1 Corinthians 6
In this chapter the apostle,
I. Reproves them for going to law with one another about small matters,
and bringing the cause before heathen judges,
1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
II. He takes occasion hence to warn them against many gross sins, to
which they had been formerly addicted,
1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
III. And, having cautioned them against the abuse of their liberty, he
vehemently dehorts them from fornication, by various arguments,
1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
|Causes of Litigation Censured.
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1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law
before the unjust, and not before the saints?
2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if
the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the
3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things
that pertain to this life?
4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life,
set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man
among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his
6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the
7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye
go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why
do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
Here the apostle reproves them for going to law with one another before
heathen judges for little matters; and therein blames all vexatious
law-suits. In the previous chapter he had directed them to punish
heinous sins among themselves by church-censures. Here he directs them
to determine controversies with one another by church-counsel and
advice, concerning which observe,
I. The fault he blames them for: it was going to law. Not but that
the law is good, if a man use it lawfully. But,
1. Brother went to law with brother
(1 Corinthians 6:6),
one member of the church with another. The near relation could not
preserve peace and good understanding. The bonds of fraternal love were
broken through. And a brother offended, as Solomon says, is
harder to be won than a strong city; their contentions are like the
bars of a castle,
Note, Christians should not contend with one another, for they are
brethren. This, duly attended to, would prevent law-suits, and put an
end to quarrels and litigations.
2. They brought the matter before the heathen magistrates: they went
to law before the unjust, not before the saints
(1 Corinthians 6:1),
brought the controversy before unbelievers
(1 Corinthians 6:6),
and did not compose it among themselves, Christians and saints, at
least in profession. This tended much to the reproach of Christianity.
It published at once their folly and unpeaceableness; whereas they
pretended to be the children of wisdom, and the followers of the Lamb,
the meek and lowly Jesus, the prince of peace. And therefore,
says the apostle, "Dare any of you, having a controversy with
another, go to law, implead him, bring the matter to a hearing before
the unjust?" Note, Christians should not dare to do any thing that
tends to the reproach of their Christian name and profession.
3. Here is at least an intimation that they went to law for trivial
matters, things of little value; for the apostle blames them that they
did not suffer wrong rather than go to law
(1 Corinthians 6:7),
which must be understood of matters not very important. In matters of
great damage to ourselves or families, we may use lawful means to right
ourselves. We are not bound to sit down and suffer the injury tamely,
without stirring for our own relief; but, in matters of small
consequence, it is better to put up with the wrong. Christians should
be of a forgiving temper. And it is more for their ease and honour to
suffer small injuries and inconveniences than seem to be
II. He lays before them the aggravations of their fault: Do you not
know that the saints shall judge the world
(1 Corinthians 6:2),
shall judge angels?
