Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 6

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Verse 1

1. Dare The word strikes a high keynote. However humble its externals, the Christian republic is, in Christ, far above all principalities and powers. It is, therefore, a flagrant and treasonable daring to bring it to the bar of heathendom. Litigation between Christian men is ever a scandal, because it is rightly expected that they will be just and peaceable. But in our Christian land, such often is the character of our courts, that a civil trial is, from their power of compelling the evidence, often surer of a just result than an ecclesiastical court can be.

Unjust He says unjust, rather than unbelieving, inasmuch as it is matter of judging and justice that is in discussion.

Saints Sancti, sanctified or holy ones. Note on 1 Corinthians 1:2.

Verses 1-8


a. The presumption of humbling Christianity before heathendom, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 .

The assertion of the last chapter is, positively, that the Church is judge within itself of its own. The assertion now is, negatively, that it is an un-warrantable thing to arraign a Christian before a pagan judge.

Verse 2

2. Not know As they ought to know from Daniel 7:22, and other scriptures.

Saints The very saints to whom Daniel affirms that the kingdom shall be given.

Judge Or, rule. For in ancient times, as judges ruled much by discretion, and kings often held the judicial to be part of the royal office, to judge and to rule are very much the same thing. The Judges of the Book of Judges were executive as well as judicial rulers. Our final Judge, even in the act of sentencing, is also King. Matthew 24:34; Matthew 24:40. Nor does St. Paul’s argument require a literal judicial action by the saints over the world in order to show their superiority over pagan tribunals. In the two clearest pictorial presentations of the final judgment in the New Testament, namely, Matthew 25:26, and Revelation 20:11-15, the saints are depicted only as judged, and not as judges. Alford maintains that the saints will, at the advent, judge as assessors, or side judges, with Christ; but when he comes to the angels of 1 Corinthians 6:3 he confesses a break down. How or when, even as assessors with Christ, will saints judge angels? It is not, we think, as assessors with Christ merely that the saints will judge and reign, but as IN CHRIST; as mystically one with him (1 Corinthians 6:15) and represented by him. Note, 1 Corinthians 3:22. Personally, though they have no subjects, yet are they kings in his royalty; though they perform no sacrifice, yet they are priests in his priesthood; though they arraign no criminal, yet they are judges in his judgment. They are one with him; their cause is his cause; and they suffer in all its defeats, triumph in all its triumphs, and rule in all its dominations, whether over men in time or over men and angels in eternity.

If… world… be judged by you In the sphere of the Spirit the apostle tells us that even now (1 Corinthians 2:15) “he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” In the triumphs of the apostolic age the twelve sat upon twelve thrones judging (that is, ruling) the twelve tribes of Israel. If, then, the realm of the true Church is truly far above that of the world, certainly it ought not to be judged by the pagan world.

Unworthy… smallest matters As, comparatively, all worldly matters are.

Verse 3

3. Shall judge angels Our interpretation dismisses the question so puzzling to some commentators, whether good or bad angels, or both, are meant. For Christ, truly, is Lord and Judge of both heaven and hell; of men and angels good and bad; and those who suffer and rejoice in union with his mystical body here will reign in him and with him through eternity.

Hence Olshausen well says, “Angels themselves stand lower in the order of beings than those in whose hearts Christ is formed.”

This symbolism, of which Paul gives us an occasional glimpse, is unfolded in full volume by John in the Apocalypse. The suppression of the cause of Christ on earth is beautifully represented by the symbolical souls of the martyrs under the altar, (Revelation 14:4;) and its triumphs by the symbol of these same souls having attained to a first resurrection, and reigning in the spirit-world with Christ, over the evangelized earth. Revelation 20:4.

Verse 4

4. Least esteemed Alford truly calls this “a lofty irony.” And yet it implies a divine truth. Earthly matters are comparatively trifles in the light of eternity; and he who is a priest and king, through Christ, unto God, might easily trust a trifle of time to be decided by the humblest brother king. Yet the next verse shows that St. Paul is not seriously advising them to trust their disputes to the arbitration of incompetent hands.

Verse 5

5. Your shame He has shown them the high ideal of their state in Christ to humiliate them for debasing that ideal before heathen magistrates.

Able to judge On the level of plain, literal thought, St. Paul here advises them to place their disputes before some competent Christian arbiter.

