God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2015


In Chapter 5 Paul criticised the Corinthian Christians for their failure to exercise judgment on one of their members who was engaged in an on-going and grossly immoral sin. Now, in 6:1-13, he addresses two other judgment related failures. Both of these, like their arrogant tolerance of the immorality dealt with in Chapter 5, stem from their fundamental failure to apply the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified to their lives. These two failures were:

[1] They were taking each other to court [to the legal process run by unbelievers] to settle disputes.
[2] By doing so they displayed ignorance of the Gospel.

A.1 What they were doing that was wrong

Read 6:1-13. Answer these questions:

What is the practice that Paul rebukes?

Why was it wrong?

Paul assumes that there will be 'disputes' among the Corinthian Christians. It is not the existence of 'disputes' that he criticises, but the way they were handling these disputes. Paul does not mention the particular issues causing these disputes. That is irrelevant. What disturbed Paul is that the disputes in question that they were taking to pagan courts, were disputes between the believers – disputes with 'another' [verse 1], disputes between 'brothers' [verse 5 (Greek text), 6, 8]  – between believers [verse 5, NIV].

A.2 The disputes in question
Although not specifically identified Paul refers to the disputes as:

'trivial cases' [verse 2]. Compared with God's judgment of the world, the disputes in question are the very smallest matters.
'the things of this life' [verse 3]. They are disputes about temporary, physical issues.

Ultimately, they are really insignificant matters.

A.3 Paul's rhetorical questions
Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions to highlight -

The wrongness and incongruity of Christians taking each other to court.
The Corinthians' ignorance of their status established by the Gospel.
The Corinthians' arrogance in their dealing with each other.
The Corinthian's failure to apply the gospel in the context of these disputes.

Question #1: Dare he take it before the ungodly? Verse 1
Paul's word 'dare' is yet another indication of the Corinthian arrogance. He is incredulous that they would have the presumption to do such a thing. He is not so much asking 'how do you dare' meaning how are they brave enough. Rather he is asking how do they dare to be so arrogant.

Note that the Greek text does not have 'the ungodly' – it has 'the unjust' [adikos]. How can they possibly expect to receive justice from the unjust, from those who know nothing of the 'righteousness' [dikaiosune] that the believers have in Christ [1:30], and who have not experienced that declaration of acquittal granted in the name of Christ [dikaioo] [verse 11] to the Corinthians?

Their presumption in taking their trivial cases to pagan courts exposes their failure to really understand the Gospel.

Question #2: Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Verse 2
It is difficult to know exactly what Paul meant by this. The 'saints' is his way of referring to all Christians, not to an elite group of Christians. That is evident throughout his letters. But what he means by 'will judge the world' is not at all clear.

From the rest of the Scripture there are several things that are clear:

[1] God is the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25; 1Samuel 2:10; Psalm 94:2; Hebrews 12:23].
[2] God the Father has entrusted all judgment to Christ the Son [John 5:22,27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Romans 2:16].
[3] When Jesus Christ returns he will come as Judge [Matthew 25:31-46; 2Timothy 4:1; Revelation 19:11].

These texts clearly place judgment in the hands of God, and it is this fact that judgment belongs to God that makes Paul's question difficult. Obviously he thinks that the Corinthians should have known that 'the saints will judge the world'. His 'Do you not know …' infers that they actually should and do know, but they are not applying that truth to the way they live – they were not even judging 'trivial cases' among themselves!

And here we must ask: Is there anything in the New Testament that throws any light on Paul's meaning? A few texts are helpful:

[1] Matthew 12:41,42. Here Jesus stated that on the Day of Judgment 'the men of Nineveh' and 'the Queen of the South' would rise and condemn 'this generation'. This would happen because the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and the Queen of the South travelled far to learn from Solomon, but 'this generation' has not responded to one who is greater than both Jonah and Solomon.

[2] Matthew 19:28. Here Jesus told his disciples that 'you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel'. This would happen 'at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne'. Here judging is associated with sitting on a throne, that is, with reigning.