1 Corinthians 6:3.
And are they unworthy to judge the smallest matters, the things of
this life? It was a dishonour to their Christian character, a
forgetting of their real dignity, as saints, for them to carry little
matters, about the things of life, before heathen magistrates. When
they were to judge the world, nay, to judge, it is unaccountable that
they could not determine little controversies among one another. By
judging the world and angels, some think, is to be understood, their
being assessors to Christ in the great judgment-day; it being said of
our Saviour's disciples that they should at that day sit on twelve
thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,
And elsewhere we read of our Lord's coming with ten thousand of his
saints to execute judgment on all, &c.,
He will come to judgment with all his saints,
1 Thessalonians 3:13.
They themselves are indeed to be judged (see
but they may first be acquitted, and then advanced to the bench, to
approve and applaud the righteous judgment of Christ both on men and
angels. In no other sense can they be judges. They are not partners in
their Lord's commission, but they have the honour to sit by, and see
his proceeding against the wicked world, and approve it. Others
understand this judging of the world to be meant when the empire should
become Christian. But it does not appear that the Corinthians had
knowledge of the empire's becoming Christian; and, if they had, in what
sense could Christian emperors be said to judge angels? Others
understand it of their condemning the world by their faith and
practice, and casting out evil angels by miraculous power, which was
not confined to the first ages, nor to the apostles. The first sense
seems to be most natural; and at the same time it gives the utmost
force to the argument. "Shall Christians have the honour to sit with
the sovereign Judge at the last day, whilst he passes judgment on
sinful men and evil angels, and are they not worthy to judge of the
trifles about which you contend before heathen magistrates? Cannot they
make up your mutual differences? Why must you bring them before heathen
judges? When you are to judge them, as it fit to appeal to their
judicature? Must you, about the affairs of this life, set those to
judge who are of no esteem in the church?" (so some read, and
perhaps most properly,
1 Corinthians 6:4),
heathen magistrates, exouthenemenous, the
things that are not,
1 Corinthians 1:28.
"Must those be called in to judge in your controversies of whom you
ought to entertain so low an opinion? Is this not shameful?"
1 Corinthians 6:5.
Some who read it as our translators make it an ironical speech: "If you
have such controversies depending, set those to judge who are of least
esteem among yourselves. The meanest of your own members are able
surely to determine these disputes. Refer the matters in variance to
any, rather than go to law about them before heathen judges. They are
trifles not worth contending about, and may easily be decided, if you
have first conquered your own spirits, and brought them into a truly
Christian temper. Bear and forbear, and the men of meanest skill
among you may end your quarrels. I speak it to your shame,"
1 Corinthians 6:5.
Note, It is a shame that little quarrels should grow to such a head
among Christians, that they cannot be determined by arbitration of the
III. He puts them on a method to remedy this fault. And this
1. By referring it to some to make it up: "Is it so that there is no
wise man among you, no one able to judge between his brethren?
1 Corinthians 6:5.
You who value yourselves so much upon your wisdom and knowledge, who
are so puffed up upon your extraordinary gifts and endowments, is there
none among you fit for this office, none that has wisdom enough to
judge in these differences? Must brethren quarrel, and the heathen
magistrate judge, in a church so famous as yours for knowledge and
wisdom? It is a reproach to you that quarrels should run so high, and
none of your wise men interpose to prevent them." Note, Christians
should never engage in law-suits till all other remedies have been
tried in vain. Prudent Christians should prevent, if possible, their
disputes, and not courts of judicature decide them, especially in
matters of no great importance.
2. By suffering wrong rather than taking this method to right
themselves: It is utterly a fault among you to go to law in this
matter: it is always a fault of one side to go to law, except in a
case where the title is indeed dubious, and there is a friendly
agreement of both parties to refer it to the judgment of those learned
in the law to decide it. And this is referring it, rather than
contending about it, which is the thing the apostle here seems chiefly
to condemn: Should you not rather take wrong, rather suffer
yourselves to be defrauded? Note, A Christian should rather put up
with a little injury than tease himself, and provoke others, by a
litigious contest. The peace of his own mind, and the calm of his
neighbourhood, are more worth than victory in such a contest, or
reclaiming his own right, especially when the quarrel must be decided
by those who are enemies to religion. But the apostle tells them they
were so far from bearing injuries that they actually did wrong, and
defrauded, and that their brethren. Note, It is utterly a fault to
wrong and defraud any; but it is an aggravation of this fault to
defraud our Christian brethren. The ties of mutual love ought to be
stronger between them than between others. And love worketh no ill
to his neighbour,
Those who love the brotherhood can never, under the influence of this
principle, hurt or injure them.
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9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the
kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of
themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are
sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,
and by the Spirit of our God.
Here he takes occasion to warn them against many heinous evils, to
which they had been formerly addicted.
I. He puts it to them as a plain truth, of which they could not be
ignorant, that such sinners should not inherit the kingdom of God. The
meanest among them must know thus much, that the unrighteous shall
not inherit the kingdom of God
(1 Corinthians 6:9),
shall not be owned as true members of his church on earth, nor admitted
as glorious members of the church in heaven. All unrighteousness is
sin; and all reigning sin, nay, every actual sin committed
deliberately, and not repented of, shuts out of the kingdom of heaven.
