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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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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.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-corinthians-6.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Litigation before heathen courts forbidden.
1 Corinthians 6:1
Dare any of you? rather, Dare any one of you? It is in St. Paul's view an audacious defiance of Christian duties to seek from the heathen the justice due from brother to brother. A matter; some ground of civil dispute. Against another; i.e. against another Christian. When one of the litigants was a heathen, Christians were allowed to go before heathen law courts, because no other remedy was possible. Go to law before the unjust. The "unjust" is here used for "Gentiles," because it at once suggests a reason against the dereliction of Christian duty involved in such a step. How "unjust" the pagans were in the special sense of the word, the Christians of that day had daily opportunities of seeing; and in a more general sense, the Gentiles were "sinners" (Matthew 26:45). Even the Jews were bound to settle their civil disputes before their own tribunals. The ideal Jew was jashar, or "the upright man," and Jews could not consistently seek integrity from those who were not upright. A fortiori, Christians ought not to do so. Before the saints. All Christians were ideally "saints," just as the heathen were normally "unjust." If Christians went to law with one another before the heathen, they belied their profession of mutual love, caused scandal, and were almost necessarily tempted into compliance with heathen customs, even to the extent of recognizing idols. Our Lord had already laid down the rule that "brothers" ought to settle their quarrels among themselves (Matthew 18:15-17).
1 Corinthians 6:2
Do ye not know? The word "or" should be supplied from א, A, B, C, D, F, etc. Bishop Wordsworth points out that this emphatic question occurs ten times in these two Epistles (1Co 3:6; 1 Corinthians 5:6; 1Co 6:2, 1 Corinthians 6:3, 1Co 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:15, 1 Corinthians 6:16, 1Co 6:19; 1 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Corinthians 9:24), and only twice in all the rest (Romans 6:16; Romans 11:2). It was a fitting rebuke to those who took for knowledge their obvious ignorance. It resembles the "Have ye not so much as read?" to Pharisees who professed such profound familiarity with the Scriptures. That the saints shall judge the world. So Daniel (Daniel 7:22) had said, "The Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High." Our Lord had confirmed this promise to his apostles, "Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). Various modes of evading the literal sense have been adopted, but even in the Book of Wisdom we find, "They [the righteous] shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people" (Wis. 3:8). All speculation as to the manner and extent in which the saints shall share in the work of Christ as Judge of the quick and dead, are obviously futile. Shall be judged; literally, is being judged—the present points to the future, as though that which is inevitable is already in course of fulfilment. To judge the smallest matters; literally, of the smallest judgments.
1 Corinthians 6:3
That we shall judge angels. Angels, i.e. some who belong, or once did belong, to that class. The statement furnishes no data for further speculation. It can hardly mean "evil spirits," for where the word is entirely unqualified it always means good angels; otherwise we might refer it to the "angels which kept not their first estate" (Jud 1 Corinthians 1:6). It is impossible, and not straightforward, to explain away the word "angels" as meaning Church officials, etc., or to make the word "judge" mean "involve a condemnation of them by comparison with ourselves." All that we can say is that "God chargeth even his angels with folly, and in his sight the very heavens are not clean" (Job 4:18); and that "to angels hath he not subjected the world to come" (Hebrews 2:5). We must take the plain meaning of the apostle's words, whether we can throw any light on his conceptions or not. The only alternative is to suppose that the word means "those who once were good angels," but are now fallen spirits. It was so understood by Tertullian, Chrysostom, etc. How much more; rather, to say nothing of. The accurate rendering of these verses is a matter of some difficulty, but not to an extent which affects the material sense, or which can be explained without a minute knowledge of Greek.
1 Corinthians 6:4
If then ye have, etc. The verse implies that civil disputes might naturally occur among them. What he is here reprobating is their objectionable method of settling them. Set them to judge who are least esteemed in the Church. This implies an utter scorn of trivial quarrels about personal rights. Surely the lowliest, the most unregarded members of the Church—those of no account—have wisdom enough to decide in such small matters. Thus when there arose a murmuring between Hebrews and Hellenists about the daily distribution to widows, the apostles, thinking that they had much more important work in hand than the adjustment of such jealousies, left the whole matter in the hands of the seven deacons. Some understand "those held of no account in the Church" to mean heathens; but he is here forbidding them to bring their quarrels before the heathens. Of course, ideally, none ought to be "despised" or "held of no account" in the Church; but St. Paul is here speaking relatively, and with reference to the views of the Corinthians themselves, and not without irony. The perfect participle, "those who have been set at nought," perhaps means persons of proved inferiority of judgment.
1 Corinthians 6:5
I speak to your shame. He adds this to account for the severe irony of the last remark. Not a wise man among you. Among you, who set yourselves up as so specially wise! To judge; rather, to decide.
1 Corinthians 6:7
Now therefore; rather, Nay more, already. Utterly; rather, generally, "altogether," "looking at the question as a whole." A fault. The word means "a defect," or possibly "a loss" (Romans 11:12, "the diminishing"). Your going to law is an inferiority or deficiency; you ought to know of "a more excellent way." Why do ye not rather take wrong? Strange as such advice would sound to heathens, who prided themselves on the passionate resentment of injuries as though it were a virtue, this had been the distinct teaching of our Lord; "Resist not evil" (Matthew 5:39).
1 Corinthians 6:8
Nay, ye do wrong and defraud. Thus they violated a rule which Paul had laid down to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:6), and incurred God's anger.
1 Corinthians 6:9
Know ye not; rather, Or know ye not, as before. Are you defying God, or does your sin arise from mere ignorance? The unrighteous; better, that wrong doers, the verb being the same as "ye do wrong" in 1 Corinthians 6:8. Perhaps the Corinthians thought that they would be saved by the mere fact of having been admitted into God's kingdom (the Christian Church in all its highest privileges) by baptism. St. Paul here lays down, as distinctly as St. James does, that faith without works is dead, and privileges without holiness are abrogated. The spirit of his warning is the same as that of Jeremiah 7:4, "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord… are these;" or that of St. John the Baptist, "Say not unto yourselves, We be Abraham's sons." Christians have often been liable to the temptation of underrating the peril which results from the falling asunder of action from knowledge. There can be no greater danger than that of talking slightingly of "mere morality." Religion is not an outward service, but a spiritual life manifested by a holy living. Be not deceived. So our Lord says," Let no man deceive you". St. Paul uses the warning very solemnly again in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Galatians 6:7, and St. James in James 1:16. The self deception of merely verbal orthodoxy is the most dangerous of all. Neither fornicators. The first four classes of sinners were specially prevalent at Corinth, where, indeed, impurity formed part of the recognized cult of the local Aphrodite. Lists of these "works of the flesh," which were the all but universal curse and stain of heathendom, occur also in Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Timothy 1:10, etc.; Colossians 3:5-7.
1 Corinthians 6:10
Nor thieves, etc. (see Revelation 22:15).
1 Corinthians 6:11
And such were some of you; literally, and these things some of you were. As Gentiles, many of them had been "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). (For a similar contrast of the change wrought by the Spirit of God, see Titus 3:3-7.) But ye are washed. The voice and tense in the original differ from those of the following words. This cannot be accidental. It is better, therefore, to render, But ye washed away your sins; i.e. ye, by your baptism, washed away those stains (Acts 22:16). The very object of Christ's death had been that he might cleanse his Church "by the washing of water by the Word." But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified; rather, but ye were sanctified, but y? were justified, namely, at your conversion. By "sanctified" is meant, not the progressive course of sanctification, but the consecration to God by baptism (Wickliffe, "halowed"). (For what St. Paul meant by justification, see Romans 3:24-26.) In the Name of the Lord Jesus, etc. This clause and the next belongs to all the three previous verbs. Of our God. In the word "our" is involved that appeal to Christian unity of which he never loses sight throughout the letter.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The inexcusable sin and shame of fornication.
1 Corinthians 6:12
All things are lawful unto me. The abruptness with which the phrase is introduced perhaps shows that, in the letter of the Corinthians to St. Paul, they had used some such expression by way of palliating their lax tolerance of violations of the law of purity. By "all things," of course, is only meant "all things which are indifferent in themselves." They erroneously applied this maxim of Christian liberty to that which was inherently sinful, and thus were tempted to "make their liberty a cloak of viciousness." St. Paul, as Bengel observes, often, and especially in this Epistle, uses the first person generally in gnomic or semi-proverbial sentences (1 Corinthians 6:15; 1Co 7:7; 1 Corinthians 10:23, 1 Corinthians 10:29, 1 Corinthians 10:30; 1 Corinthians 14:11). But. This is St. Paul's correction of too broad a formula. Are not expedient. St. Paul illustrates this in 1 Corinthians 8:8-10. We have no right to do even that which is innocent, if it be disadvantageous to the highest interests of ourselves or others. "He alone," says St. Augustine, "does not fall into unlawful things who sometimes abstains by way of caution even from lawful ones." Will not be brought under the power. The play of words in the original might be imitated by saying, "All things are in my power, but I will not be brought under the power of any." In other words, "boundless intemperance" may become a tyranny. The pretence of moral freedom may end in a moral bondage.
"Obedience is better than freedom? What's free?
The vexed foam on the wave, the tossed straw on the sea;
The ocean itself, as it rages and swells,
In the bonds of a boundless obedience dwells."
I will be master even over my liberty by keeping it under the beneficent control of law and of charity.
1 Corinthians 6:13
Meats for the belly, etc. The argument of the Corinthians about the indifference of eating "meats" which were merely ceremonially unclean was quite tenable. Things Levitically unclean might be essentially pure, and both food and the body which lives thereby are things "which perish in the using" (Colossians 2:22). Shall destroy; shall bring to nought. This would occur when the physical body becomes a spiritual body, like that of the angels of God (1 Corinthians 15:51, 1 Corinthians 15:52). How vile, then, is it to make a god of the belly—only to sleep and feed! Both it and them. There shall be no need for the belly when men "shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more" (Revelation 7:16); and the meat alluded to is "meat which perisheth" (Luke 15:16). Now the body is net for fornication, but for the Lord. The argument, therefore, which would class this sin as a matter of indifference, as was the Levitical distinction between different kinds of food, at once fell to the ground. Food was a necessity, and the stomach was formed for its assimilation. Fornication is not a venial but "a deadly sin." It is not a natural necessity, but a consuming evil. The body was created for higher ends—namely, to be a temple of God. "God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7). And the Lord for the body. Therefore our members ought to be used "as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 5:13), and our bodies presented as a living, holy, reasonable, acceptable sacrifice to him (Romans 12:1). The end of our existence is "to serve God here and enjoy him forever hereafter."
1 Corinthians 6:14
God hath both raised up the Lord. St. Paul always grounds man's resurrection] and immortality on the resurrection and ascension of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-58.; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 6:5, Romans 6:8; Romans 8:11).
1 Corinthians 6:15
Members of Christ. We find the same metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:30. The Church is often alluded to as "the body of Christ" (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19, etc.). Elsewhere the union between Christ and Christians is described by the metaphor of a tree and its branches; a building and the stones of which it is composed (Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22). God forbid. An admirable idiom to express the real force of the original, which means, "May it never be!". It occurs in Romans 3:4, Romans 3:6, Romans 3:31; Romans 6:15; Romans 7:7, Romans 7:13; Romans 9:14; Romans 11:1, Romans 11:11; Galatians 2:17; Galatians 3:21. The formula, which involves the indignant rejection of some false conclusion, is characteristic of the second group of St. Paul's Epistles, but especially (as will be seen) of the Epistle to the Romans.
1 Corinthians 6:16
What, know ye not, etc.? The clause is used to explain and justify the strong expression which he had used in the previous verse. It involves an argument against the sin which is the most original and impressive which could have been used. To this passage especially is due the tone taken by Christians as to these sins, which differed so totally from that taken by heathen. They two. The words do not occur in Genesis 2:24, but are always so quoted in the New Testament. Saith he. This is a vague Jewish formula of quotation, adopted to avoid the needless introduction of the sacred Name. "He" is "God" in Scripture. Shall be one flesh; rather, shall become. This appeal to Genesis 2:24 (Matthew 19:5) is equivalent to the rule that no intercourse between the sexes is free from sin except under the sanction of marriage.
1 Corinthians 6:17
That is joined unto the Lord. This phrase, indicating the closest possible union, is found in Deuteronomy 10:20; 2 Kings 18:6. Is one spirit. There is a "mystical union," not only "betwixt Christ and his Church," but also between Christ and the holy soul Hence, to St. Paul, spiritual life meant the indwelling of Christ in the heart—the life "in Christ;" so that he could say, "It is no more I that live, but Christ that liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 3:17).
1 Corinthians 6:18
Flee fornication. In the battle against sensual sins, there is no victory except in absolute flight, for the reason which immediately follows, namely, that these sins have their dwelling in that body which is part of our being, and which yet they tend to destroy. They make a man his own deadliest enemy. Every sin... is without the body. Some have supposed that this cannot apply to gluttony and drunkenness, which they therefore class with fornication; but even in those sins, as in suicide, the cause of and incentive to the sin is external, whereas the source of uncleanness is in the heart and in the thoughts, which come from within, and so defile the man. Other sins may be with and by means of the body, and may injure the body; but none are so directly against the sanctity of the whole bodily being as fornication. Sinneth against his own body. By alienating it from the service of him to whom it belongs; by incorporating it with the degradation of another; by staining the flesh and the body (Proverbs 5:8-11; Proverbs 6:24-32; Proverbs 7:24-27); by subtly poisoning the inmost sanctities of his own being. St. Paul is here thinking mainly, however, if not exclusively, of the moral injury and defilement.
1 Corinthians 6:19
That your body is the temple (or rather, a sanctuary) of the Holy Ghost. He has already said that the Church is a shrine or sanctuary of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16); but here for the first time expression is given to one of the deepest and newest truths of Christianity. Three great epochs are marked by the use of the word temple. In the Old Testament it means the material temple, the sign of a localized worship and a separated people; in the Gospels our Lord uses it of his own mortal body; in the Epistles it is used (as here) of the body of every baptized Christian, sanctified by the indwelling Spirit of God. Ye are not your own. We cannot, therefore, use our bodies as though they were absolutely under our own control. They belong to God, and, "whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8).