[3] John 16:7-11. Here Jesus taught that when the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers he would 'convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment …'.

[4] Revelation 2:27,28. Here Jesus promises believers the same authority over the nations that the Father gave to him. He describes this authority with a quote from Psalm 2, that defines his own 'rule' over the nations.

[5] Revelation 3:21. Here Jesus gives believers the right to sit with him on his throne, just as he has sat down with his Father on his throne.

[6] Revelation 20:4. Here John saw 'thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge'. [How we understand this text depends on how we understand the 'millennium'.]

From the above texts we can identify two distinct ways in which 'the saints' 'judge the world', without compromising or diminishing the role of Christ as the judge.

[1] There is a judgment that is taking place through the church prior to the 'Day of Judgment'. This happens whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit, through the witness of the church, exposes the guilt of the world [John 16:7-11]. This is not a deliberate act of judging on the part of the church. It is built into the Word proclaimed by the church and is the work of the Holy Spirit in and through that Word.
There is a sense in which the judgment described by Jesus in Matthew 12:41,41 [as occurring on 'the day of judgment'] is also on-going in the present. Whenever one person repents and believes the message of 'Jesus Christ and him crucified' that action of faith and repentance is automatically a judgment upon all who do not repent and believe the message. The believers' faith exposes the unbelief of the world. The believers' faith judges the unbelief of the world. All of this without a word of judgment being spoken. This is true both in the present and in the future.

[2] Believers are with Christ on the Day of Judgment. Revelation makes it clear that the 'throne' of God is extensive. God is on the throne. Christ is on the throne. And believers are sitting with him on the throne. [The 'throne' is an indicator of authority. Authority means rule or reign. Rule of necessity includes the role of judging.]

It is Christ who reigns. It is Christ who judges. But believers are with him, on his throne, as he reigns and as he judges. Their presence there with him affirms the validity of his judgment.

[There is another sense in which believers judge the world. In Revelation 6:9.10 we read of the souls of martyred believers under the altar, asking a question about when God will avenge their blood. In 16:7, following a angel's affirmation of the justice of God's judgment [verses 5,6], 'the altar' [the place where the saints are in the vision in Chapter 6] responds 'Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments'. Here the saints affirm the judgments made by God. ]

Question #3: If this is true … are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Verse 2
Given the fact that the saints will judge the world they should surely be able to deal with trivial cases among themselves. Knowing Christ they also know the kind of behaviour appropriate for those who claim to follow Christ. Knowing Christ they also know that justice and love work together. Knowing Christ, they have a platform from which to assess all things.

Question #4: Do you not know that we will judge angels? Verse 3
Like the concept of Christians judging the world, it is difficult to know exactly what Paul has in mind here.  It could be merely a sub-category of judging 'the world' – as angels are part of the 'world' of living, responsible beings. It could, in addition, be something similar to a statement Paul made in Ephesians 3:10 that 'through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms …' The fact that the church exists [1] vindicates God's radical action by which we are redeemed, and [2] exposes the wrongness of the angels who rebelled and aligned themselves with Satan. The church's allegiance to God sits in judgment on their defection from God.

Note: The angels who sinned 'did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their home' [Jude 6]. But here are the Corinthian believers, with similar arrogance, abandoning the responsibility of judging 'the things of this life' among themselves. They will judge the angels, but they are actually imitating those very angels whom they will judge.

Question #5: How much more the things of this life?
If believers are to judge angels, how much more should they be able to judge the things of this life? Obviously, much more.

(Possible) Question #6: Do you appoint as judges men of little account in the church? [NIV 1984 footnote]. 2011 NIV: '… do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?

It is unclear in the Greek text if verse 4 is a command or a question. And as the 1984 footnote and 2011 text of the NIV indicate, it is even unclear if those described by the Greek word exoutheneo are in the church or outside the church.

