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1 Corinthians chapter 6

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What does 1 Corinthians chapter 6 mean?

The church in Corinth suffered from serious issues, which Paul set out to address in his letter. Earlier chapters dealt with problems such as divisive factions or tolerance for extreme sin. He confronts two additional issues in 1 Corinthians chapter 6.

First, it seems at least one pair of the Corinthian Christians were involved in a lawsuit against each other over a minor dispute. Paul is outraged by this. His main objection is that two brothers in Christ would choose to willingly submit to the judgment of a secular government court. Paul describes the judges involved as unrighteous and with no standing in the church (1 Corinthians 6:1–2).

Paul is not saying Christians should never be under the authority of secular government, nor ever appear in court. He teaches clearly in Romans that Christians must submit to government authorities. These exist, in part, to punish those who commit crimes—their purpose is to counteract human sin. Nor is Paul indicating that heinous crimes, gross violations, or other terrible acts ought not to be taken to government authorities. On the contrary, prosecuting heinous sins like violence, molestation, or abuse are precisely the reason God-ordained government exists.

Instead, Paul specifically condemns these Corinthians for voluntarily going to court over a minor issue. For something "trivial," the church should be fully capable of judging and resolving a dispute between brothers in Christ. After all, Paul says, those in Christ will one day judge the world and angels. Instead of going to court before unbelievers, it would be less of a defeat to just live with being wronged or defrauded. It is shameful to see brothers or sisters in Christ cheating one another (1 Corinthians 6:3–8).

Paul reminds the Corinthians they are not like those outside of the church. The wicked or unrighteous will not inherit God's kingdom. They will not share in God's glory forever. The unrighteous are labeled by their sinful activities: sexual immorality, idol worship, adultery, practicing homosexuality, stealing, greed, regular drunkenness, and spewing angry insults (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).

Some of the Corinthians in the church carried these labels at one time, but then they came to faith in Christ and a transformation took place. Any and all sins are forgiven for those who trust in the Savior. This is what has happened for the believers in Corinth: the label was removed because it was not who they were any more. They were washed, sanctified, and justified. Clearly, some of those sinful activities continued to be an issue in the church, but they now carried the identity of Christ and shared a destiny with Him. Paul is urging them to live up to that new identity and not down to the standards of their culture (1 Corinthians 9:11).

Next, Paul corrects some wrong thinking among the Corinthian Christians about participating in sexual immorality.

Sexual activity of all kinds was common in the Greek and Roman culture of Corinth. It's not surprising to think that even believers in Jesus had a difficult time seeing sexual immorality as a serious issue. Arguments in favor of unregulated sex outside of marriage seem to have included three wrongheaded ideas. First, that nothing is sinful for Christians because we are not under the law. Second, that sexual desire is just like any other human appetite, and the most natural thing to do when we are hungry is to eat. Third, since the spirit lives forever, what we do with our mortal bodies doesn't really matter.

Paul confronts each argument. First, the standard for believers should not be whether something is "unlawful," in the sense of being overtly condemned, but whether it is "helpful" and whether it destroys our self-control. Second, sex is far more than just another appetite or bodily function. Those who have sex, even with a prostitute, become "one body" with their partner both physically and spiritually. God designed sex to work exactly that way within marriage. Third, what a Christian does with his or her body matters because we will be resurrected from the dead just as Jesus was. More than that, our bodies belong to God and are meant for Jesus just as He is meant for us. To join our bodies in sex with, say, a prostitute, is to join Jesus with that prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:12–19).

Instead of practicing sexual immorality, Christians must run from it and run towards opportunities to glorify God with their bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20).
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