Bible Commentaries

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

1 Corinthians 6

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Verse 1

Observe here, 1. That it was not simply and absolutely their going to law which the apostle condemns, but their impleading one another at pagan tribunals, and before heathen judges; the law is good, if used lawfully; but the best thing may be abused; so is oft the law itself. Most evident it is, that the apostle, who was offended at their using the law before infidels, allows it before Christians, as the first verse implies.

Observe, 2. The title given to the Corinthian converts: they are all called saints, because they were all so by outward profession, and many of them so by inward sanctification.

Whence learn, (1) That all those who take upon them the profession of Christianity, are obliged to be saints, and may be so called, being such by visible profession.

(2) That the true and real Christian is a true and real saint: his heart is inwardly renewed and sanctified, his life thoroughly reformed and changed.

Observe, 3. The several errors enumerated by our apostle in the Corinthians, going to law,

(1.) In regard of the adversary, Brother goeth to the law with brother; not infidel with infidel, nor infidel with Christian; but Christian with Christian, brother with brother: which seems both unnatural and unchristian.

(2.) In regard of the judges chosen to decide and umpire their controversies; they were infidels and unbelievers, not saints. If brother will go to law with brother, let them make choice of Christian judges; but for Christians to refuse Christians, and to choose to be judged by infidels, was highly scandalous! What will heathens say, when Christians are together by the ears, and infidels live in unity.

Observe, 4. The great argument used by the apostle to dissuade them from this practice; he argues a majore ad minus, from the greater to the less. The saints shall judge the world, the wicked world; yea, the apostate angels in another world: are they not fit then to judge and determine trivial matters between man and man, between one Christian and another, here in this world?

Learn hence, That the saints, as assessors with Christ, and approvers of his righteous judgment, shall at the great day judge the wicked world, and the apostate angels.

O ye wicked world! you that now revile and scorn, that injure and wrong the saints and servants of the most high God, know, that they shall one day be your judges.

O ye saints! who shall be judges of the world, know that your time of judging in this world is not yet: do not anticipate your work, nor antedate your commission: Judge nothing before the time, till the Lord comes.

Verse 4

It must be still obsreved, that the apostle, doth not go about to abolish the use of secular judgments, or condemn going to law; but only reproves the abuses that were found among them therein. Brother going to law with brother; that is, one Christian with another: and this not before a Christian but an heathen magistrate; by means whereof the Gentiles became acquainted with the covetousness, ambition, and revenge, which was among Christians, to the dishonour of God, and to the discredit of the gospel.

More particularly, the apostle farther censures and reproves them, first, for going to law about trifles and small matters; Are ye unworthy to judge the least matters? Should Christians thus implead one another before infidels for mere trifles? It seems it has been an ancient and too common fault, that every petty difference has pestered the tribunal.

Secondly, for their impleading and persecuting one another; it was with heat and passion, with impatience and impetuous anger. Going to law is one of those duties which is difficultly managed without sin; it is an hard matter for a man to right his estate, and not wrong his soul.

Thirdly, He reproves them, because they did not choose rather to put up with some wrongs, than right themselves by going to law? Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Teaching us, that something should not only be hazarded, but parted with, for peace sake. Peace is a jewel worth our buying at a dearer rate than most men are willing to give for it; and a peaceable Christian will put up with many injuries patiently, rather than use extremity, referring his cause to Him that judgeth righteously; who very often in this life repays us what we part with for peace sake twice over. Blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth.

Fourthly, The apostle blames them for their precipitation and haste, in going to law one with another; the law should have been their last refuge after trial of all other means.

First, they should have referred it to their brethren; if they could not end it, then the law was open. But instead of this, as soon as any difference arose, they sent presently for a writ to the heathenish courts of judicature.

Fifthly, He blames the ignorance which was found amongst them, that there was no wise person found with them, who could compromise and compose differences before they went too far; 1 Corinthians 6:5. I speak it to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man amongst you, that is able to judge between his brethren?

