Why Not Rather be Wronged?

Why Not Rather be Wronged?

“Why Not Rather be Wronged?”

(1 Corinthians 6:1-8)

Series: Chaos & Correction (1 Corinthians)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

 Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson



•Take your Bibles and join me in 1 Corinthians, chapter 6 (page 769; YouVersion).


We left off in 1 Corinthians at the end of chapter 5 as we concluded a 3-part series on immorality in the church and a biblical response.  We’ve been studying what the Bible teaches about church discipline and how our popular culture is wrong on the matter of judging.  Contrary to the popular mantra, “You’re not supposed to judge,” we have seen the Bible teaches Christians are to judge.  Christians are to judge other Christians.  Just as we do in our physical family, so we will do in our spiritual family: if we love one another we will not only encourage one another, but also warn one another and correct one another.


So in the context of church discipline, and namely that of excommunicating an unrepentant brother who was living in public sin, Paul concludes the chapter with a reminder about judging others in verses 12 and 13.  He says:


12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside (non-Christians)? Do you not judge those who are inside (Christians; fellow church members)

13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”


And from here Paul goes on to teach the importance of the church’s judging those who are  “inside,” judging one another.  He goes on in chapter 6 now to talk about how the church should deal with legal matters. Specifically, he reacts against the notion of Christians going outside the church for judgments, suing one another before secular courts, arguing civil cases before unbelieving judges.  Listen for that as we read and hear the Word this morning.


•Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 

2 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? 

3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 

4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 

5 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? 

6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!

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? 

8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 






Most of us know that our American culture is a culture obsessed with litigation.  We follow court cases, study court cases, we read about legal drama and watch court TV.  We are a very litigious culture.


And for fear of being sued, many American manufacturers go to great lengths to protect themselves from lawsuits.  Many companies now include warning labels on their products that are strikingly obvious.  Forbes Magazine and other sources report a number of these warning labels:


An electric razor for men has the following warning label: “Never use while sleeping.”

A warning label on a baby stroller: “Remove child before folding.”

A label on a common dust mask: “Does not supply oxygen.”

A label on a small tractor actually reads: “Danger: Avoid death.”

On a brass fishing lure with a 3-pronged hook: “Harmful if swallowed.”

One of my favorites: A rotary tool includes this warning label: “This product is not intended for use as a dental drill.”—[Brett Nelson and Katy Finneran, “Dumbest Warning Labels,” Forbes (2-23-11).  See also ”15th Annual Wacky Warning Labels Contest, PRNewswire]


The legal culture in Corinth was similar to ours, though arguably not as bad.  In 1st Century Corinth the public courts were busy with persons repeatedly bringing civil cases against one another.  And like our day, watching legal cases, or following them closely was even a form of 1st century entertainment in the Greco-Roman world.


William Barclay, whose theology is not as helpful to us as his reporting of history, tells us there were some legal cases where “juries could be as large as anything from 1,000 to 6,000 citizens.”  He adds, “In a Greek city every man was more or less a lawyer and spent a very great part of his time either deciding or listening to law cases. The Greeks were in fact famous, or notorious, for their love of going to law.  Not unnaturally, certain of the Greeks had brought their litigious tendencies into the Christian Church; and Paul was shocked.”


The Jews historically stayed away from secular courts.  They believed in taking care of matters among themselves in a spirit of family reconciliation.  The early Christians at Corinth, however, were of a different mindset.  They had been shaped largely by the Geek culture around them.


Such is the background for our study this morning in 1 Corinthians 6.  As we go through these eight verses, we’re going to answer the question:


**What Happens when Christians Sue One Another?

There are two consequences.  First:


We Discredit Ourselves (1-6)


Verse 1, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?”

Paul is disturbed that the Corinthian congregation was acting like non-Christians, taking one another to court in order to secure a verdict in their favor.  He is further dismayed that these Corinthian Christians are doing this before unbelievers.  That’s the idea behind the word “unrighteous” there in verse 1.  The unrighteous are literally those without righteousness, the righteousness of Christ.  It doesn’t mean that these judges were not good people or morally upright.  It simply means they were non-Christians and therefore not ruling strictly according to a Christian worldview.


You are sensible people.  You know a Christian can get good advice from a non-Christian.  At the same time, however, the Christian must take care to filter all advice and counsel through the counsel of Scripture.  If our non-Christian counselor or lawyer provides counsel that is inconsistent with the Scripture then we will at that point depart from the counsel of our non-Christian friend and submit to the corrective counsel of the Bible.


Verse 2, “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?”


Now we’ve noted before that the Christian judges those who are inside the church and God judges those who are outside the church.  Christians correct one another, those inside.  Yet Paul asks in verse 2, “Do you not know that the saints (and that’s a general New Testament reference to Christians) will judge the world?”  It almost sounds as though Paul is contradicting himself, talking about Christians judging those outside the church.


