I Corinthians 6:1-11

Dr. Steve Viars August 27, 1991 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

- tonight we're going to be moving into I Cor. 6 and talking
  about "Believers and lawsuits"

- I'd like to ask you two introductory questions tonight to
  get our minds moving in the right direction on this subject

- INPUT - if you interviewed the average unsaved person
    entering a courtroom to sue someone else, how do you
    think he or she would respond to the following questions?
      - What are you wanting to achieve in this suit?
      - What concerns you the most about this case?
      - What are your goals?
    - What kind of answers do you think you'd get?

       - I'm going to get a load of money
       - I'm going to get revenge - be vindicated
       - justice will prevail

- In this passage - Paul is going to say - there are some
  things about this subject that:
     - you are either not thinking about at all,
     - or that are not nearly as important in your thinking
       as they ought to be

- INPUT - Now, many here tonight know that one of the bottom
          lines of this passage is that believers cannot take
          other believers in the church to court.
        - Let's say there was a person here tonight that said
           - Well, PV, I know that and I don't plan on taking
             another believer in the church to court - I have
             a conviction in that area already. How can this
             passage and this study help them?

             1)- it's good to get more practice in thinking
                 through problems biblically (develop - some
                 folks have trouble being solution-oriented)
             2)- the reasons that Paul gives for not taking
                 other believers to court have wider
                 applications that can be used in a variety
                 of situations.

- now, with those thoughts in mind - let's look at I Cor.
    6:1-11 (READ)

- first of all, let's talk about:

I. The Problem

    - what Paul is talking about in chapter 6 was a great
      problem in the Roman culture

    A. In their culture

        1. with unbelievers

    - the legal situation in Corinth was probably similar to
      the city of Athens, where civil litigation was a part of life

    - one ancient writer said that, in a manner of speaking,
      every Athenian was a lawyer
    - his point was that practically everybody in the city
      was involved in a court case in one way or another
    - in fact, for them, in was a kind of challenge and

    - when two people had a problem they couldn't resolve
      between themselves, first they went into arbitration,
      where each party was assigned an arbitrator along with
      a third disinterested party
        - where the two arbitrators and the third person
          tried to come to an agreement
    - as an aside, history tells us that every citizen had to
      serve as a public arbitrator during the 60th year of
      his life

    - if that didn't work, the case was turned over to a
      court of 40

    - if that step failed, the case went to a jury court,
       which sometimes had hundreds of jurors per case

    - point is - the Corinthians had been so used to suing
        each other and being involved in the legal system as
        unbelievers, that they just carried that habit right
        over into their saved lives

        2. with the Jews

            - one exception to what we're talking about would
              have been the Jews that lived under Roman rule
              at this time

            - they didn't take other Jews to the secular
              courts--in fact, they viewed it as a form of
              blasphemy to do so
            - as a result, the Roman government allowed them
              to have their own court system, and levy
              punishments except for capital punishment

            - what biblical event gives us some insight into
              the innerworkings of the Roman courts and the
              Jewish ones?  (the trials of Jesus)

- the point is - the Corinthians lived in a "suing society",
   much like you and I do today.

- the problem is - they brought that right in the church

    B. In the church

        - just like in the last chapter, Paul said one of the
          terrible things about the man living with his
          father's wife was that it was happening in the
          church and nothing was being done about it,
            - Paul points out several times that believers
              are taking other believers from the church to

        - Now, we know that these aren't doctrinal or
          spiritual arguments that are being discussed. We're
          talking about disagreements about personal property
          and civil matters.
        - INPUT - what phrase in both verses 3 and 4 tells us
           that we're talking about struggles regarding
           personal property? (things pertaining to this

- so the Corinthians are talking their problems and
   disagreements over personal property with people in the
   church and getting them heard and decided before

        - INPUT - there are a couple of indications that Paul
                  views this as a serious situation. What are

             1) The placement of this passage.  What are some
                of the subjects discussed before and after
                this passage?
                  - man living in fornication (and the more
                   serious charge of the church not
                   practicing church discipline) in chapter 5
                  - characteristics of individuals who are
                    not saved in verses 9-11
                  - discussion of immorality and abuses of
                    the body - at the end of 6
                - point is - Paul puts this discussion right
                   up there with some of the most serious
                   serious sins a person can commit

             2) use of the word "dare". Even today, we
                reserve that word for serious situations.
                "How dare you" is a phrase we reserve for
                situations that are really far out.
                - that’s the way Paul is using it here. How
                  dare you take other believers from the
                  church to the secular courts!