As if he had said, "What, will ye all stand and look on these unkind bickerings; and is there not one among you, that has so much skill as to quiet and compose them? I am really ashamed of it."

Sixthly, He rebukes their slothfulness, together with their ignorance, that they were lazy as well as unskillful, and unwilling to interpose for the composing of their brethren's differences. A little pains timely taken by us, may prevent abundance of strife and dissension between contending brethren. These are the principal faults which the apostle condemns in these Corinthians going to law: it is not the action, or thing itself, but the circumstances attending it, and the mismanagement of it, that is here condemned; which being rectified, law is no doubt lawful, whatever some erroneous persons have affirmed to the contrary.

Verse 9

Observe here, 1. Our apostle's positive assertion, and categorical proposition, That the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God; where by unrighteousness, is meant injustice and injuriousness towards our neighbour, as appears by the context, which speaks of defrauding: unrighteousness will as certainly shut out of heaven, as ungodliness.

Observe next, The large catalogue of sins which the apostle reckons up, that will shut out of heaven: uncleanness, idolatry, inordinate love of this world, drunkenness, &c. For the confirmation of his proposition, he proceedeth to the enumeration of the several sins destructive of salvation: which are not to be understood copulatively, but disjunctively: not as if he only who is guilty of all these shall miss of heaven, but he that lives in any one of these unrepented of; if he doth not forsake his wicked course of life, he shall never see the kingdom of God: whoever allows and tolerates himself in any one sin, is certainly in a state of damnation.

Lord, how many thousand vain hopes are laid in the dust, and how many thousand of impenitently wicked souls are sentenced to hell, by this one scripture!

Observe lastly, The caution or cautionary direction given by St. Paul to the Corinthians, not to deceive themselves with a contrary expectation, (though one would think men could hardly be deceived in so plain a case,) as if their bare profession of Christianity would save them, whilst they allowed themselves to live in the practice of any of the aforementioned wickedness: Be not deceived.

Learn thence, That men are very prone to deceive themselves in this, that though they live wickedly, yet they shall die happily, and go to heaven gloriously. They have such unlimited apprehensions of the pardoning grace and mercy of God, that they bound it not to faith, and repentance, and an holy life; never considering whether they are qualified subjects or no for that grace and mercy. God is a merciful God, says the wicked man, therefore I shall not go to hell; God is a merciful God, says the devil, therefore I hope to come out of hell. No, say you, that doth not follow, for God has decreed and declared the contrary. And has he not decreed and determined, has he not said and sworn, That the impenitent sinner shall never enter into his rest? Be not then deceived, oh sinner; whilst thou continuest unreformed, thou canst not inherit the kingdom of God.

Verse 11

Here we have another argument, which our apostle uses to dissuade them from all gross wickedness in general, and from such unchristian behaviour one towards another, as he had before reproved in particular: namely, that great and mighty change which had been wrought upon several of them by means of their conversion to the Christian religion, or the faith of Christ; Such were some of you; but ye are now washed. As if the apostle had said, "You are no longer swine, but sheep, and therefore must not wallow in the mire of sin as you formerly did."

Note here, 1. The black and filthy condition of a sinner, before conversion; the apostle had reckoned up the vilest and worst of sins that could be mentioned, and then says, Such were some of you. The original word is in the neuter, not in the masculine gender; not dtoi, such persons, but tanta, such sins; as emphatically demonstrating their wickedness, that they were not so much peccatores, sinners, as ipsa peccata, the very sins themselves.

Learn hence, That the converting grace of God is sometimes vouchsafed to the vilest and worst of men; and where it is vouchsafed, makes a very great and mighty change.

Note, 2. The particular expressions by which this change is represented: ye are washed, sacramentally washed in baptism; ye are sanctified, purified in your hearts and natures by the sanctifying influences of divine grace; ye are justified, that is, acquitted from guilt, and approved as righteous.

Note, 3. The means by which this change was wrought and effected; in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God. In the name of our Lord Jesus, that is, through the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit.

1. Here we have the defiling nature of sin supposed; all men by nature are polluted and defiled, and stand in need of washing.

