1 Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbour, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Or know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world is judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this
life, do ye set them to judge who are of
no account in the church? 5 I say this to move you to shame. Is it so, that there cannot be found
among you one wise man, who shall be able to
decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Nay, already it is altogether a defect in
you, that ye have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather take
wrong? why not rather be defrauded? 8 Nay, but ye yourselves
do wrong, and defraud, and that your
brethren. 9 Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not
1 Corinthians 6: 1-11, (Revised Version 1881).
Perhaps no passage is more clear and full in its testimony to the exclusion of some believers from the millennial kingdom, than the sixth chapter of the first of Corinthians. Let us, with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, consider it!
1. “Dare any of you, having a matter with the other, be judged before the unjust,
and not before the saints?”
The apostle here gives directions relative to the contentions of Christians concerning worldly goods and rights. The Corinthians brought their suits against one another into the world’s courts. Against this the apostle was inspired to utter his strong condemnation.
He calls such an act, “daring.”
It manifested a want either of a right fear, or of a right shame. (1)
It was contrary to the fear of God. He, by
His Son Jesus, had appointed the mode in which contentions of this kind should
be adjudged, and ended: Matt. 18:
15-17. To take the matter out of God’s appointed
court into another, not designed for that purpose, argued a want of reverence
for God. (2) They might well have been deterred from such a proceeding by
the fear of the ungodly. ‘When
you have the option of having a cause tried before a just judge, or before an
unjust one, are you so daring as to prefer the unjust?’ “Behold,
I send you forth as sheep in the midst wolves.” Had the sheep become so
foolhardy as to ask for arbitration from the wolf? (3) Or
were they not deterred from such a course by shame? The effect of such conduct upon the world
could not but be mischievous. It brought
disgrace upon the cause of Christ from a twofold point of view. (a)
It exposed to the unbeliever and scoffer the nakedness of believers. There is no greater triumph to the rebellious
world than to find Christians conducting themselves unworthily of the Holy Name
which they profess. And few cases of
misconduct are worse than open strifes amidst the family of God. Discord, where love should reign, is joy to
the world at enmity with the Most High.
It hardens their hearts against the gospel, it
opens their mouths to blaspheme. ‘These saints, as they call themselves, are
after all not so meek and lamb-like as they would have us believe them, and as
they profess themselves to be!’ (b) But, still further, this
reference of their strifes to the worldly implied, that they could not trust
their fellow-Christians. It
asserted in act, which is the strongest mode of assertion, that the
They went “to be judged before the unjust.” It is assumed by the Holy Spirit that all the worldly are unjust. (1) They withhold from God his dues - love, thankfulness, obedience, and worship. (2) And though some pride themselves on their honesty and honour before men, yet here, also, God holds them to be unjust. None ceases to belong to this fraternity of evil, whatever name he takes, whatever he may think of himself, or others may think of him, until he is justified and sanctified before God.
Foolishly did the just look for justice amidst “the unjust.” “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Thus they helped to overturn God’s testimony against the worldly, that they are wholly evil, and condemned in God’s sight.
From this it follows, that no Christian ought to be a judge or magistrate of the world. He is thereby putting himself out from the place of the just, amidst those whom God accounts unjust. If he acts out their laws he is held to be guilty of the injustice which in many respects is found in them. It is evident that no Christian was then a judge, nor was it anticipated that he could rightly become one. So long as God holds the world to be the company of the unjust, and its judges to be part of that company, it cannot be right for a Christian to be a magistrate or judge. The church’s judges are to be distinct from the world’s. On this the whole argument hinges.
To the minds of very many,
indeed, this passage is not binding upon us of the present day. ‘Is not
this a Christian land? Are not the judges Christian men?’ To those who hold a national church, this
appeal is conclusive. The world with
such is the church, the church is the world.
This is the true meaning of the ‘Union
of Church and State.’
There is no world in
In this point of view it is very
worthy of remark that the apostle says not - “ye
go to be judged before the heathen,” but, “before the unjust,” “before the unbelievers.” The teaching
of this passage is rested on moral and enduring grounds. Till the reign of the saints shall come, when
In every country, as long as the characteristics of the dispensation shall last, there should be two modes of deciding civil causes - (1) one by the world, in the courts of the unjust: (2) the other by the saints, in each local church: see Matt. 18: 15-17. And hence it follows that the church should consist of those who in faith and practice, justify to human eyes, the term “saint.” Such only as deny, that any nation is a church, can carry out the Holy Spirit’s teaching in this place.
“And not before the saints.” With the true method of procedure sketched for them, they chose the wrong. The saints are by God accounted fit to judge. In all questions of worldly gain or loss, the sanctified and upright heart is the main requirement in a judge. This they by their actions denied: running counter to God’s expressed estimate of the case.
2. “Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world is to be judged* by you, are ye unworthy of the least judgments? 3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels?
how much more things pertaining to this life?”
* The use of the present between two futures, and having apparently a future signification, does not seem easily accounted for.