             3) use of the phrase "do you not know?" He uses
                that phrase six times in this chapter, which
                would be strong words to anyone, but
                especially to the Corinthians who prided
                themselves on wisdom and knowledge.
                  - this is even more true when we realize
                    Paul is asking Retorical questions
                     - he's really saying - no - you don't
                        know! - and here's all the things
                        you're neglecting to consider in this
- point is - this is a serious issue that every believer
   needs to understand - important biblical truths are at

- now, Paul gives a principle to solve this problem

II. The Principle

    A. If two believers in a local church have a problem they
       cannot solve, they should take the problem to their
       local church to be resolved.
     Paul makes that point in several ways:

        v. 1 - ...go to the law before the unjust and not
               before the saints
        v. 2 - are you unworthy to judge the smallest
        v. 5 - ...not one that shall be able to judge between
                his brethren
        v. 7 - there is utterly a fault among you, because
                ye go to law one with another

- so the principle is  (repeat point)

- now - I'd like us to spend the majority of the time we have
   left looking at the reasons Paul gives - but let's talk
   quickly about the objection someone might have of:

    B. What about Matt. 7:1?

        - (ask them to turn there)

        - some might object to what Paul is saying about the
          church being responsible to judge in unresolved
          matters between believers saying, "well, I thought
          we weren't supposed to judge each other?"

        - let's talk about this verse for a minute

        - INPUT - when we are seeking to understand a verse
           in the Bible, especially one that that is
           seemingly obscure, what do we always have to keep
           in mind?
             - (our interpretation must always bear the
                weight of the rest of the Scripture)

        - how do we know Matt. 7:1 can't mean that we never
          judge in any sense?

            - I Cor. 5 - church commanded to judge
            - Matt. 7:5 - "First, cast the beam out of thine
                own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to
                cast the mote out of thy brother's eye.

        - Matthew 7:1, Judge not lest you be judged means -
           do not judge in an unjust way - in a way that you
           would not want to be judged by someone else.
        - That’s why later in this passage Jesus gives what we
          often refer to as the "golden rule" in verse 12
            - do to other men as you would them to do to you

            - don't judge in a way that is different than the
              way you would want to be judged by someone else

- so Paul's solution to this dilemma is: "If two believers in
       a local church have a problem they cannot solve, they
       should take the problem to their local church to be

- now let's talk about the reasons Paul gives for this

III. The Reasons

    A. The church is able

        - Paul is saying - the fact that you are doing what
          you are doing is an indication that you are
          forgetting some very important information about
          the church
        - in other words, he is accusing them of having a low
          view, or a condescending view of the church

        - let's see specifically what he says

        1. the church will judge the world in the future

            - the Bible teaches in many places that believers
              in heaven will be involved in the judgment of
              those who didn't accept Christ as personal
              Savior and Lord

                - Dan. 7:22 - ...and judgment was given to
                     the saints of the most high
                - Matt. 19:28 - (to the disciples) - you
                     shall also sit on twelve thrones judging
                     the twelve tribes of Israel
                - cf. Rev. 2:26-27, 3:23, 20:4

            - Paul is saying - as believers, you have the
               unique ability to make spiritual and right
               judgments and that ability, of course
               perfected after your glorification) is going
               to be called upon in Christ's millennial

        2. the church will judge angels in the future - v. 3

            - he makes the same argument as he did in verse
            - if believers are going to be called upon to
              perform such weighty judgment with eternal
              consequences in heaven, surely you can handle
              the petty civil cases that would occur between
              church members here on earth

        3. surely the church can judge its own now - vv. 4-6

- the overall point Paul is making in these verses is: "You
     have a low view, a condescending view, of the church and
     what it can accomplish."

- see, why should we bring unresolved matters between two
    members of the church instead of taking them to the
    secular courts?
- One reason is because the church can do a better job. The
    church is uniquely qualified to handle these matters.

- INPUT - why is this true? Why is it true that the church is
    uniquely qualified to handle the kind of matters we're
    been talking about tonight?

- I think it would wise for us to pause here and broaden this
   principle out by asking, do you have a low view or
   condescending view of the local church and what it can

INPUT - what would be some evidences of a person who had a
        problem in this area?

