Not only is the church failing to judge those inside the church (chapter 5) they are also going outside the church to ask the world to judge matters inside the church.
In this case there are two people in the church with a disagreement or an issue that needs outside help to resolve. Apparently church member A has been wronged by church member B. The situation is not clear since very little is revealed about the case.
Two factors need to be considered:
1) If the lawsuit involved money, material or property the two individuals involved where wealthy and socially upper class.
2) Then, if they were wealthy and leaders among the Corinthian culture they were probably also leaders in the church.
Paul initially does not advice them not to seek judgment but to seek judgment from the church. Later Paul addresses the issue of “being wronged” and “causing the wrong” as inappropriate.
In verses 1-11 Paul does little explaining. Instead he indicates he is shocked by the way they are handling the situation and uses:
Paul is upset ultimately by two things beside the court action itself:
1) The Corinthians have such a shallow or small understanding of who they are in Christ.
2) The church’s testimony to the world is completely destroyed.
Interestingly we see once again that eschatology plays into real world situations.
Paul uses eschatological information to
POINT: Eschatology is not trivial information but is foundational in determining our values, decisions and confidence.
The failure is addressed not only at the two individuals but at the church itself for not handling the situation.
The first word in the Greek sentence is tolma “tolma” and is translated “dare”
“Dare” is in the present tense which means the lawsuit was currently in process.
Tolma tiV ‘umwn
Paul is stating his shock at their ridiculous logic.
krinw “krino” is in the middle voice which allows it to mean “going to law” or “bringing something for judgment.
“Saints” is used in contrast with “Ungodly”.
“Ungodly” is the word adikwn “adikon” This word means unrighteous ones. It is used by Paul in other places to refer to those who break God’s law.
“Ungodly” does not mean they were corrupt and worthless any more than calling the Corinthians “saints” meant they were moral, righteous and lived godly lives. These are positional terms focused on which kingdom the two groups belonged to.
Paul himself used the “ungodly” Roman court system himself and received just treatment on several occasions. (Acts 16:37-39; Acts 25:10-12; Paul was later released)
Eschatologically this whole situation is an absurdity to Paul. The saints will one day judge and rule the world and the present system will be removed. Yet, the Corinthians are actually going to the very world system that they will judge someday and seeking a judgment on themselves.
Now but not yet – Paul writes as though the future realities are the conditions upon which the church operates.
Two questions are here and they point to two different things.
1) “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?”
a. This is directed at the church and their failure to function properly in light of who God is, who they are and what the future will bring.
2) “Are you not competent to judge trivial cases?”
a. The emphasis here is on how trivial this lawsuit is.
i. In light of eschatology this case and the lawsuit are really not that big of a deal
ii. Also, this may refer to the issue involved in the court case. The issue itself may have been trivial.
We are going to be so involved in God’s judgment of the world that we will even be involved in the final judgment of angels who have rebelled against God.
POINT: If we expect
that we are going to judge angels and situations that are beyond our vision and
understanding someday in the future, then it is required of us to demonstrate
our ability to judge today in situations that we can see and understand.
In 1 Corinthians 4:14 Paul clearly says “I am not writing this to shame you but to warn you” when he addressed the issue of the Corinthians judging him and considering themselves kings.
Now Paul clearly says, “I say this to shame you.”
The church’s failure to act in this situation shames the church itself.
What Paul says next ties the issues of this book together.
Remember the Corinthians think they have “wisdom” (sophia) and that they are a superior group.
Their arrogance and pride has puffed them up.
Paul then asks this superior group of wise spiritual people:
“Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute
This is laced with sarcasm.
These “wise” and “super spiritual” believers have to go to the fallen world system.
The point is again they are arrogant and out of step with God’s reality.
Paul addresses the two men. Both men are wrong.
Already they are defeated no matter who wins the case in court.
The very fact you are in court means you lost the bigger issue.
The man (church member A) who is taking the other man (church member B) to court is challenged in this verse
The man (church member B) who did the defrauding or cheating that caused church member A to want the courts to rectify the wrong is now warned.
Paul then extends the warning to all the wicked in the church.
The list of sins is the same as 1 Cor. 5:10 (of the world) but Paul adds four more.
Sexually immoral and idolaters are from 5:10
Four new sins are listed (3 of them sexual):
2- male prostitutes “malakoi” means “soft” and “effeminate”. This would refer to the effeminate call boy in a relationship.
3- homosexual offenders “arsenokoitai” combination of the words for “male” (arseno) and “intercourse” (koitai). The word “koitai” is the vulgar slang word for sexual intercourse. This word was seldom found in literature because authors where reluctant to use it. This would refer to the partner with the callboy
4- thieves. This list fits with the churches problems in chapter 5 and 6.
Thieves here is a reference to the court cases.