1 Corinthians 6:20
Ye are bought with a price. That price is the blood of Christ, wherewith he purchased the Church (Acts 20:28; Heb 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:9). This metaphor of ransom (1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1) has its full and absolute applicability to man. The effect of Christ's death for us is that we are redeemed from slavery and prison, and the right of our possession is with Christ. Thus by various metaphors the effects of redemption are revealed to us on the human side. When we unduly press the metaphor, and ask from whom we were purchased, and to whom the price was paid, we build up scholastic systems which have only led to error, and respecting which the Church has never sanctioned any exclusive opinion. The thoughts touched upon in this verse are fully developed in the Epistle to the Romans. Glorify God; by behaving as his redeemed children, and therefore by keeping yourselves pure. In these few brief words St. Paul sums up all he has said, as he did in 1 Corinthians 5:13. In your body. The following words, "and in your spirit, which are God's," are a perfectly correct and harmless gloss, but are not found in the best manuscripts, and are foreign to the drift of the passage. Your body is a temple, and in that temple God must be honoured. "Unchastity dishonours God, and that in his own temple (Romans 2:23)" (Meyer). In these clauses St. Paul has touched on three subjects which occupy important sections of the remainder of the Epistle, namely,
(1) the relation between the sexes (1 Corinthians 7:1-40.);
(2) the question of idol offerings (1 Corinthians 8:1-13.); and
(3) the doctrine of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-58.).
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
The ideal Church a tribunal.
"Dare any of you, having a matter against another," etc.? In our sketch on the preceding verses we looked on the true Church as a feast. Here we have to look on it as a tribunal, a court of judicature, where disputes are to be settled and grievances redressed. It would appear that questions arose among the Corinthian Christians that required settlement—questions of wrong done to persons or to property, and that too the litigious spirit was so rife in their midst that they took their grievances to the heathen courts. For this the apostle reproves them. "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" Three remarks about the ideal Church as a tribunal.
I. IT IS SUPERIOR TO OTHER TRIBUNALS ON THE EARTH.
1. It is a court formed of morally righteous men. This is implied in the words, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" Saints, or just men, form the tribunal. In worldly courts of judicature men are judged by legislative enactments or judicial decisions. Not so in this court. It is a court of equity, a court that tries cases not by statutory precepts, nor by ecclesiastical laws, but by scriptural principles, and these principles as they arc embodied in the teaching of him who delivered the Sermon on the mount. The true Church is his representative and administrator.
2. It is a court whose jurisdiction is universal. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" In many ways men of Christly lives are judging the world now. Their ideas of right and wrong, between man and man, and man and God, form that standard of character to which the consciences of men are constantly appealing, and to which they are forced to bow. All men at last wilt be judged by the character of Christ, and the Church is the representative of that character. "The words I say unto you, they shall judge you in the last day." Not only does this Church tribunal judge the world, but judges angels also. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" Redeemed humanity is in some respects higher than angelic natures. It has passed through greater changes and is brought into closer connection with the Divine. They who have in them the spirit of absolute justice in the highest measure are the best judges of character. In modern courts this spirit is often very feeble, and in some cases extinct. Hence the sad blunderings about the interpretation of statutes and the decisions of judges. But the spirit of absolute justice reigns in the true Church.
II. IT IS A TRIBUNAL FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF ALL DISPUTES. Paul intimates that it is to judge disputes on the "smallest matters," and of "things pertaining to this life." These expressions seem to comprehend all disputes—not merely religious, but secular; not only disputes on great subjects, but disputes on minor subjects as well. The instinct of Christly justice which inspires it peers into the heart of all moral conduct. It has an "anointing from the Holy One, by which it knows all things." The more spiritually pure a man is the more readily will he detect the wrong. Only a few years ago some of our judges occupied twelve mouths or more, at an enormous expense to the nation, in order to find out whether a man was an impostor or not. To a mind full of moral justice an impostor is detected instinctively and at once. No logic can read the hidden principles of a man's heart. Christ knew "what was in man," and those highly imbued with his Spirit are to some extent gifted with the same insight.
III. DISPUTANTS WHO WILL NOT HAVE THEIR CASES SETTLED IN THIS COURT ARE JUSTLY LIABLE TO REPROACH.
1. Reference to another court is unwise. "If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the Church." The meaning is that any other court to which the case is taken is of no account in the estimation of the Church it is a morally inferior institution. The tribunal of man in comparison to Christ's tribunal is a truly contemptible thing. You Christians degrade yourselves by taking disputes to such tribunals. "I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wine man among you?" It is a shame to you to have your disputes carried to such tribunals, a shame that you cannot settle your disputes among yourselves, that "brother should go to law with brother, before the unbelievers."
2. Reference to another court is wrong. "Now therefore, there is utterly a fault [a defect] among you, because ye go to law one with another." Better than to do this, better than in go to a worldly tribunal to settle your disputes, better you should suffer wrong than take your grievance into the worldly courts. "The Church has principles," says Robertson, "according to which all such matters may be set at rest. And the difference between the worldly court of justice and the Christian court of arbitration is a difference of diametrical opposition. Law says, 'You shall have your rights;' the spirit of the true Church says, 'Defraud not your neighbour of his rights.' Law says, 'You must not be wronged;' the Church says, 'It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.'"
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
"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." Reformation of some kind or other is an object most earnestly pursued by all in every land who are alive to the woes and wrongs of life. Some of the reformations sought are of a questionable utility; none will prove of any essential and permanent service but that presented in the text. The reformation is—
I. A REFORMATION OF THE MORAL CHARACTER OF MANKIND. "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," etc. Sin, which may be defined as self gratification, is here presented in a variety of forms—"fornication," idolatry, avarice, intemperance, etc. All these manifestations are hideous developments of the same ungodly principle, self gratification. The principle of sin, like holiness, is one and simple, but the forms are multifarious. Now, these morally corrupt classes we are here told were changed; they were "washed," and "sanctified," and "justified," which, stripped of figure, means, they were changed in the very root and fountain of their character. They were, to use Scripture phraseology, converted, regenerated, created anew in Christ Jesus to good works. The reformation was not doctrinal, ecclesiastical, or institutional, but moral.
II. A REFORMATION INDISPENSABLE TO A HAPPY DESTINY. What is the only happy destiny for man? To "inherit the kingdom of God." What is the "kingdom of God"? Righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost. It is the reign of truth, purity, light, harmony, and blessedness. To "inherit" that empire, to be in it, not as occasional visitors, but as permanent citizens, holding fellowship with its Sovereign, and mingling with the great and the good of all worlds,—this is our high destiny. For this we were made, and for nothing lower. Hence Christ urges us to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," which means come under the Divine reign of truth and right. Now, there is no getting into this kingdom without this moral reformation. All who have not undergone this reformation are excluded.
III. A REFORMATION EFFECTED BY THE REDEMPTIVE AGENCY OF CHRIST. "And such were some of you: but ye are [were] washed, but ye are [were] sanctified, but ye are [were] justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." This means that they had been cleansed from all moral foulness, "washed;" that they had been consecrated to holiness, "sanctified;" that they had been made right in their being and relationships, "justified." And all this, how? "In the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." This is the reformative measure, the gospel; nothing on this earth will effect this moral change but this. Not the enactments of legislations, not the creations of genius, not scientific systems. I disparage none of these, but they cannot effect this reformation of soul, the reformation which humanity wants, a reformation without which all other reformations are but reformations on parchment, a change in mere outward forms of life. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Christianity in relation to the body.
"All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient," etc. It would seem that there were those in the Church at Corinth who regarded Christianity as giving them a kind of liberty to do whatsoever they wished. Some of them having left Judaism with its various restraints, and others paganism, which also had restrictions, they were too ready to push the doctrine of religious liberty, as proclaimed by Paul, far beyond its limits. The apostle here states, perhaps in answer to a question on the subject, that there is a limitation to Christian liberty. He says, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient." As the liberty which they seemed to covet was a liberty in relation to the gratifications of bodily appetites, he takes occasion to state certain things in relation to the body. His remarks suggest to us the relation of Christianity to the human body. We observe—
I. THAT IT RECOGNIZES ATTENTION TO THE NATURAL NEEDS OF THE BODY AS PROPER. "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." This means the body has appetites, and there are provisions intended and fitted to satisfy them. Christianity allows man to partake of those provisions in nature necessary to satisfy and strengthen his physical nature. To act thus is to act in harmony with the constitution of nature. All animal existences act in this way. Christianity, instead of requiring you to starve the body by lastings, and to exhaust its energies by painful pilgrimages and self mortifications, says, "Eat and be satisfied, eat and be strong, take care of your bodies. If you choose to eat the meat offered to idols to allay your appetites and to invigorate your frames, well, eat it." Feeding the body, however, Christianity regards, though proper as very temporary; both the food and the body must perish. They are not like spiritual existences and spiritual supplies, that have regard to an immeasureable hereafter. "All flesh is grass."
II. THAT IT RECOGNIZES INDULGENCE IN THE GRATIFICATIONS OF THE BODY AS WRONG. "Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body." This is not a necessity of the body, like eating and drinking, but an immoral indulgence of its propensities. Man should attend to his bodily propensities as reliefs, not as gratifications. He who attends to his physical propensities in order to get pleasure out of them, sinks lower than a brute, violates the laws of his nature, degrades his being, and offends his God. Hence intemperance, whether in eating or drinking, is a moral outrage. The crime and curse of men in all ages have been seeking happiness out of the gastric, the sexual, and other propensities of their physical being.
III. THAT IT RECOGNIZES THE PROPER TREATMENT OF THE BODY AS IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST.
1. It is a property of Christ. It is "for the Lord; and the Lord for the body." It is not ours; we are its trustees, not its proprietors; we hold it "for the Lord," and we should use it according to his directions. It is his will that it should be used by the soul to convey from the external universe quickening and hallowing impressions of the Divine, and used to express and develop the holy thoughts and purposes which such impressions should produce. It is to let in God to the soul and to reveal God to our race.
2. It is a member of Christ. "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" If we are genuine Christians, he regards even our bodies as having a vital connection with him. He had a human body, and that human body raised to heaven is the model into which our bodies shall be changed. This being so, the prostitution of the body to sensual indulgence of any kind is an incongruity and an outrage. "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," etc.
3. It is a temple of Christ. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?" Christ, by his Spirit, claims the body as a temple, in which he is to dwell, be revealed and worshipped. It is his property. "Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." The language here is, of course, figurative. It does not mean that there was a strictly commercial transaction in the redemption of man, a literal quid pro quo, for the thing spoken of pertains to spiritual interests and relations, and not to commerce.
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Civil relations and Church membership; litigation before heathen courts.
The chapter opens abruptly. "Dare any of you"—a strong expression of disapproval—"having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust?" Judaism had taught the Jews not to go before Gentile judges with a lawsuit against their brethren; the Romans had accorded to the Jews the right to settle their disputes among themselves, and Christians at that time might avail themselves of this rule (Lunge). But St. Paul, true to his ruling method, views the matter from Christian ground and treats it solely on the principles of the gospel. The argument in the preceding chapter concerned social relations, the present argument applies to civil relations, and yet they are sympathetic in his mind. Emotion is an associative force, and often establishes or rather discloses connections of ideas not perceptible in the "dry light" of intellect. In both these arguments the underlying sentiment is the same, viz. the dignity of Christian character and the supremacy of its obligations over interest, custom, usage, and every form of self not compatible with the generous spirit of sacrifice "for Christ's sake." Bear in mind, then, in reading St. Paul's Epistles, that if at times you lose the compactness of logic and its tenacious unity, you are always sure to find that more interior tie which binds thought to sentiment and displaces order for the gain of a higher method. Method, rather than order, marks the thinker whose vocation is to instruct the mass of mankind. Saints, as saints exist in the ideal of Christianity, "shall judge the world." They are to rule with Christ, to share his glory, and be acknowledged by the universe as participants in the final triumph of his mediatorial authority. If so, the mediatorial honour in future prospect has a certain scope of present activity, since it could not be then unless it were now. Of the character of these functions and the circumstances incident to their display, what know we? They fall under that law of reserve which the Lord Jesus spoke of when he said, "Of the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power," we are kept ignorant, and are the better for the ignorance. Details of great facts may intensify the intellect of sense, and work damage to the higher mind. If Christ was the Son of man, and as such filled the sphere of humanity, while admitting as such the limitation of his knowledge in one direction, viz. "of that day and hour knoweth no man," surely we need not perplex ourselves as to specific theories bearing on this subject. Christianity lays the stress on intelligence rather than on information, and, in fact, assures us that restraint is essential in our condition to equable development. St. Paul argues from the future to the present; thus, "shall judge the world,… shall judge angels;" and the conclusion is emphasized,—"how much more things that pertain to this life!" On this ground of the spiritual superiority of the saints in Christ, he claims that the judgment of believers may now be most advantageously exercised. It is a training in the school of Christ, and the discipline, while varied, is adapted to the highest good. Does St. Paul mean to put earthly tribunals under the ban? By no means. Again and again he sought their protection against Jews and Gentiles, and, if Roman law had not befriended him, his apostleship as men reason would have had a speedy termination. Who was more explicit and earnest than he in urging the doctrine that human government was a Divine ordinance, and as such to be obeyed and honoured? And who among statesmen and philosophers ever saw as deeply into the nature and functions of sovereignty as an essential element of the idea of man in the scheme of the universe? In law, in its administration of justice, in its protection of persons and property, in its power to verify and conserve the multitudinous interests of society, he recognized the right arm of Providence. The sense of providence must be social no less than individual, must transcend geographical bounds, and embrace the human family as a family of "one blood," or it failed of its office. So, then, he has no issue with law and its adjudications as such. But the uses of the law by Christians; the common and facile resort to it in order to gratify covetousness, pride, ambition, revenge, and any and every form of selfishness;—that is the grave matter before his mind. "There is utterly a fault among you," a weakness, a repudiation of noble sentiment, a departure from the idea of the true self in Christ, "because ye go to law one with another" before unbelievers; brother arrayed against brother; and this exposure of a mutilated unity, with its accompanying evils, made in the presence of men whose criticisms would be only too eager to detect and magnify your imperfections. This is one aspect of the matter. But you gain your rights. Ay, and rights may be purchased too dearly. Go to law and get your rights; and then, as you retire from the seat of judgment, think of what you leave behind you—what losses of sentiment, trust in others, hope of humanity, brotherliness of heart, perchance even integrity and honour. Right and rights, how often they part company, and the one is the burlesque, the shame, the bitter contempt of the other! "Rather take wrong;" it is altogether a manlier thing, if done for Christ's sake. Lord Erskine, when at the bar, once said to Dr. Parr, "Accommodate the difference amicably.… I can scarcely figure to myself a situation in which a lawsuit is not, if possible, to be avoided." This is another aspect of the matter. Alas! there is an aspect yet sadder. Law is used as a means to inflict a wrong. "Ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren." What gigantic wrongs have been perpetrated under the name of law, we all know; but who can tell how far this spirit, which uses justice to accomplish injustice, has gone forth into all the relationships of men, and vitiated life among the sacred retreats of home and the Church? The depravity of man's lower nature is fearful, not because it is cruel and brutal, but because it is continually reinforced and invigorated by the depravity of his higher nature. What is true of the individual in this respect is true also of society. History and our own observation warrant the statement that the grossest perverters of law and justice have been found among those who were wealthy, or in high office, or otherwise influential. Their example, in very many instances, has worked downward, just as certain poisonous gases, too heavy to ascend, have infected the air on a level with us. Then follows a question containing its own answer: "Know ye not that the unjust shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" His impassioned formula, "Be not deceived," introduces a catalogue of immoralities that shut out men from God's kingdom, in which we have a startling revelation, common with St. Paul, of bodily sins. Such were some of you. But how different now!—washed, sanctified, justified, in the Name of Christ, and by the Spirit. Would they fall back into their heathenish practices? Within the compass of a few verses, St. Paul gives us principles that permeate civil society no less than religious. If carried out, we should have much less law and much more equity, and both law and equity would be immense gainers by the change. The tendency of the argument is the thing to notice. That tendency is to give men a true spiritual conception of themselves, and to develop their thought of self in accordance with God's thought of them. The sense of public justice may compel us to resort to law, but this will not conflict with St. Paul's idea. 'On the other hand, any abuse of an institution, whether governmental or domestic, whether ecclesiastical or earthly, is an abuse of manhood, and on this truth he expends the force of his reasoning. In these verses, as in the previous chapters, arguing, denouncing, exhorting, pleading,—it is the voice of a grand doctrine and a lofty trust and a sublime hope that we hear. And we hear it in the midst of strife and turbulence, out of the depths of a heart most sorrowful and yet "always rejoicing," and able to command itself and its faculties and resources whenever and wherever needed.—L.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The human body and its relation to Christ.