      1) involved in all kinds of "Christian groups" but no
          time for the church.
      2) evangelistic efforts that don't "plug" converts back
          into a strong local church for discipleship.
      3) people who bypass the church in their giving.
      4) those who believe the "real problems" of people
          can't be handled by the church.
      5) not getting help with personal problems from someone
           at the church
      6) not getting counsel about major decisions

- see, one of the questions we need to deal with tonight is:
    - what evidence is there in your life that you have a
      high view of the local church?
      - cf. young people - car wash - they believe a local
          church outreach like that could have eternal
      - the fact that you are here tonight - you believe
          God's business is done at the church
      - people who get involved in other outreach ministries
           - Purdue outreach
           - College ministry (doughnuts, decision to move)
           - living nativity

- Paul is saying - its alarming that you are taking other
    brothers and sisters to court - but what's especially
    alarming about that is what it reveals - and that is your
    low view of God's church

- the church is able....its able to handle these situations
     in a way that pleases the Lord

- a second reason Paul gives for obeying this command is:

    B. It protects your testimony to the unsaved world

        - Paul makes this point in several ways

        - v. 1 - (you do this) before the unjust
        - v. 4 - you set them to judge who are least esteemed
                  in the church?
        - v. 6 - and that before the unbelievers!

        - this gets back to the question we asked at the
           beginning of the message
        - think of the kind of things that are important to
          the average person entering a court room to file
          suit against someone else
            - the things that concern him or her the most
            - the kind of things they really wanted to
              accomplish and get out of that situation

    - Paul says - what in the world are you thinking?
       - what ought to concern you
       - what ought to be right at the forefront of your mind
           is the impact this situation is going to have on
           the unsaved world

    - not only are unbelievers unequipped to give right
      judgments, but you're not getting them any closer to
      changing that by being saved - because you're not being
      a very good representation of the difference between a
      believer and an unbeliever

    - my mother and father-in-law recently bought us a
      devotional book that takes you through the whole Bible
      where it has you read a passage of Scripture and then
      it explains that passage and helps you identify ways to
      change and grow
    - So I just recently had the opportunity to read through
      Leviticus and it's amazing all the things God
      instituted in his law that were intended to accentuate
      the difference between those who worshipped Jehovah and
      those who didn't
    - and while those ceremonial laws are no longer in force
      for the NT believer, the principle is surely there that
      God wants believers who are different than the world

    - He wants individuals who are looking for opportunities
      to accentuate the difference between those who have
      have been saved and those who haven't

    - Paul is saying - by handling the way you've been
       wronged just like the unsaved world, you've missed a
       great opportunity for evangelism

    - let me ask you to think about this for a moment - when
         you are wronged - what things are you concerned
         about the most?
           - now I'm not saying you shouldn't be concerned at
             all about that other person making things right.
           - but what are you concerned about first? most?

    - when the attendant gives you the wrong amount of
    - when the contractor doesn't come thorough when he
       promised he would?
    - when someone's child throws a rock and hits your car?
    - when someone made an appointment with you and they're

    - obviously the immediate context is talking about what
      you do when that happens with believers and the
      testimony that is to unsaved folks who might observe
        - but we could broaden this out and talk about any
          situation where you're wronged or you believe
          you're wronged
        - what kind of things are most important in your

    - Paul says - we ought to focus on how our response will
        impact those around who don't know Christ as Lord as

    - Proverbs 22:1 says it this way - "a good name is rather
        to be chosen than great riches"
    - see, some believers have gotten the riches - they've
       gotten their pound of flesh
          - but they marred any effective testimony for
            Christ with that person
    C. It gives you an opportunity to grow

        - verse 7 gives an option to this situation that
          apparently the Corinthians hadn't even considered
        - READ 7

        - Paul says - you could look at this as an
          opportunity to grow by taking the wrong - or
          absorbing the loss

        - INPUT - can you think of some other passages of
            Scripture that would teach this same idea or a
            related truth?

           - I Peter 4:8 - love covers a multitude of sins

           - Phil. 2:5-11 - Let this mind be in you which
                 also was in Christ Jesus...

           - Matt. 5:39-40 - "...whosoever shall smite thee
               on the right cheek, turn to him the other
               also.  And if any man will sue thee at the
               law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy
               cloak also."

           - I Peter 2:20 - what glory is it, when you are
              buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently?
              But if, when you do well and suffer for it,
              this is acceptable with God.

- see, in these kinds of situations we can get so anxious
   about getting or way, making the other person make things
   right and all the rest
     - that we miss an opportunity to take a step of growth
       and become more like Christ

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video