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ will not disdain or refuse to justify by his blood, and sanctify by his Spirit, the greatest sinners, and the filthiest souls, that apply unto him, by faith, for pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace: Such were you, but ye are washed.

4. Though justification and sanctification are distinct and different in their nature, yet are they always inseparable in their subject: no person is justified but he that is sanctified: Christ justifies none by his blood, whom he doth not sanctify by his spirit. Though justification and sanctification are not the same thing, yet are they always found in the same person: by the former there is a relative change in our condition; by the latter, a real change in our conversation.

Verse 12

Our apostle still proceeds in the reprehensory part of his epistle, and begins here to reprove the growing heresy of the Gnostics and Nicolaitans among them, who allowed the eating of things sacrificed to idols, and fornication, as things indifferent.

The apostle grants, that all indifferent things are lawful, and may be used, first, when they are expedient, that is, when they may be used without hurting ourselves and others: and, secondly, when they do not get such a dominion over us, as to enslave us to an intemperate and immoderate use of them; he instances particularly in meats, and grants that it is lawful to use any kind of meat, because God hath ordained it for the good of man's nature: meats are ordained for the belly also, as to the use it now hath; for in the resurrection men shall neither hunger nor thirst any more.

Learn hence, That Christianity doth not barely restrain us from the doing of what is unlawful, but from doing of what is inexpedient also: an action in itself lawful may by circumstances become sinful, and it is both wise and safe to forbear the use of our Christian liberty, when it becomes an occasion of offence unto our neighbour.

Verse 13

From this verse to the end of the chapter our apostle labours, by sundry arguments, to convince the Corinthians of the exceeding sinfulness of the sin of fornication; partly, because they reckon it amongst the number of indifferent things, and also because the Corinthians before their conversion to Christianity, were so notoriously addicted to this sin, that they consecrated a temple to Venus, at which a multitude of virgins prostituted themselves; for which reason St. Paul makes use of a six-fold argument here, to prevent the Corinthians' relapse into this sin of fornication after their conversion, which they had been so notoriously guilty of before conversion.

The first argument is in the words before us, Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

As if he had said, "You put the body to a use for which it was never intended: the belly was made for meats, but the body was not made for fornication, but for the Lord, that is, for the Lord's use and service; and the Lord is for the body, that is, for the good and salvation of the body."

Whence note, That such is the wonderful goodness of God towards us, his creatures, that look in whatsoever we are for him, he is for us; as our bodies are for the Lord's service as well as our souls, so the Lord is for the good of our bodies as well as our souls, and therefore our bodies ought to be employed in his glory for every thing: this is the apostle's first argument against fornication.

Verse 14

Here a second argument against fornication is taken from the body's resurrection: Our bodies are to be raised, therefore not to be defiled; to be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body in heaven, therefore not to be defiled with lusts here on earth.

As if he had said, "Were your bodies to be finally lost in the dust, then were it no great matter how you used them, or abused them: but as God hath raised up Christ's body, so he will raise up your body; and seeing your body is the garment which your soul is to wear to all eternity in heaven, keep it pure and undefiled here on earth."

Verse 15

A third argument here follows: "Our bodies are the members of Christ, as well as our souls; that is, the union is made between Christ and us, consisting of soul and body both.

Now, shall we dispose of our bodies, the members of Christ, to so base an use? Shall our bodies, which are joined to Christ, ever condescend to so base a conjunction, as that of being joined to an harlot? God forbid that such an indignity be done by us."

Verse 16

The sense is, "That as wedlock makes man and wife one body lawfully, so fornication makes the man and the harlot one body sinfully; all the difference is in the morality of the act, but the species or kind of act is the same: thus the fornicator and the harlot are one flesh; but he that is joined to the Lord, namely, by faith and love, hath a nearer and more noble union than that of flesh, for he is one spirit with Christ; not essentially and substantially one, but mystically and spiritually. Christ and the sincere believer are led and guided, actuated and influenced, by the same Spirit; therefore take heed what you do, for in making your bodies the members of an harlot, you dissolve the union betwixt Christ and them.

