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Lawsuits among Believers


When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? 2Do 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? 3Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? 4If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, 6but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that?

7 In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Glorify God in Body and Spirit

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.


12. All things are lawful for me. Interpreters labor hard to make out the connection of these things, 345345     “A le conioindre avec ce qui a este dit auparauant;” — “To connect it with what has been said before.” as they appear to be somewhat foreign to the Apostle’s design. For my own part, without mentioning the different interpretations, I shall state what, in my opinion, is the most satisfactory. It is probable, that the Corinthians even up to that time retained much of their former licentiousness, and had still a savor of the morals of their city. Now when vices stalk abroad with impunity, 346346     “Or ou on peche a bride auallee, et la ou les vices ne sont point corrigez;” — “Where persons sin with a loose bridle, and where vices are not punished.” custom is regarded as law, and then afterwards vain pretexts are sought for by way of excuse; an instance of which we have in their resorting to the pretext of Christian liberty, so as to make almost everything allowable for themselves to do. They reveled in excess of luxury. With this there was, as usual, much pride mixed up. As it was an outward thing, they did not think that there was any sin involved in it: nay more, it appears from Paul’s words that they abused liberty so much as to extend it even to fornication. Now therefore, most appropriately, after having spoken of their vices, he discusses those base pretexts by which they flattered themselves in outward sins.

It is, indeed, certain, that he treats here of outward things, which God has left to the free choice of believers, but by making use of a term expressive of universality, he either indirectly reproves their unbridled licentiousness, or extols God’s boundless liberality, which is the best directress to us of moderation. For it is a token of excessive licentiousness, when persons do not, of their own accord, restrict themselves, and set bounds to themselves, amidst such manifold abundance. And in the first place, he limits liberty 347347     “La liberte Chrestienne;” — “Christian liberty.” by two exceptions; and secondly, he warns them, that it does not by any means extend to fornication. These words, All things are lawful for me, must be understood as spoken in name of the Corinthians, κατ ᾿ ἀνθυποφορὰν, (by anticipation,) as though he had said, I am aware of the reply which you are accustomed to make, when desirous to avoid reproof for outward vices. You pretend that all things are lawful for you, without any reserve or limitation.

But all things are not expedient Here we have the first exception, by which he restricts the use of liberty — that they must not abandon themselves to licentiousness, because respect must be had to edification. 348348     “L’edification du prochain;” — “The edification of their neighbor.” The meaning is, “It is not enough that this or that is allowed us, to be made use of indiscriminately; for we must consider what is profitable to our brethren, whose edification it becomes us to study. For as he will afterwards point out at greater length, (1 Corinthians 10:23, 24,) and as he has already shown in Romans 14:13, etc., every one has liberty inwardly 349349     “En sa conscience;” — “In his conscience.” in the sight of God on this condition, that all must restrict the use of their liberty with a view to mutual edification.

I will not be brought under the power of anything Here we have a second restriction — that we are constituted lords of all things, in such a way, that we ought not to bring ourselves under bondage to anything; as those do who cannot control their appetites. For I understand the word τινος (any) to be in the neuter gender, and I take it as referring, not to persons, but to things, so that the meaning is this: “We are lords of all things; only we must not abuse that lordship in such a way as to drag out a most miserable bondage, being, through intemperance and inordinate lusts, under subjection to outward things, which ought to be under subjection to us.” And certainly, the excessive moroseness of those who grudge to yield up anything for the sake of their brethren, has this effect, that they unadvisedly put halters of necessity around their own necks.

13. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats Here he shows what use ought to be made of outward things — for the necessity of the present life, which passes away quickly as a shadow, agreeably to what, he says afterwards. (1 Corinthians 7:29.) We must use this world so as not to abuse it And hence, too, we infer, how improper it is for a Christian man to contend for outward things. 350350     “Il s’en fant que l’homme Chrestien se doyue soncier ne debatre pour les choses externes;” — “A Christian man ought not to be solicitous, or to contend for outward things.” When a dispute, therefore, arises respecting corruptible things, a pious mind will not anxiously dwell upon these things; for liberty is one thing — the use of it is another. This statement accords with another — that

The kingdom of God is not meat and drink.
(Romans 14:17.)

