1 Corinthians 6
PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Going to Law Before Unbelievers||Do Not Sue the Brethren||Lawsuits in Pagan Courts||Lawsuits Against Fellow Christians||Recourse to the Pagan Courts|
|Glorify God in Your Body||Glorify God in Body and Spirit||A Warning Against Laxity||Use Your Bodies for God's Glory||Sexual Immorality|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
I have, through the years, had several lawyers ask me about how this context relates to our modern society.
First, the prohibition against taking someone (even another Christian) to court must be dealt with. One could argue that modern courts differ from pagan courts, but how so? Much of our law is also based on Roman law. Some judges today are believers, but that should not affect their judicial rulings.
There seem to be several issues involved.
1. The motive and purpose of the litigation are crucial, not just the legal basis of the case. We live in a litigious society, just like ancient Athens. Often pride, money, or revenge are the real issues.
2. The resulting social impact of greedy, petty, or angry Christians in open court must be avoided. Each believer has a corporate obligation to the Kingdom of God. Our witness is crucial.
3. However, the church has not provided an effective means of arbitration between believers. There is not an ecclesiastical forum for believers to air and deal with issues that are important to them or that are inherently unfair.
4. Possibly one solution is a Christian Lawyers Association with spiritual resources (i.e., Scripture, godly wisdom, etc.), not just legal precedent, which deals with legal issues involving believers. Believers (i.e., believing lawyers) who feel led to be involved in lawsuits should ask God's guidance and establish guidelines by which they choose to practice law. This could develop into a forum for arbitration between believers.
Although the NT is historically and culturally conditioned, the basic problems and tendencies of humanity are not. God is speaking through these texts and believers must hear His words and will, though not in first century Greco-Roman categories. These texts call for believers to be less litigious and more Christlike. They call for the church to provide a forum (like the synagogue courts). They shout at us that personal loss is better than Kingdom (i.e., gospel) loss!
In a day of little church discipline, rampant divorce between believers, combined with a greedy, litigious society, chapters 5 and 6 are crucial texts for us to study and implement, both corporately (church and churches) and individually. American freedoms are based on equality under the law. This means as believers we live in two spheres or realms, one civil and one spiritual. We dare not abolish our legal system, but we must remember our heavenly citizenship. Both realms have rights and responsibilities. But one realm does have priority (cf. 6:19-20)!
Some believers may view the issue of litigation and the proper reasons for litigation differently. We all must walk in the light we have. This context can increase that light.
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:1-6
1Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
This is used in the Koine Greek Papyri found in Egypt for (1) "an action" or "a deed"; (2) "a lawsuit"; (3) "trouble" or "difficulty"; (4) "business" or "trade" (cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, p. 532). Number two fits this context best. We know from the Athenian documents that Greeks were culturally prone to litigations. The same, to some extent, applies to Romans. The Corinth of Paul's day was not Greek, but Roman (see Bruce W. Winter, After Paul Left Corinth, Eerdmans, 2001).
This is literally heteros (cf. 10:24; 14:17; Gal. 6:4). In Classical Greek there was a distinction between alla (i.e another of the same kind) and heteros (i.e., another of a different kind). This distinction in Koine Greek (as were many of the distinctions of Classical Greek grammar and usage) was fading. This context is a good example. The use here of heteros, referring to a fellow believer, is paralleled in Rom. 13:8. In Rom. 2:1 the term has a wider meaning, possibly neighbor, fellow citizen, or Jew. The contextual clincher for the connotation in this verse is the phrase "before the saints." A lost neighbor would probably not agree to go before a church court (cf. Matt. 18:17; James 2:1-4) in a dispute with a believer.
It is surely possible that Paul had a two-level distinction. It is a problem for a believer against a nonbeliever to go before a pagan tribunal. It is even worse for a believer to take another believer before a pagan tribunal. I prefer the interpretation that "neighbor" in v. 1 also means "covenant partner" or "fellow believer."
▣ "dare" This Greek term (i.e., tolmaō) is used several times in the Corinthian letters in the sense of "to presume" or "to assure a boldness" (cf. 6:1; II Cor. 6:2,10; 11:21; and Rom. 5:7; 15:15,18; Jude 9).
NASB, NKJV "go to law before the unrighteous"
NRSV"to take it to court before the unrighteous"
TEV"go before heathen judges"
NJB"to seek judgement from sinners"
Paul was not worried about believers being treated unfairly, but about exposing Christian problems before unbelievers. The Spirit is the key to interpersonal relationships in the church, not pagan law. Evangelism is more important than personal justice!
