1 Corinthians 6:1
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
VI.

(1) Dare any of you.—Having rebuked the Corinthian Christians for any attempt to judge those who are outside the Church—i.e., the heathen—St. Paul now insists, on the other hand, on the importance of their not submitting their affairs for decision to the heathen tribunals. Jewish converts would have more easily understood that they should settle disputes among themselves, as the Roman power had, as we learn from Gallio’s remarks (Acts 18:14-15), given this liberty to the Jews. The Gentile converts, however, would have been naturally inclined to continue to bring disputes before the tribunals with which they had been so familiar in a proverbially litigious condition of society before their conversion. We can well imagine how detrimental to the best interests of Christianity it would be for the Christian communion, founded as it was on principles of unity and love, to be perpetually, through the hasty temper and weakness of individual members, held up to the scorn of the heathen, as a scene of intestine strife. Repeated lawsuits before heathen judges would have had the further evil effect of practically obliterating the broad line of demarcation which then really existed between the principles of Roman jurisprudence, and the loftier Christian conceptions of self-sacrifice and charity by which the followers of Jesus Christ should, in accordance with His teaching, control their life. These considerations rendered necessary the warnings which the Apostle here commences with the emphatic word “Dare,” of which it has been well said (Bengel), “Treason against Christians is denoted by this high-sounding word.”

Unjust . . . . saints.—These words convey here no essentially moral ideas. They merely signify respectively “heathen” and “members of the Christian Church.” These phrases remind us that the state of things when St. Paul wrote this was entirely different from what exists in any Christian country now. The teaching has nothing whatever to do with the adjudication of the courts of a Christian country. The cases to which St. Paul’s injunctions would be applicable in the present day would be possible only in a heathen country. If, for example, in India there existed heathen tribunals, it would certainly be wrong, and a source of grave scandal, for native Christians to submit questions between themselves for decision to such courts, instead of bringing them before the legal tribunals established by Christian England. It is not probable that at so early a period there were any regular and recognised tribunals amongst the Christians, and certainly their decisions could scarcely have had any legal force. There is, however, historical evidence of the existence of such in the middle of the second century. The principles here laid down would naturally have led to their establishment. (See 1Corinthians 5:4.)

1 Corinthians 6:1-6. The apostle, having mentioned one very great irregularity among the professors of Christianity at Corinth, proceeds now to animadvert upon another, namely, their entering into suits of law with each other in heathen courts: Dare any of you — Have you so little regard for the glory of God, and the credit of Christianity, that, having a matter against another — Any controversy about civil affairs; you go to law before the unjust — Heathen judges, who generally were very corrupt, and from whom a Christian could expect no justice: and not before the saints — Who might easily decide these smaller differences in a private and friendly manner. Do ye not know — This expression occurs six times in this single chapter, and that with a peculiar force: for the Corinthians knew, and gloried in their knowledge, but their conduct was not consistent therewith. That the saints — After having been judged themselves; shall judge the world — Shall be assessors with Christ in the judgment wherein he shall condemn all the wicked, as well angels as men, Matthew 19:28; Revelation 20:4. And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy — Unfit, unable for such a work; to judge the smallest matters — Differences about worldly affairs, which are of small moment, in comparison of spiritual and heavenly matters. Know ye not that we shall judge angels? — Namely, evil angels: as Christ is their judge, we shall be honoured to join with him in that judgment also, when all his enemies shall be put under his feet and ours. How much more are ye fit to decide in these low and transitory secular affairs? If then ye have judgments — Differences to be decided; of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church — Even the weakest among you might be adequate to that work, and certainly fitter for it than unjust heathen. I speak to your shame — To make you ashamed of your proceedings. The apostle certainly did not seriously design that they should set persons to judge in these matters, (though of little importance, in comparison of spiritual things,) who were the weakest and of least esteem among them, as appears from the next clause; but he spoke ironically. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you — Among you who are such admirers of wisdom, who is wise enough to decide in such causes? Not one able to judge between his brethren — In those disputes which they have about earthly things? But brother goeth to law with brother — One Christian with another; and that before the unbelievers — To the great discredit of the Christian name; yea, to the scandal of the whole Christian institution; for they cannot but take occasion, from your mutual quarrels and accusations, to brand the whole body of you as injurious and avaricious; who, while you pretend to be so far superior to secular views, are yet so strongly attached to them, that, with all your professions of universal benevolence and brotherly love, you cannot forbear wronging one another.6:1-8 Christians should not contend with one another, for they are brethren. This, if duly attended to, would prevent many law-suits, and end many quarrels and disputes. In matters of great damage to ourselves or families, we may use lawful means to right ourselves, but Christians should be of a forgiving temper. Refer the matters in dispute, rather than go to law about them. They are trifles, and may easily be settled, if you first conquer your own spirits. Bear and forbear, and the men of least skill among you may end your quarrels. It is a shame that little quarrels should grow to such a head among Christians, that they cannot be determined by the brethren. The peace of a man's own mind, and the calm of his neighbourhood, are worth more than victory. Lawsuits could not take place among brethren, unless there were faults among them.Dare any of you - The reasons why the apostle introduced this subject here may have been:

(1) That he had mentioned the subject of judging 1 Corinthians 5:13, and that naturally suggested the topic which is here introduced; and,

(2) This might have been a prevailing evil in the church of Corinth, and demanded correction. The word "dare" here implies that it was inconsistent with religion, and improper. "can you do it; is it proper or right; or do you presume so far to violate all the principles of Christianity as to do it."

Having a matter - A subject of litigation; or a suit. There may be differences between people in regard to property and right, in which there shall be no blame on either side. They may both be desirous of having it equitably and amicably adjusted. It is not a difference between people that is in itself wrong, but it is the spirit with which the difference is adhered to, and the unwillingness to have justice done that is so often wrong.

Against another - Another member of the congregation. A Christian brother. The apostle here directs his reproof against the "plaintiff," as having the choice of the tribunal before which he would bring the cause.

Before the unjust - The pagan tribunals; for the word "unjust" here evidently stands opposed to the saints. The apostle does not mean that they were always unjust in their decisions, or that equity could in no case be hoped from them, but that they were classed in that division of the world which was different from the saints, and is synonymous with unbelieveRS, as opposed to believers.

And not before the saints - Before Christians. Can you not settle your differences among yourselves as Christians, by leaving the cause to your brethren, as arbitrators, instead of going before pagan magistrates? The Jews would not allow any of their causes to be brought before the Gentile courts. Their rule was this, "He that tries a cause before the judges of the Gentiles, and before their tribunals, although their judgments are as the judgments of the Israelites, so this is an ungodly man," etc. Maimon, Hilch, Sanhedrin, chapter 26 section 7. They even looked upon such an action as bad as profaning the name of God.

CHAPTER 6

1Co 6:1-11. Litigation of Christians in Heathen Courts Censured: Its Very Existence Betrays a Wrong Spirit: Better to Bear Wrong Now, and Hereafter the Doers of Wrong Shall Be Shut Out of Heaven.

1. Dare—This word implies treason against Christian brotherhood [Bengel].

before the unjust—The Gentile judges are here so termed by an epithet appropriate to the subject in question, namely, one concerning justice. Though all Gentiles were not altogether unjust, yet in the highest view of justice which has regard to God as the Supreme Judge, they are so: Christians, on the other hand, as regarding God as the only Fountain of justice, should not expect justice from them.

before … saints—The Jews abroad were permitted to refer their disputes to Jewish arbitrators [Josephus, Antiquities, 14.10,17]. So the Christians were allowed to have Christian arbitrators.1 Corinthians 6:1-6 The Corinthians are reproved for bringing their

controversies before heathen judges, which they

ought to decide among themselves.

1 Corinthians 6:7-11 There would be no occasion for lawsuits, if men

acted up to the principles of the gospel, which

exclude from the kingdom of God all notorious

transgressors of the moral law.