Now the body is not for fornication Having mentioned the exceptions, he now states still farther, that our liberty ought not by any means to be extended to fornication For it was an evil that was so prevalent at that time, that it seemed in a manner as though it had been permitted; as we may see also from the decree of the Apostles, (Acts 15:20,) where, in prohibiting the Gentiles from fornication, they place it among things indifferent; for there can be no doubt that this was done, because it was very generally looked upon as a lawful thing. Hence Paul says now, There is a difference between fornication and meats, for the Lord has not ordained the body for fornication, as he has the belly for meats And this he confirms from things contrary or opposite, inasmuch as it is consecrated to Christ, and it is impossible that Christ should be conjoined with fornication. What he adds — and the Lord for the body, is not without weight, for while God the Father has united us to his Son, what wickedness there would be in tearing away our body from that sacred connection, and giving it over to things unworthy of Christ. 351351     “Choses du tout indignes de Christ;” — “Things altogether unworthy of Christ.”

14. And God hath also raised up the Lord He shows from Christ’s condition how unseemly fornication is for a Christian man; for Christ having been received into the heavenly glory, what has he in common with the pollutions of this world? Two things, however, are contained in these words. The first is, that it is unseemly and unlawful, that our body, which is consecrated to Christ, should be profaned by fornication, inasmuch as Christ himself has been raised up from the dead, that he might enter on the possession of the heavenly glory. The second is, that it is a base thing to prostitute our body 352352     “C’est vne meschancete d’abandonner nostre corps, et le prostituer;” — “It is wickedness to surrender our body, and prostitute it.” to earthly pollutions, while it is destined to be a partaker 353353     “Estre vn tour participant;” — “To be one day a participant.” along with Christ of a blessed immortality and of the heavenly glory. There is a similar statement in Colossians 3:1, If we have risen with Christ, etc., with this difference, that he speaks here of the last resurrection only, while in that passage he speaks of the first also, or in other words, of the grace of the Holy Spirit, by which we are fashioned again to a new life. As, however, the resurrection is a thing almost incredible (Acts 26:8) to the human mind, when the Scripture makes mention of it, it reminds us of the power of God, with the view of confirming our faith in it. (Matthew 22:29.)

15. Know ye not that our bodies are the members, etc. Here we have an explanation, or, if you prefer it, an amplification of the foregoing statement. For that expression, the body is for the Lord, might, owing to its brevity, be somewhat obscure. Hence he says, as if with the view of explaining it, that Christ is joined with us and we with him in such a way, that we become one body with him. Accordingly, if I have connection with an harlot, I tear Christ in pieces, so far as it is in my power to do so; for it is impossible for me to draw Him into fellowship with such pollution. 354354     “Vne pollution si fade et infame;” — “A pollution so filthy and infamous.” Now as that must be held in abhorrence, 355355     “Pour ce que ceci est vne chose abominable, et que nous deuons auoir en horreur;” — “As that is an abominable thing, and we must hold it in abhorrence.” he makes use of the expression which he is accustomed to employ in reference to things that are absurd — God forbid 356356     The original expression, Μή γέοιτο! Away with it! corresponds to the Hebrew term חללה, far be it! Thus in Genesis 18:25, חללה לך משת כדברהזה, Far be it from thee to act in this manner! Homer makes use of a similar expression — μὴ τοῦτο θεος τελεσειεν, forbid that heaven should accomplish that! (Od. 20. 234.) — Ed Observe, that the spiritual connection which we have with Christ belongs not merely to the soul, but also to the body, so that we are flesh of his flesh, etc (Ephesians 5:30.) Otherwise the hope of a resurrection were weak, if our connection were not of that nature — full and complete.