6:2 "do you not know" See note at 5:6.
▣ "the saints" "Saints" (hogioi) is from the OT term "holy," (kadosh) which meant "set apart for God's service" (cf. Exod. 19:6; Deut. 7:6; I Cor. 1:2; II Cor. 1:1; Rom. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2). It is always plural in the NT except for one time in Philippians (4:21), but even there, it is used corporately. To be saved is to be part of the covenant community of faith, the family of believers. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at 1:2.
God's people are holy because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus (i.e., the indicative statement, cf. Romans 4; II Cor. 5:21). It is God's will that they live holy lives (i.e., the imperative command, cf. Eph. 1:4; 4:1; 5:27; Col. 1:22; 3:12). Believers are declared holy (positional sanctification) and also called to lifestyle holiness (progressive sanctification). Justification and sanctification must be held together! See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION at 1:2.
▣ "will judge the world" Although Jesus mentioned specifically that the Apostles will act as judges, the logical extension of that truth is that saints will also judge (cf. Dan. 7:22,27; Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30; Rev. 2:26, 3:21, 20:4). When and how are the hard questions.
▣ "If" This is a first class conditional sentence, which assumes that saints will participate as judges in the end-time events.
NASB"are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts"
NKJV"are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters"
NRSV"are you incompetent to try trivial cases"
TEV"aren't you capable of judging small matters"
NJB"are you not competent for petty cases"
This is biting sarcasm directed to those who claimed to have superior wisdom! This same term (i.e., anaxios) is used of the inappropriate behavior of the Corinthian churches at the Lord's Supper (cf. 11:27,29). These immature believers, who claimed so much special spiritual insight, in reality did not know how to evaluate properly or act properly!
The term "smallest" is the superlative form of mikros. Paul used it earlier in 4:3. Its use heightens the sarcasm.
6:3 "Do you not know that we will judge angels" The grammar expects a "yes" answer. Believers are a higher spiritual order than the angels. It is hard for believers, trapped in this fallen world, to realize our true spiritual standing (cf. 13:12). Angels were created as servants of God and of redeemed humanity (cf. Heb. 1:14). It is humanity that is created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), not the angels. It is for humanity that Jesus gave His life, not for angels (cf. Heb. 2:14-16). Believers will one day judge the angels (i.e., rebellious angels, cf. Gen. 6; Matt. 25:41; II Pet. 2:4-9; Jude 6 or all angels as a metaphor of universal domination, Dan. 7:22, 27).
According to rabbinical theology the angels have always been jealous of God's love, care, and provision for fallen humanity. The Jewish apocalyptic literature even asserts that Satan's rebellion was related to God's command to serve Adam's race.
▣ "How much more" This reflects a strong enclitic particle (i.e., ge), which is used to indicate emphasis (cf. Moulton's Analytical Lexicon, Revised, p. 75). The sarcastic contrast is obvious.
6:4 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.
▣ "do you appoint" There are several possible ways to translate this phrase. The theories are
1. indicative (a statement), "you do set up"
2. interrogative (a question), "do you set up?"
3. exclamation (cf. NJB, NIV), "you set up!"
4. IMPERATIVE (a command), "set up"
The point is that the least Christian should be able to judge simple and ordinary earthly matters. To try to clarify the options more, there are two ways to view this text: (1) it is referring to pagan judges or (2) it is referring to the least significant members of the church. If so, it is continuing sarcasm.
NASB, NJB"who are of no account"
NKJV"those who are least esteemed"
NRSV, TEV"those who have no standing"
This very term (i.e., exoutheneō, perfect passive participle) was used by Paul in 1:28 to show that God uses the "base things," "the despised," "the things that are not" to confound the world's wisdom so that God Himself will receive the glory. Here it seems to imply those in the church with no standing or leadership skills. The least of the people of God are more adequate because of God's wisdom and Spirit to deal with problems than the best educated and experienced unbelieving secular judges.
▣ "church" See Special Topic at 1:2.
6:5 "I say this to your shame" Paul uses this word often (cf. 4:14; 6:5; 15:34; II Thess. 3:14; Titus 2:8). Shaming is one of the Spirit's tools to bring conviction and allow truth and trustworthy actions and attitudes to develop. This verse continues the biting sarcasm.
▣ "Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man" This was biting sarcasm to this intellectually arrogant church. This is an emphatic double negative question, which expects a "yes" answer. See note at 4:7.