If verse 4 is a question, it would seem that the 2011 translation is preferred. In this case Paul is challenging the Corinthians about their practice of seeking judgments on earthly matters from people outside the church, whose way of life is not at all esteemed by the church.

If it is a command, it seems best to understand the verse the way the 1984 NIV text translates it: that Paul is commanding the Corinthians to take such trivial disputes to the least esteemed members of the church, because even the least esteemed believers would be more equipped to judge between believers than those outside the church.

Either the question of the 2011 NIV or the command of the 1984 NIV text fits well with the following question.

Question #7: Is it possible there is nobody wise enough? Verse 5,6
Paul states that he is deliberately trying to 'shame' his readers. If even the least esteemed Christian should be able to decide such matters, or if they are so incompetent and lacking in godly wisdom that they have to go to unbelievers to judge in such matters, there is something seriously wrong.

Even the least believers know that they are saved by grace – reconciled to God, forgiven all sins. Even the least believers know that they are to forgive one another as God has forgiven them.

Even the least believers know that they are to extend to each other the same mercy that God has extended to them.

Even the least believers know that they are to love one another as Christ has loved them.

Does nobody in the Corinthian church have this wisdom that is grounded in the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified? Their arrogance in taking one another to be tried before unbelievers is an affront to the Gospel. Their failure in this means that regardless of the outcome of their lawsuits before the godless, they, the church, are, in fact, the losers – 'you have been completely defeated already' [verse 7].

They have lost touch with the very core of the Gospel by which they are saved. They have also smeared their reputation as the church in the eyes of the godless. They have announced to the godless that the Gospel does not work at a practical level. They have announced to the godless that they, the church, are believing a lie.

Question #8: Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
Paul is here laying down a standard that is expressed elsewhere in the New Testament in various ways. This is the principle of humility, or, we might call it, the principle of submission, in which each believer is commanded to esteem the other, to prefer the other, to seek the other's well-being before his or her own.

Suggested reading:
Matthew 5:7,39,40
Matthew 18:4
Matthew 23:8-12
Romans 12:10
Ephesians 5:21
Philippians 2:1-5
Colossians 3:12-14
1Peter 4:8

It would be far better, Paul suggests, that they be 'wronged' and 'cheated' by each other in these 'trivial' issues, than to wrong and cheat their brothers by taking them to the pagan courts. Yes. They have been wronged and cheated. But they in turn are wronging and cheating the offending brothers in their refusal to settle the issues among themselves, without going to the pagans. They are cheating them of forgiveness. They are wronging them by failing to apply the law of Christ [read Galatians 6:1-3].

Question #9: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?
 Unbelievers, here designated 'the wicked', do not 'inherit the kingdom of God'. They are excluded from it by their guilt. The Greek word here translated 'wicked' by the NIV is adikos. This is the same word used in verse 1 – 'the ungodly' - to refer to those to whom the Corinthians were taking their disputes.

Note the variations of the translation of this word:

Verse 1 in 1984 NIV – the ungodly.
Verse 9 in 1984 NIV – the wicked.
Verse 1 in 2011 NIV – the ungodly.
Verse 9 in 2011 NIV – wrongdoers.
Verse 1 in KJV – the unjust.
Verse 9 in KJV – the unrighteous.
Verse 1 in NEB – pagan law-courts.
Verse 9 in NEB – the unjust.
Verse 1 in GNB – pagan judges.
Verse 9 in GNB – the wicked

There are two verses in the New Testament where adikos is set in contrast with its opposite dikaios:

Matthew 5:45: 'He … sends his rain on the righteous [dikaios] and the unrighteous [adikos].'
1Peter 3:18: 'Christ died … the righteous for the unrighteous.'

We are dealing here with legal words. These two verses put side by side those who are legally right, and those who are legally wrong. In Romans 3:10 Paul teaches that there is actually no one who is 'righteous' [dikaios]. There is no one who is legally right.

The people before whom the Corinthians were taking their disputes were the legally wrong, viewed from God's perspective. They did not meet God's legal requirements. In God's court they would be declared 'guilty'. Yet the Corinthian believers were trusting them to settle their disputes.