The Gentiles seek after wisdom. The Corinthians were intoxicated with the thought of the intelligence they possessed. But they knew nothing yet as they should. The apostle, therefore, frequently administers to them, in this epistle, rebuke for their ignorance of first principles.
The saints are to judge the world. In what sense is the word “Judge” taken? The most reasonable plan of explaining it would be to take the word throughout the passage in the same sense, if possible. And to this reasonable procedure there is no objection arising from the passage itself. 1. The saints went to be judged in the world’s courts of justice: 5: 1, 6. 2. In that sense the arbitrators of the saints ought to have heard the cause, and pronounced sentence. 3. In this same sense, then, the saints are to judge the world. They are to exercise subordinate power, in trying and determining causes. The judicial power is a part of the supreme authority belonging to a king, and will be bestowed by Christ on his servants at last. How then, and when, are the saints to exercise this power? The common view asserts, that at the general judgment of the dead, the saints, after being themselves judged, will sit with Christ, and own his sentence on the wicked to be just. Thus Barnes -
“Perhaps the idea is not that they shall pronounce sentence, which will be done by the Lord Jesus, but that they shall then be qualified to see the justice of the condemnation passed on the wicked; they shall have a clear and distinct view of the case; they shall even see the propriety of their everlasting punishment, and shall not only approve it, but be qualified to enter into the subject, and to pronounce upon it intelligently.”
But this sentence the believer does even now approve. And the approval of a just sentence is not judging, in the sense used above. It was in an active sense that the world’s courts judged. It was in an active sense that the Corinthians should have judged their brethren’s causes. A magistrate’s decision is not the approval of another’s sentence of condemnation. And that is the sense here supposed.
The Tract Society’s Commentary takes a yet more decided stand against the true sense.
“By judging the world and angels, 5: 2, 3, some think is understood their being assessors to Christ in the judgment: Matt. 19: 28; Jude 14, 15; 1 Thes. 3: 13. They themselves are to be judged, that they may then approve and applaud the righteous judgment of Christ. In no other sense can they be judges. They are not partners in the Lord’s commission, but they will see his proceeding against the wicked world, and approve it. Shall Christians sit with the Sovereign Judge at the last day, while he passes judgment on sinful men and evil angels, and are they not worthy to judge the trifles about which brethren contend before heathen magistrates? Cannot they make up these mutual differences?”
As the common view owns no
judgment of the world, but the judgment of the dead before
the great white throne, (Rev. 20: 11, 15) while it omits the previous
judgment of living men for the thousand years which precede, (Rev. 20: 4, 6) it says
boldly, that the saints can judge in no other sense than as seated with Christ
in judgment on the dead. But to this
idea the former objection applies. The
apostle did not call the Corinthians to passive approval of a sentence already
delivered, but to leave the world’s active decision of their causes, and
actively to decide them themselves. Nor
does it appear very clear, how the future approval of Christ’s sentence on the
wicked would prove them worthy to decide actively on cases now. The being able to enter into a palace and
admire it, is small proof that such a one could build
a house! When Solomon, in his capacity
of king, gave the memorable judicial decision concerning the two harlots, we
learn that his subjects approved and wondered at the decision. But it is not said or supposed, that
The same observation also overturns another interpretation proposed for this place. It is supposed that it means, - “We saints, by our holy conduct, shall afford matter for the world’s and for angels’ condemnation, by comparison with us.” But any who will carry this sense through the verses before us will see that in some cases it will make nonsense. This is also another passive mode of judging. All unwittingly on our parts, we condemn the world and angels. Not only we shall condemn, we do already. But by no such unwitting and passive judgment could the world settle the church’s disputes; nor could the saints themselves determine them, according to the precepts here supposed. “Know ye not that we shall, by our holy lives, condemn angels; how much more things that pertain to this life?” - is a specimen of the nonsense that would follow, on such a passive meaning being given to the apostle’s words.
There is no real connexion between the two things conjoined by the apostle, on this supposition. ‘Christians,’ says Paul, on this hypothesis, ‘shall hereafter approve the sentence previously passed by Christ. Therefore they can frame and enforce a just sentence themselves independently of his decision now!’
The fulfilment of these words will be in the Saviour’s millennial
kingdom, which is put out of sight and denied by so many [of the Lord’s redeemed people].
The denial of this compels the
commentator to force upon many passages a sense which God never designed, and
against which the reluctant words themselves afford evidence. It is
that time of which the Saviour spoke more than once as the “day of judgement,” to be ushered in by his appearing. It is a day of judgment which is
to prevail for a thousand years.
“Ye that have followed me in the
regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the
throne of his glory, ye also shall sit
on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of
It is supposed by Paul, that this doctrine is a first truth which every intelligent [and regenerate Spirit-taught] christian ought to know. “Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?” Without this knowledge he will act in a manner unbecoming his dignity, and the calling wherewith the Lord has called him.