6:6 "and that before unbelievers" There is no article, therefore, the emphasis is on the worldly quality of "pagan" judges.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:7-8
7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.
6:7 "Actually" See note at 5:1.
▣ "then, it is already" This phrase (i.e., ēdē men oun) implies that this church had already been doing these very things. They were already defeated!
NASB, NRSV "a defeat"
NKJV"an utter failure"
This is literally "less," but used in the sense of defeated or failed (cf. II Cor. 12:13; Rom. 11:12; II Pet. 2:19-20).
NASB, NRSV "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded"
NKJV"Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be defrauded"
TEV"Would it not be better for you to be wronged? Would it not be better for you to be robbed"
NJB"Why do you not prefer to suffer injustice, why not prefer to be defrauded"
These are two present passive indicatives. Believers' individual rights are not as important as the reputation and mission of the church. Does any Christian win if the Kingdom loses?
6:8 The western church, with its emphasis on the individual, has skewed the gospel. We have missed its continual emphasis on the whole, the corporate, the body! We see Christianity as something for us individually instead of something for the gospel. We are saved (individually) to serve the body (cf. I Cor. 12:7). Believers must develop a NT worldview, see the world through God' eyes and corporate, global purposes (i.e., Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:9-11
9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
6:9-10 Paul is obviously concerned about the lifestyle of individual Christians (cf. 5 :10,11; 6:9-10), which reflects on the church. Salvation is not only a judicial act (i.e., justification by faith), it is a changed life (i.e., sanctification or Christlikeness, cf. Gal. 6:7). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION at 1:2.
The church was, and is, being "deceived." This is a present passive imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act in process.
6:9 "do you not know" See note at 5:6. The implication is that believers, because of their salvation and indwelling of the Spirit, should know these things! But, baby (immature), carnal believers do not!!! They are mentally dominated by this fallen world's system and the demonic (i.e., self deceived, culturally deceived, and satanically deceived, cf. 12:2).
▣ "that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" Paul states this twice for emphasis (vv. 9, 10). This brings the paradox of the gospel into sharp contrast. Salvation is free in the finished work of Christ, but covenantal salvation demands an appropriate and continuing response. Believers who are declared "right" in Christ must mature into Christlikeness. The goal of God has always been a righteous people that reflect His character. The NT is just like the OT in this regard. The radical nature of the New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) is that human performance for salvation has been replaced with Christ's performance. But this does not affect God's desire for a righteous people. It just changes the mechanism. In this gospel period, believers are motivated by gratitude, not reward.
However, the spiritual principle of "sowing and reaping" (cf. Gal. 6:7) is still in effect for believers and nonbelievers (cf. chapter 3). Oh, the tragedy of fruitless Christianity (cf. John 15; James 2:14-26; I Peter; I John). It impacts the Kingdom, the local church, the individual, and the lost.
Can a Christian who has committed the sins listed in vv. 9-10 be saved? For sure (cf. v. 11)! Can a Christian continue to commit these sins and be saved? Not without divine consequences-loss of fellowship with God, loss of the Spirit's guidance, loss of assurance, loss of peace, loss of effective prayer, loss of true worship, loss of joy, loss of witness! What a price to pay!
There are several texts in Acts and Paul's writings (cf. Acts 20:32; 26:18; I Cor. 6:9-10; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5) which reflect Jesus' words on inheriting the Kingdom (cf. Matt. 25:34).
▣ "Do not be deceived" This is a present passive imperative (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, p. 223, says it is present middle, i.e., "Stop deceiving yourselves") with the negative particle, which usually means "stop an act in process." This is an asyndeton like v. 18, which was a Koine Greek grammatical form of emphasis which brought it to the attention of the reader or hearer.
TEV"people who are immoral"
NJB"the sexually immoral"
This is the general term for sexual immorality (cf. 5:1 [twice],9,10; 6:9,11,13,18; 7:2; 10:8; II Cor. 12:21). Verses 9-10 list the sins related to first century pagan worship practices (cf. 5:9-11), which regularly involved promiscuous sexual activity in the name of the fertility god.
▣ "idolaters" For a believer with an OT perspective, there is nothing worse than this. The use of this term in the list of sins confirms that this is a list of pagan worship practices. All the Gentile believers at Corinth had come out of this background (cf. 6:11). Paul uses this concept (i.e., the worship of and service to false gods) often in his Corinthian letters (cf. 5:10,11; 6:9; 8:4,7,10; 10:7,14,19,28; 12:2; II Cor. 6:16).