16. Know ye not that he that is joined to an harlot He brings out more fully the greatness of the injury that is done to Christ by the man that has intercourse with an harlot; for he becomes one body, and hence he tears away a member from Christ’s body. It is not certain in what sense he accommodates to his design the quotation which he subjoins from Genesis 2:24. For if he quotes it to prove that two persons who commit fornication together become one flesh, he turns it aside from its true meaning to what is quite foreign to it. For Moses speaks there not of a base and prohibited cohabitation of a man and a woman, but of the marriage connection which God blesses. For he shows that that bond is so close and indissoluble, that it surpasses the relationship which subsists between a father and a son, which, assuredly, can have no reference to fornication. This consideration has led me sometimes to think, that this quotation is not brought forward to confirm the immediately preceding statement, but one that is more remote, in this way — “Moses says, that by the marriage connection husband and wife become one flesh, but he that is jointed to the Lord becomes not merely one flesh, but one spirit with him.” 357357     “Mais nous sommes faits non seulement vne mesme chair auec le Seigneur, auquel nous adherons, mais aussi vn mesme esprit;” — “But we have become not merely one flesh with the Lord, to whom we are joined, but also one spirit.” And in this way the whole of this passage would tend to magnify the efficacy and dignity of the spiritual marriage which subsists between us and Christ.

If, however, any one does not altogether approve of this exposition, as being rather forced, I shall bring forward another. For as fornication is the corruption of a divine institution, it has some resemblance to it; and what is affirmed respecting the former, may to some extent be applied to the latter; not that it may be honored with the praises due to the former, 358358     “Non que la paillardise soit digne de estre ornee des louanges qui appartienent a l’ordonnance du marriage;” — “Not that fornication is worthy to be honored with the praises that belong to the ordinance of marriage. but for the purpose of expressing the more fully the heinousness of the sin. The expression, therefore, that they two become one flesh, is applicable in the true and proper sense to married persons only; but it is applied to fornicators, who are joined in a polluted and impure fellowship, meaning that contagion passes from the one to the other. 359359     “Pour monstrer que la contagion et vilenie passe de l’vn a l’autre;” — “To show that contagion and pollution pass from the one to the other.” For there is no absurdity in saying that fornication bears some resemblance to the sacred connection of marriage, as being a corruption of it, as I have said; but the former has a curse upon it, and the other a blessing. Such is the correspondence between things that are contrasted in an antithesis. At the same time, I would prefer to understand it, in the first instance, of marriage, and then, in an improper sense, 360360     Our Author makes use of the adverb — abusive, (improperly,) referring, it is probable, to the figure of speech called by Quinctilian (8. 6) abusio — the same as catachresis (perversion.) — Ed. of fornication, in this way — “God pronounces husband and wife to be one flesh, in order that neither of them may have connection with another flesh; so that the adulterer and adulteress do, also, become one flesh, and involve themselves in an accursed connection. And certainly this is more simple, and agrees better with the context.

17. He that is joined to the Lord. He has added this to show that our connection with Christ is closer than that of a husband and wife, and that the former, accordingly, must be greatly preferred before the latter, so that it must be maintained with the utmost chastity and fidelity. For if he who is joined to a woman in marriage ought not to have illicit connection with an harlot, much more heinous were this crime in believers, who are not merely one flesh with Christ, but also one spirit Thus there is a comparison between greater and less.

18. Flee fornication Every sin, etc. Having set before us honorable conduct, he now shows how much we ought to abhor fornication, setting before us the enormity of its wickedness and baseness. Now he shows its greatness by comparison — that this sin alone, of all sins, puts a brand of disgrace upon the body. The body, it is true, is defiled also by theft, and murder, and drunkenness, in accordance with those statements —

Your hands are defiled with blood. (Isaiah 1:15.)