The saint [if “accounted worthy”*] shall
be a ruler and a judge, but not yet. “Man, who made me a judge, or a divider
over you?” was our Lord’s question: and it points out our position, till
“judgment is given” by God “to the saints of the heavenlies.” “The
saints shall judge the world” by and
bye. “We shall judge angels” when the [messianic, ‘one thousand
[* See Luke 20: 35, R.V. ** Rev. 20: 3, 4, 5, 6, R.V.]
Daniel, the first to speak of ‘the
kingdom of heaven’ by that name, discovers to us the four Gentile empires, which
were to succeed the overturning of
If the government of the world, and its greatest affairs are one day to be committed to the administration of the saints, the trifles of present worldly goods may safely be committed to their verdict.
It may admit of a question, in what sense the word “unworthy” is to be received. Does it intend the want of external dignity? Were the Corinthian saints stumbled at having to bring their causes before shoemakers, tailors and slaves? Or does it mean ‘unfit,’ devoid of internal qualifications? Perhaps both ideas are included. The despised in the church might be rejected for both reasons. But the inquiry whether there was not one “wise man” able to decide, shows that intellectual qualities are included.
Questions about present property are, when seen in the light of the future, trifles. “Thou hast been faithful in a very little.” The money which makes so much stir and noise now, is only the false mammon, the shadow of the true riches. It is not ours, it is only committed in trust. It is not to abide, it cannot be detained by us.
In the same sense that we shall judge the world, we are also to judge angels. The article in the Greek occurs before “world,” but not before angels. The world as a whole is to be given up to the judgment of saints; but only, it would appear, some of the angels. Who these angels are, may be gathered from what is said of their being reserved to “the judgment of the great day:” Jude 6; 2 Peter 2: 4. They are the angels who, coveting man’s standing and abode, came and dwelt on earth about the time of the flood, and were swept way by it. Since that time, God in his displeasure has consigned them to a place called Tartarus, where they await the sentence to be passed at our Lord’s appearing.* They are not the same with the evil angels of Satan, who, with their leader, are free till that day.
* For a full discussion of the subject, see “The Spirits in Prison.”
If we shall pass sentence on these superior beings hereafter, we may well determine now about the things of this life. As, in the eye of God, our condemnation and our degradation are deeper than we are ready to admit; so, far loftier too, are the heights of exaltation to which his promises point us!
It is evident that this judgment
of angels is no feature of our present lot. It is clear too, that, whenever it takes
effect, there must be miraculous intervention on the part of God. The
4. “If, then, ye have causes pertaining to this life, set them to judge
who are least esteemed in the church.”
Our view of this verse will undergo some little modification, according as we read the sentiment as an imperative or indicative; as an assertion of what occurred, or as a question.
1. If we regard the words “set ye,” as an imperative, then the sense will be - ‘Your estimate of the qualifications of the saints has been too low. To correct the mischief, I must remind you of the lofty destiny prepared for them in relation to this very thing. As God’s judges-elect, the very least and lowest of them is better than the highest and most intelligent of the worldly or unjust. Of so little value should you account the world’s pounds, shillings, and pence, as to consider the lowest of saints capable of giving a right verdict on these.’
2. If we take it as indicative, and a question, the meaning will be, ‘When the adjudication of property occurs, do you set those of little repute in the church to judge? I am ashamed of you!’ But the previous reading gives a sense more agreeable to the context.
interpret the heathen magistrates to be the parties intended as “the least esteemed in the church.” This is very strange and erroneous. Magistrates are not to be despised, or lightly
esteemed by the church, but honoured as God’s ministers:
It follows, as the natural conclusion from the principles here asserted that in God’s eye, the point of chief importance in a judge, is a right heart. Let that be honest before God and man, and questions which would perplex or mislead the partial, melt away. Hence in the day of the [millennial] kingdom, not the loftiest of intellect, the world’s admired children of genius, are to rule, but the sanctified in Spirit. How preferable to the plans of men! The expanded and profound intellect carries no guarantee for right rule. Its possessor may rather hinder the government of which he is a member, than advance it. Selfishness can find ample cover under the wings of the brightest understanding. “The saints of the heavenlies shall take the kingdom, and possess it.”
5. “I speak to shame you. Is it so, that there is not a single wise man among you,
who shall be able to judge between his brethren?”
The first words of this verse may be connected either with what precedes, or with what follows. I take it as referring to what precedes. As though the apostle said - ‘The advice just given is meant to make you ashamed of yourselves, rather than to be your standing rule. It is not desirable that the arbitrators of differences should be those despised by their brethren, for want of intelligence or impartiality. To secure a peaceful result, it is highly proper that the arbitrator should be trusted by his fellow-believers, and owned to be competent in all respects to the task. But it were better to set the least of the saints to decide such cases, than to go before the most skilled of the unjust. How absurd in the eye of God, and of the enlightened, to go to the unjust for grace not to be found among the holy!’
