“WHY NOT SUFFER WRONG?”
Jason K. Boothe
1 CORINTHIANS 6:1-11 (ESV)
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
TRUTH IN FOCUS
Given the awful sin debt from which Christ gloriously delivered us, believers must humbly forbear and forgive one another. We cannot forget that while we stand “washed, sanctified, and justified by the name of Jesus Christ,” others guilty of the very same sins will be eternally cast out in the fierce wrath of God’s judgment. Since salvation is entirely of God’s good pleasure and grace, there is no room for boasting, pride, envy, or striving against our brothers and sisters. Has a brother done wrong by you? Don’t retaliate. Don’t take it to the streets. The Apostle Paul replies, “Why not rather suffer wrong?”
The Corinthians were bringing one another in front of pagan judges to settle petty disputes. Rather than settle these disputes as fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord themselves in the context and confines of congregational life, they chose to vindictively drag one another in front of the unbelievers to have their disputes and their dirty laundry put on display for all to see. Appalled by this behavior, the Apostle Paul issues stern words of rebuke, reminding the Corinthians to remember just who they were because of Christ.
The Corinthians had no reason to squabble with one another. In fact, given the great and precious promises granted them by Christ in the preaching of the Gospel, none of these disputes even deserved their attention! In fact, Paul comes right out and asks them, “Why not suffer wrong?” Why not just take the abuse, endure the discomfort, deal with the strain of the situation? Doing nothing and simply letting these disputes pass into time was better than dragging the name of Christ’s church through the mud. You may ask, and I’m sure the Corinthians thought along these same lines: Why should the Corinthians let these disputes go? Paul explains by detailing just what Christ had given each and everyone of them in salvation.
The reader can almost hear Paul pleading with the Corinthians to just think this thing through! They knew the Gospel. They had “come behind in no spiritual gift.” Yet here they were demanding justice to be meted out in full measure against their own Christian brothers those who trespassed against them. Paul then lays it on the line. In so many words, the Apostle rattles their prideful hearts: There are people God will judge for the very same sins you are guilty of committing!
The church has members who were guilty of committing these same sins: drunkards, homosexuals, swindlers, adulterers, revilers, and swindlers. Yet, for these sins those in the church would never face the judgment of a holy God. But those outside of Christ who stand guilty of these very same sins will never inherit the kingdom of God!
How can there be room in the Christian heart for unforgiveness, bitterness, spite, envy, and the like knowing that everything we have in Christ is entirely undeserved? We committed those same sins, and continue to battle against sin each and every day. But, God’s people are washed, sanctified, justified in Christ by the Spirit!
Why not suffer wrong? In the face of such mercy and grace given freely to us by our loving Father in the finished work of Christ, how could we ever harbor feelings of resentment and spite, much less drag one another in front of the magistrate? As we remember that people just as “moral” and “good” as we will ever be will spend eternity separated from God, the trials of this life are put into proper focus.
As we consider our Scripture lesson this morning, it is my hope that God reminds His children why it is that we will one day live eternally with Him.
VV. 1-8 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
A. “When one of you has a grievance against another..”- The Apostle Paul calls the Corinthian assembly’s attention to their practice of airing grievances in the courts of the unbelievers. The Corinthians boasted among themselves about their wisdom and knowledge Yet, the most trivial matters became matters of litigation.
B. “does he dare….” – It was a scandal for the Corinthians to conduct themselves in this manner. It was bad enough that grievances were permitted to spiral out of control to the point of actually needing a judge. But to add insult to injury, the Corinthians felt it necessary and proper to drag one another in front of the unbelieving courts!
C. “instead of the saints.” – The implication here is evident: when there is cause for fellow believers to sort through differences, it is always best for such reconciliation to occur in the context of the community of faith.
D. “you will judge the world?” – Christians will rule and reign with Christ for eternity. Yet, the Corinthians were incapable of settling even trivial matters among the brethren. What a shameful reality! Having no shortage of pride, the Corinthians thought much more highly of themselves than they should have. Professing themselves to be wise, their actions revealed them for the fools they truly were.