Paul's intention in asking this question appears to be twofold:

[1] Like his previous questions in verses 2 and 3, 'Do you not know …' Paul wants to strongly point out the inappropriateness of believers taking each other to court before unbelievers. Believers are heirs of the kingdom; as such they are with Christ on his throne when he judges both 'the world' [verse 2] and 'angels' [verse 3]. They actually judge those from whom they are seeking judgments. In the context of the Corinthians' actions, Paul is saying 'Surely you know that you will sit with Christ on his throne in his kingdom judging the unbelievers, the wicked, the unjust! Why then would you take each other to their court? They are going to be ruled/judged by you, not you by them! They do not even belong to the kingdom, nor does the kingdom belong to them.'

To emphasise this point, Paul lists the kinds of people before whom the Corinthian believers are litigating against their Christian brothers [verse 9,10]. These are 'the wicked', the 'unjust' [verse 9]. They will never inherit the kingdom of God [verses 9,10].

Are these the people they want to settle their disputes: these who are themselves guilty before God, the Judge of all the earth? Are these the kind of people to whom they want to entrust decisions about their lives? Are these the kinds of people to whose judgment they want to entrust both themselves and their Christian brothers for whom Christ died?

[2] Paul also wants to remind his readers of the great change that has occurred in their lives as a result of the Gospel. They themselves were once 'the guilty', 'the unjust', 'the unrighteous'. They themselves were once, by that guilt, excluded from the kingdom of God. Some of them were once engaged in those specific sins he has just listed.    

But … God is a God who justifies [acquits] the wicked [Romans 4:5], and that is what has happened to these Corinthians. The impossible has occurred. They who were once excluded from his kingdom by their sin are now members of that kingdom. This, Paul says in verse 11, is because:

'You were washed' - washed in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Their sin is no longer held against them, no longer held to their account.

'You were sanctified' – set apart by God, called holy by God, deemed God's treasured possession [see also 1:30]. They are declared 'holy in his sight, without blemish, and free from accusation' [Colossians 1:22].

'You were justified' – declared 'not guilty', declared legally right, acquitted of all guilt. The perfect legal rightness of Christ is credited to them. Their guilt was laid on him. It is no longer upon them.

'in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ' – only because of who he is and what he did. Those who confess his name, those who believe in him, receive all of the above as sheer gift.

'and by the Spirit of our God' – regenerated, born again, given life by the action of God's Spirit, without which no one would see and understand the truth, and without which no one would believe in Jesus Christ.

When they confessed the name of Jesus, when they acknowledged the name of Jesus – the Son of God, the Lord – at that point an amazing exchange took place, the change Paul described in verse 11. They who once were condemned by God as adikos are now declared by God to be dikaios.

A.4 The implications of verses 9-11
There are two significant implications of these verses.

[1] The first is, as indicated above, the utter inappropriateness of believers taking their disputes to unbelievers.

[2] The second is the essential failure of the Corinthians to discern and apply the meaning of the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified. This failure was identified in Paul's seventh question: 'Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?' Is there nobody there who really understands?

Has no one there understood that God has ceased to hold them guilty?

Has no one there understood that God actually no longer holds their sin against them?

Has no one there understood that the Gospel of Christ crucified renders them all equal – equally guilty sinners who have all received the same complete forgiveness and the same complete acquittal?

Has no one there understood that they are all one in Christ, that they together comprise the one body of Christ, the one temple of God? That they are irrevocably one?

Has no one there understood that this undeserved position they now all hold is the result of the extremely costly grace of God?

Has no one there understood that each of them – each brother they are taking to pagan courts -  is incredibly precious to God? Purchased by God by the death of his beloved Son?