He specifies several sorts of sins: against the first and second
commandments, as idolaters; against the seventh, as
adulterers, fornicators, effeminate, and Sodomites;
against the eighth, as thieves and extortioners, that by
force or fraud wrong their neighbours; against the ninth, as
revilers; and against the tenth, as covetous and
drunkards, as those who are in a fair way to break all the rest.
Those who knew any thing of religion must know that heaven could never
be intended for these. The scum of the earth are no ways fit to fill
the heavenly mansions. Those who do the devil's work can never receive
God's wages, at least no other than death, the just wages of
II. Yet he warns them against deceiving themselves: Be not
deceived. Those who cannot but know the fore-mentioned truth are
but too apt not to attend to it. Men are very much inclined to flatter
themselves that God is such a one as themselves, and that they
may live in sin and yet die in Christ, may lead the life of the devil's
children and yet go to heaven with the children of God. But this is all
a gross cheat. Note, It is very much the concern of mankind that they
do not cheat themselves in the matters of their souls. We cannot hope
to sow to the flesh and yet reap everlasting life.
III. He puts them in mind what a change the gospel and grace of God had
made in them: Such were some of you
(1 Corinthians 6:11),
such notorious sinners as he had been reckoning up. The Greek word is
tauta--such things were some of you, very monsters
rather than men. Note, Some that are eminently good after their
conversion have been as remarkably wicked before. Quantum mutatus ab
illo!--How glorious a change does grace make! It changes the vilest
of men into saints and the children of God. Such were some of you, but
you are not what you were. You are washed, you are sanctified, you
are justified in the name of Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.
Note, The wickedness of men before conversion is no bar to their
regeneration and reconciliation to God. The blood of Christ, and the
washing of regeneration, can purge away all guilt and defilement.
Here is a rhetorical change of the natural order: You are
sanctified, you are justified. Sanctification is mentioned before
justification: and yet the name of Christ, by which we are justified,
is placed before the Spirit of God, by whom we are sanctified. Our
justification is owing to the merit of Christ; our sanctification to
the operation of the Spirit: but both go together. Note, None are
cleansed from the guilt of sin, and reconciled to God through Christ,
but those who are also sanctified by his Spirit. All who are made
righteous in the sight of God are made holy by the grace of God.
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12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not
expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be
brought under the power of any.
13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall
destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication,
but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up
us by his own power.
15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?
shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the
members of a harlot? God forbid.
16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is
one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the
body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy
Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in
your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
and former part of the thirteenth
seem to relate to that early dispute among Christians about the
distinction of meats, and yet to be prefatory to the caution that
follows against fornication. The connection seems plain enough if we
attend to the famous determination of the apostles,
where the prohibition of certain foods was joined with that of
fornication. Now some among the Corinthians seem to have imagined that
they were as much at liberty in the point of fornication as of meats,
especially because it was not a sin condemned by the laws of their
country. They were ready to say, even in the case of fornication,
All things are lawful for me. This pernicious conceit Paul here
sets himself to oppose: he tells them that many things lawful in
themselves were not expedient at certain times, and under particular
circumstances; and Christians should not barely consider what is in
itself lawful to be done, but what is fit for them to do, considering
their profession, character, relations, and hopes: they should be very
careful that by carrying this maxim too far they be not brought into
bondage, either to a crafty deceiver or a carnal inclination. All
things are lawful for me, says he, but I will not be brought
under the power of any,
1 Corinthians 6:12.
Even in lawful things, he would not be subject to the impositions of a
usurped authority: so far was he from apprehending that in the things
of God it was lawful for any power on earth to impose its own
sentiments. Note, There is a liberty wherewith Christ has made us free,
in which we must stand fast. But surely he would never carry this
liberty so far as to put himself into the power of any bodily appetite.
Though all meats were supposed lawful, he would not become a glutton
nor a drunkard. And much less would he abuse the maxim of lawful
liberty to countenance the sin of fornication, which, though it might
be allowed by the Corinthian laws, was a trespass upon the law of
nature, and utterly unbecoming a Christian. He would not abuse this
maxim about eating and drinking to encourage any intemperance, nor
indulge a carnal appetite: "Though meats are for the belly and the
belly for meats
(1 Corinthians 6:13),
though the belly was made to receive food, and food was originally
ordained to fill the belly, yet if it be not convenient for me, and
much more if it be inconvenient, and likely to enslave me, if I am in
danger of being subjected to my belly and appetite, I will abstain.