Among the objects about him proper for use and enjoyment—those objects which accorded with his nature and position as a redeemed man—was there anything from which he was excluded? "All things are lawful unto me," and, in this sense, liberty and law are identical, the measure of the one being the measure of the other. If law is of God, so is freedom; if the former is the expression of the Divine will and character, so is the latter; and if man is the image of Christ in law, so is he in freedom. Observe, then, that it is not law and liberty as existing in a perfect world that the apostle is considering, but as found in this mixed and disordered world, in which probation is going on to its eternal issues. Ideally "all things are lawful," and yet, because life is a discipline, how could it be otherwise than that liberty should be abridged? One of the main purposes of probation is to discipline the will, to choose for itself among a multitude of objects addressing our sensibilities. Scores of things appeal daily to our senses, and, if all our sensations are converted into desires, thence into motives, thence accepted by volition, and made a part of ourselves, then certainly this is not freedom for the ends of moral discipline, but freedom for simple and universal gratification. Freedom in St. Paul's view is not a final cause, it is a means; and he would have the Corinthian remember that one of their greatest obligations was to restrain this freedom. The freedom itself had a large range as to the objects allowed its use and enjoyment. Should it cover the whole area of activity? Nay, says the apostle, this would be bondage in another form. "I will not be brought under the power of any," for "all things are lawful unto me," which is to say, "all things are in my power," and I will exercise my power by imposing limitations on self indulgence. Of course, then, this restraint put on individual freedom is our own voluntary act. Such is the stress laid on personality that a man's Christian virtue must be specifically his own, and recognized by infallible signs as his own. Development is a common duty, self development segregates a man from his fellows that he may grow in a given way. Self denial is a common duty, but under this law of individuality in using our freedom, self denial assumes a variety of shapes, and becomes wonderfully potential in human affairs by the diversity it presents. In this view the self denial of A is no guide for B. The special form of your self denial may not commend itself to me, nay, it may be hurtful to me; and, assuredly, it will lose its virtue if I adopt it merely because it is yours. And hence the value of example in this respect is not to create a slavish imitation on the part of others, but to set forth the worth inherent in the spirit of self denial. If this principle, so boldly urged by St. Paul, had been faithfully adhered to, it would have saved the Church from many inconsistencies. Private opinion, while it is content to be such, may be over stringent, and yet do no great harm. But in many cases it exceeds the limits of individuality and takes shape as the tyranny of public opinion. Morbidness is rarely satisfied till it acquires notoriety before the eyes of men, and so it comes to pass that we have ecclesiastical agitation and legislation about many things—for instance, amusements—concerning which no exact standard can be set up foreverybody. If we could have an exact standard, it would not compensate for the loss of personal freedom, since this is precisely one of those matters in which self denial owes all its excellence to the restrictions that it imposes upon itself. St. Paul's emphatic "I" in this connection is the "I" of every redeemed man, and accordingly, as a universal prerogative, this exalted characteristic of individuality is most carefully guarded. And how is it guarded? To say nothing of what Christian freedom is in itself as delegated by God in Christ, and conditioned widely different from Adam's sovereignty in Eden; to say nothing of its original limitations by the Divine Law, and the fixed barriers over which it may not pass, and, if true to itself, cannot pass; what is this liberty but a glorious privilege to be made still more glorious by our own self enacted laws of restraint? It is a new limitation peculiar to man. It is a limitation which each man under the grace of the Spirit originates and executes in attestation of his own endowments as God's redeemed servant, It is sonship in its most beautiful and tender form—the "Abba, Father," which is not heard in the responses of the Church, nor in hymns of social worship, but is an utterance that rises to God in those hours when loneliness is a supreme joy. I have the power; I will not use it; I will deny myself its exercise, and I will do it because "all things are not expedient." What other eye save his own could penetrate those mysteries, from which he draws reasons and motives for particular acts of self denial? Mysteries, we say; for many an advanced believer yields in this phase of experience to half awakened instincts and undefined impulses. How can ministers of the gospel, how can Churches in their official capacity, get at the knowledge of what is wisest and best in those matters that belong to the very highest attributes of personality as the ground of individuality? "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." "Fully persuaded" he can never be unless he use his liberty untrammelled. If you dogmatize and legislate, the full persuasion cannot be the outcome of "his own mind." If God can trust him, why not you? The safeguard has been provided—it is expediency. And this sense of expediency or of fitness and propriety is a conservative and prudential force, which operates to check all excesses, and binds about the man the golden cestus of moderation. Expediency is never self willed and arbitrary. It presides over tastes and the minor moralities no less than over the more prominent virtues; nor does it trifle with trifles nor disdain the helps of look and tone and manner, but is cardinal to whatsoever reflects the man upon his associates. Keenly alive to discriminations, it educates us to know the best from the merely good, and, by its fine tact and subtle sagacity, goes on swift wing to the noblest objects. It considers, as though it were a part of itself, the welfare of others, and thus becomes a guarantee that a man's liberty shall not invade the rights of his fellow man. And remembering that "all things" are his only so far as he is Christ's, he realizes that it is "no more I that live, but Christ liveth in me." Then St. Paul proceeds to dwell on the sanctity of the human body—a favourite topic, on which he expends much thought. In the third chapter he had discussed it, and in subsequent passages, every one of them singularly clear and vivid, he recurs to this great topic. Here the leading idea is that our bodies "are the members" of Christ's body. "The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." And hence St. Paul, in his concrete method of thinking, refuses to separate, even in thought, body and soul, as they are connected with redemption, Matter and mind are perfectly unlike; they are known to us only by their infinite contrariety; and yet matter and mind meet and unite as body and soul, and the union is human nature. These two substances grow each in its own way, the natural union at birth becoming closer and yet closer as years progress, and the body subordinating itself more and more to the mind's service, in the mature man—the mechanic, the accountant, the artist, the poet, the philosopher—a vast advance has occurred in i he nearness and adaptability of the corporeity to the wants, demands, and aspirations of the spirit. If the providential idea in education and culture be fulfilled, the cooperative activity constantly increases, each forward step a step for both, and the law of development taking effect in mutuality of advantage. Still more fully is this fact brought out in Christian experience. St. Paul's figures on this subject stand for facts. Bodily appetites cease to be mere animal instincts. They are elevated and purified. If Christ was raised from the dead, so too our bodies shall be raised, for the companionship of mind and matter as soul and body is not a transient but an eternal fact. One may speak of being "here in the body pent" and of the "body of humiliation" (vile body), but the idea of body as an investiture of spirit and an auxiliary to its functions is a part of the original scheme of humanity, and will have its complete development in the future life. Little do we realize that the resurrection man is now in a process of training as to his corporeal form. This training is double—mental and material—and hence, while it is true that certain physical functions will expire and be known no more, yet the effects of their experience will survive in the soul itself. "A spiritual body" is assured us by Christianity and confirmed to us by Christ's resurrection; and, agreeably to this doctrine, the present growth of body into the mind's service, the tuition of the senses, the reduction of the nerves to the will, the command which is acquired over the lower organs, all indicate that the resurrection man of body and spirit is now in process of formation. If this is true; if the resurrection is not only a prospective glory but a realization now going on by means of the present ennoblement and sanctification of the human body; and, furthermore, if Christ's education of his own body to the offices he filled as Teacher, Miracle Worker, Philanthropist, Redeemer, etc., as to the spirit actuating him, an example to his followers;—then surely we have the weightiest of reasons for regarding the body as the "temple of the Holy Ghost." Greek philosophy had abused the truth that all creatures are for man, and that he is the measure of all things. Professing Christians had followed a carnal philosophy in the application of this truth. And now that St. Paul has rescued it from its perversions and set it in its proper light, he may well urge the conclusion, "Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Could anything more timely, more momentous, more significant of the aim of Christianity as it respected the social regeneration of mankind, have been said by St. Paul? The sin of the body; that one sin which surrenders the body to another and degrades it as nothing else can degrade; that sin of sins, which debauches the body where it ought to be purest, and sinks lowest that which should be highest;—could its wickedness be set forth in stronger language than when he speaks of the body as the tabernacle, in which not only the soul but the Holy Ghost dwells? "Which ye have of God," and therefore "not your own," but "bought with a price." And yet this redeemed possession, the purchase of Christ's blood, a member of his mystical body, a tabernacle of the Spirit, alienated, abused, prostituted to the most shameful and the most fatal of all vices. Of nothing is it so true as of this vice, that we become like that with which we associate. Association is assimilation, and, in this case, assimilation is the most dreadful form of desecration. These verses (18-20) contain, as has been suggested (Alford), the germ of the three weighty sections of the Epistle about to follow. And we do well to enter into their meaning and implore the grace of God to assist us, lest we fail to receive the profound impression sought to be made. It is useless to blink the fact that among Christian nations and in the nineteenth century this colossal vice of a desecrated human body is the Satanic citadel of iniquity. Take all the vices and sins on earth, aggregate them in one huge bulk, and the misfortunes, evils, catastrophes, tragic disasters, put together, would not outweigh the consequences morally and socially viewed of this enormity. Half of the man goes straight and quick into the hands of the devil, and the other half, unless God interpose, follows on in a fascination of blindness exceptional among illusions. God help us! For verily "vain," in this instance, "is the help of man." We need a much larger and bolder discussion of the religion of the human body; and if writers and preachers would study the art of doing this work, the Church and the world would be vast gainers. Any way, this is open to us all, viz. to lay a much greater stress than is commonly done on the dignity, worth, and glory of the human body as seen in the light of Christ's teaching. Full justice is not done this subject, not even approximative justice, and, therefore, no wonder the body is disparaged, vilified, tolerated by many as a nuisance, and immolated by thousands as a creature of appetite and lust. "Bought with a price," the blood of the Lord Jesus paid for it—a glorious thing to be bought and not too precious a ransom paid, and now sprinkled by that blood and hallowed by the indwelling Spirit. Oh what intenseness of soul should go into the pleading, "Glorify God in your body"!—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
Litigation; or, How shall Christians settle their differences and disputes?
Remarkable is the insight which this Epistle affords us into the interior life of a Church of the first age. We seem to be brought into the presence of remarkable virtues and of remarkable faults, and are impressed with the incongruity of the picture. One thing is certain, that human nature was then what it is now, and that Christianity offers the one Divine remedy for individual and for social ills.
I. IT IS TO BE EXPECTED THAT DIFFERENCES AND DISPUTES WILL ARISE WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES. The occasions are manifold; the conflict of interests and of opinions and of tastes will account for not a few. It is irrational to suppose that human nature can be at once transformed from the condition of the self indulgent pagan, for example, to the position of a mature and holy servant of God. There are to be found in the Church on earth persons occupying every point intermediate between these extremes; and among such "offences will come."
II. IT IS SCANDALOUS THAT SUCH DISPUTES SHOULD BE BROUGHT BEFORE A HEATHEN TRIBUNAL. The Greeks were an especially disputatious and litigious race. It was natural enough that those who in the days of their heathenism had been accustomed to refer their disputes to the judges of the city should still carry any differences that might arise into the same courts. But reflection, as the apostle urges, must have made manifest the unwisdom of such a proceeding. Christianity proclaimed itself a religion of peace and love; and its adherents spoke of one another as brothers; whilst it was known that the great Lord had enjoined the forgiveness of injuries, and had himself set an example of such forgiveness. It is clear that for Christians to go to law with one another before the tribunals of the heathen was to create a scandal, and to bring both the religion and its professors into contempt. The same reasonings apply wherever, in our own day, the powers that be are unchristian, and the followers of Jesus are but as leaven in the mass of heathenism.
III. EVERY CHRISTIAN SOCIETY CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF ELEMENTS CAPABLE OF DEALING WITH SUCH EMERGENCIES. According to the apostle's teaching, the "saints" shall be assessors with the Lord Christ in the judgment of the world and of angels; and those destined to fulfil functions so majestic may surely be entrusted with the settlement of trivial disputes. It is best if the two persons between whom a misunderstanding has arisen can compose their differences with no outside assistance; if this cannot be done, it is well to call in the aid of a Christian of calm, impartial character and of large experience, with a common agreement to accept his award without murmuring. There is surely a large opportunity for the exercise of the virtues of wisdom and justice in such directions as these. Much bickering and heart burning might be avoided were there a sincere and general desire to act upon the counsels of the apostle. The courts of justice, even in Christian countries, might thus be relieved of much of their business, to the advantage of the whole community.