E. “Why not rather suffer wrong?” – It was Paul’s contention that the only thing accomplished by airing their grievances among the unbelievers was mutual defeat! Why harbor the incessant need for vindication and satisfaction? Do not these feelings feed off our our fallen and sinful desire to somehow prove we are in certain ways better or superior to our neighbors?
Why not give yourself over to prayer for the situation? Vengeance belongs to the Lord! It is better to surrender your hurt feelings to God than to burn with vengeful intention against a brother in the Lord! Winning a court case might bring temporary satisfaction to the individual. But when Christians sue fellow Christians, the entire proposition is a defeat from the start. Fighting and squabbling among unbelievers brings reproach on the Name of Christ.
VV. 9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
A. “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” – It is at this point in the Scripture lesson wherein Paul begins to dismantle any notion of Corinthian superiority, the root motivation for so much of the poor treatment of one another.
B. The unrighteous, those apart from Christ, will not inherit the kingdom of God.
C. “Do not be deceived….” – Those outside of Christ were guilty of many transgressions, including stealing, greed, drunkenness, reviling, swindling, idolatry, sexually immorality, and homosexuality. This lengthy litany of transgressions was utilized by Paul in order to drive home the main thrust of his argument about walking humbly with God and with one another.
D. “And such were some of you.” – Those who had committed vile acts of transgression against God who enter eternity without Christ will face the holy judgment of God. But the Corinthians, those whose pride puffed them up to such an extent that they felt justified in taking their own brothers in Christ in front of pagan courts, were guilty of the exact same transgressions!
E. The Corinthians were not special cases. No! Paul makes it clear that they stood guilty of breaking God’s law just like the reprobate wicked. They had no moral or spiritual superiority of which to speak, being sinners in word, thought, and deed, no different in themselves from the rest of fallen humanity.
- “but you were washed.” – People would face the judgment of God for the exact same transgressions committed by the Corinthians! The only difference between the reprobate wicked and the redeemed of the Lord is the death of Christ! The Corinthians were not better people. They were not somehow cut from superior cloth. No! The only difference between saved sinners and doomed sinners is the sovereign grace of God in Christ!
The Corinthians needed to have their pride dragged through the dust. Paul was happy to oblige. Everything of importance obtained by the Corinthian fellowship was given freely by the grace of God! They were sinners, washed in the precious blood of the Lamb. They were sinners, sanctified by the finished work of Christ. They were justified, made right with God by the imputed righteousness of Jesus.
Everything of which they could boast was given freely to them through Christ. They had no ground for boasting or being puffed up with pride. In fact, the only suitable reply is glorifying God while walking humbly with one another, thanking Him for the gifts He has freely given in Christ!
The Corinthians had pride enough to spare! Yet, they were filthy law-breakers just like the rest of fallen humanity. Dragging brothers into the courts of unbelievers over petty squabbles brought shame on the church. Professing themselves to be wise, the foolish Corinthians weren’t even able to settle their own disputes in-house, brother-to-brother. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. But what Paul reminded the Corinthians is that they were all guilty of the same transgressions as those who would one day be judged by God!
The only thing that made the Corinthians to differ was the beautiful reality of Christ’s death. Through His death, the Corinthians were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord. For the very same sins committed by the Corinthians, those outside of Christ will one day be judged by God!
Given that we have nothing of any spiritual import that we have not freely received by faith in Christ, God’s people should seek to live peaceful lives, humbly enduring life’s situations and trials, even when we think we are “in the right.”
Thank God for the cleansing work of Christ’s death! Truly the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Without Christ, we would be destined for God’s judgment. In the end, Christ’s saving work is the only thing which makes saint and sinner to differ.
Believers should be willing to endure the trials of this life, being reminded daily through God’s Word that Christ alone make all the difference in the world. Instead of seeking self-satisfaction at the expense of another, let us remember that “but for the grace of God, there go I!”
Lord, without Christ’s work, we would stand guilty of the same sins for which unbelievers will be judged. The only thing which makes us differ from the worst sinner in the world is the Sovereign Grace of God in Christ. Thank you for grace. Help us to live in light of this glorious reality. Let our works be pleasing to you, O God, for Christ’s own sake – Amen.
Jason K. Boothe is Senior Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. For more information concerning the ministries of the church, please visit http://www.HorizonsBaptist.org.