▣ "adulterers" This is the Greek term moichos, which refers to extramarital sexual unfaithfulness. This is the only place it is used in the Corinthian letters.
This term (malakos) literally means soft. It could be used of clothing (cf. Matt. 11:8). When applied metaphorically of persons it referred to male prostitutes, usually young men. For a good article on homosexuality see Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp. 413-414.
TEV"(both terms translated together as 'homosexual perverts')"
This term (arsenokoitēs, from arsēn, a male, and keitē, one who lies with) refers to a male homosexual (cf. I Tim. 1:10; Rom. 1:27). This was a major problem in Roman society (cf. Rom. 1:26-27; I Tim. 1:10) as it was in the ancient Near East (cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:18). These two related terms in v. 9 for homosexual activity may refer to the active (arsenokoitai) and passive (malakoi) aspects of this sexual sin.
There is much modern cultural pressure to accept homosexuality as an appropriate alternate lifestyle. The Bible condemns it as a destructive lifestyle, out of the will of God for His creation.
1. it violates the command of Genesis 1 to be fruitful and multiply
2. it characterizes pagan worship and culture (cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; and Jude 7)
3. it reveals a self-centered independence from God (cf. I Cor. 6:9-10)
However, before I leave this topic let me assert God's love and forgiveness to all rebellious human beings. Christians have no right to act hatefully and arrogantly towards this particular sin, especially when it is obvious that all of us sin. Prayer, concern, testimony, and compassion do far more in this area than vehement condemnation. God's Word and His Spirit will do the condemning if we let them. All sexual sins, not just this one, are an abomination to God and lead to judgment. Sexuality is a gift from God for mankind's well-being, joy, and a stable society. But this powerful, God-given urge is often turned into rebellious, self-centered, pleasure-seeking, "more-for-me-at-any-cost," living (cf. Rom. 8:1-8; Gal. 6:7-8).
▣ "revilers" See note at 4:12.
6:11 "Such were some of you" This is an imperfect indicative, which expresses a continual action in past time. This shows the moral blackness of the pagan culture of Paul's day (cf. 12:2), but it also shows the marvelous grace and changing power of the gospel of God in Christ.
The changed lives of these converted pagans were a powerful witness to the gospel. But the change must be permanent and complete, not temporary and selective. They were different now, indwelt now, informed now. They must not return as a dog to his vomit or a pig to the mud (cf. II Pet. 2:22). The lost world is watching!
▣ "but" Notice the threefold rendition of alla in the Greek text to denote these three distinct spiritual events:
3. justifying performed by the Son and the Spirit through our faith, repentant response
▣ "you were washed" This is an aorist middle indicative. This may refer to baptism as an initial, volitional, visible, symbolic act of inner cleansing (cf. Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5). Most translations translate this phrase as a passive voice except the Williams translation, which has "you have washed yourselves clean." Proselytes to Judaism baptized themselves when joining the synagogue. If this word is middle voice like Acts 22:16, this may be a theological allusion to the covenant responsibility discussion in Ezek. 18:31 combined with God's initiating sovereignty (cf. Ezek. 36:25-27). This could be a metaphor for cleansing (cf. Titus 3:15).
▣ "you were sanctified" This is an aorist passive indicative by means of Christ's death and the Spirit's mediation (cf. 1:2,30). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION at 1:2.
▣ "you were justified" This is an aorist passive indicative. Believers are both justified and sanctified when they believe (cf. Rom. 8:29). This positional theological standing mandates Christlike living. See SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS at 1:30.
▣ "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God" This phrase probably confirms the interpretations that "washed" or "wash yourselves" in v. 11 refers to baptism (cf. Rom. 10:9-13). The early church's public profession of faith was baptism. The candidates affirm their faith by verbally saying "I believe Jesus is Lord" or a similar liturgical confession.
The second phrase mentioning "Spirit" could be an allusion or liturgical formula based on Matt. 28:19, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." It is interesting how often Paul refers to "the name" in the opening chapters of I Corinthians (see Special Topic at 1:10).
1. a way of referring to believers ("who. . .call upon the name," cf. 1:2)
2. a way of exhorting believers (cf. 1:10)
3. a way of asserting Paul's authority (cf. 5:4)
4. a way of referring to believers' initial act of calling on the name (cf. 6:11)
The name represents Jesus' person, authority, characteristic, and status.