It seems not. It seems that in their arrogance they are ignoring the implications of the Gospel. Otherwise, they would have forgiven these 'trivial' matters. Otherwise, they would have sought reconciliation with their brothers who sinned against them. But they are not acting like people who have been forgiven and released from an immense and unpayable debt by God. They are not acting like those who have been acquitted by God of immeasurable guilt. They are holding their brothers accountable over offences that are, in comparison, exceedingly trivial.

Suggested reading:
Matthew 18:21-35

Their litigious, unforgiving attitude exposes their ignorance of the cross of Christ and what it has done for them.


Read 6:12-21.  List the arguments Paul uses against sexual immorality.




B.1 Two wrong attitudes – verse 12-14

In these verses Paul highlights yet another expression of the Corinthian arrogance, and yet another implication of the Gospel. His previous reference to the kinds of sins some of the Corinthians used to engage in is a trigger for another issue he has to raise about their attitude. This wrong attitude is particularly about their physical body.

Wrong attitude #1: 'Everything is permissible for me' – verse 12
It seems that Paul is quoting a contemporary saying that was used by the Corinthian Christians to justify their on-going sin. It parallels the attitude Paul quoted in his letter to the Romans: 'Let us do evil that good may result' [Romans 3:8], 'Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?' [Romans 6:1], and 'Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?' [Romans 6:15]. The phrase is stating that 'everything is legally permitted for me', 'everything is lawful for me'.

This is a twisted response to grace. Yes it is true that the Gospel does not demand that we must keep a set of rules and regulations in order to gain salvation. We are saved by grace, not by keeping a set of laws. But this does not mean that 'everything' is permitted, that everything is legally right. It certainly does not mean that God now permits sin.

Such attitudes arrogantly assume that because sin is forgiven it is okay. The truth is that sin is never okay. Sin is always wrong. The cross of Christ demonstrates that, as we have seen in an earlier study. The gift of forgiveness and justification do not alter God's standards. They are, rather, the result of God enforcing his standards. Jesus died for us because sin is not legally right. Jesus died, because sin is, and always will be, utterly wrong.

To make such a statement – 'everything is permissible for me' - is to hold oneself above the standards of God's law. It is to despise the very law that Christ fulfilled both in its righteous requirements and in its legal penalty, on our behalf, so that we could be released from its penalty. To make such a statement, and pursue sin because of it, is, in fact, to despise, and to misrepresent, the death of Christ.

Paul's response to this attitude is twofold:

'Not everything is beneficial'. The word is sumphero. It is variously translated as profitable, expedient, better. Literally, it means to bring together, to collect. Paul is saying that although sin is forgiven, sin never brings about the best outcome for those involved. Indeed, the opposite is true – that sin, in one way or another, brings about the worst outcome for both the sinner and those sinned against.

' I will not be mastered by anything'. Although sin is forgiven, Paul will not let sin master or control him. He will not let it have any authority over him. This reflects his teaching in Romans 6 where he teaches that, as far as sin in concerned -

We should count ourselves dead – verse 11.
We should not let sin reign – verse 12
We should not offer ourselves to sin as instruments of wickedness – verse 13.
That sin should not be our master – verse 14.
We are now slaves of God and righteousness, not of sin – verses 16-22.

The Corinthian arrogance that presumes that forgiveness validates sin is totally wrong. We see here humans exalting themselves above God – declaring 'permissible' what God has forbidden.

Wrong attitude #2 – 'Food for the stomach and the stomach for food' – verse 13
By this Paul begins to teach the Corinthians that their attitude to their physical body is wrong. They are making an illegitimate separation between physical and spiritual. They see what they do to or with their physical body as having no connection with their relationship with God. This may reflect Greek dualism that made a clear separation between mind/soul and body, sometimes to the extent that what was done by the body was regarded as ultimately irrelevant. Regardless of where their idea came from, they are failing to apply their knowledge of Jesus Christ to what they do with their bodies.

In response to this Paul teaches:

[1] What they are saying is actually correct – food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food. That is how God designed both the stomach and the food. And both the stomach and the food are brought to an end [with death] – verse 13.

