The Only Hope of the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:1-11)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | September 7, 2014

Audio file not available.


Text:

Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?  

3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?  4 If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?  5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,  6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?  7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?  8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren.  9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Co. 6:1-11 NAS)

Notes:

  • Today we are continuing our series on the kingdom of God.
  • Paul is writing to the Corinthian church about various problems they are experiencing.
  • In chapters 1 – 4 Paul confronts them concerning their arrogant judging of him as a weak and ineffective messenger of the gospel,
  • in chapters 5 and 6 about immorality in the church and in later chapters about idolatry, disorder in worship and misunderstandings about the resurrection.
  • Here, his concern is that a person has brought a lawsuit against another person in the civil court and has thus brought shame on the church in the eyes of the world.
  • When believers develop grievances with one another, what are some of the ways we tend to naturally or improperly react?…
  • We try to pretend the grievances don’t exist, keeping them to ourselves….but they often build up over time so that an offense becomes a reproach…and anger turns into bitterness.
  • Or if we can’t keep it to ourselves, we gossip with other people in the church about the person who offended us.
  • Or if the problem seems large or complicated we take the person to court.
  • The last of these is what’s happening in our passage today.
  • One person is taking another person to court over what is likely a dispute over land or property.
  • What bothers Paul is that they didn’t bring the issue before the elders of the church, and now they’re airing their dirty laundry, as it were, in the public courts for all to see and hear.
  • Why is it that often the last thing we do is to bring grievances we have with one another before the elders of the church?
  • Paul says it’s because our values are closer to those of the world than those of the kingdom of God.
  • We live in the world, so we tend to pick up on the values of the world.
  • We sometimes forget who we are in Christ, and in so doing, can damage our witness in the world for
  • Paul reminds us that our only hope for living as God’s kingdom community in a world filled with greed, fraud, immorality, and idolatry can be found in the finished work of Christ on the cross and the powerful application of that work by the Spirit in our everyday lives.
  • Believers – God’s kingdom people – are enabled to be and to behave differently from unbelievers because of what God in his mercy has already done for us in Christ and what he has effected in us by the Spirit.
  • IOW, we can live as God has called us to live because of what Christ has already accomplished for us and because of what the Holy Spirit has applied to us.
  • The only hope of the kingdom, in a word, is the gospel.
  • So in light of the gospel, who are we and what are we called to do?

This passage tells us that, as the church,

  • first, we are called to be God’s kingdom community;
  • second, we are called to behave in such a way so as to witness the gospel to the world, and
  • third, to enable us to do so, we are given a word of warning and a word of assurance.
  1. The church as God’s kingdom people. (1-5)
  • First, as the church, we are called to be God’s kingdom people, God’s kingdom community in vv. 1-5.
  • In other words, we are to know who we are, and be who we are – God’s kingdom people, God’s eschatological community, living in the tension of the already and not yet.
  • How were the Corinthians failing to do so?
  • Paul identifies the problem in verse 1.

1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?

  • Here’s the situation: one person has a dispute against his brother in the church. Likely, it’s over land, both are property owners, leaders in the church.
  • The problem: the case was brought before the civil court instead of before the church leadership.
  • As important as this might seem, they are making a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Paul says, This can be and should be handled inside the church.
  • You are not living up to who you really are. Then he gives several reasons.
  • The first reason is that when X comes again the saints will join him in judging the nations – the people of the world – as we saw earlier in Daniel 7:23-27 – “Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High.” – and here in verse 2.

2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?

  • IOW, if one day you will judge the nations, you can certainly deal with such a relatively trivial matter as a land dispute between believers.
  • The 2nd reason P gives is found in verse 3. Not only will believers judge men, they will also judge angelic beings, so surely they can judge a relatively minor earthly matter.

3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?

  •  The 3rd reason P gives in v. 4 is that unbelieving judges who are not heirs to the kingdom are not qualified to discern the additional spiritual issues related to such matters between believers.

4 If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?

  • P is not condemning civil courts, but is merely noting their limitation to purely civil matters.
  • Caveat – church discipline and civil discipline, sometimes both are necessary if a crime has been committed.
  • The 4th reason P gives in v. 5 is a bitingly sarcastic comment intended to shame them into thinking correctly.