This is an obvious reference for the redemptive work of the Triune God (cf. vv. 10-11). The term "Trinity" is not a biblical word, but the concept is. If Jesus is divine and the Spirit is a person, then the one divine essence has three eternal, personal manifestations. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at 2:10.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:12-20
12All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "The two shall become one flesh." 17But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
NRSV"All things are lawful for me"
TEV"Someone will say, 'I am allowed to do anything'"
NJB"For me everything is permissible"
This may refer to something Paul had said on an earlier occasion (cf. 10:23; Rom. 14:2,14,20) but it had been taken out of context by (1) the legalism of the Jewish believers or (2) the libertine false teachers who were using Christian freedom as a license to sin (cf. Gal. 5:13; I Pet. 2:16). Paul is trying to walk a fine line between the two extremes and yet speak to both.
This may be the first of Paul's quoting of the slogans of the false teachers or the false teachers taking something out of context he had preached and extending his sayings into other areas (cf. 6:12,13; 7:1; 8:1,4; 10:23, see (1) The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 244, and (2) Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, pp. 362-363). It is not that what they said was not true, but they took the truth beyond legitimate bounds. It is hard to know when Paul is using this technique. Possibly the following criteria may be helpful.
1. It is something Paul has himself said in other writings (cf. 10:23; Rom. 14:2,14,20).
2. It is a brief general statement of truth (like a proverb).
3. All biblical metaphors are true, but have limits as to their relevant application. No example or metaphor can be pushed at every level. They usually have one major application.
Paul attempts to restate the intended truth and limit the inappropriate extensions. This is the issue of hermeneutics in every age!
▣ "but not all things are profitable" This verse speaks to the proper use of Christian freedom which must be exercised in self-limiting love (cf. 10:23; 14:26; Rom. 14:19; 15:2). The building up of the body of Christ is more important than personal rights and freedoms.
▣ "profitable" This is a compound Greek term which means "to bring together for one's benefit" (cf. 6:12; 7:35; 10:23; 12:7; II Cor. 8:10, the negative in 12:1). This parallels Paul's statements in Rom. 14:19; 15:2; I Cor. 10:23; 14:26; II Cor. 12:19; Eph. 4:12,29. Just because a believer is free in Christ does not mean that every thing edifies other believers. We limit our freedom in love for the Lord and His church. We always seek and promote the health and vitality of the whole body of Christ (cf. I Cor. 12:7).
NASB"but I will not be mastered by anything"
NKJV"but I will not be brought under the power of any"
NRSV"but I will not be dominated by anything"
TEV"I am not going to let anything make me its slave"
NJB"but I am determined not to be dominated by anything"
This is a future passive indicative of the Greek term exousia. This term had a wide array of usages
5. supernatural power
Paul may have had several of these connotations in mind in this setting. There is an obvious word play between "lawful" (exestin) and "mastered" (exousiasthēsomai). He did not feel that
1. any human being had the right to judge him (cf. 2:14-15; 3:4-5)
2. no supernatural being had authority over him (cf. 12:2, unbelievers are led astray by the demonic)
3. no personal freedom or personal preference or personal temptation (i.e., tinos, an indefinite pronominal adjective singular in contrast to the double use of panta in this verse)
Paul's authority was from Christ. It was Christ and His Spirit who controlled and empowered him. Self-control is surely one of the fruits of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:23; Acts 24:25; II Pet. 1:6). Paul controls his freedom so that the gospel may prosper and so should we!
Paul is asserting that Christian freedom should not be an opportunity for personal license. Many things that are good can become improper motives, attitudes, or situations (cf. Rom. 14:23). This issue of Christian freedom and Christian responsibility is the critical issue of the Corinthian letters. This issue is also dealt with in Rom. 14:1-15:13. I would like to quote my opening remarks on this subject from the Roman commentary.
CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FROM ROMANS 14:1-15:13
A. This chapter tries to balance the paradox of Christian freedom and responsibility. The literary unit runs through 15:13.
B. The problem which precipitated this chapter was possibly the tension between Gentile and Jewish believers in the church of Rome. Before conversion the Jews tended to be legalistic and the pagans tended to be immoral. Remember, this chapter is addressed to sincere followers of Jesus. This chapter does not address carnal believers (cf. I Cor. 3:1). The highest motive is ascribed to both groups. There is danger in the extremes on both sides. This discussion is not a license for nit-picking legalism or flaunting liberality.
C. Believers must be careful not to make their theology or ethics the standard for all other believers (cf. II Cor. 10:12). Believers must walk in the light they have, but understand that their theology is not automatically God's theology. Believers are still affected by sin. We must encourage, exhort, and teach one another from the Scriptures, reason, and experience, but always in love. The more one knows the more one knows he does not know (cf. I Cor. 13:12)!
