On Going to Law
1 Corinthians 6:1-8
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?…

Among other evils at Corinth calling for correction, a litigious spirit had begun to show itself, fostered doubtless by the unpleasant friction of parties. Brother went to law with brother before the heathen tribunals, and the Christian name was thereby brought into ill repute. For this the apostle rebukes them, and assigns weighty reasons why they should settle their disputes otherwise.

I. THE JUDICIAL FUNCTION OF THE SAINTS. All judgment has been committed to Christ (John 5:22), and in the exercise of this function his saints are associated with him. Suffering with him here, they shall reign with him hereafter (2 Timothy 2:12), a kingdom being given to them (Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28); and when he comes again he will be accompanied by them in glory (Jude 1:14, 15). In this capacity they shall judge, not only mankind, but also the angels. Whether the apostle has in view good angels or bad, it is not essential to inquire; the point is that the judicial dignity of the saints is so great that they shall sit in judgment even on angelic beings. How wonderful an honour! Meantime we share in the humiliation of our Lord. The saints are not exalted to the judgment seats of the earth. They walk here as kings in disguise, unknown by a world that lets itself be governed by the prince of darkness. Even now they exercise a judging influence, their holy lives condemning the ungodly around them; but the full manifestation of their judicial function is reserved for the time when Jesus comes in power. Oh, it will be a bright day for this world when holiness is exalted to the throne and all the evil of earth and hell is summoned to its bar, when the moral confusion meantime prevailing shall give place to the fair order of the reign of righteousness! What manner of persons ought they to be who are appointed to judge the universe of men and angels?


1. Do not take them to a heathen court. To seek redress from unbelievers is an offence against Christian dignity. If the saints are to judge the world, why go to this same world for judgment? These pagan magistrates shall yet stand at your bar; why demean yourselves by standing at theirs? The question comes, how far this rule is binding upon us. Are we forbidden in every case to go to law with a brother? Looking strictly at the case of a quarrel between two Christians, the spirit of the apostolic rule is certainly of permanent obligation. While our courts of law are free from many of the objectionable features of heathen tribunals, they are not so thoroughly Christian as to justify believers in appealing to them, especially when redress may be had otherwise. And it is as unseemly for brother to sue brother at law as for members of the same family. Paul's appeal to Caesar cannot be cited against his prohibtion here; for it was not a going to law at his own instance, but an appeal from one court to another where justice was more likely to be done.

2. Refer them to Christian arbitration. If the saints are to judge the world and angels, surely they are capable of deciding in matters pertaining to this life. Refer the quarrel to some wise Christian brother possessing the confidence of both parties, and let him judge. Arbitration has much to recommend it, even in matters purely civil; and in the case supposed, it tends to promote brotherly kindness, while securing the ends of equity. This does not warrant any judicial interference of the Church in matters properly belonging to the state. She is not to be "a judge or a divider" in secular affairs (Luke 12:14). It is in disputes arising between her own members that she is to adopt this method of friendly settlement.

III. THE AVOIDANCE OF DISPUTES. If quarrels between Christians arise, let them be settled as directed; but why should they arise? "Why not rather take wrong? why not rather be defrauded?" This is the spirit of our Lord's teaching (Matthew 5:38-40), which goes to the root of the evil. Instead of insisting on your legal pound of flesh, it is better to suffer yourselves to be wronged. This is the sublime unselfishness of Christianity. Unworkable? On this principle Jesus acted (1 Peter 2:23), and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:12); and in proportion as it pervades society will wrong doing cease. There is something higher than mere rights, something diviner than legal justice; it is to "endure griefs, suffering wrongfully," in the spirit of him who won his triumph by the cross. Thus willing to suffer injustice, while careful to do no wrong, disputes will be avoided. - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

WEB: Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?

On Going to Law
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