But God shall destroy both it and them, at least as to their
mutual relation. There is a time coming when the human body will need
no further recruits of food." Some of the ancients suppose that this is
to be understood of abolishing the belly as well as the food; and that
though the same body will be raised at the great day, yet not with all
the same members, some being utterly unnecessary in a future state, as
the belly for instance, when the man is never to hunger, nor thirst,
nor eat, nor drink more. But, whether this be true or no, there is a
time coming when the need and use of food shall be abolished. Note, The
expectation we have of being without bodily appetites in a future life
is a very good argument against being under their power in the present
life. This seems to me the sense of the apostle's argument; and that
this passage is plainly to be connected with his caution against
fornication, though some make it a part of the former argument against
litigious law-suits, especially before heathen magistrates and the
enemies of true religion. These suppose that the apostle argues that
though it may be lawful to claim our rights yet it is not always
expedient, and it is utterly unfit for Christians to put themselves
into the power of infidel judges, lawyers, and solicitors, on these
accounts. But this connection seems not so natural. The transition to
his arguments against fornication, as I have laid it, seems very
natural: But the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and
the Lord for the body,
1 Corinthians 6:13.
Meats and the belly are for one another; not so fornication and the
I. The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord. This is the first
argument he uses against this sin, for which the heathen inhabitants of
Corinth were infamous, and the converts to Christianity retained too
favourable an opinion of it. It is making things to cross their
intention and use. The body is not for fornication; it was never
formed for any such purpose, but for the Lord, for the service
and honour of God. It is to be an instrument of righteousness to
and therefore is never to be made an instrument of uncleanness. It is
to be a member of Christ, and therefore must not be made the member of
1 Corinthians 6:15.
And the Lord is for the body, that is, as some think, Christ is
to be Lord of the body, to have property in it and dominion over it,
having assumed a body and been made to partake of our nature, that he
might be head of his church, and head over all things,
Note, We must take care that we do not use what belongs to Christ as if
it were our own, and much less to his dishonour.
II. Some understand this last passage, The Lord is for the body,
thus: He is for its resurrection and glorification, according to what
1 Corinthians 6:14,
which is a second argument against this sin, the honour intended to be
put on our bodies: God hath both raised up our Lord, and will raise
us up by his power
(1 Corinthians 6:14),
by the power of him who shall change our vile body, and make it like
to his glorious body by that power whereby he is able to subdue all
things to himself,
It is an honour done to the body that Jesus Christ was raised from the
dead: and it will be an honour to our bodies that they will be raised.
Let us not abuse those bodies by sin, and make them vile, which, if
they be kept pure, shall, notwithstanding their present vileness, be
made like to Christ's glorious body. Note, The hopes of a
resurrection to glory should restrain Christians from dishonouring
their bodies by fleshly lusts.
III. A third argument is the honour already put on them: Know you
not that your bodies are the members of Christ?