D. One's attitude and motives before God are the real keys in evaluating his actions. Christians will stand before Christ to be judged on how they treated one another (cf. vv. 10,12 and II Cor. 5:10).
E. Martin Luther said, "A Christian man is a most free Lord of all, subject to none; the Christian man is a most dutiful servant of all, subject to all." Biblical truth is often presented in a tension-filled paradox.
F. This difficult but crucial subject is dealt with in the entire literary unit of Romans 14:1-15:13 and also in I Corinthians 8-10 and Colossians 2:8-23.
G. However, it needs to be stated that pluralism among sincere believers is not a bad thing. Each believer has strengths and weaknesses. Each must walk in the light he/she has, always open to the Spirit and the Bible for more light. In this period of seeing through a glass darkly (I Cor. 13:8-13) one must walk in love (v. 15), and peace (vv. 17,19) for mutual edification.
H. The titles, "stronger" and "weaker," which Paul gives to these groups, prejudices them to us. This was certainly not Paul's intent. Both groups were sincere believers. We are not to attempt to mold other Christians into ourselves! We accept one another in Christ!
CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO ROMANS 15:1-13
A. The discussion about Christian freedom and responsibility is continuing from chapter 14.
B. The entire argument could be outlined as
1. accept one another because God accepts us in Christ (cf. 14:1,3; 15:7);
2. do not judge one another because Christ is our only Master and Judge (cf. 14:3-12);
3. love is more important than personal freedom (cf. 14:13-23);
4. follow Christ's example and lay down your rights for others' edification and good (cf. 15:1-13).
C. 15:5-6 reflects the threefold purpose of the entire context of 14:1-15:13
1. live in harmony with one another;
2. live in accordance with Christ's example;
3. with unified hearts and lips offer united praise to God.
D. This same tension between personal freedom and corporate responsibility is dealt with in I Cor. 8-10 and Col. 2:8-23.
NASB"Food is for the stomach"
NKJV"Foods for the stomach and stomach for foods"
NRSV"Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food"
TEV"Someone else will say, 'Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food'"
NJB"Foods are for the stomach, and the stomach is for foods"
This may be another slogan. It seems to refer to an improper, hermeneutical extension by the libertine false teachers. Paul asserts there is an element of truth in what they say (cf. Mark 7:19). Paul is either
1. using a literary technique called diatribe, where he is using supposed objectors to make his theological points
2. quoting the slogans of the false teachers, some part of which may have come from Jesus' teachings or Paul's teachings
▣ "but God will do away with both of them" This is an allusion to the consummated Kingdom. Food is only a part of time, not eternity. Jesus did eat fish after His resurrection (i.e., John 21), but that was an opportunity to visit with His fearful disciples, not a physical necessity for Him. Jesus also talked about a Messianic banquet (i.e., Luke 22:30), but this, too, is a metaphor of fellowship, not a physical necessity to be repeated.
The phrase "do away with" (cf. NASB) or "destroy" (cf. NKJV) is katargeō. Paul used this word twenty-seven times, but in different senses. See Special Topic: Katargeō at 1:28.
▣ "Yet the body is not for immorality" This clearly shows the false extension. Humans are wonderfully created for life and its development on this planet. However, there are some God-given boundaries to insure a long, happy, fruitful existence. Since the fall (cf. Genesis 3), humanity tends to grab the immediate, the self-satisfying, the personal gratification at any cost!
▣ "the body. . .for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body" These phrases are in a parallel relationship. The thrust seems to be that believers belong to the Lord (cf. v. 20; 7:23; Acts 20:28). He wants to use their bodies for His service, His purposes. This may be a word play on the human body and Christ's church as a body.
6:14 The definitive chapter in the New Testament on the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of believers is I Corinthians 15.
In light of Greek thought (i.e., the physical body is evil) it needs to be emphasized that biblical thought does not depreciate the body. In this very context the body is
1. made "for the Lord" (cf. v. 13)
2. "members of Christ" (cf. v. 15)
3. a temple indwelt by the Spirit (cf. v. 19)
4. to glorify Christ (cf. v. 20)
The body is not evil. It will be resurrected and will be part of the eternal kingdom. However, it is also the realm of temptation and the moral battleground of sin. Jesus gave Himself physically for the church. Believers must follow the example (cf. I John 3:16).