1 Corinthians 6:12-14 All lawful things are not expedient,

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 but fornication is a gross offer we against

our bodies, which are members of Christ, temples

of the Holy Ghost, and not our own to dispose

of otherwise than to God’s glory.

The apostle having already sharply reflected upon this church for their pride, and contentions, and divisions, (which were branches from that root), and for their vilifying him who was their spiritual father, and magnifying their instructors above him, as also for their looseness in their church discipline; he cometh in this chapter to another thing, viz. their going to law before pagan judges; for such was the misery of those times, that they had no other, though some think that they might have had, the pagan persecutions being as yet not begun. The apostle speaks of this as a thing which he wondered that they durst be guilty of, that they should be no more tender of the glory of God in the reputation of the Christian religion, and should not rather choose arbitrators amongst the members of their church, to hear and determine such differences as arose amongst them, than give pagans an occasion to reproach the Christian religion for the contentions and feuds of Christians. The reputation of the gospel and the professors of it being the thing for which Paul was here concerned, and upon the account of which he thus speaketh; it becometh Christians yet to consider, whether what he saith concerneth not them, where either the judges, or the generality of the auditors in such judgments, may probably reproach religion, or that way of God which they own, for their trivial and uncharitable contentions.

Dare any of you, having a matter against another,...., Any thing in difference, an action, cause, or suit. The apostle having dispatched the affair of the incestuous person, and blamed this church for their conduct therein: and having given them instructions what they should do, proceeds to lay before them another evil among them he had to complain of; which was, when any difference arose among them about their worldly concerns, they would

go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints; a method of proceeding condemned by the Jews, who would not suffer any causes of theirs to be tried before Gentiles, only before Israelites; their canon runs thus (u),

"he that tries a cause before the judges of the Gentiles, and before their tribunals, although their judgments are as the judgments of the Israelites, lo, this is an ungodly man; and it is as if he blasphemed and reproached, and lift up his hand against the law of Moses our master, as it is said, Exodus 21:1 now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them, , "and not before the Gentiles"; , "and not before idiots", private or illiterate men.''

They looked upon such an action as bad as profaning the name of God; hence they say (w),

"we must not try a cause in the courts of the Gentiles, for they come from the strength of judgment; this is Esau an hairy man, for they have no concord nor mercy--and he that comes before thee , "profanes the name of God", who is gracious and merciful, and honours the name of an idol--wherefore he that brings a cause before the Gentiles, is the occasion of spreading the property of judgment in the world----therefore let a cause be tried before the Israelites, for they are the secret of mercy, and not before the Gentiles, nor before idiots:''

they affirm (x) it to be a greater sin than murder, and that not only profanations of the name of God, but rapine and violence are comprehended in it; and that to give evidence in an Heathen court against an Israelite, deserves excommunication; for so it is said, (y).

"he that bears witness against an Israelite , "in the courts of the Gentiles", and by his testimony gets money from him, which is not according to the judgment of the Israelites, they excommunicate him until he repays it.''

Again (z).

"it is forbidden to order causes in the courts of (the rest of the nations) idolaters, for they have no part in the side of our faith.''

The apostle here dissuades from this practice, of going to law before Heathen magistrates, not only from its being an imprudent, but an impudent, "daring", rash and adventurous action; and seems surprised that any should attempt it, when it must unavoidably expose their weaknesses and faults to their enemies; nor could they expect justice to be done them by men of such a character, as "unjust", who neither feared God, nor regarded men; were not only destitute of righteousness, but filled with all unrighteousness, and had not so much as the principles of common justice and equity in them; when on the contrary, from the saints, men who have the principles of grace and holiness wrought in them, and live soberly, righteously, and godly, who have the fear of God before their eyes, and upon their hearts; they might reasonably conclude, were matters brought before them, they would be adjusted according to judgment and truth, without exposing the sin and weakness of any party to the world.