But if any should say, that they did not distrust the grace of their brethren, but only their intelligence, the apostle meets this evasion also. They could not make such a plea without throwing the utmost disgrace upon themselves. This was to affirm, that among them all there was not one competent to settle worldly affairs: not one of those destined of God ultimately to regulate these things! And that, too, in a church that boasted of its wisdom and enlightenment! Either, then, they must confess that their previous estimate of themselves was false, or that their practice in this matter could not be sustained.
6. “But brother goeth to be judged* with brother, and that before unbelievers.”
* Literally “is judged.”
As the consequence of the falsely assumed incompetency of the church, the affair was carried before the world. Again the disgrace drawn down on the cause of Christ by the quarrels of believers, is offered to our notice. But the worldly are, in the Spirit’s wisdom, now described by a different word. This gives another defect of the ungodly. They were within the sound of the gospel, yet credited it not. They made God a liar, as not trusting the testimony he has given of his Son.
Brethren should not quarrel. Or, if one be guilty of conduct contrary the gospel, the strife should be settled within the family. To go to the unbeliever for judgment, is sinful. It is calculated to hinder the cause of Christ to confirm them in their unbelief, to make them persuaded that there is no real difference between themselves and the godly. They may not be attracted to hear, indeed, even if love rule among the saints, for the heart is slow to admit truths which condemn. But to find the saints at strife is sure to shut up the heart. ‘If this religion of yours cannot keep you at peace among yourselves I will have nothing to say to it!’
7. “At an earlier point,* therefore, there is, under all circumstances, a defect in you, that ye
have judgments among yourselves. Why do ye not rather suffer injustice?
Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”
* Literally, “already.”
In the previous verses Paul had assumed the existence of disputes; and taught how they were to be settled. But here he goes farther. He lays axe to the root of the whole question. There ought not to be such trials at all. Causes for trial in every court suppose a plaintiff and a defendant. There must be two parties, therefore; and, says the apostle, fault lies on one or the other, or on both, in all cases. If the thing claimed by the plaintiff be acknowledged, and satisfaction made, there will be no trial. Or, if the plaintiff gives up his charge, the suit will be at an end. So, then, says the apostle, without entering into any details, it may be assumed, as an universal truth, that disputes about property and rights manifest a low state of grace in churches where they exist.
The Holy Spirit then addresses the plaintiff, and tells him that it were better to give un his charge. That would be according to the higher standard which Christ has set in the Sermon on the Mount. Endurance of wrong is there taught as the right conduct for those who would enter the [coming millennial] kingdom. In that discourse, indeed, the Saviour mainly instructs his disciples how to behave themselves towards the worldly. Justice may be expected from brethren, as being “the just:” Matt. 18. But even with them suits are rather to be given up than brought before the world.
The apostle in the two words he uses, marks the two classes of trials which naturally arise. They might suffer themselves rather to be injured, in regard of personal rights; bearing affronts and wrongs with patience. They might also give up their claims as to property, though unjustly sued. Into these two classes Jesus divides causes of complaint, in the Sermon on the Mount. “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is personal affront. “And if any will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” Here is the surrender of property: Matt. 5: 39, 40. This spirit of patient endurance was the very spirit taught by our Lord, as fitting us for the [millennial] kingdom. Those are to be accounted worthy of the kingdom, who suffer for it. 2 Thess. 1: 5. God will visit such things; leave them to him. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
8. “But ye do wrong, and defraud, and that brethren.”
The “ye” is emphatic. It were to be expected, from the known sinfulness of men, that the ungodly should defraud and injure. And Christ taught the saints under such treatment to be passive. But you believers are, I am grieved to say, the men that inflict injury, and defraud!
Thus the apostle takes up the other cause of disputes. He has before rebuked the impatience of the plaintiff. He now reproves the guilt of the defendant. Such persons were the real causes of many of the lawsuits, and these, therefore, he addresses most solemnly. From false notions of christian liberty, the Corinthian believers were acting grossly contrary to the Christian’s rule of love. The apostle therefore is obliged in this epistle to shew the limits of Christian liberty, to prove that it was designed to give no occasion to the flesh, that it offered no sanction to licentiousness or immorality; that offences against these would assuredly be punished by God.
The gospel brings saints together in the endearing character of brethren, as members of one family, children of one father. To violate our brethren’s rights or property, then, is very evil. To sin against the worldly is bad: against those whom we own as such near relatives in Christ, is worse.
9. “Know ye not, that, unjust persons shall not inherit the
covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners,
shall inherit the
In order to feel the full force
of this passage, it is necessary to be satisfied of the meaning of that oft-recurring
1. It is evident, that it
does not here mean the
2. It does not mean “eternal life.” That is promised absolutely to faith as God’s gracious gift: Rom. 6: 23. And these were already believers, as the whole tenor of the passage proves; and as will be manifested presently. Beside, the kingdom here spoken of is temporary; eternal life, as the word imports, is endless. Jesus is to reign [over His promised inheritance (Psa. 2: 8. cf. Isa. 9: 6; 27: 6; 65: 18-25; Jer. 23: 5, 6) for “a thousand years” (Rev. 20: 4)], till every enemy and death itself is subdued. Then he delivers up the [messianic] kingdom. 1 Cor. 15: 24-28.