Learn from hence, How closely and intimately believers are united unto Jesus Christ: they are nearer than one flesh; they are one spirit with him, they have both one Father, one house, one home, one heart, one interest, one acquaintance. Happy they who are thus joined to the Lord, for they are one spirit.

Verse 18

Flee fornication.

Note, 1. The apostle's advice to escape fornication; and that is, to flee it, namely, by shunning all occasions of it, all temptations leading to it, all incentives and provocations of it, not suffering our eye to wander, or our thoughts to muse, much less to dwell, upon any unlawful or ensnaring object.

Flee fornication.

Note, 2. The argument our apostle uses to flee fornication; because other sins are without the body.

Quest. But how is the apostle to be understood when he says, all other sins are without the body?

Ans. Thus, though all other outward sins, as drunkenness, murder, theft, &c. have the body as an instrument for committing them; yet in this sin of uncleanness the body is not only the instrument, but the object also, for the unclean person doth not only sin with his body, but he sins against his body.

Uncleanness leaves that blot and brand of ignominy and baseness upon the body which no other sin doth: degrading it from that excellent honour whereunto God advanced it in its natural condition, by making it the member of an harlot.

Verse 19

Here we have the apostle's fifth argument against fornication and uncleanness, and it runs thus: "Temples which are peculiarly consecrated unto God and his service, ought not to be profaned or polluted; but the bodies of Christians are the temples of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, and therefore they ought to be kept pure and undefiled. Know you not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, as well as your souls?"

Our bodies are called temples of the Holy Ghost, because he hath sanctified them for himself, for his habitation, and for his service: from whence the divinity of the Holy Ghost may be strongly inferred, a temple always supposing some deity to dwell in it; the tabernacle and temple are God's habitation. Now if the Holy Ghost dwells in good men as a temple, he is truly and really God.

In fine, since all Christians are become the temple of God, by virtue of his Holy Spirit sent into their hearts, consecrating their bodies to his sacred service, let us not desecrate or pollute this temple by defiling it with filthy lusts, but make chastity the keeper of this sacred house, and suffer nothing that defileth to enter into it, lest that God who dwelleth in it, being offended, should desert his house thus defiled.

Here we have the sixth and last argument which the apostle makes use of to flee fornication: Our bodies are not our own, but God's; they are his by creation, his by preservation, his by purchase and redemption. We are bought out of our own hands, as well as out of the hand of divine justice; therefore we sacrilegiously rob and wrong God, when we alienate any part of his own from him, and glorify him not, whose we wholly are, by the faithful service both of our souls and bodies, which are his.

Learn, 1. That Christians are not their own, but God's; not their own, and therefore not in their own power, not at their own disposal, not to live after their own will or by their own lusts, but according to the will and to the ends and uses of their principal Lord, whose they are.

Learn, 2. That as Christians are not their own, so must not act and live, and dispose of themselves, of their souls and bodies, as if they had an original propriety, a plenary possession, and a full dominion over themselves: a Christian must not make his own reason a supreme rule, nor his own will his chief law, nor his own interest his ultimate end, for he was made neither by himself, nor made for himself.

Learn, 3. That all of us are God's, and therefore we cannot without great sacrilege invade his right, and give that body to an harlot which is consecrated unto him.

Learn, 4. That though we are all God's, yet we have alienated ourselves from God, and withdrawn ourselves from his disposal.

Learn, 5. That being thus alienated form God, he has once more bought us, bought us with a price, a great and full price, the blood of his Son; and we are now God's own again by redemption and purchase.

Learn, 6. That our bodies and spirits being thus the Lord's, we should glorify him both in our souls and bodies which are his; glorify him in our bodies by external purity and exemplary sanctity, glorify him in our spirits by internal purity of heart.

Thus if we glorify him in our body, and in our spirits, in a way of obedience, he will at last fashion our vile bodies like unto his glorious body, and make our spirits as the spirits of just men made perfect, in that great day, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. 1700-1703.