Today: [1 Corinthians 6:] Lawsuits, Promiscuity, Appetites and Tattoos: In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul gets downright personal with the Corinthians in ways that most Christians today would never tolerate. He declares that if we call ourselves by the name of Christ, many things that are legal and lawful for us to do should nonetheless be reconsidered in the light of our responsibilities to represent the kingdom well.
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[1Co 6:1-20 KJV] 1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather [suffer yourselves to] be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that [your] brethren. 9 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, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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. 12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body [is] not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. 15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make [them] the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. 17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. 18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
In chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians Paul begins by challenging us regarding taking legal action against other believers. Have you ever been sued? Was the litigant a believer? We live in a very litigious society. Billions of dollars in our economy are connected with legal settlements of every description. Some of these represent justice being done while many are frivolous in the extreme. How are we to conduct ourselves if we are wrong and tempted to take someone to court, or if someone, on the other hand, takes us to court? God’s word speaks to this issue. What Paul is suggesting, if not commanding is that the church should have a mechanism in place to arbitrate these things in-house and not for believers to drag their differences out into public view. I personally have never known any church or Christian group to conduct themselves in this way as Paul recommends. From Paul’s perspective, it is shameful for believers to defame the fellowship and the cause of Christ by allowing their disagreements to boil over into public view.
In verse 7 Paul asks the question why not suffer the wrong? Why not just allow ourselves to be defrauded even if the court case or legal threat has no merit? In other words, he is suggesting that even if we know, we would likely win a judgment in our favor we should avoid the courts even if it means we would be set at a disadvantage if doing so. Jesus likewise spoke on these matters in the gospel of Matthew:
[Mat 5:25 KJV] 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
How important is this to our Christian witness? Paul casts litigious believers among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God, along with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, and homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, etc. In context with v. 11, Paul stresses that when we gave our lives to Christ, we were washed clean of these things including the temptation to file or to defend ourselves in lawsuits before the public courts.
Are you ever within your rights to defend yourself in court or to file a lawsuit? Verse 12 tells us that while it may be lawful for us to take advantage of the legal system, it isn’t necessarily spiritually fitting for us to do so. We should point out that anyone reading this may well have asked Paul why he didn’t plead guilty when he stood before Festus or Agrippa, then? That defines for us this conversation in 1 Cor. 6 as applying to what we would term CIVIL and not CRIMINAL cases. In Paul’s case, his life and freedom were at stake, and he rightly defended himself. The scope then of the remarks in 1 Corinthians then is understood to apply to matters at law other than criminal proceedings.
Under the subject header of things that are (or are not) expedient, Paul shifts the conversation to appetites and habits of life that may be lawful but nonetheless destructive. He compares these things in v. 13 to fornication or sexual sin. Fornication is about satisfying a natural human need for sexual outlet in an unnatural or destructive way. In this instance, Paul uses this as an example relating to overindulging in food in a way that is destructive to health. In the church we disapprove of those who are promiscuous but what about those who cannot push away from the table? Obesity is at epidemic levels in our society, and the church is not exempt. We cannot point to professing Christians as a people group and say they are more fit than those out in the world. Is it a sin to be obese? No, of course not – but there are habits of life (overeating, laziness) that can lead to obesity that is not only destructive to health but identified by Paul as just as grievous as sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, adultery, etc. Is this too personal? In another passage Paul makes the following statement:
[1Co 9:27 KJV] 27 But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Do you see what Paul is saying here? If you do not keep yourself physically in check, you are fostering weaknesses in your life that not only affect you naturally but spiritually as well. The character flaws that contribute to ill health in these areas are the same things that can destroy your destiny in God. Jack Coe of the 1950’s healing revivals was extremely overweight and would produce mighty miracles. He would boast “who says you have to fast and pray for the power…” but the other side of the story is that Jack Coe died before his time, a victim of his own excesses. In my work out room recently I was on the stationary bike and the Lord quoted a verse to me:
[Pro 12:10 KJV] 10 A righteous [man] regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked [are] cruel.
Your body, your flesh is your beast. If you are conducting yourself in a manner that is not conducive to good health – Proverbs 12:10 identifies that as unrighteousness in your life. What are you going to do about it? You can cut calories and join a gym, but there is a deeper problem than not only will continue to damage your health but is eroding your place in God and your destined purpose. The stakes are much higher than you realize. As v. 13 maintains your body is not for fornication (meeting legitimate needs in an illegitimate way). Your body is for the Lord. If you are bound by an unhealthy habit in these areas, it is because you have not given yourself in your physicality to God.
In verse 15 Paul continues stressing these issue. Our bodies are members of Christ. Would you afflict Christ himself with your drug or tobacco habit? What about your penchant for pornography or promiscuity? Paul is speaking to people in Corinth who generationally engaged in prostitution as a common occurrence in everyday life. Whether it is sexual in nature or not, the habits of life and appetites we allow to get out of control we must understand that there is a spirit involved and it is not the spirit of Christ. We aren’t just dealing with your flesh in these matters. We can’t just cast off our accountability by insisting this is just our make-up and there is nothing we can do about it. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. We must get our appetites in check. Is this too personal?
In verse 18 Paul’s admonition is to flee such things. Fornication or sexual sin is a sin against our own body. What about overeating? Is that not a sin against the body as well. What about tobacco or illicit drug use? What about alcohol? We might say these things are legal but what is the impact of overindulgence on our health? Again (v. 19) Paul declares that our bodies are the temple of God. In our culture, we have placed such a divide between natural and spiritual that we have left room to give place to Satan in these areas. We are not better off for it. What about tattoos? That gets really personal and incites a tremendous backlash. Let me ask you something about your next tattoo – would you paint that as graffiti on the side of the church? Would you put that tattoo on Jesus? Your response might be that it is no one’s business, but even the person who chooses the culture of self-expression such as this is not exempt from the conversation that Paul engages in here. We are all bought with a price. That is the bottom line. Our responsibility is this – to glorify God in our bodies as well as in our spirits because both are God’s.
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