Yet Paul is speaking about the future.  He talking about the future state when Christ returns and Christians will at that time share with Christ in His earthly reign.  That is even clearer in verse 3, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels (cf. Daniel 7:22)?”  Whatever else that means it certainly means that Christians share in the future reign of Christ when Christ returns and establishes His earthly kingdom.  We will reign with Him.  It’s a reminder of our future inheritance.


So Paul is arguing from the greater to the lesser.  He is arguing that, on the basis of the Christian’s greater future role in ruling with Christ, the Christian is certainly equipped in the lesser role of this present life, judging simple civil matters between one another.  So again, second part of verse 2, “And if the world (future) will be judged by you (cf.  Revelation 2:25), are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?”  Again, verse 3, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?”


Continue in verse 4, “If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?”


Here’s a paraphrase: “What are you Christians doing dragging your civil cases before non-Christians?  Why are you bringing shame upon the name of Christ by suing one another in the public courts and allowing unbelieving judges to rule over your cases?!”


Verse 5, “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?”


Do you feel Paul’s rhetorical left jab there?!  He’s like, “You mean to tell me there’s not even one wise man among you all who is capable of hearing your civil cases?”


Note also the way he asks these questions in verses 2 and 3.  Twice he asks, “Do you not know?”  He says this, “Do you not know,” 11 times in this letter (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 6:3, etc.)].  It’s his way of sticking a pin in the balloon of their pride and deflating their egos saying, “You guys boast about your so-called knowledge, but do you really know anything (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 1:29).”


Verse 6, “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”


So Paul shows how the Corinthian church has discredited herself.  Brother is suing brother before the watching world of non-Christians.


When Christians sue each other, they discredit themselves, they discredit their witness.  In what way?  In that they show that they are really no different than their non-Christian neighbors.


The unbelievers look at these so-called Christians and say, “Well, you really are no different from the rest of us!  You Christians are in as bad a shape as the rest of us, wronging one another and forever fighting for your rights!  The so-called “power” of the Gospel you claim to have, proves rather powerless, doesn’t it?”


So Paul is saying, “Don’t discredit yourselves by hanging out your dirty laundry on a clothesline for all to see.”  These are matters to work out amongst yourselves.  Hold your own court within the body of Christ.  Don’t take your matters to the outside legal system.


Now, wherever there is a general principle in Scripture there is always an exception or two.


The context here suggests that Paul is talking about civil cases.  Criminal cases are handled by the state, by those whom God has appointed as indicated in Romans 13:1-7.  The context here suggests Paul is arguing against our suing one another over civil concerns.


Another exception would be when a Christian finds himself or herself as the innocent party in a divorce case.  If a spouse determines to divorce another spouse for unbiblical reasons, the innocent party has little choice but to appear in court and work through the process.


And there are arguably other exceptions, certain matters of insurance claims, for example, and the fact that the Church at Corinth was the church at Corinth, the only church, unlike our day where the existence of many churches means many more brothers and sisters over whom no one church has oversight.


But the force of the general principle remains: Christians should avoid suing other Christians because doing so brings discredit upon the cause of Christ.


When Christians sue one another, we discredit ourselves.  Secondly, when Christians sue one another:


We Defeat Ourselves  (7-8)


We defeat ourselves because the point is to secure a verdict in one’s favor, to beat the other guy, to win, to be victorious.  In behaving this way, Christians hurt each other.


Verse 7, “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another.”  Paul is saying, “It really doesn’t matter who ‘wins’ your case, you have already lost.  You have lost before you stand before the judge to argue your case and you have lost because again, you bring shame upon the name of Christ and you hurt your brother.”


Second part of verse 7, “Why do you not rather accept wrong?  Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?”  That is, “Why not take the high road in the interest of the Gospel?  Why not just let yourself be cheated?  I mean, this present life is but a snap of the finger when compared to eternity.


The Supreme Judge of the Universe sees what’s happening. He will one day settle all accounts and right all wrongs.  So why not put up with a temporary injustice since you one day will receive eternal justice.  Otherwise, you just defeat one another.


Verse 8, “No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!”


Again, the point of taking someone to court is to secure a verdict in our favor.  Commentator David Garland notes:


Paul is not upset simply because they aired their dirty linen before unbelievers but that they resorted to lawsuits at all.  Brother Christians are pitted against brother Christians, adopting a cutthroat, adversarial relationship rather than one based on love and selflessness.  The church appears to be infested with enmity between members, and he deliberately chooses an image from the family to remind them of their brotherhood.