IV. THE BEST PREVENTIVE OF QUARRELLING IS A DISPOSITION TO SUFFER INJURIES RATHER THAN TO RESENT OR EVEN TO REDRESS WRONG. There is something very startling and very grand in the apostle's sudden, unexpected questions, "Why not rather take wrong'? why not rather be defrauded?" These are "counsels of perfection." The alternative already suggested is good; but this is better far, however it be opposed to the inclinations of" the natural man." Christ has given us an example of suffering wrong. From the world we are bound, if it be so ordered, to accept with patience language of contumely or treatment of injustice. And it is suggested that, even amongst those who are fellow members of the same body, there may be mutual forbearance, there may be a patience amounting to magnanimity, a renunciation of rights which shall make it clear of how little importance are all those matters upon which it is possible for good men to differ.
"Learn how sublime a thing it is
To suffer, and be strong!"
1 Corinthians 6:11
Past, present, and future.
In the two preceding verses the apostle has described, in terse, plain terms, the awful vices to which the heathen inhabitants of Corinth were addicted. To his enlightened mind the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God were diametrically opposed; and the test by which Paul judged them was the test of moral character—a test which the reason and conscience cannot but approve. The apostle knew from what a slough some of his Corinthian converts had been delivered, and he points the contrast between the kingdom in their person and history.
I. A BLESSING AS RESPECTS THE PAST: THE CHRISTIAN IS WASHED FROM MORAL FOULNESS. The language of this passage must have gone home with power to some hearts: "Such were some of you!" They had indulged in sins of the flesh and of the spirit, in vices which were deemed pardonable, and in vices which were deemed vile, in transgressions against their own nature and against society. Some had been notorious and flagrant, others ordinary, offenders. But all had contracted moral defilement. And what had Christianity done for them? What has it done for all to whom it has come? It has purified them from their old sins. "Ye were washed." The lustration of baptismal waters was a symbol of the purification wrought in the spirit by the redemption of Christ, by the Holy Spirit of God.
II. A BLESSING AS RESPECTS THE PRESENT: THE CHRISTIAN IS RENEWED IN HOLINESS. Forgiveness and cleansing from impurity may justly be regarded as the means to an end; i.e. to hallowing or sanctification. This is the positive, to which the other is the negative, side. Set free from vice and crime, the subject of the Divine power of the cross comes under a new and inspiring influence. The Holy Spirit creates the nature afresh. No inferior power is adequate to produce a change so vast. It is a proof of the Divine origin and adaptation of Christianity that it attempts and achieves a task so superhuman. These moral miracles of sanctification constitute an evidence of Christianity which is to many minds the most conclusive of all.
III. A BLESSING AS RESPECTS THE FUTURE: THE CHRISTIAN IS JUSTIFIED FROM CONDEMNATION. The expression employed refers to the government of God and our relation to it. Justification is acquittal at the bar of the righteous Judge. By anticipation Scripture represents this acquittal as already pronounced in the case of those who have accepted the terms of salvation. For such the Name of Jesus Christ avails, and in such the Spirit of God graciously works. Justification is conferred now; but the full benefit of it will appear by contrast in the day of judgment.
1. The question is suggested to every hearer of the gospel—Could the apostle have used this language with reference to me? Are the signs of this mighty change manifest in my life?
2. The reflection is suggested to those who have experienced this moral transformation—How wonderful and how effectual is the grace of God! How vast is the debt of gratitude we owe to the Father who loved us, the Saviour who redeemed us, the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us!—T.
1 Corinthians 6:12-16
The sanctity of the body.
At Corinth idolatry assumed a most imposing, luxurious, and voluptuous form. It is quite in accordance with all we know of the opulent and pleasure loving inhabitants of and visitors to "the star of Hellas," that those controversies and scandals which are dealt with so fully in this chapter should arise in a Christian society planted by the apostle at Corinth. It should be more especially noticed that there is a sufficient reason for the remarkable fact that sexual matters should be treated more fully in this Epistle than in any other part of the New Testament. The apostle in this passage demolishes the sophistical arguments and excuses by which certain professed Christians at Corinth were disposed to defend the practice of fornication. It was said that matters relating to the bodily life were indifferent to the moral welfare of men, that as an enlightened man will eat this food or that, irrespectively of any superstitious prejudices, inasmuch as food and the digestive system are naturally in corelation with each other, so he will satisfy the sensual appetites of his body in whatever way may be convenient and agreeable to him. Against this doctrine of devils Paul here argues, not on grounds of asceticism, but on grounds which must be conceded as secure by the moral and especially by the Christian thinker.
I. THE GROUNDS UPON WHICH CHRISTIANITY ESTABLISHES THE SANCTITY OF THE BODY. As here presented, they may appear to some readers to be mystical, but in fact they are in harmony both with the facts of human nature and with the great doctrines of the New Testament.
1. The Lord Christ and the body of man are "for" each other. In his incarnation Christ has assumed the human body, in his ministry he has honoured it, in his death he has redeemed it. Not the soul only, but the body, is God's creation, and the object of Christ's regard, and partaker of the benefits of his mediation. As the Lord is for the body, so is the body for the Lord.
2. More particularly, the bodies of Christians are members of Christ. The ransomed and renewed humanity is one glorious whole, one Divine organism, the Lord Jesus being himself the authoritative Head. If the Head, the informing Spirit, is holy, must not also the subordinate members be also pure and consecrated?
3. Christ having been raised from the dead, it is appointed that the body of every follower and friend of Christ shall share in this resuscitation and exaltation. In what way this shall take place is immaterial to the argument. The spiritual renewal is the earnest of the high and immortal resurrection of the whole man. These things being so, the body of the Christian standing in relation so intimate to the glorious and holy Mediator and Lord,—is there any consistency between such a connection with the King of saints and a life of filthy sensuality? The incompatibility is apparent and undeniable.
II. THE PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES WHICH FOLLOW UPON THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF THE BODY. These are broadly distinguished into two classes.
1. Food is a matter of indifference. Many weak Christians laid great stress upon clean and unclean food; some objected to eat what had been or might have been offered to idols. Now, the apostle claims all this as a province of Christian liberty. Diet was a matter "without" the body. All things were lawful. Those who ate and those who refrained from eating were forbidden to despise one another; for both alike were called upon to act in this matter "as unto the Lord."
2. Impurity is absolutely forbidden. There is a vital difference between the satisfaction of hunger and the gratification of the sexual appetite. This latter is only permissible within the boundaries of holy matrimony. Fornication is an abuse of the body, a defilement of Christ's members, an insult to the Lord himself, whose property it not only takes by theft from him, but hands over to a harlot. This is very plain speaking on the part of the apostle. But it is just; and if it was necessary in those days, it is equally necessary now. Physiology is often invoked to sanction vice; but it is well to listen to the nobler and purer counsels of the apostles, which are not more in harmony with the loftiest ethics than they are with the soundest conclusions of physical and of social science.—T.
1 Corinthians 6:17
Christ and his people are one.
It was the wont of the apostle to associate the commonest duties of life with the highest motives drawn from spiritual realities and relations, in dissuading from the sin of impurity, he might have adduced considerations drawn from physical laws or from social conditions; but it is more in harmony with his convictions and habits to appeal to the loftiest principles of the Christian religion.
I. THE BOND WHICH UNITES CHRISTIANS TO THEIR LORD. It is a personal relation which is here asserted, and evidently not one of mere external association, but of vital and spiritual union.
1. It is a bond of faith. "Whom not having seen," etc. Christians receive with cordiality the gospel concerning Christ; they receive Christ himself to dwell in their hearts by faith.
2. It is a bond of love. They are joined to him as the bride to the bridegroom, in a spiritual affection, in love "stronger than death."
3. It is a bond of affinity. Drawn to Jesus as sinners to the Saviour, they remain with him as friends congenial in character, in disposition, and in aims.
II. THE CONSEQUENT UNITY BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND THEIR LORD. They are "one spirit."
1. They are in a spirit of subjection to the Father, whose will and law are authoritative and supreme.
2. They are one in the love of all that is holy and morally admirable. The sympathy that exists is sympathy with regard to matters of the highest moment, with regard to the principles that animate and the aims that dignify the moral life.
3. They are one in the bonds of an immortal fellowship. Christ's prayer for his people was, "That they may be with me where I am"—a prayer which the Father is graciously and constantly answering.
III. THE PRACTICAL PROOFS OF THIS UNITY.
1. A repugnance on the part of Christians to all which is repugnant to their Lord; as e.g. those vices to which allusion is made in the context, practised by the heathen, but hateful to those who name the Name of Christ.
2. A cultivation of the spirit of brotherly love. The "one spirit" must needs be a spirit of true love, linking together the members of the mystical body of Christ, and disposing them to a sympathetic and harmonious action.—T.
1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20
A purchased possession.
Every noble character and life is based upon self renunciation. A man, in order to make his mark upon the world, must lose himself in some great cause, that e.g. of his country, of science, of art, of humanity. Is there an all absorbing aim in which men generally may justly lose themselves? If there be, it must be the highest, all comprehending, perfectly and lastingly satisfactory. Christians have found this secret: they live to God in Christ. They are not their own, for they are bought, they are owned by the Son of God.
I. THE STATE OF BONDAGE FROM WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE RANSOMED.
1. There was a time, a state, in which they thought themselves "their own." They followed their own desires and went their own way.
2. But in reality they were in bondage—to the Law and its sentence of condemnation; to sin and its cruel fetters; to Satan and his wretched service.
3. The power of evil then fostered the delusion of liberty, flattered pride and fostered selfishness, all the while drawing tighter and tighter the chains of spiritual bondage.
II. THE LIBERATOR TO WHOM CHRISTIANS ARE INDEBTED FOR THEIR REDEMPTION. They were ransomed:
1. By One whose laws and service had been forsaken and despised.
2. By One without whose help bondage would have been eternal.
3. By One upon whom we sinful men had no claim based upon right and justice.
4. By One whose heart was moved with pity by the sad spectacle of our slavery.
5. By One who graciously resolved to do and to suffer all that might be involved in the work of our deliverance.
III. THE COST AT WHICH CHRISTIANS WERE RANSOMED FROM SLAVERY AND PURCHASED AS THE FREE BONDMEN OF GOD.
1. It was a price which no mere man could by any possibility have paid.
2. It was a price which could not be reckoned and estimated in any earthly or human equivalent.
3. It was a price in order to pay which it was necessary that the Son of God should become incarnate, and empty himself of his glory.
4. It was a price which consisted in "the precious blood of Christ."
IV. THE OBLIGATIONS WHICH THIS PURCHASE AND REDEMPTION LAY UPON CHRISTIANS. These may be regarded in two aspects.
1. Negatively. "Ye are not your own." Your heart is not your own, but Christ's; your thoughts are not your own, but his who liveth in you; your time is not your own, but is redeemed for the Redeemer; your abilities and influence are not your own, but are to be consecrated to him to whom you owe both them and the bias which has been given them; your property is not your own, but his who claims your all.
2. Positively. "Glorify God therefore." The praise is due to him who in his own mind conceived the purpose of redemption. The service is due to him whom to love is of necessity to serve. All the faculties of our nature and all the opportunities of our life may well be laid, as a consecrated offering, upon the altar of God, whose we are, not only by right of creation, but by right of grace and redemption, whose we are by every tie, and whom we are bound to serve as the best expression of our gratitude and the best exercise of our liberty.—T.
1 Corinthians 6:20
"The heavens declare the glory of God." Hosts of angelic and glorified spirits give "glory, honour, and thanksgiving unto him." "All nations whom he hath made shall come and glorify his Name."
"And shall man alone be dumb
Till this glorious kingdom come?
No! the Church delights to raise
Psalms and hymns and songs of praise."
I. ON WHAT GROUNDS SHOULD CHRISTIANS GLORIFY GOD? This is a reasonable service, a reasonable requirement.
1. God has a natural right over us, i.e. by his creative power and providential care. "Man's chief end," says a famous Catechism, "is to glorify God."
2. Redemption is the great reason adduced why Christians should glorify God. This is the doctrine of the context. The claim of purchase is added to the claim of creation.
II. FROM WHAT MOTIVES SHOULD CHRISTIANS GLORIFY GOD?
1. From a remembrance of the danger and ruin consequent upon any other end in life. Exemplified in Scripture history, as in the instance of Belshazzar, to whom it was said, "The God, etc., hast thou not glorified," and in the instance of Herod, who "gave not God the glory."
2. From a grateful acknowledgment of the love and grace to which they are indebted for their redemption. The ransom and redemption do indeed avail for all men; but multitudes are insensible to the loving kindness of the Lord. They who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good are prompted by their experience to yield themselves to the service of their Saviour.
3. From a desire to secure their own highest happiness. They have learned how every other principle of life fails to yield a deep and lasting satisfaction; and now they are learning, by happy experience, how truly blessed is the life which is unto the Lord of love and glory. This is exemplified in the history of this very Apostle Paul.
4. From a delight in the Divine commands. It is an invitation, bat it is also a behest: "Glorify God." And nothing is so congenial to the Christian as what is enjoined upon him by his Lord's authority.
III. IS WHAT MANNER MAY CHRISTIANS GLORIFY GOD?
1. By praise, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me." "Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Public, cordial, unceasing praises should ascend from every company of the redeemed.
2. By obedience and service; and that not only of spirit, as is presumed, but of body, as is here expressed. The occasion of this chapter, the prevalence of sensual sin, seems to give an especially appositeness and force to this admonition, "Glorify God in your body." That which had been the instrument of unrighteousness and uncleanness, becomes, through the redemption of Christ, the instrument of obedience and holiness.—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
Christians and the law courts.
How far are Paul's exhortations applicable to believers in the present day? Amongst the ancients, laws were often unjust, judges venal, and frequently certain objectionable formalities, such as adjuration by false deities, had to be observed. In our own land and time these things happily are not as of old. Yet even amongst us there are laws tainted with injustice, and there is not a little in our modes of legal procedure which is objectionable. Legal proceedings are sometimes necessary. Paul appealed to Caesar. And our duty to society may render it incumbent upon us not to allow an evil doer to escape. Nevertheless litigation between professing Christians—
I. OFTEN PRESENTS A MELANCHOLY SPECTACLE.
1. The principals frequently receive injury.—Not in pocket only; and in this respect he who gains the suit is generally little better off than he who loses. But morally and spiritually. Anger is excited, and ill feeling, if not positive hatred, towards the opponent. There is the direst temptation to take every possible advantage. The legal atmosphere is largely of the earth, earthy, and does not engender the state of mind needful for the beautiful but very heart searching petition, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." The prayer, "Lead us not into temptation," may indeed be offered, for the man who loves legal contests requires no leading into temptation, since he runs into it headlong of his own accord.