You have yielded your members instruments of iniquity unto sin,
(Romans 6:19,)

and the like. Hence some, in order to avoid this inconsistency, understand the words rendered against his own body, as meaning against us, as being connected with Christ; but this appears to me to be more ingenious than solid. Besides, they do not escape even in this way, because that same thing, too, might be affirmed of idolatry equally with fornication. For he who prostrates himself before an idol, sins against connection with Christ. Hence I explain it in this way, that he does not altogether deny that there are other vices, in like manner, by which our body is dishonored and disgraced, but that his meaning is simply this — that defilement does not attach itself to our body from other vices in the same way 361361     “N’en demeure point tellement imprimee en nostre corps;” — “Does not remain impressed upon our body in the same way.” as it does from fornication My hand, it is true, is defiled by theft or murder, my tongue by evil speaking, or perjury, 362362     “Par mesdisance, detraction, et periure;” — “By evil-speaking, detraction, and perjury.” and the whole body by drunkenness; but fornication leaves a stain impressed upon the body, such as is not impressed upon it from other sins. According to this comparison, or, in other words, in the sense of less and more, other sins are said to be without the body — not, however, as though they do not at all affect the body, viewing each one by itself.

19. Know ye not that your body He makes use of two additional arguments, in order to deter us from this filthiness. First, That our bodies are temples of the Spirit; and, secondly, that the Lord has bought us to himself as his property. There is an emphasis implied in the term temple; for as the Spirit of God cannot take up his abode in a place that is profane, we do not give him a habitation otherwise than by consecrating ourselves to him as temples It is a great honor that God confers upon us when he desires to dwell in us. (Psalm 132:14.) Hence we ought so much the more to fear, lest he should depart from us, offended by our sacrilegious actings. 363363     “Par nos vilenies plenes de sacrilege;” — “By our defilements, full of sacrilege.”

And ye are not your own. Here we have a second argument — that we are not at our own disposal, that we should live according to our own pleasure. He proves this from the fact that the Lord has purchased us for himself, by paying the price of our redemption. There is a similar statement in Romans 14:9

To this end Christ died and rose again, that he might be Lord of the living and the dead.

Now the word rendered price may be taken in two ways; either simply, as we commonly say of anything that it has cost a price, 364364     Thus, ἐξευρίσκειν, is employed by classical writers to mean — getting a thing at a price, that is, at a high price. See Herod. 7. 119. — Ed when we mean that it has not been got for nothing; or, as used instead of the adverb τιμίως at a dear rate, as we are accustomed to say of things that have cost us much. This latter view pleases me better. In the same way Peter says,

Ye are redeemed, not with gold and silver, but with the precious 365365     Our Author has very manifestly in his eye the epithet τιμίος, (precious,) as made use of by the Apostle Peter, in reference to the blood of Christ — τιμίῳ αἱματι, ὡς ἀμνου ἀμώμου κ. τ. λ. — “precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish,” etc. — Ed blood of the Lamb, without spot. (1 Peter 1:18,19.)

The sum is this, 366366     “Le sommaire et la substance du propos revient la;” — “The sum and substance of the discourse amount to this.” that redemption must hold us bound, and with a bridle of obedience restrain the lasciviousness of our flesh.

20. Glorify God From this conclusion, it appears that the Corinthians took a liberty to themselves in outward things, that it was necessary to restrain and bridle. The reproof therefore is this he allows that the body is subject to God no less than the soul, and that accordingly it is reasonable that both be devoted to his glory. “As it is befitting that the mind of a believer should be pure, so there must be a corresponding outward profession also before men, inasmuch as the power of both is in the hands of God, who has redeemed both.” With the same view he declared a little ago, that not only our souls but our bodies also are temples of the Holy Spirit, that we may not think that we discharge our duty to him aright, if we do not devote ourselves wholly and entirely to his service, that he may by his word regulate even the outward actions of our life.

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