1 Corinthians 6:15.
If the soul be united to Christ by faith, the whole man is become a
member of his mystical body. The body is in union with Christ as well
as the soul. How honourable is this to the Christian! His very flesh
is a part of the mystical body of Christ. Note, It is good to know in
what honourable relations we stand, that we may endeavour to become
them. But now, says the apostle, shall I take the members of
Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. Or,
take away the members of Christ? Would not this be a gross
abuse, and the most notorious injury? Would it not be dishonouring
Christ, and dishonouring ourselves to the very last degree? What, make
a Christ's members the members of a harlot, prostitute them to so vile
a purpose! The thought is to be abhorred. God forbid. Know you not
that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with hers? For
two, says he, shall be one flesh. But he who is joined to the
Lord is one spirit,
1 Corinthians 6:16,17.
Nothing can stand in greater opposition to the honourable relations and
alliances of a Christian man than this sin. He is joined to the Lord in
union with Christ, and made partaker by faith of his Spirit. One spirit
lives and breathes and moves in the head and members. Christ and his
faithful disciples are one,
But he that is joined to a harlot is one body, for two shall be one
flesh, by carnal conjunction, which was ordained of God only to be
in a married state. Now shall one in so close a union with Christ as to
be one spirit with him yet be so united to a harlot as to become one
flesh with her? Were not this a vile attempt to make a union between
Christ and harlots? And can a greater indignity he offered to him or
ourselves? Can any thing be more inconsistent with our profession or
relation? Note, The sin of fornication is a great injury in a Christian
to his head and lord, and a great reproach and blot on his profession.
It is no wonder therefore that the apostle should say, "Flee
(1 Corinthians 6:18),
avoid it, keep out of the reach of temptations to it, of provoking
objects. Direct the eyes and mind to other things and thoughts."
Alia vitia pugnando, sola libido fugiendo vincitur--Other vices may
be conquered in fight, this only by flight; so speak many of the
IV. A fourth argument is that it is a sin against our own bodies.
Every sin that a man does is without the body; he that committeth
fornication sinneth against his own body
(1 Corinthians 6:18);
every sin, that is, every other sin, every external act of sin besides,
is without the body. It is not so much an abuse of the body as of
somewhat else, as of wine by the drunkard, food by the glutton, &c. Nor
does it give the power of the body to another person. Nor does it so
much tend to the reproach of the body and render it vile. This sin is
in a peculiar manner styled uncleanness, pollution, because no sin has
so much external turpitude in it, especially in a Christian. He sins
against his own body; he defiles it, he degrades it, making it one with
the body of that vile creature with whom he sins. He casts vile
reproach on what he Redeemer has dignifies to the last degree by taking
it into union with himself. Note, We should not make our present vile
bodies more vile by sinning against them.
V. The fifth argument against this sin is that the bodies of Christians
are the temples of the Holy Ghost which is in them, and which they
have of God,
1 Corinthians 6:19.
He that is joined to Christ is one spirit. He is yielded up to him, is
consecrated thereby, and set apart for his use, and is hereupon
possessed, and occupied, and inhabited, by his Holy Spirit. This is the
proper notion of a temple--a place where God dwells, and sacred to his
use, by his own claim and his creature's surrender. Such temples real
Christians are of the Holy Ghost. Must he not therefore be God? But the
inference is plain that hence we are not our own. We are yielded up to
God, and possessed by and for God; nay, and this is virtue of a
purchase made of us: You are bought with a price. In short, our
bodies were made for God, they were purchased for him. If we are
Christians indeed they are yielded to him, and he inhabits and occupies
them by his Spirit: so that our bodies are not our own, but his. And
shall we desecrate his temple, defile it, prostitute it, and offer it
up to the use and service of a harlot? Horrid sacrilege! This is
robbing God in the worst sense. Note, The temple of the Holy Ghost must
be kept holy. Our bodies must be kept as his whose they are, and fit
for his use and residence.
VI. The apostle argues from the obligation we are under to glorify
God both with our body and spirit, which are his,
1 Corinthians 6:20.
He made both, he bought both, and therefore both belong to him and
should be used and employed for him, and therefore should not be
defiled, alienated from him, and prostituted by us. No, they must be
kept as vessels fitted for our Master's use. We must look upon our
whole selves as holy to the Lord, and must use our bodies as property
which belongs to him and is sacred to his use and service. We are to
honour him with our bodies and spirits, which are his; and
therefore, surely, must abstain from fornication; and not only from the
outward act, but from the adultery of the heart, as our Lord
Body and spirit are to be kept clean, that God may be honoured by both.
But God is dishonoured when either is defiled by so beastly a sin.
Therefore flee fornication, nay, and every sin. Use your bodies for the
glory and service of their Lord and Maker. Note, We are not proprietors
of ourselves, nor have power over ourselves, and therefore should not
use ourselves according to our own pleasure, but according to his will,
and for his glory, whose we are, and whom we should serve,