2. Brings scandal upon the Church. Both as
(1) to its lack of wise men capable of forming a true judgment;
(2) to the real condition of its members.
The world judges all by those it sees. Irritated, if not vengeful, litigants will be taken as samples fairly representing the "Church of the redeemed." Thus:
3. Christianity itself becomes lowered in the estimation of men. To them it will seem as though the religion of peace, forbearance, unity, and love had failed at its very headquarters. So:
4. A great in fury is done to the world. By prejudicing it against the truth whereby alone it can be saved. Faulty Christian conduct drives men away from Christianity itself. Professors of religion have made ninny atheists.
II. MUCH LITIGATION MIGHT BE AVOIDED BY:
1. Desiring only the right. Men who want their due and a little more rush to the courts. Many who think themselves very just are very unjust in their desires. It is very easy to become unjust almost unconsciously. If men would only judge their own cause justly there would often be an end of the dispute. It is astonishing how many men fail in forming a fair estimate of their own claims: there seems an almost invincible tendency to exaggeration. We should sternly educate ourselves in principles of justice. We should judge cur own cause impartially, as though it were not our own.
2. Being content oftentimes to take less than our due. The law promises to us all that we can claim, but we should not always seek all that we can claim. A spirit of sacrifice is not unchristian. "Suffering wrongfully" is not altogether deprecated in Holy Writ. Even if we are smitten on the cheek, our Master does not counsel to instantly cast our assailant into prison, and to keep him there until he has paid the last farthing of damages. Forgiveness, disposition to pass by injury, the most charitable view of an opponent's motives and conduct,—these things are "of Christ."
3. Not making great matters of little. If theoretically we deem ourselves justified in going to taw, we may well ask ourselves the question—Is the matter in dispute worth disputing, and worth causing the evils likely to arise therefrom?
4. Remembrance of our relationship. "All ye are brethren." If Christians, we are trying to do the same work, to follow the same Lord, to serve the same God, to reach the same home. Is the contemplated litigation consistent with this relationship, and is it likely to promote "brotherly love"? And here we must avoid becoming prejudiced against our opponent. Opposing us, being on the other side, often makes all the difference. If on our side, a man is evidently a Christian, consistent, a credit to the community; but if against us, he is very apt to be everything objectionable. So some have a very easy conscience in going to law against a brother, because before doing so they have mentally ejected him from the brotherhood on account of his numerous delinquencies.
5. Submitting the matter in dispute to the arbitration of Christian brethren. Earnestly does the apostle recommend this course. He seeks to arouse the spiritually dormant Corinthians by the sarcastic supposition that, with all their boasted wisdom, they have not a man sufficiently wise to arbitrate in a case of dispute between two brethren. He unfolds a startling truth respecting believers, viz. that hereafter they shall judge
(1) the world (verse2);
(2) angels (verse3).
This declaration has much mystery attaching to it, but it accords with Christ's promise to his disciples, that they should sit upon twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28; see also Revelation 3:21). And Jude tells us (Jude 1:6) that fallen angels are reserved for future judgment. We get thus a glimpse of the future exaltation of the redeemed. Having shared in the shame of Christ, they will share in his glory and power. He is the great Judge, but they will be identified with him in judgment. "I in them, and they in me." As the Law on Sinai was ordained by means of angels, so the saints shall administer the kingdom of their Lord.
(1) If believers are to exercise such exalted functions hereafter, they should on earth be able to judge many of the causes of their brethren, and to do so with fairness and impartiality. Some are shy of arbitration, because sometimes it has had very little justice in it.
(2) In thus administering justice below, believers are preparing themselves for the duties of the life to come. Such work should not be slighted; it is in the highest degree educational. It should be performed with all possible care. Injustice done to others is always injury done to ourselves.—H.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Our inheritance in peril
I. WHAT OUR INHERITANCE IS. "The kingdom of God:" present, but chiefly future. Of which Peter speaks (2 Peter 3:13), "We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Heaven, and the heavenly life, and the heavenly joys; the "rest that remaineth for the people of God;" the nightless, sinless, curseless, painless land; the "many mansions" of the Father's house; the eternal home, where we "shall see his face." This inheritance is in a certain sense the inheritance of all, since Christ died for the sins of the world. The gospel invitation is addressed to all. We disinherit ourselves.
II. SINS WHICH HINDER US FROM INHERITING THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
1. Sins of sensuality. Brutal lusts; unholy indulgence. Amongst the ancients (and also amongst the moderns too) vices existed which must not be so much as named amongst the decent and pure.
2. Idolatry. If we serve false gods, how can we expect a reward from the true God? Some have keen eyes for injuries done to men; idolatry is a preeminent sin against God. And we may be thorough idolaters whilst we are professed Christians. What is that which occupies the throne of our heart and of our life? Is it an idol or is it God?
3. Theft, covetousness, extortion. These may be grouped together. They do not seem so heinous as the foregoing, but they are associated with them—and through them, equally with the others, may the inheritance be lost. Such sin shows that our heart is not right either towards man or God. And the three are much upon a par. Yet many a man would be horrified at the thought of being a thief who is not at all horrified at being undoubtedly covetous and extortionate. How names betray us! Why, what is covetousness but theft in the bud? And extortion is theft—unmitigated theft—in the blossom! Many a man steals mentally, and is as guilty as if he stole actually; for nothing but the restraints of society and the dock keep his hands still. And he passes for an honest man! Many a theft is committed in a court of justice before the very eyes of judge and jury, and sometimes with the assistance of a bewigged counsel; for example, when a man is striving to get more than his due.
4. Drunkenness. This curse of our land—what men lose by it! Health, respect, friends, position, home, wealth—and the kingdom of God.
5. Foul language. Reviling, railing, sins of the tongue. Foul lips which speak of a foul heart, for the sweet fountain sends not forth bitter waters. Sins such as these entail the forfeiture of the great inheritance. Plainly are we here taught that a nominal faith can never save us. All the profession in the world cannot carry us an inch towards the promised land. It is the old pagan notion that religion consists in outward observances and not in heart and life.
III. THESE HINDRANCES MAY BE REMOVED. Here is consolation for great sinners—and who are small ones? When a man is deeply convinced of sin he is often tempted to despair. Can I, the unclean, the immoral, the foul mouthed, the foul hearted, enter into the kingdom of ineffable holiness? It seems impossible. But after detailing some of the vilest acts of which humanity can be guilty, the apostle turns upon the Corinthians and says, "And such were some of you." Of greatest sinners God has sometimes made greatest saints. If the heart be contrite, there is no cause for the abandonment of hope. The barriers which are insuperable to man can be cast down by the might of God. In our sin we need look to God, for none besides can aid us. Our sickness is beyond all skill save that of the great Physician.
IV. THE MANNER OF REMOVAL. The apostle speaks of "washing"—the great need of the defiled—and then directs attention to its twofold character. That the impure may enter into the all pure kingdom of God, two things are necessary.
1. Justification—which we receive through Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). He took our place; he bore our sins; he made atonement for us. Our sins are imputed to him; his righteousness is imputed to us. Through him God can be just and yet the Justifier of the ungodly. "With his stripes we are healed; The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7); he is able to save "to the uttermost;" "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).
2. Sanctification—which we receive through the operation of "the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11), the Holy Ghost. Justification is that which is done for us; sanctification is that which is done in us. Yet one is not without the other. By the Divine Spirit we become "born again," "born of the Spirit," made pure inwardly; our affections purged, our desires corrected, our spiritual being controlled and purified (see John 3:3).
V. A CAUTION IMPLIED. "And such were some of you." Are ye becoming so again? We need beware of "going back" to those things which once barred our access to the kingdom of God, and which will do so again if indulged in. Our great inheritance may be lost after all! It will be, unless we "endure to the end." How earnest anxious, prayerful, watchful should we be lest we "come short"! There is One who is "able to keep us from falling" (Jude 1:24). "Cleave unto the Lord your God" (Joshua 23:8).—H.
1 Corinthians 6:12
The lawful and the expedient.
I. IT IS IMPORTANT TO ASCERTAIN WHAT IS LAWFUL FOR US IN LIFE. All things indifferent (i.e. not evil in themselves) are lawful for the Christian. He has the widest liberty. He is not under the restriction of the older economy. To him "every creature of God is good" (1 Timothy 4:4), and to be received with thanksgiving. The Christian must abide within the limits of the lawful. Nothing that seems expedient outside of the lawful must be touched by him. He is under the rule of righteousness, and must not allow himself in aught that is unrighteous. Note: Nothing is really expedient outside of the limits of the lawful, but many things may appear to be so.
II. BUT ANOTHER QUESTION HAS TO BE ANSWERED BEFORE CONDUCT CAN BE DETERMINED, VIZ.—WHAT IS EXPEDIENT WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THE LAWFUL? The Christian must not use his liberty indiscriminately; he must consider probable results. The end does not justify the means, but the end often determines whether means (justifiable in themselves) shall be used or not. Means, good enough in themselves, may under certain conditions lead to most undesirable ends; those ends foreseen determine for the believer that those means shall not be employed. The Christian has to select the truly expedient out of the truly lawful. It has been well said, "Unlawful things ruin thousands, lawful things (unlawfully used) ten thousands." And also, "Nowhere does the devil build his little chapels more cunningly than right by the side of the temple of Christian liberty." A Christian, before availing himself of his liberty, had need ask such questions as the following:—
1. What will be the effect upon myself? Shall I be made less spiritual, less useful, less pleasing to God? All that we do we do more or less "unto ourselves." We mould ourselves very largely by what we allow to ourselves.
2. What will be the effect upon my liberty! Liberty may commit suicide. Undue indulgence of liberty results in slavery. Paul was intensely anxious "not to be brought under the power of any;" even lawful, thing. It is of the greatest importance to the moral health and needful freedom of the soul that it should not be in subjection to any appetite or desire, however innocent.
3. What will be the effect upon my fellows? Will it aid or hinder them? "No man liveth unto himself." Every man is "a man of influence." Innocent things to us may be by no means innocent things to others. By example we may lead men to destruction, whilst we withal escape. "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth" (1 Corinthians 8:13).
4. How will my conduct appear to God? Is this that I propose to do, not only good in itself, but the best thing for me to do at this time? Whatever the Christian does, he is to do to the glory of God, even in matters of eating and drinking. Can I do this to the glory of God? The familiar question, "Is it wrong to do this or to go thither?" is often both misleading and utterly irrelevant. The answer to the question may be "No." Then the fallacious reasoning follows, "If it is not wrong, I may do it without sin." Stop! that is unsound logic. The thing thoroughly right may be unutterably wrong! "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient," and the Christian is bound by every obligation to do that which is expedient within the realms of the lawful. He must do what is best; to do aught else is to sin. What he ought to do, and what he may do lawfully, are often two very different things. "Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20).—H.
1 Corinthians 6:13-19
Duties to the body.
Christianity concerns itself about man's body as well as about man's soul. Christianity is a religion for man—for a whole man. When considering matters of religion, we are apt to leave the body too much out of account. Our remissness might be corrected if we remembered how large an influence the body has upon the mind and soul.
I. CONSIDER WHAT CHRISTIANITY SAYS ABOUT THE BODY. It is:
1. For the Lord.
(1) For his service and glory. We may serve Christ with our body. We may glorify God with our body (1 Corinthians 6:20). With our whole being we should serve the Lord. Our body should be "set apart" for God. How much more useful many would be if they did but cultivate physical health! Their uncared for bodies become grievous burdens and woeful hindrances. Disorder in the body is contagious, and often spreads to mind and soul. Athletics, rightly ordered, lie within the realm of religion. The man who, not neglecting other duties, seeks to make his body thoroughly strong and vigorous, is more pious, not less. With others, diseases the fruits of old sins, abide and greatly check them in active service for God.
(2) The body of the Christian is a member of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15). Closely united to the great Head. He took our nature—not only our spiritual and mental nature, but our bodily nature. We are one with him in our whole being.
(3) Purchased by Christ. When he redeemed man he redeemed man in his entirety. Our bodies have a part in "the great salvation." And at what a price was the purchase made!
2. A temple of the Holy Ghost. Solemn thought! How true—yet how often forgotten! Whilst in the body, God dwells in us. The body is the outer framework of the sanctuary of the Divine Spirit. It is thus consecrated for a high, holy, and sacred purpose. It is God's possession and dwelling place, like the temple of old. Thus:
3. It is not our own. Then we must not deaf with it as though it were. It has been bought by Christ, and should be freely and fully surrendered to him. When we give him our heart we should give him our body also. Many forget to do this.
4. Cared for by God. "The Lord is for the body." He preserves, feeds, clothes, shelters, guards it. How soon it would perish if uncared for by him!
5. To be raised. The resurrection of the body is a cardinal doctrine of Christianity, and insisted upon at great length by the apostle in the fifteenth chapter of this Epistle. We are but too apt to ignore this, and practically to conclude that at death we shall part with the body forever. We think it worthless, but God does not. He will raise it in a glorified form. Its present constitution will be greatly changed, as the apostle intimates in 1 Corinthians 6:13. The time will come when the body will not be sustained, as it now is, by meats. It will be a "glorious body" (Philippians 3:21), a "spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44).
II. THESE TRUTHS RESPECTING THE BODY SHOULD:
1. Greatly ennoble it in our estimation. It is not to be thought lightly of or treated with contempt. Ancient philosophy taught hatred of the body, but ancient philosophy is not Christianity. We must not despise the body; this is a dire mistake often perpetrated. The body has a great part to play both here and hereafter. It has been an occasion of sin—often is a burden; but it is in the hands of God, and he will fully redeem and glorify it. It is his workmanship, thrown much out of gear by evil; but he shall rectify its defects, and make it "meet for the inheritance."
2. Lead us to use it most carefully. Being precious in God's sight, purchased by Christ, tenanted by the Divine Spirit,—shall we deal with it as though it were a common thing? There is one sin mentioned by the apostle which injures the body grievously, and utterly outrages the Divine intent concerning it. Let us guard carefully against this and kindred evils; terrible will be the punishment of those who defile the temple of the Holy Ghost, and who prostitute to base uses the "members of Christ. Pure body, pure mind, pure soul;—may this trinity of blessings be ours!—H.