Verse 6

6. Brother goeth to law By favour of the Roman government (see note on Acts 9:2) the Jews were permitted to establish courts of their own for the trial of cases between Jew and Jew. And by a law of the Jews it was unlawful for a Jew to arraign a Jew before a Gentile court. Christian courts were early established by the Church for settling disputes between Christians. Stanley quotes from the Apostolic Constitution, a document of the middle of the second century, a striking passage to this effect. The Christian rule, however, did not forbid the prosecuting of a heathen by a Christian before a heathen tribunal. A narrative is related of St. Julitta, who, having prosecuted a pagan for theft, withdrew her suit when required by the court, as a condition of a verdict, to renounce her Christian faith. When, at length, Christianity became the established religion of the Roman empire, these courts gradually grew into powerful ecclesiastical courts, and became a stronghold of the popish hierarchy.

Verse 7

7. A fault A shortcoming; a failure to attain the true high Christian level, requiring them to suffer wrong rather than to do wrong by abasing the Church before heathendom.

Defrauded To be deprived, that is, of rights or property. The spirit prescribed by the apostle would strike at the roots of all Church divisions. It is a favoured country where law is both just and supreme. But a diminution of litigation is a good proof of advancing civilization. It arises from a disposition to suffer rather than contend.

Verse 8

8. Nay You follow the reverse of the Christian course, and are, therefore, in need of the following warning of failing at last of the kingdom of God.

Verse 9

9. Kingdom of God In which the holy do, through Christ, overrule the unholy.

Be not deceived Middle voice, Deceive not yourselves. Neither your past rich experience nor your membership in Christ’s Church can save you in your sensuality and other vices.

Idolaters A large share of whose ritual is sensual indulgence.

Effeminate Pathics.

Abusers Sodomites. Romans 1:26-27.

Verses 9-11

b. Sensualities and other vices exclude from the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 .

St. Paul has just been holding up the highest ideal of the kingdom of God the glorious judgeship [rulership] of the saints as reason why his Corinthians should not humble each other before pagan courts. Their tendency to do so directs his thoughts to that cluster of vices, especially sensuality, by which, amid the dissoluteness of Corinth, they were in imminent danger of forfeiting their title to God’s glorious kingdom. Hence these words of earnest warning are pervaded throughout with a secret reference to their easy remissness in regard to the fornicator.

Verse 11

11. Washed Greek middle voice, Ye have washed yourselves; that is, by regeneration internally, symbolized by baptism, externally.

Sanctified And, therefore, these sensualities are the opposite of your character.

Justified And so such practices must forfeit your justification, and exclude you from the kingdom of God.

This paragraph condemns, 1. All idea that the being once justified insures, in spite of relapse into vice, a secured inheritance of God’s glorified kingdom; and, 2. All Antinomianism; that is, the doctrine that a Christian’s professional holiness renders his sin and vice righteous and safe, so that he may transgress with impunity.

Verse 12

12. All things All gratifying objects. We are endowed with natural appetites, desires, and preferences by our very constitution. Innumerable objects are, correspondently, endowed with the quality to gratify and satiate all those our internal appetences. The world is thus to us a storehouse of enjoyments. And this, being God’s own constitution, is lawful.

Unto me St. Paul, as a fellow-Christian with those using this reasoning, uses it as applicable to himself.

Not expedient However gratifying to our appetences many of these objects, yet most of them, unless rightly used, become injurious to body or mind. So that the universality becomes immensely reduced.

Under the power As we may sin, and ruin ourselves by selecting the wrong object, so we may do the same by accepting and using the right object in excess. And that excess often enslaves us to the power of the object. Food is lawful for the stomach, but gluttony is unlawful.

Verses 12-20

c. Nor can sensualities be excused by the lawfulness of all natural gratification, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 .

A doctrine by which the Corinthian Antinomians, whose views of Christian ethics were yet unshaped, were deceiving themselves, (1 Corinthians 6:9,) is now stated and explained. God has given internal appetites and external objects to gratify them. This is the divine constitution. He has given, for instance, the stomach and the food, (1 Corinthians 6:13;) so he has given the sexual instincts and the sex; the desire for wealth and external property, etc. St. Paul replies, that all those external objects are truly lawful sources of gratification; yet the unrestrained gratification is limited by the law of the expedient, and that limits the right. The injurious is wrong, the truly beneficial alone is right. And so we are truly restricted not only to the right object, but also to that object in the right degree.