3. It means then in this, as in other places, the millennial
The knowledge of this is a FIRST TRUTH. “Know ye not?” Twice does the apostle rest his argument on it. Twice in these few verses does he appeal to it, as necessary to be known, in order to the saints’ right conduct. He uses it, when he would deter the believer by a sense of this his high destiny from offending the world. He appeals to this, as the great loss which the saints may sustain from sinful misconduct. If then the millennium has long been forgotten, and now is by many denied, it cannot be marvelled, if we have not the true christian conduct in its fulness. “Fruits” of the kingdom (Matt. 21: 43) wait upon the belief of the doctrine of the kingdom. The hope of entrance into it is to keep us aloof from the world; the fear of exclusion from it is to restrain the saint from [wilful]* sin.
[* Heb. 10: 26.]
it so sure that this threat is addressed to believers?’ Yes; it is as sure as any conclusion can be. But one body, the church at
‘You commit fraud. Forbear; it is against your interest. Know ye not that the fraudulent shall be excluded from the kingdom?’
is the call to endure wrong, uttered in the seventh verse, addressed?
To [regenerate] believers, - it is granted. Then it is [regenerate] believers of whom the apostle says in the eighth verse, that in place of enduring evil they inflicted it. And if so, the threat which follows in the ninth verse, must
belong to them. Consider the absurdity
which follows on any other supposition. Believers
sin; unbelievers are
threatened! One party commits the
trespass: to check it, another party which did not commit it, is menaced! Says the apostle on this supposition, the
unconverted, who are guilty of injustice, will be excluded the kingdom! Would not the Corinthian offenders reply, ‘What is it to us, that the
unconverted will be excluded? ‘We
are converted!’ Might they not say, - ‘We go further, Paul, than you. The unconverted will be excluded, simply
as unconverted, even though
not guilty of injustice.’ This is distinctly affirmed by
our Lord. ‘None,
except born again, can see the
What, again, means that solemn exclamation, with which the repetition of the sentence of exclusion is reinforced? - “Be not deceived.” If the warning does not affect believers, then it would imply, that the Corinthians imagined, that some unconverted thieves would enter the kingdom! And Paul wrote, to assure them, that no unconverted thieves would! But of what practical consequence was it to them, even if they had been wrong? What reply did it furnish to the saints’ sin, what check did it introduce to that?
This then cannot be. They who committed this, the worst sin of the two which are rebuked, are most severely reprimanded, as was fitting. Common sense requires, that the check shall be administered to the guilty parties.
To evidence so clear
illustration can hardly be needed. Yet,
as it may assist some of my readers, I will give one. The Duke of Wellington has come over to defend
That word - “Be not deceived.” - tells us of the secret imagination of some, that God was partial, that his elect would escape, let them act as they might. Offences which in the ungodly would draw down the wrath of God, in them, - the favourites of heaven, - would be winked at and passed by. Hence the solemn caution - “Be not deceived!” False doctrine may gloss over sin. Evil examples hold out lures, and God may seem to overlook. But “Be not deceived!” You are under no necessity of being led astray. The word of God is plain. Only he who will not own the truth can stumble here. It is of vast importance to your interests that you be not led astray. To disregard the warning will bring terrible damages. While, then, something may be said against this doctrine to flatter your lusts, and make you secure in sin, distrust it! Put no confidence in him who whispers – “Ye shall not surely die.” God’s threats shall surely be fulfilled, whether they point at the ungodly, or at the saints. As such conduct is contrary to duty, so is it a loss of reward, a gain of woe. Gain seems at present to attend the path of transgression. But here is the loss of reward for believers who offend. ‘Not standing, but fruits,’ is the maxim which God will apply to every enterer into the [millennial] kingdom. So said John the Baptist, when he heralded the reign of God to the Jew: Matt. 3: 7-10. And with the history of the favoured people’s exclusion from the land, as an evident fact, does the Holy Spirit point the arrow of his exhortation.
‘Unjust persons’ shall not enter the kingdom, be they converted or unconverted. It is very worthy of notice, that there is no article used here, as in verse one. There ‘the unjust’ meant the worldly, or unconverted. Lest then any should imagine, that the same class is intended here, the article is omitted. “The saints” and “the unjust” ought indeed to be opposite in fact, as they are in standing. But, as the sons of Abraham through faith might lose the inheritance, by a falling away from grace to law, so the renewed might, by openly criminal conduct, be shut out as unjust and unholy. Those who enjoy the kingdom, are, as Daniel affirmed, “the saints.” This excludes, then, any of un-saintly character. And now the Lord is trying each, whether his walk is such as becomes a saint, preparatory to the day of entrance into, or exclusion from, the [coming millennial] kingdom.
There are two exclusions noticed
in this epistle; one of which is a type and token of the other. 1.