HOMILIES BY E. BREMNER
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
On going to law.
Among other evils at Corinth calling for correction, a litigious spirit had begun to show itself, fostered doubtless by the unpleasant friction of parties. Brother went to law with brother before the heathen tribunals, and the Christian name was thereby brought into ill repute. For this the apostle rebukes them, and assigns weighty reasons why they should settle their disputes otherwise.
I. THE JUDICIAL FUNCTION OF THE SAINTS. All judgment has been committed to Christ (John 5:22), and in the exercise of this function his saints are associated with him. Suffering with him here, they shall reign with him hereafter (2 Timothy 2:12), a kingdom being given to them (Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28); and when he comes again he will be accompanied by them in glory (Jud 1 Corinthians 1:14, 1 Corinthians 1:15). In this capacity they shall judge, not only mankind, but also the angels. Whether the apostle has in view good angels or bad, it is not essential to inquire; the point is that the judicial dignity of the saints is so great that they shall sit in judgment even on angelic beings. How wonderful an honour! Meantime we share in the humiliation of our Lord. The saints are not exalted to the judgment seats of the earth. They walk here as kings in disguise, unknown by a world that lets itself be governed by the prince of darkness. Even now they exercise a judging influence, their holy lives condemning the ungodly around them; but the full manifestation of their judicial function is reserved for the time when Jesus comes in power. Oh, it will be a bright day for this world when holiness is exalted to the throne and all the evil of earth and hell is summoned to its bar, when the moral confusion meantime prevailing shall give place to the fair order of the reign of righteousness! What manner of persons ought they to be who are appointed to judge the universe of men and angels?
II. THE RIGHT SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES BETWEEN CHRISTIANS.
1. Do not take them to a heathen court. To seek redress from unbelievers is an offence against Christian dignity. If the saints are to judge the world, why go to this same world for judgment? These pagan magistrates shall yet stand at your bar; why demean yourselves by standing at theirs? The question comes, how far this rule is binding upon us. Are we forbidden in every case to go to law with a brother? Looking strictly at the case of a quarrel between two Christians, the spirit of the apostolic rule is certainly of permanent obligation. While our courts of law are free from many of the objectionable features of heathen tribunals, they are not so thoroughly Christian as to justify believers in appealing to them, especially when redress may be had otherwise. And it is as unseemly for brother to sue brother at law as for members of the same family. Paul's appeal to Caesar cannot be cited against his prohibtion here; for it was not a going to law at his own instance, but an appeal from one court to another where justice was more likely to be done.
2. Refer them to Christian arbitration. If the saints are to judge the world and angels, surely they are capable of deciding in matters pertaining to this life. Refer the quarrel to some wise Christian brother possessing the confidence of both parties, and let him judge. Arbitration has much to recommend it, even in matters purely civil; and in the case supposed, it tends to promote brotherly kindness, while securing the ends of equity. This does not warrant any judicial interference of the Church in matters properly belonging to the state. She is not to be "a judge or a divider" in secular affairs (Luke 12:14). It is in disputes arising between her own members that she is to adopt this method of friendly settlement.
III. THE AVOIDANCE OF DISPUTES. If quarrels between Christians arise, let them be settled as directed; but why should they arise? "Why not rather take wrong? why not rather be defrauded?" This is the spirit of our Lord's teaching (Matthew 5:38-40), which goes to the root of the evil. Instead of insisting on your legal pound of flesh, it is better to suffer yourselves to be wronged. This is the sublime unselfishness of Christianity. Unworkable? On this principle Jesus acted (1 Peter 2:23), and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:12); and in proportion as it pervades society will wrong doing cease. There is something higher than mere rights, something diviner than legal justice; it is to "endure griefs, suffering wrongfully," in the spirit of him who won his triumph by the cross. Thus willing to suffer injustice, while careful to do no wrong, disputes will be avoided.—B.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Before and after: two pictures.
The apostle reminds them that wrong doing of every kind excludes from the kingdom of God, and that consequently their quarrels and litigation are bringing them into danger. They are forgetting the meaning of their conversion.
I. OUR ORIGINAL CONDITION. Though this dark picture is meant to represent sinners at Corinth, its general features are universally applicable.
1. Sin is various, yet one. The branches are many, but they grow out of the same root. "For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders," etc. (Matthew 15:19). They are all "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21), conceived in the heart and brought forth in the life. Some are sins directly against God; some against our neighbour's person, estate, good name; some against ourselves. Let us not excuse ourselves by looking on another's sin, and thanking God we are free from that. In some other form it besets us, and "Whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all" (James 2:10, James 2:11). How awful a thing is sin! Let it work its way, and it will utterly corrupt soul and body, the family and society. Every man has in him by nature the seed whence these fruits of Sodom grow.
2. The practice of sin excludes from the kingdom of God. Between such sins and the kingdom there is an absolute contradiction. The kingdom is righteousness (Romans 14:17), and these are forms of unrighteousness. Religion and morality, faith and works, creed and conduct, go together. "Regenerate thieves! regenerate libertines! regenerate extortioners! There is a horrible contradiction in the very thought" (F. W. Robertson). Let us guard against deception here. No amount of outward observance can atone for an immoral life. "Without are the dogs" (Revelation 22:15).
II. OUR CHANGED CONDITION, At conversion all this is changed. We become new creatures, the old things passing away (2 Corinthians 5:17). Three aspects of this change are mentioned.
1. Washing. Sin is pollution, and from this we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), "Through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). This is set forth in baptism, and it was a prominent idea in the Old Testament ritual (Exodus 40:30-32; Psalms 51:7).
2. Sanctification. Devoted to sin once, we arc now consecrated to God. We are separated from the world and devoted to the service of Christ.
3. Justification. The guilt of sin is removed, and we are accepted as righteous in Christ on the ground of what he has done for us. And this many sided blessing of salvation is procured for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, and applied to us by the Spirit of our God.
Compare these two pictures and:
1. Ask which of them represents you. Have you been washed, sanctified, justified? Is there a "but" in your spiritual history, dividing the new from the old?
2. Learn your indebtedness to saving grace, and be humble and grateful.
3. Have done with sin in every form. It is a return to the condition from which you have been delivered. "Put off the old man with his doings."—B.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Abuse of Christian liberty.
It appears that the principle of Christian liberty, "All things are lawful for me," had been greatly abused by some in the Church at Corinth. It was cited in defence of fornication, as well as of eating all kinds of meats. They confounded it with the philosophical maxim that man is the measure for himself; from which they drew the conclusion that the sexual appetite may be gratified in the same indiscriminate way as that of hunger. This pernicious abuse the apostle corrects, first by setting the doctrine of Christian freedom in its true light, and then by presenting a variety of arguments against the sin of fornication.
I. CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, ITS GROUNDS AND LIMITS, "All things are lawful for me." Under. the old dispensation there was curtailment of freedom in respect of meats and drinks and days; but this is now removed. In Jesus Christ the believer is restored to dominion over the creatures, all things being put under his feet (Psalms 8:6; Hebrews 2:7-9). "All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:22). The world and its contents exist for the sons of God, to subserve their welfare. But this large freedom has obvious limitations.
1. The limit of expediency. Many things in our power may not be for our good, either in themselves or because of special circumstances. This is true of foods, and of many forms of work and pleasure lawful in themselves. Here, too, the good of others comes into view as a limiting consideration. The exercise of my liberty must be tempered by a regard to the welfare of my brother (1 Corinthians 8:13). Apply this to certain forms of amusement, the use of wine, etc.
2. The limit imposed by the duty of preserving our liberty. "I will not be brought under the power of any." "Every creature of God is good" (1 Timothy 4:4), but only when used as a servant. We must not suffer ourselves to be brought into bondage to anything. Music, e.g., is a legitimate and healthful enjoyment, but I must not become its slave.
II. THE SIN OF FORNICATION.
1. Fornication is not warranted by the analogy of meats. "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." The one has been created for the other. The stomach demands food, and all kinds of food have been made for the stomach; hence it is lawful to eat whatever is good for us. But there is no similar adaptation between the body and sensuality. The one was not made for the other. Again, both the belly and its food belong to a transitory condition of things. Both shall be brought to nought when this present world age is completed, and the natural body becomes the spiritual body. But the body shall not thus perish; it has an eternal destiny. In both these respects, therefore, the analogy fails; and fornication cannot be defended as a case of nature.
2. It takes away from Christ that which belongs to him. The Christian's body is the Lord's.
(1) It exists for him, and he for it. The relation is mutual. Christ redeems, sustains, rules, and glorifies the body; the body is subject to him for his service.
(2) It is a "member of Christ" (1 Corinthians 6:15). Our bodies are essential parts of ourselves, and as such belong to Christ's body (Ephesians 5:30). The same Spirit dwells in him and in us (1 Corinthians 6:17); the life of the Head is the life of the body and its members. How awful the sin of prostituting that which is a member of Christ!
3. It is inconsistent with the eternal destiny of the body. The relation of the body to Christ is abiding. He who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also quicken our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11), raising them to a glorious life in him. The resurrection of the body tells us that it is not to be treated as a temporary thing, belonging only to this stage of existence. It is not to be destroyed like the belly and meats, but is united to Christ forever. Fornication, therefore, decades the body, inasmuch as it is thereby treated as the instrument of a perishable appetite.
4. It is in its own nature degrading. The act itself is a union with the vilest characters (1 Corinthians 6:16). Think of the dignity of the Christian's person as a member of Christ, standing in everlasting union with him; and with what holy horror should we regard this sin!
5. It is peculiarly a sin against the body. (1 Corinthians 6:18.) "Drunkenness and gluttony are sins done in and by the body, and are sins by abuse of the body; but they are still without the body—introduced from without, sinful not in their act, but in their effect, which effect it is each man's duty to foresee and avoid. But fornication is the alienating that body which is the Lord's, and making it a harlot's body; it is sin against a man's own body, in its very nature—against the verity and nature of his body; not an effect on the body from participation of things without, but a contradiction of the truth of the body, wrought within itself" (Alford). The awful effects of this sin are frequently written in characters of fire in the physical system.
6. It is a profanation of the Divine temple. 'I he body is "a temple of the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 6:19). What was said before of the believer is here said of the body (1 Corinthians 3:16, where see homily). The body is the outer court of the temple, but still a part of it, and therefore holy. Dare we admit unholy feet to tread this court? Dare we profane the sanctuary by devoting it to sacrilegious uses? Will the Spirit of God continue to dwell in a polluted temple?
7. It contradicts the Divine proprietorship of the body. Believers are not their own, but the purchased position of God, bought for himself with precious blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19). Our bodies are not our own to do with them as we please. We are God's bondservants, bought for the purpose of serving and glorifying him (1 Peter 2:9). How weighty an argument for entire devotion to (God's service! Love to our redeeming God is the only sufficient motive for a holy life. "Glorify God therefore in your body."
1. The sacredness of the body.
2. The extent of sanctification—it reaches to the utmost circumference of our being (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
3. Flee fornication. Victory here is to be won by flight, not by fight (Genesis 39:12).
4. Watch against everything that might lead to this sin.—B.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Corinthians 6:12
Free, and yet not free.
The first step to a right understanding of this passage is to observe that the "all things" of which the apostle speaks are things in themselves indifferent (ἀδιάφορα), not things in which any vital principle of morality or point of Christian doctrine is involved. Nothing could be "lawful" to him that was in its essential nature unlawful. There are matters in which the question of right and wrong is fixed, absolute, changeless; and there are others in which it is variable, conditional, determined by circumstances. It is of the latter that he speaks. He is consciously raised above the bondage of mere conventional or traditionary distinctions of clean and unclean, sacred and common, etc. A man is free from the restraint of external law when he has the spirit of it in his heart. All things are lawful to him when the governing principle of his life is that "love which is the fulfilling" of all holy law. The singularity of this declaration is that, while the apostle asserts his freedom, he at the same time surrenders it. He asserts it by voluntarily submitting to that which seems to be a denial of it. There is something paradoxical in this. But are we not familiar with many similar paradoxes? External nature is a marvellous combination of what seem to be conflicting elements—laws that limit, forces that balance each other, processes that run in opposite directions. What a strange commingling is there in the world around us of beauty and deformity, economy and waste, order and disorder, life and death! Divine providence presents the same characteristics. The wheels of the great providential plan move in different, often contradictory, directions; but the sovereign Spirit that controls and guides them develops from them one grand result. What is every man's daily history, in the common relationships of life, but a perpetual working and counterworking of what seem to be incongruous principles. He loses that he may win, serves that he may rule, stoops to conquer, sacrifices liberty in one direction that he may secure it in another, denies himself to please himself, suffers that he may enjoy, dies that he may live. No wonder there should be a similar balancing and limiting of seemingly discordant principles in the sphere of Christian doctrine and Christian life. Two views of personal freedom are here given.
I. FREEDOM LIMITED BY THE THOUGHT OF MORAL ADVANTAGE. That is in the highest sense "expedient" which is morally right and good. A thing may be "lawful" and yet, considering all the conditions of the case, not desirable, because unprofitable. Legitimate enough in itself, it may have bearings and involve consequences that are neither right nor good. In such a case a man of fine Christian sensibility will feel that, while perfectly free in one sense, in another sense he is not free. His conscience and the sympathies and affections of his religions life will restrain his use of that freedom. There is something dearer to a noble soul than even liberty. The thought of the higher profitableness of a thing should be more to us than the thought of its abstract lawfulness. Freedom is not in itself an end, but the means to an end above and beyond itself. To seek after "whatsoever things are true, honest, just," etc., even though it may involve us in many penalties, is better than to be always jealously maintaining our exemption from the bonds of external restraint. One of the finest examples of this principle is supplied by our Lord's payment of the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27) Though "the children were free," yet, lest there should be "offence," he will pay the claim and work a miracle to provide the means of payment. The Sonship that relaxed one law only made the other the more sacred and binding. The apostolic Epistles are full of illustrations of the same principle (1 Corinthians 9:14, 1 Corinthians 9:15, 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16). Never are we so loftily conscious of our Christian freedom, and never is that freedom so manifest, as when, for some high end, we choose to forego it.
"A life of self renouncing love
Is a life of liberty."