Brother goes to law against brother.  The word “brother” occurs nearly 40 times in this letter.  Paul is beside himself that brothers act this way.  “You do these things to your brethren.”  You defeat one another.


Now in light of our study, I want to share three simple and straightforward actions steps.  Write these down.  First:


1) Let’s Take Seriously the Matter of Church Membership


I mean let’s not just be hearers of the word, but doers of it.  What I mean is, let’s do as Paul teaches here and help one another out.  If you are dealing with some civil injustice at the hands of another Christian, let’s work it out.


Rather than rushing to the secular court system, seek reconciliation through the church body.  An article in Christianity Today notes:


“The American judicial system often allows disputing parties—even after the filing of a suit—to resolve their conflicts in a private, non-adversarial forum (e.g., through mediation or arbitration with the assistance of a trained facilitator, many of whom are committed Christians). After resolving the matter, the parties may petition the court to incorporate the mediated agreement or the arbiter’s decision into a court order.”—Alice Curtis, “Should Christians Sue?” Christianity Today, online, posted 8/6/2001.


There is also a wonderful resource known as Peacemaker Ministries (peacemaker.net).  Peacemaker Ministries is an Alternative Dispute Resolution resource.   It was founded in 1982 by, “a group of pastors, lawyers, and business people who wanted to encourage and assist Christians to respond to conflict biblically.”
I speak confidently for our staff and deacon body that we would gladly avail ourselves to help in the reconciliation of some matter.  That’s what the church family is for.


I mean, would it not seem silly for a family to announce to the neighborhood some problem they were having in their house?  Their son Johnny allegedly stole something from sister Suzy’s room.  Suzy says it’s hers.  Johnny says, “No, I loaned it to her and she never gave it back.  Furthermore, she broke a piece off of it and owes me.”  So mom and dad set up a table in the driveway and sit in chairs outside their home and invite the neighbors to weigh-in on who’s at fault here: Johnny or Suzy?  The neighbors would say, “This is a strange family!  Why do they involve us in their disputes?  Why don’t they handle it themselves?”  And that is the idea here.


Is it any wonder the average non-Christian looks at the average Christian church and shakes his head?  Is it not a weak, miserable testimony that says we Christians really live no differently than non-Christians?


This consideration leads us to our second actions step.  Number two:


2) Let’s Guard our Christian Witness


Let us never forget that the world is watching us.  The world sees how Christians behave.  This is why Paul argues, “Before you even stand before the judge and begin to present your side of the story, you have already lost.  And you have lost because you have discredited your Christian witness.”


The Gospel suffers a blow.  The cause of Christ suffers.  It doesn’t matter who “wins” the case.


So let’s take seriously the matter of church membership, let’s guard our Christian witness, and thirdly:


3) Let’s Live with an Eternal Perspective


Let’s remember that our Lord sees everything that takes place and will one day settle all accounts.  The Supreme Judge of the Universe will right all wrongs.


Remember how Christ behaved when he lost his rights?


1 Peter 2:23, “23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;”


To quote again from Garland:


Why not rather be defrauded?  Even if the Christian were motivated solely by personal gain, the option between possible minor material gain in this life versus the certainty of a glorious legacy in the life to come should make the decision easy.  Refusing to seek redress for a wrong is not only better than bringing charges against another Christian before pagan judges, but also better than impaneling a jury of Christians to hear the complaint.  It reveals that one understands, accepts, and lives out the wisdom of the cross.


God will one day settle all accounts.  The key is to live for eternity.  Live with an eternal perspective, not a temporary, short-sighted perspective.  Remember that a short-term loss often means a long-term gain.




Ray Stedman tells about a story he heard from Dr Harry Ironside, a man with whom he had traveled.  He says:


I will never forget the time when Dr. H. A. Ironside…told me of an incident in his own life as a Christian. When he was only eight years old, or so, his mother took him to a meeting of the Brethren who were discussing some kind of difficulty among themselves. Evidently there was some terrible injustice that one felt others had done. Young Harry Ironside did not know what the trouble was, but it was clear they were deeply disturbed. He said that one man stood up and shook his fist and said, “I don’t care what the rest of you do. I want my rights! That’s all! I just want my rights!”


There was an old half-deaf Scottish brother sitting in the front row, and he cupped his hand behind his ear and asked this man, “Aye, brother, what’s that ye say?” And the fellow said, “Well, all I said was that I want my rights. That’s all.” The old man said, “Your rights, brother, is that what you want, your rights? Why the Lord Jesus didn’t come to get his rights. He came to get his wrongs, and he got them.” Harry Ironside said, “I’ll always remember how that fellow stood transfixed for a little while. Then he dropped his head and said, ‘You’re right, brother, you’re right. Settle it any way you like.'” And in a few moments the whole thing was settled.


•Stand for prayer.


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