Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

1 Corinthians 6

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Verses 1-20

1 Corinthians 6:1 . Dare any of you go to law before the unjust? He whose cause is just appeals to equity, but he who does his neighbour wrong is vexatious. In England, our judges, after the cause is opened, finding it of small account, refer it frequently to an arbitrator. The litigious pay dear for legal decisions, which they might have had gratis at home; and what is worse, they expose religion to great contempt.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 . The saints shall judge the world shall judge angels. The comments on this text are various. Some say ministers are here referred to, being the judges in the christian synagogue. Others say, as in Beza, that this refers to the time when the apostles shall sit on thrones as assessors with Christ, and judge the infidel world and fallen angels. Matthew 19:28.

Another comment is, that the apostle is not speaking of any thing future, but of the present, of something already begun, and actually going on; not the saints shall judge, but the saints judge; the world is being judged by you. He does not mean that eminent saints at the end of the world shall sit in judgment on the rest of mankind, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. The believing Corinthians, by embracing the gospel, judged; that is, condemned those who rejected it. Thus Nineveh shall rise up in judgment, and shall condemn the jews for their rejection of one greater than Jonah. The word is used in the same sense in 3 John 1:12; 3 John 1:12:31 . Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. It was through the influence of the Holy Spirit accompanying the gospel, that the domination of sin and Satan was condemned. There is much propriety in this, because it is by the church that the world should be illuminated and converted: they stand condemned for not following light so clear, and examples so bright and interesting.

1 Corinthians 6:5 . Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? This text was once cited by lord Kenyon in the court of king’s bench, when the aggrieved party in the society of Friends had brought a case before him. “Have you no wise man among you to settle these disputes, that you bring them before us?”

1 Corinthians 6:11 . Such were some of you guilty of crimes for which many have suffered by the hand of justice. But ye are washed, ye are justified; and let not such forget what they owe to grace. And even those who have been guilty of them only in heart, have no reason to boast over another. Dr. John Bradford, minister of Lutterworth, a blessed martyr, used to say, on seeing men go to the gallows, “There goes John Bradford, had not grace prevented.” Ye are washed by the baptism of the new birth, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; and yet not so but men through life should blush for sins so foul. Yea, they should repair errors to the utmost of their power, and cautiously keep the flesh in subjection.

1 Corinthians 6:12 . All things are lawful to me, in regard of eating with certain characters when occasion seems to require it, but all things are not expedient. The Corinthian feasts were carnal and profane, and God would destroy both them and their feasts. Self-denial is the hallowed road to glory. How can a christian dine with a profane character, without reminding him of his sin! The Spirit constrained John to reprove Herod.

1 Corinthians 6:16 . He who is joined to a harlot is one body, as those who are united in matrimony. In like manner, he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Here is the distinction: heaven is open to the family of God, while the horrors of darkness await the wicked. See the note on 1 Corinthians 3:17.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 . Ye are not your own. He that made you, and has fed you as his children, has every claim of grateful obedience. Nay more, the Redeemer who ransomed your life with his own requires that you should henceforth be the temples of the living God. What grace is this to sinners of the gentiles, that they should now be as holy as they had been polluted and profane. This is the only way in which those trophies of mercy can glorify God in body and mind.


The jewish synagogue, described in Matthew 4:0., claimed the prerogative to judge of pecuniary disputes by a bench of three. The same prerogative is here conferred on the church, a prerogative which the Romans did not deny the Jews, and consequently the christians, whom the Romans long regarded as a jewish sect. Now, the commencing a suit in a pagan court against a christian brother was reprehensible in many views. It exposed the defects of the church to the contempt of the heathens, and thereby hindered the progress of the gospel. It sought an expensive and vindictive redress, when milder methods would have succeeded. If idols, if devils, if the infidel world is judged by the saints, how easy must it be for them to decide in the simple cases of commercial concerns. They will stoop more than high and worldly judges to the minutiƦ of a case, and give a decision between men which they can face in their own neighbourhood, and at the bar of God.

The persons recommended to this office are wise men, distinguished by probity and experience. But if no such men are found among the Corinthians who boasted of wisdom, the apostle, bantering them to their shame, recommends them to appoint the least esteemed, the lowest in the church to be judges, sooner than go to a tribunal decorated with the emblems of idolatry, and where the pleaders appealed to the gods. Let then the members of religious societies blush for making their inveterate and expensive appeals to courts of justice, and thereby dishonouring the church of God.

But the grand argument prompting to reconciliation and reverence for the church is, that religious strife is joined with nine other foul crimes which exclude men from the kingdom of heaven. Among these, fornication, so rife at Corinth, is most conspicuously noticed. He that committeth fornication, or any kind of uncleanness, sinneth against his own body. Guilt and shame lodge on his conscience, and fever is superinduced on the body. Now the body of a christian is a temple of God; and temples were always classed in sanctity next to heaven itself. To affect communion with Christ, and being at the same time connected with a harlot, is so provoking to the Lord, that he will cast the impenitent into a bed of affliction. Besides, the saints are called to peculiar sanctity because Christ is risen from the dead, that we may walk in newness of life, relish the joys of angels, and shun those licentious gratifications which are ‘joyless, loveless, unendeared.’ Arguments of chastity may also be deduced from the price of our redemption; and it is no redemption if we are still captivated with fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

Lastly, the method of conquest is judiciously prescribed. “Flee fornication.” Samson, mighty Samson, fell for want of flight. We must shun the company, despise the books, and combat the habit which would seduce us to sin. Yea, we must take alarm at the slightest glance of the eyes, and emotion of the heart, which would foster foolishness. God is holy, and angels stand at our side.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.