expedition of scientists set out to capture a certain
species of monkey that lived in the jungles of Africa.
Because they wanted to bring the animals back unharmed, they
studied their habits carefully to devise a strategy for
their capture. The trap they used turned out to be
very simple, but totally efficient. They took jars
with long, slender necks. Nuts were put in the jars as
bait. The monkeys came to the jars, thrust in their
paws, and grasped the nuts. With their paws clinched,
they could not get free of the heavy jars! Unwilling
to let go of the nuts because of their possessive natures,
the monkeys, screaming in fear, were held until their
captors arrived to take them away” (Shelly). We smile
at the foolishness of the monkeys. But don't we often
fall into the same trap? Don't we 'make' monkeys of
ourselves' be refusing to let go certain things that have us
caught in a trap?
“In the first century world, the Grecians were fond of using
law courts” (Shelly). The Jews settled their disputes
before the elders in a family spirit, but the Grecians
settled their disputes before courts in a legal atmosphere
(Barclay). One commentator said: “They were a
litigious people, and courts were one of their chief
entertainments” (Barclay). Another said: “On the
flimsiest of pretexts, one would bring a charge against his
neighbor and attempt to bring easy financial gain to
himself” (Shelly). The members of the church at
Corinth had gotten caught up in this cultural trap and
didn't know how to let go of this selfish spirit.
Could that happen in another modern culture that you know?
Paul has already admonished the brethren in Corinth to be a
surrendered and a pure church, now he admonishes them to be
a spiritual church. Paul presents four actions in our
text, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 that we can imitate.
The first action is this: Let brethren decide your disputes!
Let's look at our text again: “Dare any of you, having a
matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous,
and not before the saints?” Paul couldn't believe how
the just seek justice before the unjust? “Do you not
know that the saints will judge the world? And if the
world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the
smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge
angels? How much more, things that pertain to this
life?” Paul believed very firmly, like all Jews, that
when the Messiah would judge the nations and angels at the
end of time, then the righteous would also judge with Him
(Barclay). And if Christians would be helping to
render judgment in the future in these situations, then
surely they were capable now of rendering judgments
concerning more trivial earthly matters. Yes, let brethren
decide your contractual disputes. Listen carefully to verse
four since it is translated in different ways by various
versions: “If then you have judgments concerning things
pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least
esteemed by the church to judge?” The NKJV is probably
accurate. You see, it translates this as a question
which could be paraphrased: “Since you have legal matters
which concerns this life, why do you go to the judges in
courts, those least esteemed by the church, to settle such
matters? What is stated in the next verse then makes
sense: “I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there
is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able
to judge between his brethren?” Paul is saying in
essence: “You shouldn't be going before court officials, but
find some wise man among yourselves who can help you to
settle your disputes.” “But brother goes to law against
brother, and that before unbelievers.” Listen to three
commentators. The first states: “It is extraordinary
that brother should want to go to law with brother at all,
but especially before unbelievers” (Morris)! Another
noted that pagan courts would involve oath-taking in the
name of pagan gods (Coffman). A third added: Paul is
“urging that the matters be settled privately, that is among
the members themselves, informally” (Holladay).
Let brethren decide your disputes! Now sometimes a
Christian might need to appeal to the courts; we know that
Paul himself appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:10-11). But
in cases that might come up against each other, could we not
let someone in the church help us to find a way to settle
the matter? Let's learn something from the Flying
Roudellas, trapeze artists. “As the flyer swings high
above the crowd on the trapeze, the moment comes when he
must let go. He arcs out into the air. His job
is to remain as still as possible and to wait for the strong
hands of the catcher to pluck him from the air. The
flyer must never try to catch the catcher but must wait in
absolute trust” (Larson/Elshof). Can we learn to trust
each other to help us with our material and financial
matters? Let brethren decide your disputes! Be a
Secondly, accept injustices privately! Now let's read
verse 7: “Now, therefore, it is already an utter failure for
you that you go to law against one another. Why do you
not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let
yourselves be cheated?” Let's notice what two commentators
have to say. One states: “Going to law is a defeat in
itself, regardless of the outcome of the legal process, and
going to courts hurts the body of Christ, not the outsiders
(Morris). Another observes: “If the Christian has even
the remotest tinge of the love of Christ within his heart,
he will rather suffer insult and loss and injury than try to
inflict them on someone else—still more so if that person is
a brother” (Barclay). You see, “the Christian orders
his dealings by the spirit of love; and the spirit of love
will insist that he live at peace as his brother, and will
forbid him to demean himself by going to law” (Barclay).”