5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,

  • IOW, “you say that you are so spiritually “wise” – referring back to chapter 4- surely you are wise enough to handle a simple legal matter.”
  • His POINT is that since when Christ returns, believers will be given the privilege to judge both men and angels, we are competent even now to make proper judgments among fellow believers.
  • IOW, be who you already are – God’s kingdom people.
  • Utilize the authority you’ve been granted by Christ and the discernment given by the Spirit to make truly wise decisions in the church when the need arises.
  1. The church as a witness before the world. (6-8)
  • Not only are we are called to be God’s kingdom people/community.
  • Second, we are called to behave in such a way in such a way so as to witness the gospel to the world in vv. 6-8.
  • The second main problem was that of airing the church’s dirty laundry in the public square found in v. 6.

6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

  • Instead of being a good example to unbelievers thru the Christian principle of non-retaliation found in the sermon on the mount, they were behaving just like the world, taking one another to court.
  • Paul illustrates this by saying “When you “win” the church “loses.” Look at v 7a.

7a Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another.

  • Paul further illustrates this by saying, “It’s better to “lose” temporally in order to gain eternal life.” Look at 7b.

7b Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?

  • That’s essentially what we read earlier in 1 Pe 2:21ff. 21 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”
  • IOW, securing of property is of zero value to God’s eschatological people.
  • It’s better to give up or lose the property than to destroy your witness to the world.
  • And he sums it all up by saying, “In fact, you are behaving like the world.” Look at v. 8.

8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren.

  • IOW, in behaving like the world, you are bringing embarrassment to the church.
  • Instead, you should be behaving in such a way as to witness to the truth and power of the gospel.
  1. A word of warning/invitation and assurance. (9-11)
  • Third, he tells us how to do so.
  • To enable us to be God’s kingdom people, and to witness the gospel to the world, we are given a word of warning and a word of assurance in vv. 9-11.
  • First, he gives a word of warning which doubles as an invitation.
  • He says those who persist in ungodly behavior will not inherit the kingdom.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

  • IOW, if a person in the church persists in such ungodly behavior they are in danger of forfeiting their potential inheritance in the KOG.
  • Those who persist in wickedness prove they are unsaved. So they will not inherit the kingdom.
  • It’s a real warning. Like that in 2 Cor. 13:5 – “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” as well as those in Hebrews 6 and 12 and elsewhere.
  • But it’s also an invitation to repent of unbelief that leads to such behavior and to turn to Christ in faith for relief from the bondage to such sin.
  • There isn’t time to go thru the list now. We’ll do that another time.
  • Second, P gives us a word of assurance.
  • He assures us that our conversion has removed us from being among the wicked, those who will not inherit the Kingdom. Look at v. 11.

11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

  • IOW, since you are no longer among the wicked, stop living like them.
  • Now that you are in Christ you are in fact different, so live like it.
  • How are we different? He tells us in verse 11.
  • You were washed – from the filth of your former lifestyle expressed in the preceding list.
  • You were sanctified – set apart by God for holy living, in contrast to your former wickedness.
  • You were justified – tho you were formerly unjust, now that you are right with God you may inherit the kingdom which you could not before.
  • All three verbs are in the passive mood – they are something we have received from God.
  • The two prepositional phrases “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” and in the Spirit of our God” modify all three verbs.
  • IOW, God has effected salvation in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
  • Together they refer to what God has done for his people in Christ, which he has effected in us by the Spirit.
  • We are to be and to behave differently from unbelievers because God in his mercy has already removed the stains for our past sins (washed us), has already begun the work of ethical transformation (sanctified us), and has already granted us forgiveness and right standing with him (justified us).
  • What’s often missing is an understanding of the transforming work of the HS.
  • The Spirit has in fact come into the world.
  • The realities of the future are already at work in power in the present age.
  • The Corinthians’ problem was not the experience of the Spirit, but of misunderstanding what it meant to be kingdom people.
  • Our problem is that his genuinely transforming and empowering work is often left to AFTER Christ’s return rather than experienced in the present.
  • The question is how can we live in the tension of the already and not yet where sinful behaviors continue?
  • We must ask ourselves, “Is there repentance when we fall into sin?”
  • Or is there hardness of heart, deceiving ourselves?
  • We can live out this new life in the power of the Spirit by doing as Paul does in Romans 7 and 8, and as we did earlier, readily confessing…
  • “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
  • “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”
  • “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So Now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ.”

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