and they, misunderstanding, looked at the great temple on Mount Moriah and said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” But we are told, “He spake of the temple of his body.” He, the Holy One, had a real human body, and that body was the sanctuary of deity. Now He has gone back to heaven, He has saved our souls, and He claims our bodies and has sent His Holy Spirit down to dwell in the body of the believer. He says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.” Do we think as much of this as we should? Would you allow many things about which you are careless if that were constantly before your mind? You think of a church building as a sanctuary set apart for the work of the Lord. You step in from the outside, and immediately your hat comes off, for you realize that you are in the sanctuary. We teach our boys and girls not to be boisterous or frivolous in the church building for it is the house where we meet with God, and we realize that reverent behavior should characterize us. But think of this, your body is the sanctuary, it is the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. How careful you and I ought to be that we grieve not that blessed One who dwells within, that we do not bring dishonor upon the name of the Savior who has sent His Spirit to live in our body. Say the words over and over again to yourself until they get such a grip on you that you will never forget them: “My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in me.” It will give you to realize the dignity of the body and the responsibility that attaches to it.
“Ye are not your own?” Does your heart respond to that? “Ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price.” And what price? The precious blood of God’s dear Son. Yonder at Calvary He purchased us to be His own. An old Puritan writer said, “Calvary was the marketplace where the Savior bought us with His blood, but He never got His money’s worth.” We have been such poor servants, we have responded so poorly to His love. We used to sing years ago:
Not my own, but saved by Jesus,
Who redeemed me by His blood,
Gladly I accept the message,
I belong to Christ the Lord.
Not my own, to Christ my Saviour
I believing trust my soul,
Everything to Him committed,
While eternal ages roll.
Not my own, my time, my talents,
Freely all to Christ I bring,
To be used in joyful service
For the glory of my King.
Not my own, the Lord accepts me,
One among the ransomed throng
Who in heaven shall see His glory,
And to Jesus Christ belong.
It will be wonderful to be His own up there. I would not want to miss it then, but it is a greater privilege to be His own as we walk the streets of this world than it will be when we walk the streets of gold, for this is the world in which we have the privilege of glorifying Him in our bodies. And so he says, “Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” If you have the Revised Version, you will see that the text really stops here. In our King James Version it adds the words: “And in your spirit, which are God’s.” I think somebody making a copy of this in the old Greek text got down this far and had not got the thought at all, but felt that there was something left out and so added these words in the margin. That is the very thing the apostle is not saying. What he is saying is, “Keep to this thought; your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; if you glorify Him in your body, you will in your spirit.” Glorify God in your body and the spiritual side will take care of itself.