There is a commanded exclusion of certain converted transgressors from the
The church is the body of saints now owned of God. If all professors were genuine disciples, and their discipline were perfect, the church would represent those of this dispensation, who will inherit the kingdom. But in neither of these points is perfection to be found; and hence God’s decision must come in, to determine who shall partake of it. Exclusion from the church on the grounds assigned of God, is a proof of the exclusion of such from the [coming messianic] kingdom. And again, the re-admission of the offender on repentance, is a token of the possibility of the forgiveness of the saints’ offences against the kingdom, after their repentance is accepted before God. These two things are connected in the epistle before us. Chapter 5 presents us with a saint excluded now from the church, because of fornication. Chapter 6: 9, assures us, that the same sin will exclude also from the kingdom hereafter. And nearly the same list is given of those to be shut out from the communion of the saints below, and from their joys in the millennial reign: 5: 11; 6: 9, 10.
It appears, too, that capital punishment administered by authority of the kings of earth, is a token and warning of the final judgment of the ungodly for eternal life or death, by the Most High.
The list of offences does not mention all sins which will exclude; but those which the Corinthians were most liable to fall into, are specified. Various modes of injustice and unholiness are mentioned; those which bear on the previous discussion being, “the thief,” “the covetous,” and “the rapacious,” or “extortioner.”
11. “And such were some of you, but ye were washed clean, but ye were sanctified, but ye
were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
“Ye were washed, ye were sanctified, ye were justified.” The past tense is here essential to the true sense. To the English reader it might seem as if the apostle contrasted what they were before faith with what they were at the moment of his writing. “Ye were” openly immoral. “But ye are sanctified.”* And hence some have read it [in the N.I.V.], as if the previous assertion of their injustice and fraud were hereby contradicted. But a glance at the original destroys any such idea. The verbs are [all] in the indefinite past (Aorist); and the apostle contrasts what they were before conversion, with what they became at conversion. Hence he brings to view the bath of baptism as the symbol of the justification and of the sanctification of the believer.
* A look at the Vulgate explains how this translation arose.
“And such were some of you.” Up to the moment of their conversion, many of the Corinthian saints had been the evil characters described; unfitted, therefore, were they, both by past acts and former tempers, for the kingdom.
But these former barriers were removed, by the work of Christ and of the Holy Ghost upon them. The means employed are then specified.
“Ye were washed clean.” This is doubtless a reference to baptism [after conversion]. That emblematic cleansing was commanded, after their universal spiritual defilement. It was a bathing their bodies in pure water: Heb. 10: 22; John 13: 10. “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord:” Acts 22: 16. Baptism represented the removal of the leprosy of sin. Its outer manifestations, or its inward ravages, are afterwards distinguished. The washing is immediately connected in this passage with the agency of the Holy Ghost. So is it in another place. “We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But after the kindness and philanthropy of our Saviour-God appeared, not by works that are in righteousness which we did, did he save us, but according to his own mercy, by the bath of regeneration* and renewal of the Holy Spirit:” Titus 3: 3-5. This washing was God’s type of his inward cleansing by his Spirit, and of the forgiveness by the work of Jesus, which are next noticed.
* “The bath of regeneration” is not “the regeneration of the bath,” or of baptism. It is the bath which belongs to the regenerate; and is to follow on regeneration as its attendant, as also does the daily renewal of the Holy Ghost.
sanctified.” We must connect with
these words the concluding clause of the verse, ‘by,’
or ‘in the Spirit of our God.’ The work of the Spirit is put first, as being
the direct opposite to their unholy conduct at that time. The renewal then began, which ought to issue in their being saints, fit for the [entrance into* the coming millennial]
[* Matt. 5: 20. cf. 7: 21; Rev. 2: 26, 27, R.V.]
“Ye were justified in the name of Christ Jesus.” Baptism carries with it an emblem, both of the work of the Spirit, and of the work of Christ. Immersion and emersion represent the entire cleansing of the man; or in another point of view, the death of the flesh, the birth of the spirit. The same actions represent also burial with Christ into death, as the just penalty of sin; and the rising, as justified, out of the sentence of the law. The baptized is emblematically one with Christ, both death to sin, and in resurrection life. They were “justified in the name of Christ.” The expression is remarkable. As one with him, one person in the eye of the law, they took his “name.” All means necessary to their obtaining the kingdom, therefore, were then granted. The past was washed away. Former sins should not avail to exclude. They were forgiven. But the return to sins left at conversion, and to which they emblematically died in baptism, would surely [if repentance was not forthcoming] shut them out from the proffered [millennial] bliss.
Here then we obtain the final proof, that this threat is addressed to [regenerate] believers. There are, indeed, different classes of objections made, but every one seems, in this passage, to meet its refutation.
1. Some deny, that the threat is addressed to saints. Such an idea labours under the evident absurdity, that one party is guilty of the sin, and another party not guilty of it, is menanced.
2. But others admit that the threat applies to saints. They affirm only, that such acts are never committed by them. This is refuted by the passage before us. If put logically, Paul’s argument would stand as follows: - 1. No unjust person shall obtain the future kingdom. 2. But you are unjust. 3. Therefore you shall not inherit the kingdom.