II. FREEDOM CONTROLLED BY THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF MORAL POWER. "I will not," etc. This is self assertion of the right order; the manly use of the power by which it is given us to determine our own course, and not allow it to be left at the mercy of outward influences, or to be determined for us by the persuasive force that happens to be the strongest. As a mere act of self discipline, this is good; for the will, like any other faculty, grows by use, and self mastery by the power of a resolute will is the basis of all moral excellence. Think what differences there are among men in this respect. The secret of success or failure in the lower interests of human life lies mainly here. It depends far less on native talent, favourable circumstances, etc., than it does on the energy of a self regulating will. This power is necessary to give due effect to any other power. Many a man has noble qualities both of mind and heart—quick intelligence, wise judgment, warm enthusiasm—but lacks the steadfast will that would bind them all together, giving unity and strength to his character and effective force to his endeavour. According, however, to the greatness and strength of this faculty, so is the danger of its being misdirected—like the forces of nature, water, steam, electricity, etc. Self will is blind, lawless, immoral, and therefore not really free. Moral freedom lies in the mastery of a will that determines for the right, chooses to move in harmony with the Divine will, the "will that is holy and just and good." Learn chiefly two grand lessons.
1. That things lawful and innocent in themselves may become evil by being allowed to gain an undue mastery over us.
2. That our only effectual preservative against this is the resistive energy of a will inspired by the Spirit of the well beloved Son.—W.
1 Corinthians 6:19
One of the most elementary principles of Christian thought and life is expressed in these words: "Ye are not your own." The sense of Divine ownership rather than self ownership is the inspiration of all Christian dignity and strength. Consider—
I. THE NATURE AND GROUNDS OF THIS PERSUASION. There is a sense in which it is true of all men that they are not their own. It is a necessary inference from the fact that they are created and dependent beings. But more than this is meant here. As a mere truth of natural religion, it is lifeless and profitless. As in so many other cases, it must be elevated to the level of a Christian doctrine, linked with, set in the light of, the great facts that belong to the "record God has given us of his Son," before there can be any efficacious force in it. As a reality of Christian life, then, this Divine ownership rests on two distinct grounds.
1. Purchase. "Ye were bought with a price." The apostle refers to a historic fact of the past, viz. the personal self surrender and sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, for the redemption of men. This, with all that it involved of obedience, humiliation, and suffering even unto death, was the "price" that bought us. We may differ in our abstract ideas as to the nature of the atonement, but this fact is to the Christian mind indisputable. "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28); "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse," etc. (Galatians 3:13); "Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ," etc. (1 Peter 1:19). Like the noble Roman youth who, as tradition tells, leaped full armed into the yawning chasm because the city could only be saved by the sacrifice of her best treasure, so did Jesus, the "well beloved" of heaven, the noblest treasure of earth, the "only begotten of the Father," the Head and Chief of our humanity, yield up his life to redeem the life of the world. He gave himself for us. "He suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God." Not that there was any essential moral efficacy in the mere fact of suffering, but that that suffering was the measure of our value in the sight of infinite and eternal Love. Pure love invests its object with a value in comparison with which all that belongs to itself is as nothing. The heart in which it dwells finds its deepest satisfaction in the joy of another. Saving another, itself it "cannot save." All tender human relationships are meant to develop in us this Divine sensibility. How spontaneously does all the thought and care and passion of the mother's soul, the deep exhaustless wealth of her being, flow out towards her child! She loses herself to find a dearer self in him. How instinctively, at any risk, does she shield him from danger! With what sublime self forgetfulness does she surrender her own ease and comfort, to toil through the livelong day, and watch through the weary night, and let her very life ebb slowly and silently away, that she may find a deeper joy, a better life, in nourishing and saving his! So has it been with Christ's more than human, more than mother's love. "Herein is love," etc. (1 John 4:10). It is the memory and consciousness of this, and all that it means, that produces in us a profound impression that we are "not our own." Of all the forces that move the spirit to grateful self surrender, none so mighty as this sense of personal obligation to redeeming love. "The love of Christ constraineth us," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:14).
"Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."
2. Possession. "Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost." The context requires that we give to this a strictly individual application. It is spoken here, not of the Church as the Body of Christ, "the fulness of him that filleth all in all," but of the physical personality of each individual member of that body. And it is spoken of as a simple, unquestionable element of Christian knowledge and consciousness. "What, know ye not," etc.? The heathen have had their ideas of Divine "possession;" but their possession has been exceptional, transitory, fictitious, the device of priestcraft, the wild dream of mystic superstition. Here the Divine possession is real, reasonable, permanent, fruitful of blessed issues. If we could only realize it more, not with anything like the wildness of a dangerous fanaticism, but with the calm quiet dignity of a spirit that is consciously walking in the light of God, what strength and beauty it would give to our life! Imagine the awful sanctity with which the temple of old must have been invested to the view of the worshipping people as soon as the heaven kindled fire came down, and "the glory of the Lord had filled the house." With what higher sanctity still should we clothe the being of a man in whom the Holy Spirit dwells! Shall not "Holiness unto the Lord" be the acknowledged, manifest, and all pervading law of his life?
II. THE PRACTICAL RESULTS OF IT. "Glorify God therefore in your body." This is something more than a mere passive, negative abstinence from evil. It is the consecration of the powers of our nature to all holy service, the active expression of the inner Divine life in all possible forms of well doing. It implies:
1. Conscious spiritual freedom. Christ delivers us from all kinds of degrading moral bondage when he thus redeems us and makes us his own forever. And "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Spiritual freedom lies in willing personal subjection to him who is our rightful Lord. Self hood in all its forms and phases is the slavery, the paralysis, and death of the soul. Live in and for yourself, as if you were "your own," and you have a very hard and oppressive taskmaster. Live unto the Lord, and you are most truly and joyously free.
2. The mastery of the spiritual over the fleshly part of us. The apostle has in view a special and most important aspect of the sanctity of the body. But we may take this word "body" as symbolizing the whole form and fashion and habit of the outward life. From the inner shrine of a spirit that has thus become the Lord's, the glory will stream forth through all channels of self revelation. The very outskirts of our being, the very lowest part of our nature, will be sure to be lighted up, spiritualized, beautified by it. We are apt to think of the body as being necessarily the encumbrance and the foe of the spirit. This is not a Christian way of thinking. Rather let us regard it as an instrument that God has wisely constructed, "fearfully and wonderfully made," and through which the holy energy of the spirit may serve his purposes and do him honour.—W.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Corinthians 6:11
Great sinners saved.
It has been alleged that the early Christians were gathered from the mere rabble and offscourings of the ancient world. Gibbon remarks, with his usual sneer, that "the missionaries of the gospel, after the example of their Divine Master, disdained not the society of men, and especially of women, oppressed by the consciousness and very often by the effects of their vices." But it is not the fact, and it is not fair to insinuate, that the Church was formed from the mire of society. The gospel then, as now, influenced in some measure all ranks of society, all aiders of mind, and all grades of moral culture. Yet it is not to be concealed, and indeed it is to the credit of the gospel, that it brought newness of heart and life to some of the most profligate inhabitants of the ancient cities where it was preached. Not only in Judaea had it saved the very harlots; but in the licentious cities of the heathen, as Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome, it had rescued persons who were steeped in sensual vice. "Such were some of you," writes the apostle to the members of" the Church of God at Corinth." He had put down a terrible catalogue of sinners, who were not to inherit the kingdom of God. "Such were some of you; but you are so no longer: I recognize the mighty change."
I. THE THREEFOLD CHANGE.
1. "Ye were washed." "Ye washed yourselves." A definite fact, as much so as the washing of Naaman in the river which took away his leprosy. Such is the way of Divine grace. The thought of man's heart is that his sins may be rubbed out, or the traces worn out by lapse of time, or that by repentance and amendment of life they are atoned for. But nothing removes sin except washing. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin."
2. "Ye were sanctified.'' After the washing comes the anointing with holy oil. They who are cleansed are consecrated and set apart for Divine use. This is sanctification of the Spirit, which is imparted freely and at once to those who receive the gospel, though it is only gradually realized in experience and practice.
3. "Ye were justified." Being defiled, ye were cleansed; being profane, ye were hallowed; and being unrighteous, ye were Justified. You are no longer under condemnation, but being regarded as "in Christ," you are reckoned righteous in him. And this too is an accomplished fact in God's grace. Know it well, for it is the charter of your acceptance, and the warrant of your peace.
II. THE PHILOSOPHY OF THIS CHANGE.
1. "In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Warnings of the consequences of vice, expositions of the beauty and advantage of virtue, can do little in such cases as are indicated here. It was not for want of sages to sound the praise and discuss the nature of virtue that the Greeks of Corinth had been so vicious. But no change was wrought upon them till the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ was published. Here was not a sage turning fine sentences, but a Saviour who could save men from themselves, and make them sons of God. In this Name it was, and to this day it is, that the soiled are washed, the unholy sanctified, the guilty justified.
2. "And by the Spirit of our God." For it is that Spirit who convinces men of their sins, and who brings and unites them to the Saviour, in whom they are made new creatures. What condescension in that pure and Holy Spirit, to come near to such vile persons as the previous verse describes, and transform such sinners into saints!
III. THE LESSONS SUGGESTED.
1. That no sinner's case is too desperate for the gospel remedy. Christianity can do more than develop germs of goodness where they exist. It has a new creating energy, and can inspire good motives and feelings where there seemed to be nothing but evil, evil continually. There is no case so sunk and lost as to baffle the power of Christ's Name and the Holy Spirit's quickening grace. We do not make light of moral gradations. It is a thing to be thankful for, if one has been preserved from gross sin. It is a thing to be bitterly lamented, if one has committed, even in thought, such sins as the apostle enumerates. But the most moral man has something on his heart to be ashamed of before God. And the immoral have grievous confessions to make. Let the shame and grief be felt; they are wholesome for the soul. But let no one despond or despair. The Divine grace which brings salvation is no perquisite of the higher and middle classes of sinners. It goes down through all degrees to the lowest depth of human sin and misery. The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ is a shield for the most unclean. The Spirit of our God can renew those who are dead in trespasses and sins.
2. That a Christian is to be known by what he is, not what he once was. Many seem to have no real conception of the transforming power which the Holy Spirit exerts on those who truly receive the gospel; and, accordingly, when one who was known to be a sinner begins to confess the Saviour's Name, many virtuous persons shake their heads suspiciously, and sometimes wag their heads reproachfully, and relate all that they have heard, however vaguely, of such a person's faults, as though they must cleave to him forever. Thus the old sins are kept hanging as a perpetual reproach over the head of the new recruit to the Christian army, just as though there were no washing possible, no sanctification, no justification. But how unreasonable is this! Is it not from the ranks of sinners that the ranks of the saints have always been filled up? Is there not a significant "but" in our text, indicating the transition from the old state to the new? And is it not true in life, as well as in Scripture? You tell me what this person was: I bid you see what this person is, and glorify God, whose grace works such blessed changes among the children of men. Make not the conversion of a sinner more difficult than it need be, by your suspicions. Reserve your strictest judgments for yourself.—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
The relations of Christians to public law.
The apostle here deals with a fresh mistake made by the Corinthian Christians. In view of the extensive commercial interests of Corinth, we can well understand that disputes constantly arose which could only be settled by the common law courts. St. Paul does not intend us to infer that these law courts were unjustly conducted, or that, in ordinary matters and under ordinary circumstances, recourse may not be had to them. He only points out that the new feeling and sentiment which they should have and cherish, as Christian disciples, would be opposed to the litigious spirit, and fill them with an anxiety to set things right with their brethren rather than to struggle for the securing of their own rights. He glances, further, at the misconception which the surrounding heathen would form of such indications of quarrelling among the Christians. "We can well understand how detrimental to the best interests of Christianity it would be for the Christian communion, founded as it was on principles of unity and love, to be perpetually, through the hasty temper and weakness of individual members, held up to the scorn of the heathen, as a scene of intestine strife." The principle laid down by the apostle led in later times to the appointment of courts of arbitration. Of these we have historical evidence in the middle of the second century. It has been pointed out that the proper illustration of St. Paul's principle should be sought, not in a Christian country, but in a heathen country where Christians may Happen to reside. On his principle, as it may now be applicable to us, we propose to dwell.
I. ST. PAUL THROWS NO SLIGHT ON PUBLIC LAW. HOW are we to regard law? Is it the arbitrary command of a ruler? Or is it a national code created by the gifts of some legal genius, some Lycurgus or Justinian? Is it not rather a nation discovering the importance of the protection of its persons and. property, mutually agreeing to the adoption of rules for the securing of such protection, and putting the applications of such rules into the hands of certain individuals, called kings, judges, or magistrates? So for a people to disobey the laws is more truly rebellion against themselves, against their best interests, than against their rulers; and every individual in a nation is bound both to honour and to keep the law. St. Paul would fully recognize this, and intend no disrespect by what he says concerning it. We should observe that he carefully distinguishes the sphere of law to which he refers. Explain the difference between the "criminal" and "equity" courts at our assizes. St. Paul deals with matters of dispute, with equity questions, not with crime. And he very properly urges that such disputes usually rest on "strong feeling," "misunderstanding," etc., and consequently can be best dealt with from within the Christian brotherhood, which can recognize "feeling," and help its members to overcome "faults." Elsewhere he urges full obedience to the "powers that be." But he pleads that the Christians only confessed their failure from the Christian spirit when they could not give way one to the other, but were compelled to get outsiders and heathen to tell them what was just and right. So still we may say there are only a few things in respect of which Christians are justified in going to law, and they concern wholly the interpretations of national law in relation to rights of property. For these it is sometimes necessary to get an authoritative decision. Happily, the principle of arbitration is spreading in trade disputes and in national differences. Christians will hail the day when arbitration, the handmaid of peace, gains her rule in every land, and men and nations "learn war no more."
II. ST. PAUL ASSUMES THE AUTONOMY (SELF RULE) OF CHRIST'S CHURCH. He would have them fully understand that, as a Church, they were quite competent to manage their own affairs—all their affairs, and certainly all internal disputes. Show on what frequently declared and comprehensive principles the apostle's argument is based.
1. The Church of Christ is a society.
2. It is a separated society, standing free from the world; in it, but not of it.
3. It is a complete society; the Head and the members together make up a "whole body."
4. It is a society resting on a common basis, the "life in Christ," not on a common opinion, nor on a common order, but on a common life, which makes it as one family.
5. It is a society under a living Head. It endures as "seeing him who is invisible;" and it is a spiritual realization of the "theocracy," or direct practical ruling of the Divine Lord.
6. It is a society with judicial functions. Show that the Church has disciplinary powers which it may bring to bear on the moral offender (as at Corinth); and consultative powers which it may employ to settle family, trade, or society disputes.