(u) Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrin, c. 26. sect. 7. Vid. T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 38. 2.((w) R. Abraham Seba in Tzeror Hammor, fol. 80. 4. (x) R. Bechai in Kad Hakkemach, fol. 21. 4. apud Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. col. 1666. (y) Maimon. Talmud Tora, c. 6. sect. 14. (z) Zohar in Exod. fol. 103. 3.

Dare {1} {a} any of you, having a matter against another, go to law {b} before the unjust, {2} and not before the saints?

(1) The third question is of civil judgments. Whether it is lawful for one of the faithful to draw another of the faithful before the judgment seat of an infidel? He answers that is not lawful because it is an offence for the faithful to do this, for it is not evil in itself that a matter be brought before the judgment seat, even of an infidel.

(a) As if he said, Have you become so impudent, that you are not ashamed to make the Gospel a laughing stock to profane men?

(b) Before the unjust.

(2) He adds that he does not forbid that one neighbour may go to law with another, if need so require, but yet under holy judges.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 6:1. A new section, not connected with what has gone before. Paul starts at once with a question of lively surprise: Dare[872] any one, etc., and so plunges in medium rem.[873] The connections of thought, which some have traced out, are arbitrary inventions. This applies not only to Baur’s view (in the theol. Jahrb. 1852, p. 10 f.),—that it was the damage done to the Christian cause in public opinion, both by the immorality discussed in chap. 5 and by the lawsuits carried on before the heathen, that led the apostle thus to pass from the one subject to the other,—but also to the connection which Hofmann seeks to establish between this passage and the censure pronounced upon the insufficient judicial action taken by the church with its members after the occurrence of the case already adverted to. The judicial proceedings now referred to are plainly of quite another kind, not in the way of discipline, but of private lawsuits; and, moreover, as to former judicial action of the church, not merely was it insufficient, but nothing of the sort had taken place at all with respect to the πόρνος. Paul does not employ so much as a ΔΈ, or an ἈΛΛΆ, or any other form of connection, but goes on with epistolary freedom, leaping, as it were, from one point of censure to another.

ΤῚς] any one whate1Co 6:The quite general treatment of the subject which follows shows that no specific individual (Semler) is meant, although it must be left undetermined whether some specially striking case, possibly that of a rich and powerful man (Ewald), may not have given occasion for the apostle’s sending these admonitions.

πρᾶγμα] lawsuit, matter of dispute. Comp Xen. Mem. ii. 9. 1; Demosth. 1120. 26; Josephus, Antt. xiv. 10. 7.

κρίνεσθαι] go to law, litigare; see on Romans 3:4; Wetstein, a[875] Matthew 5:40.

ἐπὶ τῶν ἀδίκων] before (Winer, p. 351 [E. T. 469]) the unrighteous; a specially significant designation of the heathen (see on Galatians 2:5), as contrasted with the Christians, who are ἅγιοι (see on 1 Corinthians 1:2). Chrysostom puts it well: ΟὐΚ ΕἾΠΕΝ· ἘΠῚ ΤῶΝ ἈΠΊΣΤΩΝ (as in 1 Corinthians 6:6, where the opposite of ἈΔΕΛΦΌς was required), ἈΛΛʼ ἘΠῚ ΤῶΝ ἈΔΊΚΩΝ, ΛΈΞΙΝ ΘΕῚς Ἧς ΜΆΛΙΣΤΑ ΧΡΕΊΑΝ ΕἾΧΕΝ ΕἸς ΤῊΝ ΠΡΟΚΕΙΜΈΝΗΝ ὙΠΌΘΕΣΙΝ, ὭΣΤΕ ἈΠΟΤΡΈΨΑΙ ΚΑῚ ἈΠΑΓΑΓΕῖΝ. There is indeed a contradictio in adjecto in the κρίνεσθαι ἐπὶ τ. ἀδίκων! For the Rabbinical prohibitions of going to law before the heathen, see Eisenmenger, Entdeckt. Judenth. II. p. 472 ff. (e.g. Tanchuma, f. 92. 2 : “Statutum est, ad quod omnes Israelitae obligantur, eum, qui litem cum alio habet, non debere eam tractare coram gentibus”). The tribunal intended by Paul is not merely that of arbitration, which had passed over from Judaism (see Michaelis, Einl. II. p. 1221 f.; comp Lightfoot, Hor. on 1 Corinthians 6:4; Vitringa, de Synag. p. 816 ff.) to Christianity, but his meaning is: instead of carrying on lawsuits against each other before the heathen, they were to adjust their disputes before Christians, which could of course be done only in the way of arbitration[877] (comp 1 Corinthians 6:5); according to this, therefore, different forms of the κρίνεσθαι are present to the apostle’s mind in speaking of the judgment ἘΠῚ Τ. ἈΔ. and ἘΠῚ Τ. ἉΓ.; in the former case, that by legal process; in the latter, that by arbitration through means of διαιτηταί.

