Fallen man is self-centred by nature. He makes himself of much reputation and grasps at equality with God. Pride leads him to establish a little universe continually in orbit around himself. The carnal man does not take joyfully the spoiling of his goods. The Corinthians, being carnal, not only refused to be wronged in matters of reputation, goods and land, but immediately set in motion the wheels of local justice. They did not rest until the offending brother or sister had been brought before the heathen judges. This was a sign of spiritual immaturity.
The life and conduct of these pagan judges in Corinth would not have allowed their occupying even the lowest places in the Church. But would erring and weak believers be chosen to solve assembly problems? Decidedly not! Why then seek a solution in the presence of judges who were on an even lower moral level? Wise men of God were the only competent arbiters in the differences among His children. Does verse 5 encourage godly elders to endeavour to find the solution to such problems between believers?
Peter’s recommendations to those who have been wronged surely apply in these circumstances, 1 Pet. 2. 20. The supreme example is that of our blessed Lord. When He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously, v; 23. Believers filled with His spirit will not rush into legal proceedings against another member of the assembly. But these professing believers not only refused to suffer passively for the sake of righteousness, but some of them seem to have been actively exploiting their fellow Christians. Hence the searching words that follow concerning true inheritors of the kingdom of God, i Cor. 6. 9-10. Paul is continually calling us to examine the reality of our conversion and the subsequent growth in sanctification. To be greedy of gain is certainly not an indication of spiritual progress.
Present day experiences are preparing us for positions demanding spiritual discernment in the coming kingdom. We shall judge the world; we shall judge angels; cf. Dan. 7. 22, “judgment was given to the saints of the most High”; Jude 14, 15, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all”; Rev. 2. 26, 27, “to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron”. What maturity will then be evidenced! May character formation from day to day in the power of the Spirit of God indeed be fitting us for those moments of great responsibility. Even to think of lawsuits before Corinthian judges in view of these truths was ludicrous.
“A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes”, Prov. 20. 8. The long list of irregularities given in verses 9 and 10 could not be tolerated in the Lord’s presence. The kingdom of God is otherwise peopled. Notice that coveting (being eager to possess) and extorting (snatching greedily as a wolf) are associated with sins of the most revolting character. To be dominated by greed of gain is a serious matter in God’s sight, and emphasis is laid on the tenth commandment, Luke 18, 22; Rom. 7. 7. Much encouragement is given in verse 11 as the standing of the believers is brought to light. The past, when other lords held sway, Isa. 26. 13, was unclean, unholy and unjust. But a radical change had taken place through association with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit of God. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 12. 3. The triple blessing of being cleansed from sin, being set apart for God, and enjoying His forgiveness had come to them.
Now comes the thought, not of self-control, but of God controlling the body and the spirit of the saints. As the apostle looks out on the vast range of human thought, speech and activity, he urges his readers to engage only in that which will be advantageous, profitable and to the glory of God. Christian conduct is as simple as that!
Many things are unprofitable. More dangerous still are those that enslave. When in the thought life or in everyday practice, a dominating factor recurs, the danger signal should be clearly seen. There is only room for one dominion, that of the Lordship of Christ. If any other power is exercising absolute authority in the redeemed body, the situation is irregular, and that power is a usurper. The questions, “Is it right to do this?”, or “Should I spend time on that?” find their answer here. The quite legitimate matter of food serves as a mild example. It is essential for our present bodies, but appetite must be kept in its proper place. There are other legitimate desires, linked with our present body, but these must not be allowed to dominate our spirit and to lead into irregular situations of unholiness and uncleanness.
The human body occupies an important place in the divine plan. The contention between Michael, the archangel, and the devil was about the body of Moses, Jude 9. It is as the Son of man that our Lord will appear as the visible centre of universal authority, the angels of God ascending and descending on Him, John 1. 51. The redeemed body of the believer is now the channel through which the Lord desires to reveal His holiness, His love, His grace and His power. Now, says Paul, our bodies are the members of Christ. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. This total consecration links the spirit of the believer with the Spirit of the Lord to such an extent that his body becomes a dwelling place of the divine glory. What a contrast to the polluted atmosphere of the idol temples in Corinth, where so-called worshippers and prostitutes engaged in repugnant orgies that could only reveal the most depraved elements of man’s carnal nature.
The Christian, far from being brought under the power of outside influences by the surrender of his body to them, is now united to the Lord in spiritual consecration. He no longer belongs to himself. He has been completely taken over.
Through his eyes, Christ will see. Through his hands, He will work. Through his lips, He will speak. There will be the progressive transformation from glory unto glory even as from the Lord the Spirit, 2 Cor. 3. 18 R.V.