[2] However, to apply the same principle to 'the body' and 'sexual immorality' and to say or infer that the body was made for sexual immorality, as the Corinthians were doing, is to err on two points:

It is to equate the body's relation to sexual immorality, with the stomach's relation to food. As Leon Morris points out: 'God did not design the body for fornication as he did the stomach for food' [p. 100, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians'].

It is to overlook or deny the truth that the body is 'for the Lord, and the Lord for the body' [verse 13]. God designed the human body, not for sexual immorality of any kind, but for himself. Humans serve God in and through their bodies. Humans glorify God in and through their bodies. We were created for his glory [Isaiah 43:7].

We are not at liberty to do whatever we please with our physical body, because our physical body belongs to God. God created our physical body. God sustains our physical body. God determines what actions are appropriate for our physical body.

[3] The body has a glorious and eternal destiny – verse 14. This is demonstrated in the real, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ by the power of God. We must never think that our physical body and what we do with it is irrelevant and insignificant to God. Nor is our physical body something that is innately sinful. The incarnate Christ had a physical body. The resurrected Christ had a physical body. Those who believe in Christ will also have resurrected physical body. [Paul will address this topic at length in Chapter 15]. The body is not irrelevant. The body is not evil. Rather, the human body is the focus and form of two amazing actions of Jesus Christ – incarnation and resurrection.

Note: It may be that their denial of the resurrection of the physical body [see Chapter 15] was at the back of the Corinthians attitude to the body and what they were doing with their bodies.

B.2 Four pointed questions – verse 15-20
In verses 15 to 20 Paul asks four questions to stress the importance of a correct attitude to the body and to stress the inappropriateness of using the body for sexual immorality.

Read verses 15-20. List Paul’s questions. Explain what they mean.








Question #1: Do you not know your bodies are members of Christ himself? - verse 15
Here is yet another fact that the Corinthian believers should have known – that their bodies are 'members of Christ'. The word translated 'members' – melos – is used to refer to a part or limb of a body.   Paul is writing in metaphor, using the image of a body and its members to define the unity of believers with Christ, and the dependence of believers on Christ. As a body is to an arm, so Christ is to each individual believer. The arm is living, sustained and empowered only by its connection to the body. Christians are living, sustained and empowered only by their connection with Christ. In addition, it is his crucified, physical body that gives them spiritual life; and it is his resurrected physical body that guarantees their own physical resurrection. Without him, they are nothing.

The Christian, not just his soul or his spirit, but also his body, belongs to Christ, and is indissolubly united to Christ.

Question #2: Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? - verse 15.
Given that our bodies are members of Christ, united to Christ, dependent on Christ – is it appropriate to unite our bodies with prostitutes? [Or, as the context infers, is it appropriate to engage our bodies in any form of sexual immorality? See verses 13,15]

Paul's answer is 'Never'.

Question #3: Do you not know … - Verse 16
To think that such an action is okay is to fail to understand or acknowledge that the sexual act unites the two persons involved. Paul here quotes from Genesis 2:24 – 'the two will become one flesh'. He does not mean they become 'one flesh' in any child produced by their sexual union, but that the sexual act itself unites them – that bonds them to each other [the word translated 'unites' is the word for gluing. It refers to a particularly close bond. It is interesting that Paul here applies to immoral sexual relationships the same fact that is used elsewhere to apply to the marriage union. The two become one in body in the sexual act. Paul uses this fact to point out the wrongness of Christians uniting with prostitutes or engaging in any form of sexual immorality.

To press this home to them he reminds them of their union with Christ [verse 17].  Previously he has said that their 'bodies are members of Christ himself' [verse 15]. Now he says that 'he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit'. Christ, the eternal Lord, took upon himself our human body, uniting himself with our humanity. When we believe in him, when we are united to him by faith, our spirit is united to his.

How wrong it is then, to take our body, which is a member of his body, and to do with it actions that are totally contrary to his Spirit. On the basis of this he commands: 'Flee from sexual immorality' [verse 18]. He then adds a further reason why Christians should not engage in any sexual sins: 'All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body' [verse 18]. In addition to sexual sins being contrary to the Spirit of Jesus, with whom the believer is united, they are also sins against one's own body. They could be called the misuse or abuse of one's body.