Does that sound like us? Are we willing to accept
injustices privately or do we have to win at all costs?
Have we bought into our cultures idea that money and wealth
equal happiness. Maybe we ought to remember the modern
parable of the mirror: “A rich old crank with a miserly
attitude one day visited a preacher who lived simply.
The preacher asked the man to follow him and led him to a
window. “Look out of this window and tell me what you
see.” The elderly man replied, “Well, I see some men,
and women, and a few youngsters.” “Excellent. Now come
here.” The preacher led him to a mirror, and then
instructed him to tell him what he saw. The man
replied, “Well, obviously, I see myself.” The preacher
then gave this response: “That's interesting.
Both the window and the mirror are made of glass, but the
mirror is covered with a little silver. No sooner is
the silver added than you cease to see others and see only
yourself” (Swindoll). Can we give up our materialism
for the good of the congregation? Someone else has put
it this way: “There are many things that money cannot buy.
Money can buy a bed, but not sleep. It can buy books,
but not brains. It can buy food, but not an appetite.
Finery but not beauty. A house but not a home.
Medicine but not health. Pleasures but not peace.
Luxuries but not culture. Amusements but not joy.
A crucifix but not a Savior. A church building but not
heaven” (Tan in Swindoll). Have we let earthly values
replace heavenly ones? Can we learn to accept
injustices privately? Didn't Jesus teach us to let
another have our cloak as well when they sue us for our
tunic (Matthew 5:39-40)? Didn't He also say that we
should worry more about God's kingdom and His righteousness
over material goods (Matthew 6:33)? Didn't He also say
that life does not consist in the abundance of things (Luke
12:15)? Didn't Jesus say that we must be willing to
give up all that we have to be His disciple (Luke 14:33)?
What did Jesus possess when He died? John's friendship
and some women's admiration; nothing materially.
Despite the fact that you see about 40,000 commercials per
year saying you must have things to make you happy, will you
listen to Jesus' voice above all others and learn like Paul
teaches to accept injustices privately? This will make
us a more spiritual church!
Thirdly, we need to treat each other well! Treating
each other well is the opposite of what we find in verse 8:
“No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these
things to your brethren!” Instead of accepting
injustices privately, the Corinthian members were suing and
defrauding one another, which Paul views as deplorable
behavior! Let's notice what three commentators say.
The first notes: “An unrestrained compulsion to press one's
rights has instead caused some actually to wrong and defraud
brethren—a reversal of fundamental Christian ethics”
(Holladay). Another stated: “Sharp practice is not
uncommon in society at large, but there is no place for it
among Christians, who have a special care for one another”
(Morris). A third added: “Insult is added to injury by
the fact that these believers not only act immorally, but
that they do so against their own brethren” (Oster).
Can we treat each other well? Maybe we can be like
Mike Corbett. “In the summer of 1989, Mark Wellman, a
paraplegic, gained national recognition by climbing the
sheer granite face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
On the seventh and final day of the climb, the headlines of
the paper read: “Showing a Will of Granite.”
Accompanying the headline was a photo of Wellman being
carried on the shoulders of the climbing companion Mike
Corbett. A subtitle read: “Paraplegic and partner
proves no wall is too high to scale.” What many people
did not know is that Mike Corbett scaled the
face of El Capitan three times in order to help Mark Wellman
pull himself up once (Asimakoupoulos in Rowell, Support).
Will we go the extra miles to support, to serve, and to
treat each other well? 1 Thessalonians 5:15 states:
“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always
pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”
Maybe we can learn something from some pine trees.
Along Interstate 40 in North Carolina following a six inch
snow, groves of large pine trees had survived because some
of their overloaded branches were leaning against other
trees' branches and trunks. Those pines which stood
alone told a different story—their branches were snapped and
laying on the ground. The lesson is obvious: To
weather the storms of life, we need to lean on and support
one another. We need to treat each other well.