▣ "God has not only raised the Lord" In A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger delineates the Greek manuscript variants connected to the verb tense:
"1. AORIST in MSS P46C2, B
2. PRESENT in MSS P11, P46, A, D*
3. FUTURE in MSS P46C1, א, C, D3
The FUTURE tense fits the context and the parallel in II Cor. 4:14" (p. 552; UBS4 rates it "B" [almost certain]).
This phrase is an excellent opportunity to show that the NT often attributes the works of redemption to all three Persons of the Godhead.
1. God the Father raised Jesus (cf. Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 6:4,9; 10:9; I Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; I Thess. 1:10)
2. God the Son raised Himself (cf. John 2:19-22; 10:17-18)
3. God the Spirit raised Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:11)
▣ "but will also raise us up" Paul rejoiced in his current personal relationship with Christ (cf. 6:17). This is Paul's realized eschatology (cf. C. H. Dodd). In a real sense heaven had come to Paul in this life and would only be supplemented in a future life.
Paul also believed that Jesus was returning very soon. In some texts Paul asserted that he would be alive at Christ's return (cf. I Thess. 4:17; I Cor. 15:51-52; Phil. 3:20). However, in other texts he links himself with those who are raised from the dead (cf. I Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 4:14). The whole book of II Thessalonians expects a delayed Parousia, as do parts of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
The Second Coming is the hope of every Christian generation, but the reality of only one generation. However, the resurrection with its new body and intimate fellowship is a reality for all believers!
6:15 "Do you not know" See note at 5:6.
▣ "your bodies are members of Christ" Paul uses an analogy from Gen. 2:24 as a basis for a warning about believers' oneness in sexual immorality of any kind. Believers are one with Christ (cf. 12:20,27; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:12,16,25).
▣ "prostitute" This is the Greek term pornē, which comes from the verb "to sell" (i.e., pernēmi, cf. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 6, p. 580). In Corinth (and the Ancient Near East) there were two kinds of prostitutes, one cultic (i.e., pagan worship) and slaves (i.e., for profit). Paul repeatedly discussed porneia (cf. 5:1 [twice]; 9,10,11; 6:9,13,15, 16,18; 7:2; 10:8; II Cor. 11:21). Pagan fertility worship was expressed in sexual acts. Paul's hearers had grown up and participated in these rituals and rites, but they are now Christians!
NASB"May it never be"
NJB"Out of the question"
This exclamatory phrase (a rare optative mood expressing a strong wish, desire, or prayer) is used often by Paul to express his horror at how some respond (i.e., diatribe) to his statements or rhetorical questions (cf. Rom. 3:4; 6:31; 6:2,15; 7:7,13; 9:14; 11:1,11; I Cor. 6:15; Gal. 2:17; 3:21; 6:14).
6:16 "The two shall become one flesh" This is a quote from Gen. 2:24. In marriage two persons voluntarily become one flesh. Physical intimacy is a strong bonding experience. It has an appropriate, God-ordained place in life. Like all of God's gifts, it can be abused and taken beyond God-given bounds.
6:17 This is a spiritual analogy drawn from Gen. 2:24. As a man and wife become one flesh physically, the believer and his Lord become one spiritual entity (cf. John 17:11,23; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:21-33). A good example of this theological concept is Rom. 6:1-11. Believers die with Christ, are buried (in baptism) with Christ, and are raised with Christ.
NASB"the one who joins himself"
NKJV"he who is joined"
TEV"he who joins himself"
NJB"anyone who attaches himself"
This is exactly parallel to 6:16. The grammatical construction is
1. a present passive participle as in v. 16 (cf. Zerwick and Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, p. 508)
2. a present middle participle (cf. Harold K. Moulton, The analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 236)
The dynamic equivalent translations (i.e., TEV, NJB), as well as NASB, translate it as a middle voice. It is obvious that the context is focusing on the volition of the parties involved.
6:18 "Flee immorality" This is a present active imperative without a grammatical connection to what goes before or after (i.e., asyndeton), which for a Koine Greek reader was a way of emphasis, causing the phrase to stand out.
Human sexuality is a gift from a gracious God, but there are appropriate and inappropriate aspects related to how one exercises God's gift. Paul affirms marriage by his quote of Gen. 2:24, but firmly set the limits on premarital or extramarital promiscuity.
Believers must be constantly diligent in this area, especially when the culture is promiscuous. Sex sins are major problems to the life of faith. Believers must live sexually appropriate transformed lives (cf. II Cor. 12:21; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5).