Question #4: Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? Verse 19
There are two more facts that Paul's readers should have known.

Their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is in them.
They received the Holy Spirit from God.

They actually do not belong to themselves any more. They belong to God. They are his dwelling place. He bought them 'at a price'. They do not have the right to do what they please with their bodies because they now belong to God. They are not their own.

Therefore, the only appropriate choice is to 'honour God with your body' [verse 20].


Paul's method of dealing with these two issues of lawsuits between believers and the sexual immorality of believers was to remind them, and us also when faced with similar issues, of a number of significant truths. If they had really understood the significance of these truths they would not have so readily engaged in the lawsuits or the immorality. These truths set a boundary around Christian behaviour.

But before we look at these five truths in a little more detail, it is necessary to draw attention again to the underlying failure that Paul has been addressing since the very beginning of this letter: that the Corinthians Christians were not responding rightly to the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Paul addresses them as Christians, assumes they are Christians, speaks to them and rebukes them on the basis that they are Christians. He, along with Aquila, Priscilla, Silas and Timothy, had preached and taught Corinthians Jews and Gentiles the word of God for an extended period [Acts 18:1-17]. He had preached the true Gospel to them, so the problem did not stem from an inferior presentation of the message. He, the experienced apostle, had personally witnessed their conversion, so, as far as humanly possible, the problem did not arise from misguided hope that mistakenly sees faith where there is actually no faith.

As this letter points out, despite having received the true message, despite having been nurtured/discipled/mentored by the great apostle, there is something radically wrong in this church. Their attitude and their behaviour do not correspond to the truth they believe. Indeed their attitude and behaviour display not only a disregard for that truth but also a contradiction of that truth. They are treating as nothing, as irrelevant, the very thing that gives them both their identity as Christians and all the spiritual blessedness they enjoy as Christians. Instead of being humbled and instructed by that truth they appear to arrogantly put themselves above that truth and any practical implication and application of that truth. It seems that they are not allowing that truth, the word of God, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified, to have any impact at all on their attitudes and actions, except when they wrongly apply it to boost their own pride and their own status.

C.1 The truth that believers are already a kingdom
This is the truth Paul referenced three times in 6:1-11, when he said that 'the saints will judge the world' [verse 2], 'we will judge angels' [verse 3] and inferred that it is believers who 'inherit the kingdom of God' [verse 8]. All of these references to the believers' future are grounded in the truth that believers are already 'kings' and members of the kingdom of God, and already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.

Suggested reading:
Matthew 5:3,10
Luke 17:21
Ephesians 2:6
Colossians 1:13
Revelation 1:5,9; 5:10

Both their lawsuits against each other and their sexual immorality are incongruous with their present position as kings, seated in heaven as co-heirs with Christ.

C.2 The truth of the physical resurrection
Paul refers to both Christ's physical resurrection and the believers' physical resurrection in 6:14. The Corinthians' attitude to their bodies and what they did with their bodies revealed a failure to think through the implications of this truth. Their actions and attitudes assume that the body is temporary, insignificant and disposable. The physical resurrection of Christ's body, and the promise of the believers' physical, bodily resurrection, teach that the body is much more significant and permanent. Indeed both the incarnation and resurrection of Christ sanctify the physical human body. The sacredness of the human body is further emphasised by further truths below.

C.3 The truth of Christians' union with Jesus Christ
In 6:15-17 Paul refers to the truth that those who believe in Christ are united to him, one with him. Their bodies are members of Christ; and they are one with him in spirit. He shared in our full humanity in order to reunite us with God.

Suggested reading:
John 1:14
Hebrews 2:9-18

This union of Christians with Christ, often communicated by use of the phrase 'in Christ', outlaws any attitude or actions to oneself or to other believers that disrespect, desecrate or degrade the human – whether physically or spiritually, whether body or soul/spirit.