7. It is a society with a character, one of whose leading features is "mutual forbearance"—a self denying regard rather for the welfare of others than for our own. In such a society it would be manifestly inappropriate for any member who had a contention with a fellow member to "go to law before the unjust." The high Christian feeling finds expression in St. Paul's intense language, "Why do ye not rather take wrong, why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"—R.T.
1 Corinthians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 6:3
The judgment of the saints.
The Christian disciples are called "saints," not because they are actually holy, but because they are
(1) consecrated to God;
(2) separated for the world;
(3) under moral obligation to seek for and attain personal holiness.
St. Paul here speaks of them as "saints," to remind them that they hold their Christian standing by virtue of their character, that their "goodness" was to be their power. The word "judge" should be treated as the equivalent of "govern;" it does not, as used by St. Paul here, merely mean "give legal decisions." Illustrate by the work of the judges in ancient Israel; they were virtually rulers of the country.
I. THE SAINTS' JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD. F. W. Robertson says, "Successively have force, hereditary right, talent, wealth, been the aristocracies of the earth. But then, in that kingdom to come, goodness shall be the only condition of supremacy." For the idea of our sharing with Christ in the judgment, at his second coming, see Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30. It is better, however, to impress the point that the actual presence of good men in the world, in society, is a constant testing and showing up of the evil of the world.
II. THE SAINTS' JUDGMENT OF ANGELS. This must refer to evil angels. We may, however, treat it as an intense expression of the apostle's, uttered under the deep impress of all that might be involved in the spiritual union of Christ and his people. Christ rules the angels, and so do we, since we are in him. "It is better to regard the passage as a climax arising out of the apostle's intense realization of the unity of Christ and his Church triumphant—a point which seems ever present to the mind of St. Paul when he speaks of the dignity of Christianity. In this sense, redeemed humanity will be superior to, and judges of, the spiritual world."
III. THE SAINTS' JUDGMENT OF EVERYDAY MATTERS. The argument of the apostle is that, if they recognize their high standing and privilege, and the power and responsibility of judging such external things as the "world" and the "angels," they ought also, and much more anxiously, to recognize their power to rule and judge all small matters arising within the Christian fellowship. What must be their condition if they could not find among themselves an efficient arbitrator? Illustrate by our Lord's advice to his disciples in relation to their disputes.
(1) The two disputants were to confer together;
(2) if that failed to settle the difficulty, then two or three witnesses might be brought into the conference; if that also failed, then
(3) the matter was to be told to the Church, and its decision sought. The apostle does but find adaptation for the comprehensive principle which was laid down by Christ, and can be equally adapted by us in the perplexities and misunderstandings of Church and social life.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 6:9
Inheriting the kingdom.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" The phrases "kingdom of heaven," "kingdom of God," are familiar enough to the New Testament reader, as synonyms for the new, the Christian dispensation. The apostles seem to use the term for a kingdom which, they conceive, will be set up at Christ's second coming and the "restitution of all things." There is an important sense in which we are to recognize that the "kingdom" is actually now established; but it need not interfere with our cherishing the high hope of a day when that kingdom shall be fully perfected, and in some glorious way declared to be the kingdom of the world become the kingdom of God. The figure contained in he word "inherit" is taken from Israel's long journey through the deserts to the promised land, which was a country to be "inherited." Under careful limitations, the figure may be carried over into Christianity, and the Christian may be spoken of as "seeking a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." We are "heirs of salvation," which is "ready to be revealed in the last time." John Bunyan makes his pilgrim talk persuasively to Pliable, and say, "There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us, that we may inhabit that kingdom forever," etc. For gracious moral purposes, for the furtherance of his sanctifying work, God would have us think of the privileges of salvation as both realized now and to be realized more fully by and by. This St. Peter states with the utmost plainness in his Epistle (1 Peter 1:3-6). A present keeping and a present joy are directly associated with the "lively hope" of an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and fading not away." Consider, then—
I. THE POWER OF A PROMISED FUTURE. That is, its bearing on the Christian
Hope is one of man's most important moral forces; strong according to the reasonable grounds upon which it rests. A man is never lost until he has lost hope. A man can rise up out of the uttermost disability and distress so long as he can imagine a brighter future, and fix his hope on it. Explain the relation in which "faith" stands to "hope," so that it may give us a sense of the present possession of that we hope for. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Also show the influence of hope as:
1. Producing a restful feeling, a contentment with present circumstances. Illustrate from St. Paul, who could say, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content," but only because he could also say, "There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness."
2. An inspiration to patient and earnest endeavour. Thousands are kept at work by the hope of success. The value and strength of the inspiration depend greatly on the character of the hope. How great, then, must be the inspiration of the Christian hope! and how practically purifying, seeing it is the hope of perfect and everlasting righteousness! "We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
II. THE INFLUENCE OF A SENSE OF RIGHT TO THE PROMISED FUTURE. That right we have; but it is not of merit or of mere birth, it is wholly by grace, and belongs to our new birth through the Spirit. Still, we have a distinct sense of right; and that we ought to keep and to cherish, recognizing that varying moods of feeling, or conditions of frame, can in no way affect our standing and our rights. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself;" "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Illustrate by the influence of the sense of right and possession which the husband and wife have in each other. Also by the spirit of noblesse oblige, which gives tone and character to all the sayings and doings of the young heir. Also by the claim to nobility which the Roman felt was laid on him by his Roman rights, in whatever country he might reside. If we have a right of heritage in God's everlasting and holy kingdom, we are under a constant impulsion to "walk worthy of our vocation."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 6:11
Recalling grace received.
We should be always prepared to make direct personal applications of Holy Scripture; and the skill of applying general principles to particular cases is one of the proper results of Christian culture and experience. This, however, often involves accommodation and modification. Principles which Scripture illustrates in particular instances need adaptation when referred to new and different cases; and we should clearly apprehend that Scripture does not propose to provide mere examples for a bare imitation, but rather principles which are so truly human that they may be applied to the varying conditions and circumstances of every age and clime, so that the sacred Word has really been written "for our sakes, on whom the ends of the world are come." At first sight, the passage now before us does not seem suited to us. The list of sins here given is not ours; it is essentially pagan. We do not even know what some of these words stand for; and to say to us, "Such were some of you," rouses a feeling of indignation and opposition. Yet if we can reach beyond the mere terms to the spirit and principle of the apostle's appeal, we shall find it bears its message also to us. St. Paul is really dealing with what is consistent for a Christian.; and he puts it in this way, "What is in true harmony with one who is washed, sanctified, and justified?" We can settle every difficult question by asking—Is the thing befitting a sanctified man? And to realize our Christian standing becomes the best resistance of evil.
I. RECALL YOUR SELF SEEKING PAST. "Such were some of you." Apply to the Corinthians. Indicate something of the luxury and vice of Corinthian society. For them it was a marvellous change to become pure and sober minded Christians. We think that we have no such review; most of us have no experience of violent and open forms of ungodliness. But if we look a little deeper, may we not see that those Corinthian sins were but the forms for that age of the universal sin and self seeking of mankind? They all mean just this—man, asserting his independence of God, throwing off all bondages of authority, and seeking his own will and pleasure. Then we can see that the same root of evil has been in our past; and we must not let the mere refinement of modern terms for sin blind us to the fact that, in us, is the same heart evil (see Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 2:10-12). In the light of this fact of depravity review your past, see the stain of self seeking, and then you will feel that St. Paul may say even to you, "And such were some of you."
II. ESTIMATE YOUR CHRISTIAN STANDING. "Ye are washed," etc. We need not fear to do this; since it is a standing of grace, our so doing need not nourish any pride or self reliance. Our "standing" is set under three figures.
1. Washed; or perhaps the translation should be, "Ye have got yourselves washed." The figure for putting away old sins and sinful habits.
2. Sanctified. The figure for having consecrated yourselves; being separated unto holy uses; and we are sealed in such consecration, by the gift and abiding presence of the Holy Ghost.
3. Justified. The figure for our being, as washed and consecrated, received into gracious relations of acceptance with God. The order of the terms seems to be singular, but, when rightly understood, it is seen to be correct:
(1) put away sin;
(2) devote yourself to God;
(3) receive the sense of acceptance.
And this is our present Christian standing; we are clean, consecrated, and accepted. And all is through grace.
III. RENEW YOUR SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY. For to such a "standing" something is becoming. The apostle wants us so to feel this that we should not require any telling. We are under obligation to live such a life as would worthily express our thankfulness for grace received; such a life as would manifestly harmonize with our standing. We are called with a holy calling. But we have to find out what precisely is "holy" and "good" in our times. Everything that is pure, true, self denying, good, and kind we may be sure is becoming to our Christian standing. Nay, we may come in from all mere general terms, and we may say, "A life for Christ, and a life like Christ's,—these are the 'becoming' for all those who have received his salvation." "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"—R.T.
1 Corinthians 6:11
What we were and what we are.
The early Churches were gathered out from corrupt heathenism, and this was sadly sensual and immoral. This occasioned difficulty in dealing with the Churches. The question had to be met—Is moral defilement absolutely incompatible with the Christian profession? Show how this question is answered now, in our day, and by the Apostle Paul in his day. Now the answer is sadly uncertain, especially if moral delinquency happens to be joined with riches. By St. Paul it is answered with a noble firmness and fidelity. Take two topics for consideration.
I. OUT OF THE SELF LIFE. Show that the characteristic of a Christian is his deliverance from the slavery of the self rule. Then all yieldings to self and passion must, for him, be wrong.
II. INTO THE CHRIST RULED LIFE. This process is conceived under three forms and by two agents.
The two agents are
(1) the Lord Jesus;
(2) the Spirit of our God.
Then it follows that an entire yielding to the pure impulses and guidances of God's indwelling Spirit in all the life and all the relationships and all the conduct is forevery Christian the right and the necessary thing.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 6:12
The lawful and the expedient.
"All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient." This is the statement of a general principle, which may be thus expressed: when a man is renewed in Christ Jesus, he becomes a law unto himself, his regenerate conscience sufficiently attests what is lawful and what is expedient. The apostle is applying the principle to two subjects of discussion which were closely connected with the heathen worship:
(1) whether it was lawful for Christians to eat food which had been offered in sacrifice to idols;
(2) whether it was permissible to overlook, in Christians, indulgence in the sin of fornication. It seems that, because St. Paul affirmed the right of Christian liberty in relation to the heathen food, his enemies declared that he also held loose notions concerning Christian immoralities. St. Paul, therefore, makes it quite clear that the liberty which he claims is a reasonable liberty, duly toned and tempered by a quickened and sensitive consciousness of what is becoming and what is right. "There is such a thing as becoming the very slave of liberty itself. If we sacrifice the power of choice which is implied in the thought of liberty, we cease to be free; we are brought under the power of that which should be in our power." "Starting from the doctrine of Christian liberty taught by Christ (John 8:32, John 8:36), and proclaimed with one mouth by his apostles (Romans 8:2; James 2:12; 1 Peter 2:16), they declared that the Christian was bound to a 'service' which was 'perfect freedom.' St. Paul accepts the principle, but with limitations. No actions were in themselves unlawful, he was ready to admit, provided
(1) that they were in accordance with God's design in creation;
(2) that they were calculated to promote the general welfare of mankind; and
(3) that we were masters of our actions, not they of us." We here consider the lawful and the expedient, and we observe that—
I. EVERY MAN MUST RECOGNIZE THIS DISTINCTION. In all the practical relations of life it comes up to view continually; in the home, in the business, and in society, a man has constantly to say, "I may, but I will not. I have an absolute right to do it, yet for others' sakes I must not do it." Observe that the expedient is not here the self serving or the time serving. A man's limitations are not, first of all, his own personal interests, but
(1) the sense of the fitness of things; and
(2) the well being of others.
Illustrate the distinction as applied to such questions as the use of strong drinks; modes of keeping sabbath; limits of permissible amusements, etc.
II. THE DISTINCTION NO MAN FINDS SO SEARCHING AS DOES THE CHRISTIAN, By reason of
(1) his sensitiveness to what is in harmony with the Christian profession; and
(2) his charitable consideration of even the weaknesses of others. He is most jealous of himself, lest he should cast a stumbling block in his brother's way. The subject can be efficiently illustrated from the details of modern Christian life. And the following passages sufficiently suggest the practical application of the subject:—"Ye are called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion unto the flesh, but by love serve one another;" "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." Our Lord Jesus could demand absolute liberty; all things were lawful to him, because, his will being wholly right, his choices and preferences and decisions were fully according to God's will. A man must be right before we can give him liberty.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 6:19
The temple body and its sanctity.
The idea of the old temple was not that of the modern church, which is a building in which men may gather to worship God. The old temple was a shrine for Deity to dwell in; and this Divine presence in the central shrine was conceived as hallowing the entire temple buildings, right through to the outer courts and gates. Nothing might enter the precincts that defiled or worked abomination. Illustrate from Solomon's temple, and the extreme jealousy with which the Jews regarded the sacred place. Two points may be dwelt on as working out the figure of the text.
I. THE DEITY IN THE SHRINE SANCTIFIED ALL THE COURTS MAKING UP THE TEMPLE BUILDINGS.
II. THE DEITY IN THE SHRINE SANCTIFIED THE VERY CITY AND LAND. So, if "Christ dwells in our hearts by faith," if our souls know his Divine presence,—then all the forces and powers of our body are consecrated, and ought to be hallowed. Our whole life, in its narrower and in its wider circles of relationship, must be thought of as sanctified, treated as pure, made and kept ever "clean," ever "holy."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 6:19
The Christian has no personal rights.
This assertion may be made both concerning himself and concerning the things which he is said to possess. Three points claim consideration.
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS NOT HIS OWN. Before conversion he may have so thought of himself. The essence of conversion is a voluntary surrender of will and life to Christ.
II. HE IS A BOUGHT ONE. And he dwells with holy satisfaction on the "precious blood" which was as it were his purchase money (1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19).
III. HE IS A BOND SLAVE TO CHRIST. Held indeed by purchase rights, but quite as truly held by the entire and willing surrender of a thankful love. Therefore in all the Christian is, in all the Christian has, and in all the Christian can be, he is under solemn obligation to glorify God, who is his Lord. And the Lord whom he serves, and who holds sole right in him and his, he is permitted to apprehend and recognize as his gracious Master, the glorified "Man Christ Jesus," whose service is perfect freedom and holiest joy.—R.T.