Romans 12:17 exhorts: “Repay no one evil for evil.
Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably
with all men.” Here's a little poem about a tragic
“Whenever I walk through
Asia, along the harbor blue,
I go by a great big church house with its people strong and
I supposed I've pass 100 times, but today I stopped for a
And I looked at that church-that tragic church, that church
with no love for each other in it!"
Let's don't wrong and cheat one another as brethren in our
Lord. Let's treat each other well! Let's be a
Lastly, let's remember God's warning and His mercy.
Listen to this warning & reminder of God's mercy from our
text: “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 homosexuals,
nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor
revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were
sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord
Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (9-11)!” Most versions
don't show the word linkage between verses 8 and 9.
NKJV has in verse 8: “You do wrong.” It could be
translated: “You do wickedly.” Then verse 9 has: “Do
you not know that 'the unrighteous', and that literally is
'the wicked'. So Paul is saying when you act wickedly,
realize that you will be eternally condemned! Paul's
list of vices adds four more sins to his list in 5:11:
adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, and thieves.
Corinth was a tough environment, but this is not the major
reason why Paul has his list. Paul is saying in
essence: “Don't defraud one another; that's taking you down
the wrong path. Remember, God has put you on another
path!” “And such WERE some of you!” God had brought about a
great transformation! One commentator said: “The proof
of Christianity lay in its power to take people lost to
shame and make them sons of God” (Barclay). Another
added: “It had required the Spirit's mighty power to turn
people from their sins” (Morris). A third commented:
“The wicked's lifestyle is no longer acceptable for those
upon whom God has begun His spiritual work” (Oster)!
So all those sins were forgiven! Paul is
hinting: “Now if all the Trinity has washed, sanctified, and
justified you, shouldn't you showing mercy to one another
when it comes to legal, financial, and material matters?”
Can we grow to this maturity? Frank Capra, who
directed the movie “It's A Wonderful Life,” was asked years
ago about the film's central message. He replied: “I
believe its central message is that under the sun, nothing
is insignificant to God.” You, and every other member
in Christ's body, and all people outside the church are
significant to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit! A
Christian who worked in an emergency room for five years
told how she had become cold-hearted. One evening she
was registering a young woman who had overdosed and
attempted suicide. Her mothered had been called by the
police and sat there unkempt and bleary eyed. The
Christian impatiently asked for medical information and made
photocopies of medical cards. Then she realized that
she hadn't looked at the woman. She then got up, sat
the woman, and took her hands. She wondered what Jesus
might say, and then said, “I care. Don't give up!” The
woman wept and told how she had had to deal with a
rebellious daughter who was a single parent. After a
few minutes, the woman thanked her for listening. Her
attitude changed after that night. God had helped her
to help another, and she resolved never to be cold-hearted
again (Miller in Larson-Elshof). Let's remember God's
warning and His mercy. Let's be a spiritual church!
Christians must be counter-cultural. As Christ's
disciples, we have an obligation to keep the spirit and
behavior of the world outside the church. Unlike
foolish monkeys and wicked people, God's people refuse to be
trapped by the vices of their past. They have let them
go in order to be free from their hold. Let's continue
to mature and be a spiritual church!
Let's pray: “Father, we live in a land where the material is
continually promoted. Help us to live against the
grain. Help us to follow Paul's advice and to trust
each other more. In Jesus' name, Amen.”
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual
house ...” (1 Peter 2:5). “And such WERE some of you!
But you were washed [you were immersed in baptism for the
remission of sins], but you were sanctified [made holy by
Christ's blood], but you were justified [made right in God's
eyes because of Jesus' righteousness]! If you're not a
Christian, this needs to be your history, so that you can
leave this worship service a saved person who has been made
a part of God's spiritual house called the church. As
a Christian, is your hand still entrapped in a long neck jar
by the gimmicks, gadgets, and glories that this world has to
offer? Do you need to trust other members more?
Do you need help in suffering injustices? Are you
treating other members well? Are you applying God's
warning and mercy personally? Do you need prayers to
help you make this congregation more spiritual?
Whatever may be hindering you today, let go, be free, and
give Jesus your all!