Theodoret remarks justly (on 1 Corinthians 6:6), that the prohibition of the ΚΡΊΝΕΣΘΑΙ ἘΠῚ ΤῶΝ ἈΔΊΚΩΝ is not at variance with Romans 13:1 ff.: Οὐ ΓᾺΡ ἈΝΤΙΤΕΊΝΕΙΝ ΚΕΛΕΎΕΙ ΤΟῖς ἌΡΧΟΥΣΙΝ, ἈΛΛᾺ ΤΟῖς ἨΔΙΚΗΜΈΝΟΙς ΝΟΜΟΘΕΤΕῖ ΜῊ ΚΕΧΡῆΣΘΑΙ ΤΟῖς ἌΡΧΟΥΣΙ. ΤῸ ΓᾺΡ ΑἹΡΕῖΣΘΑΙ Ἢ ἈΔΙΚΕῖΣΘΑΙ Ἢ ΠΑΡᾺ ΤΟῖς ὉΜΟΠΊΣΤΟΙς ΔΟΚΙΜΆΖΕΣΘΑΙ Τῆς ΑὐΤῶΝ ἘΞΗΡΤᾶΤΟ ΓΝΏΜΗς.

[872] Bengel says aptly: “grandi verbo notatur laesa majestas Christianorum.” Schrader imports an ironical meaning into the word, which is irrelevant. The right interpretation is given by Chrysostom: τόλμης ἐστι τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ παρανομίας. See as to τολμᾶν, sustinere, non erubescere, Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phil. p. 13 D; Jacobs, ad Athen. addit. p. 309. Comp. the proverbial phrase πᾶν τολμᾶν.

[873] It is out of the harmony with the fervid tone of the whole passage, in which question is heaped on question, to understand ver. 1 as affirmative (against Lachmann). Least of all can we agree with Hofmann in taking the words down to ἀδίκων affirmatively, and then regarding κ. οὐχὶ ἐπ. τ. ἁγίων as a query which strikes in there: for ἐπὶ τ. ἀδίκων, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐ. τ. ἅγ., is plainly just the ordinary antithesis of assertion and negation joined together by καὶ οὐ. To make Hofmann’s rendering logically tenable, it would be needful that Paul should, instead of κ. οὐχί, have written: καὶ τὶ οὐχί, and why not before the saints?

[875] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[877] Hence this passage does not at all run counter to the injunction to obey magistrates. Comp. Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 417.

1 Corinthians 6:1-11. The readers are not to go to law before the heathen (1 Corinthians 6:1-6); and generally, they are, instead of contending with one another, rather to suffer wrong than to do it, bearing in mind that the unrighteous shall not become partakers in the Messianic kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:7-10), and that they, as Christians, have become pure, holy, and righteous (1 Corinthians 6:11).1 Corinthians 6:1-6. § 17. LAW-SUITS IN HEATHEN COURTS. Beside the πόρνος, amongst those to be excommunicated at Cor[887], stood the πλεονέκτης (1 Corinthians 5:11); fraud and robbery were only less rife than licentiousness; and this element of corruption, along with the other, had reappeared within the Church (1 Corinthians 6:8). Instead of being repressed by timely correction, the evil had grown rank; in several instances aggrieved Christian parties had carried their complaints before the civil Courts, to the scandal of the Church and to Paul’s high indignation. Two links of thought connect chh. 5. and 6.: (1) the kindred nature of sins of impurity and of covetousness, both prevalent at Cor[888], both destructive of society; (2) the lamentable lack of Church discipline (1 Corinthians 5:12), which enabled these mischiefs to gather head.