3. There is yet a third mode of escape. It is said, ‘Such of the Corinthians as were guilty of these sins were not saints. The acts are such as no converted person can commit. Only a few hypocrites, that had crept in unawares, were the offenders. Such will be found in all churches.’ Now undoubtedly, this is the way in which most Christians and teachers of the present day would deal with the question. They would urge such offenders to examine themselves, whether they were really believers. For it was incredible, that truly converted persons could so conduct themselves. But the Holy Spirit takes the very opposite course. He assumes throughout, and distinctly asserts in this verse, that the essentials of saintship belonged to the offenders. Were they hypocrites, who were justified, sanctified, baptized. They had more evidence of acceptance than any believer has now: for they had the baptism of the Spirit, and the miraculous gifts which that baptism left behind it. “Ye come behind in no gift:” 1 Cor. 1: 7. “In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body:” 12: 13. The same “ye” who are charged as guilty of injustice and fraud, were justified and sanctified!
But while they were believers, and, as such, sure, on the promise of God, of attaining [receiving] eternal life; God yet had room to punish offenders. The millennial day is the day of recompence for our works, whether good or evil. A thousand years is time enough to mark God’s pleasure in our works, or his displeasure against them. As eternal life shews his pleasure in the work of Christ, and in, those who by faith are one with him, so will the recompence of the millennial day, for good or for evil, display his sentiments concerning the special work of each believer.
The worldly often cry out against professors of religion, as guilty of cheating, and taking unfair advantage in business. It is doubtless too often true. Not a few converted persons offend thus. Here then is the threatened justice of God against such. If his saints sin, they shall not go unpunished. He hates the offence in them, as truly as in the worldly. He has devised a way, whereby he will make his displeasure visible to all intelligent beings, and felt by themselves.
Let all believers then keep this first truth clearly before their eye. “Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings:” Isa. 3: 10.
ROBERT GOVETT, M.A.
* * *
“Forbidden territory to one who belongs to the Father.”
In the long history of the Church we have a literal and terrible fulfilment of the prophesied activity of Satan. We are told that he goes about “as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” His determination to tear to pieces the Church of Christ, and destroy the living testimony to the Redeemer of lost and sinful men, found expression in the diabolical activity of Nero and the unrestrained cruelty of Diocletian.
The public slaughter of believers throughout the ages, whether the human instrument be a rope or a military dictator, and the means employed be a fire or a sword, or the horror of rotting in a rat-infested dungeon, the fact that all this has happened to men, women, and even children professing the name of Christ is undeniable evidence that what Scripture foretold would come to pass has indeed come to pass. When it has not been expedient to devour openly, then has Satan transformed himself into an angel of light in order to deceive.
The manner of this
deception at once suggests some form of false teaching; a teaching that, while
it contains some element of truth, is still not in accordance with the written
word. In this connection there is no
greater chaos in the channels of human thought than that which prevails as a
result of attempting to
Christianize modern society; to impregnate the existing order with what passes
for the Christian Religion,
and by that means build the
We know of course that Scripture teaches us that until a set time the earth would remain under the curse, due to the disobedience of our first parents.* There has been no later revelation of any description to tell us that the curse pronounced in Eden has been lifted. Consequently a cursed earth and a creature in controversy with his Creator are conditions entirely consistent with the revelation given to us in God’s word, and indeed are the only adequate and logical explanation of what we see around us. Believers, leaving the plain statements of God’s word, are being enticed into all manner of worldly activity in an attempt to impose the Sermon on the Mount upon an unregenerate society. This preoccupation with the affairs of this life [or evil age] is producing the choked spiritual life the Saviour warned against in the parable of the Sower. “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares of this life - and bring no fruit to perfection.”
[* Gen. 3: 17, R.V.]
Satan knew that the vanity of men exults in the fascinating glory of a worldly kingdom. Consequently he took Jesus up into an exceeding high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. This temptation is remarkable for the insight we have given us of the depth of cunning to which Satan can descend. He attracts in order to deceive. The kingdoms of this world are a very real attraction to a mind alienated from God.
A civilization enlightened by its own education and philosophies of life, spurred on by the impetus of its own inventions, and moving through a series of social revolutions towards some fancied golden age or new world-order is the mirage in the desert that captivates the worldly-minded. Its attainment is accepted by the greatest political thinkers of the day as being merely a matter of time. They make their speeches ring out the surety of attaining this goal: but Jesus, who knew the end from the beginning, in startling contrast to mere man who knows not what a day brings forth, refused to accept Satan’s offer of world rulership, though the offer was made at the time when the Son of Man had no where to lay His head.
Hence, politics, which broadly speaking is the collective activity and expedient administration of earthly governments, are by their very nature forbidden territory to one who belongs to the Father. The strife and clash of opposing opinions among men seeking to rule without God clearly forbid the interference of one separated by Christ from the wisdom of this world. The political arena is the breeding ground for the secret diplomacy that periodically hurls one nation at another. It is an established fact that politics are a career, yet who would dare, nay who is competent, to say just what particular motive is driving a politician along a certain line of thought?