▣ "Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body" This is a strange comment. I wish I understood it better. It may reflect
1. the pagan culture of Corinth
2. a teaching emphasis of the false teachers
3. a preaching emphasis of Paul (cf. vv. 12, 13)
Humans do not have a soul, they are a soul (cf. Gen. 2:7). Related to this is Paul's understanding that believers do not have a body, they are a body. This is possibly a theological development from Genesis and against Greek thought that depreciated the physical body as evil. The OT and the NT affirm a physical resurrection which is a way of affirming the goodness and eternality of human corporal existence. Later Gnostic libertine or antinomian teachers would separate the physical aspects from the mental aspects, thereby affirming salvation as knowledge instead of godliness or righteousness. Paul affirms that the gospel is
1. a person to welcome
2. a truth about that person to believe
3. a life of that person to emulate
These cannot be separated! Humans are a unity! Salvation is comprehensive. The kingdom has arrived. There is an unbreakable bond between faith and obedience. Initial sanctification must lead to progressive sanctification. Righteousness is both a gift (indicative) and a command (imperative).
My colleague at East Texas Baptist University, Dr. Bruce Tankersley, reminded me that in cultic prostitution the prostitute is a surrogate for the deity. Therefore, sexual relations were not only immoral, but idolatrous.
6:19 "do you not know" See note at 5:6.
▣ "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" Christianity replaces the physical temple of the Jews with the spiritual temple of Christ's physical body (cf. John 2:21) as His corporate body, the church (cf. 10:16,17; 11:29; 12:12-27). This concept of temple is used in two senses in I Corinthians.
1. in 3:16-17 it is used of the entire local church
2. here it is used of the individual believer
This expresses the fluid relationship between the corporate and individual aspects.
Paul's major point in this context is a call to holiness. Believers are to be radically different from the surrounding culture. This has two purposes.
1. it accomplishes the goal of Christlikeness
2. it attracts people to faith in Christ, which are the twin foci of the Great Commission (cf. Matt. 28:19-20)
▣ "the Holy Spirit who is in you" This is an emphasis on the indwelling Holy Spirit. The power for the Christian life is a gift of God, just like salvation. We must yield ourselves to the Spirit's work. All three persons of the Trinity indwell the believer.
1. the Spirit (cf. John 14:16-17; Rom.8:9,11; I Cor. 3:16; 6:19; II Tim. 1:14)
2. the Son (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:20,23; 15:4-5; Rom. 8:10; II Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27)
3. the Father (cf. John 14:23; II Cor. 6:16)
Believers are God-possessed people. This is volitionally different from demon possession in that the volitional cooperation of the believer is crucial at every stage and level. The demonic destroys the individual's will, but the sovereign God has chosen to honor the freedom of His human creation. Only in Christian maturity (i.e., Christlikeness) does God's will become the dominate guiding force!
6:20 "you have been bought with a price" This is an aorist passive indicative. This metaphor comes from the slave market (cf. 7:22-23; Rom. 3:24; Gal. 3:13; 4:5). In the OT this was known as the go'el, which was a near relative who bought one back from slavery (cf. Lev. 25:25). This is a reference to Christ's substitutionary, vicarious atonement (cf. Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45; II Cor. 5:21). When one accepts Christ he/she relinquishes personal rights to his/her body and takes on the responsibility for the corporate health and vitality of the whole temple, the whole body (cf. I Cor. 12:7).
▣ "glorify God in your body" This is an aorist active imperative, an urgent command, not an option. How believers live is crucial for assurance, for peace, for witness! See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at 2:7.
There are two extremes to avoid in the Christian life: (1) everything is improper; (2) everything is proper. Our bodies are for God, not for self; they are for service, not for sin (cf. Romans 6). This view of the body is very different from the Greek view of the body as the prison house of the soul. The body is not evil, but it is the battleground of the spiritual life (cf. Eph. 6:10-20).
There is an additional phrase in NKJV, "and in your spirit, which are God's," which is in a few late uncials and in many later minuscule Greek manuscripts. However, the older texts do not have it. It is not in P46, א, A, B, C*, D*, F, or G. The UBS4 gives the shorter text an "A" rating (certain).
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. Does this chapter teach that Christians in our day should not go to court?
2. How and when will saints judge the angels?
3. Does the list of sins in verses 9 and 10 refer to individual acts or habitual lifestyle?
4. When Paul asserts that everything is permissible for me, what does he mean exactly by that statement in reference to personal habits and specific commands in the Bible?
5. Why are sexual sins such a significant spiritual problem?
6. Explain the difference between the Greek view of the body and the Christian view of the body.
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