[887] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[888] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.Ch. 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. The way to settle disputes in the Christian Church

1. Dare any of you, having a matter against another] The principle is here laid down which is to guide Christians in their lawsuits. Disputes about property are treated by the Apostle as matters of the most trifling import. To call in the unbelievers to settle the disputes of Christian brethren was an act of audacity almost inconceivable by the Apostle (1 Corinthians 6:1), and in marked contrast to the feeling prevalent in the Christian Church at its first foundation (Acts 4:32). It were far better for a Christian to suffer the utmost wrong, than to bring such a reproach upon the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:7). The disputes of Christians were therefore settled by private arbitration, a custom which continued until Christianity was formally established as the religion of the Roman Empire. In the so-called Apostolical Constitutions, which were drawn up in the second or early in the third century, we find a provision that these private courts of arbitration should be held early in the week, that any disputes which might arise might be set right before the following Sunday. Such courts of arbitration have given place to the Christian courts of law, before which it often becomes necessary for a Christian to plead, lest violent or covetous men should dissolve the framework of society. Yet the principle of this passage should guide us still, of regarding mutual love as of more importance than ‘the things that pertain to this life,’ of preferring rather to suffer wrong than to appeal to the law, unless some more important matter is at stake than our individual loss or inconvenience.

and not before the saints] Cf. St Matthew 18:17, where we have a precept of Jesus Christ concerning the settlement of differences in the Christian Church.1 Corinthians 6:1. Τολμᾷ, dare) Treason against Christians is denoted, by this high-sounding word.—τὶς, any one) even one single person.—κρίνεσθαι) in the middle voice, that is κρίμα ἔχειν, obtain a judgment, go to law, v. 7.—ἀδίκων, before the unjust) Every unbeliever is unjust; generally so, even as a citizen.—ἐτὶ τῶν ἀγίων, before the saints) Christians. The great privilege of believers was to settle even civil matters among themselves, and the magistrate ought not to interfere at all with private affairs, unless in the case of those who especially apply to him. The heathen magistrates were very indulgent to the Jews; and in this department no difference was hitherto made between the Jews and the Christians.Verses 1-11. - Litigation before heathen courts forbidden. Verse 1. - Dare any of you? rather, Dare any one of you? It is in St. Paul's view an audacious defiance of Christian duties to seek from the heathen the justice due from brother to brother. A matter; some ground of civil dispute. Against another; i.e. against another Christian. When one of the litigants was a heathen, Christians were allowed to go before heathen law courts, because no other remedy was possible. Go to law before the unjust. The "unjust" is here used for "Gentiles," because it at once suggests a reason against the dereliction of Christian duty involved in such a step. How "unjust" the pagans were in the special sense of the word, the Christians of that day had daily opportunities of seeing; and in a more general sense, the Gentiles were "sinners" (Matthew 26:45). Even the Jews were bound to settle their civil disputes before their own tribunals. The ideal Jew was jashar, or "the upright man," and Jews could not consistently seek integrity from those who were not upright. A fortiori, Christians ought not to do so. Before the saints. All Christians were ideally "saints," just as the heathen were normally "unjust." If Christians went to law with one another before the heathen, they belied their profession of mutual love, caused scandal, and were almost necessarily tempted into compliance with heathen customs, even to the extent of recognizing idols. Our Lord had already laid down the rule that "brothers" ought to settle their quarrels among themselves (Matthew 18:15-17). Dare

"The insulted majesty of Christians is denoted by a grand word" (Bengel).

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