Be A Spiritual Church
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
By Paul Robison

“An 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 spiritual church!
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 congregation:
“Whenever I walk  through Asia, along the harbor blue,
I go by a great big church house with its people strong and true.
I supposed I've pass 100 times, but today I stopped for a minute,
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 spiritual church!
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!