It is generally accepted that the aim of the politician is a healthier state of society. But the lessons of history, one’s personal experience, and the decidedly unhealthy and dangerous conditions of the political arena of our own day do not support that view. The determination to satisfy personal vanity and the wielding of personal power in the realm of power-politics seem to be much nearer the truth. The gilded lie was never so much in evidence as in our own day. Continental political giants have been striped naked and exposed as careerists and cowards, vultures living on the people.
It cannot be too strongly pointed out that the social righteousness advocated by the politician is a righteousness without God. At best it is humanism that is wholly detached from the purity of God’s Righteousness as revealed in Jesus Christ. Frankly considered, the case against the believer becoming enmeshed in the political confusion that so substantially contributes to the prevailing perplexity has been proved conclusively. This inability to diagnose the cause of the human tragedy made up as it is of lawlessness and suffering, the latter following the former as night follows day, is effectively demonstrated by the desperate and hopeless resort to a new league of nations; a new league of nations fortified by an international police force, with the addition of the resources of modern scientific research in the field of high-powered destructives.
It is a fact that, continually faced with the destructive power of evil, the most cultured and educated civilization attainable by men is literally forced to protect itself by a more scientific and a more powerful arm of law. This age-long struggle for supremacy between good and evil, culminating as it has done in the nearly complete and continual victory of evil over good, even though temporary, must sooner or later give birth to the final crisis of the nations.
There is an
impassable gulf between the imaginations of unregenerate men and the
purposes of God according to His foreknowledge. One illustration will suffice. According to men the cause of all world chaos
and individual stress is either unsound politics,
mismanaged industry, biased education, or perverted economics. All this they say produces a world-crisis
resulting in war, which can only be averted in the future by a truly organized
distribution of the resources of the earth. It will be seen at once that while such a
superficial explanation is made a basis for starting another new order of any
kind whatever, the real issue will never be fought out. It is simply a tinkering with the symptoms to
the fatal neglect of the disease. Jesus
left no room for doubt that in fully accepting the implications of the death of
the Cross, He was personally dealing with the controversy that God has with the
creature He made. And not only so, but
when He said, “It
is finished,” that was a plain
declaration that the conflict of the ages had passed its greatest crisis. The righteousness of God had been revealed in
a display of love and power so unique that a perfect remedy was provided in the
death and resurrection of Jesus for the disease that has cursed humanity, namely,
sin. Can it be wondered at that the
ablest and most sincere politician only adds to the confusion and misery when
he seeks a solution of the world’s troubles by deliberately ignoring the fact
From this it is clear that any attempt to build a new world order is simply another way of saying, “We will not have this Man to reign over us.” It follows that if the world has rejected Christ, then all its activity is Godless, and doomed to failure for that very reason. No doubt men are baffled by the presumption of ministers of religion blessing the schemes and plans for a new world order when it is remembered that the vital international council chambers God is never even named, let alone consulted.
1. It is remarkable how symptoms ripen of the Advent, and how convincing they are to the watchful eyes of those who know and believe the prophetic Scriptures. The establishment of the ‘golden age’ is much nearer than many Christians today suppose. No matter in which direction we turn, we see a rapid deterioration in morality; a disregard for those in authority; an increase in the misuse of drugs: there is an uncomfortable feeling abroad, a distress of nations, men’s hearts failing them for fear.
An important question for every Christian is: Where does my loyalty lie? Am I supporting the present system which God has rejected?
G. H. LANG has highlighted the ever present danger for every regenerate believer:-
“A king must needs have a body of superior officers to serve him in administering his kingdom. King David had administrators and priests, men who had served and suffered with him in the long years of his rejection (2 Sam. 8: 15-18) but Jonathan, though he loved David as his own soul and willingly resigned to him the throne, seeking only to be second only in the Kingdom though himself the heir apparent (1 Sam. 23: 17), DID NOT EVEN ENTER David’s Kingdom, for he did not share his rejection. This is the moral warning - [applicable to every regenerate believer today] - the narrative seems to give. Through filial loyalty he supported the king AND THE SYSTEM WHICH GOD HAD REJECTED, and lost his life in its collapse. It was the natural course not the spiritual; the latter, the path of faith, would have been judged unnatural. Jesus had said: ‘He that loveth father ... more than Me, is not worthy of Me’ (Matt. 10: 37). ‘Ye are they who have continued with Me in my trials; and I appoint unto you a Kingdom ... that you may eat and drink at My table in MY KINGDOM; and ye shall sit on thrones judging ...” (Luke 22: 28-30). This special grant was on account of these men having gone through with Christ to the end of His rejection. He would forgive their failings, even the severe failure of that night. He would have regard to the dominant fact that they had stuck to His person and cause through thick and thin and would do so unto the end of life.”