Suggested reading:
Galatians 3:28
Ephesians 4:1-6,13
Ephesians 4:31-5:2
Colossians 3:9-14

[Note: this is in addition to the respect that is due to every human being because of creation in the image of God. See Genesis 9:6, plus Matthew 5:21-26.]

C.4 The truth that the believer is the dwelling place of the Spirit of God
The concept of the 'dwelling place' of God is rich with the aura of holiness that surrounded the Old Testament and Temple. They were 'holy' and everything in them was 'holy' because they were symbolic of the presence of God with his people. God met with the Israelites there. God dispensed forgiveness of sin through the sacrifices offered there. God was approached by the mediatorial priests there. Nothing was to be done there contrary to the regulations stipulated by God. None of the objects, furniture, equipment, incense … nothing there was to be used for any other purpose than the God-ordained purpose, nor used in any way other than the God-ordained way. Everything there, and everyone serving there, was 'holy' because it was dedicated to God for God alone. Holiness. Sacredness. Separateness. All of this characterised the physical, symbolic dwelling place of God.

When Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians 'your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit' he was telling them that their bodies were similarly holy, consecrated, separate. No longer for 'common' use – but only for the use and purpose ordained by God.

This is an extremely strong way of rebuking them. Those who violated the holiness of the physical, symbolic dwelling place of God [Tabernacle and Temple] incurred the most severe of penalties. How much more out of order is it then, to violate the dwelling place of the Spirit of God?

C.5 The truth that the believer is redeemed by the death of Jesus Christ.
Paul states in verse 19,20 'you are not your own; you were bought with a price'. He is referring to the death of Christ as a redemptive work. Redemption is freedom acquired by the payment of a price. The price is called a 'ransom'. Thus God is called 'Redeemer'. The life of Christ is the 'ransom'. The resulting liberation of believers from the penalty of sin, from slavery to Satan, sin and death, from condemnation under the law of sin and death, from the dominion of darkness – all of this is termed 'redemption'.

The important thing about redemption is that it cannot happen without the payment of a price. It is not achieved by the price being waived. It is achieved by the price being paid.

The Corinthian believers ought to have known this, for Paul had taught them this. They knew all about the death of Christ. They knew all about redemption. But when the human mind focuses on the freedom obtained it is all too easy to forget the price paid, and who paid the price. The freedom becomes the all important thing, and the freedom itself then becomes distorted.

God redeemed us not so that we are free to do whatever we please, but that we are free to live the life he created us to live. Before he set us free we were utterly unable to live for him or to glorify him. We had the potential, but neither the ability nor the freedom, to image him. We were trapped in our inability. Enslaved to our sin.

By their attitudes and actions the Corinthians were obviously pursuing 'freedom' – but it was freedom to break God's laws and live contrary to God's standards, not freedom to once again walk in God's ways, not freedom to image God.

Suggested reading:
Romans 6:19-22; 7:6
2Corinthians 3:17,18
Galatians 5:13-15

C.6 Consider the implications
It is not enough for us to understand that a failure to apply these five truths to their lives lay at the back of the Corinthians' failures in attitude and action. That would mean only that we understand history.

It is far more important that we also understand that God is speaking to us today through the words of Paul to these early Christians. God is here challenging our attitudes and actions. God is here saying to us – 'Do you not know ….' Don't you understand? Don't you see how this truth and this truth and this truth should be impacting your lives, changing your attitudes and actions to yourselves and your fellow believers? Are you living out these truths in your own heart and in your relationship with your fellow Christians?

A question:
What aspects of your attitudes and actions towards yourself and your fellow Christians are contrary to each of these Gospel truths, making you vulnerable to the same rebukes that Paul gave the Corinthians believers?

1. Believers are already a kingdom


2. The physical resurrection of Christ and believers


3. The Christians' union with Christ


4. The Christian's body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit's


5. We are redeemed by the death of Christ