The interpretation given by the great body of commentators ”all indifferent things are lawful” seems not only itself an empty truism, but involves perplexity in carrying a consistent meaning through the paragraph. Our interpretation perhaps justifies itself by its clear results.

Verse 13

13. Meat… belly An instance of the above mentioned correspondence or correlation between the internal appetite and the external object. Food and the stomach were made for each other.

God shall destroy This correlation between appetite and supply, the stomach and the food, though divinely established, is transient. Death will demolish it; and in the reorganization at the resurrection it will be omitted from the glorified body.

Body… fornication If there are correlations there are also repugnances. The stomach and the due food are rightly correlated; the body and the harlot are fearfully opposite and repugnant.

For the Lord The true transcendent, spiritual, eternal correlation is between the sanctified body and the Lord.

Lord for the body The correlation between the appetite and the food is earthly and transient; the correlation between our body and the Lord is heavenly and eternal, being, as shown in 1 Corinthians 6:14, carried up into the resurrection. It springs from the fact that our glorious Lord will glorify our bodies. Here, as in 1 Corinthians 15:0, Paul bases our hope of a future life, not distinctly on the immortality of the soul, but upon the resurrection through Christ.

Verse 14

14. And In accordance with this correlation between our bodies and the Lord.

Raise up us So that while the correlation between the stomach and the food God will destroy at death, the correlation between our body and the Lord, God will renew in the resurrection.

Verse 15

15. The nature of this last blessed correlation he will now declare.

Know ye not As you seem, by your easy dealing with the fornicator, not to know. Members of the mystical body of Christ A oneness foreshadowed in the Church below, but to be gloriously disclosed in the Church of the resurrection.

Members of a harlot Under this awful conception (explained in next verse) St. Paul opens to his Corinthians the intense opposition of Christianity to the characteristic vice of their city.

Verse 16

16. One body He holds the transient union to be, as it were, a brief Satanic marriage, in which the whole being of the guilty pair is lawlessly identified, and the members of each are members of both.

Saith he Saith God. St. Paul quotes words originally applied to holy marriage.

Verse 17

17. One spirit With the Lord.

Verse 18

18. The apostle now breaks out in direct address, Flee, O ye Corinthians, your destroying vice, fornication.

Flee As Joseph fled from the wife of his master; for, as St. Anselm says, “other vices are best conquered by fighting, this by running away.”

Without the body Extra of the body. That is, every sin is really committed by the soul, through the will, and the body is only the instrument.

Against Rather, into. Fornication differs not from other sins touching its being committed by the soul; but pre-eminently of all it pours the sin into and throughout the body. And this striking of this sin through the whole body consists not merely in its withering, and wasting, and destroying power upon the body, but in something deeper, more awful, and more truly eternal. As the whole being is satanically unified with the harlot, so the whole body becomes, in its uncleanness, the perfect opposite of the pure person of Jesus the pure. How awfully incapable, then, of coming into mystic oneness with him. And from these views it would seem to follow that lawless love is really more truly opposite to Christ than even lawless hate. Our Corinthians may now infer how detestable is that religion with which their city so abounded, and of which debauchery was one of the consecrated rites.

Verse 19

19. What! A term of indignant surprise at his Corinthians not having realized this in their easiness with the fornicator.

Body Your soul is the resident of the body as its home; while the Holy Ghost consecrates it as his temple. Materialistic philosophers of the present day have reproached Christianity with endeavouring, in its effort for exalting the soul, to depreciate the real worth and dignity of the body. Popish monasticism has, indeed, done so. The macerations, and flagellations, and other cruelties inflicted by Romish monkery on the body of its devotees are not drawn from the New Testament, but borrowed from the Buddhisms and Brahmanisms of the East. On the contrary, true Christianity, by its doctrines of the incarnation and resurrection, puts an honour upon the body of which materialistic philosophy knows nothing.

Not your own Ye walk on earth as beings belonging to the holy God, pervaded by his indwelling Spirit.

Verse 20

20. With a price Directing their thoughts to the blood of the atonement.

Therefore glorify God Honour, and spread the honour, of the holy God by the spirit of purity in your body. So that holiness is not confined to the soul. It must reign in the body and act forth in its actions.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.