TEXT : 1 Corinthians 6:1-8
TITLE : " Biblical Peacemaking "
DATE PREACHED : The Lord's day , 8th August 2010
As we are gathered before the Lord’s Table , we remember that we are seated at the table by which we are reminded that Jesus Christ is our Prince of Peace: Therefore having been justified by faith , we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ “ ( Rom 5:1 ; see also Eph. 2:14-17).
I want to use this text to help us to think through some issues pertaining to being biblical peacemakers – and therefore sons and daughters of the Living God .
If I asked you to take a pen and paper and within a minute write down the names of people with whom we do not feel at peace with, I wonder how many names you might come up with ? And if you were given even more time to think about the hurts that you have received in your life , I guess that everyone would walk out of this building depressed and angry. And then to think of this : All of us have not only been hurt, but have done our own share of hurting others.
So I trust that you have grasped the relevance of this subject ! One of the groups that I really want to listen attentively in our congregation today are our men (though all must take note!) . The men of our society ( and even in our churches) are prone to much anger . Unfortunately this is one of the inevitable byproducts of our society that focuses so much on the rights of women and children and , well, plainly ignores the plight of men . This anger , brothers comes up sporadically in our behaviour , because it lies at the bottom of our hearts . Men,more than ever we need to focus on the cross and understand the work of Christ ! He is our Peace!
WHAT THE LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS REVEALS
This first letter to the Corinthians reveals a lot of anger and conflict , and therefore a lack of peace in the church . The Corinthians failed to handle conflict well . So this is nothing new under the sun, and we are in familiar territory. Thank God for the honesty of Scripture , but we thank God even more for the power of the gospel – the power of our Lord Jesus to heal the church, when she lapses into faithlessness .
Last week , as we worked through Chapter 5 , we saw that a case of sexual immorality was revealed in the church . We saw that the church sadly failed to address this and even seemed to boast about this issue. With dismay we now note that this is not the end of the problems in the church . The sin continues in Chapter 6 . We have here a case of one church member suing another.
Let us follow Paul’s argument verse by verse, and then make application of what we learn from here and from what we have seen already in this letter:
6:1 : “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?” The members of this church are evidently resorting to the civic court system (Roman law) to resolve disputes between them. Incidentally , the Roman law system is entrenched in our own law system. ( the so-called “ Roman Dutch law” )
We are not told what the grievances between the two parties in the church were , but considering the list given in vv 9 and 10, they may be included here .
So what is the problem here? Paul’s dismay is that the ‘saints ’ ( see 6:2 and qualified in 6:11) were allowing the ‘unrighteous‘ (6:1 i.e. those who have no standing in the church) to settle their disagreements in their courts . How could that be ? What testimony would that be upon the good Name of the Lord Jesus? Surely the saints ought to be living good moral lives, and at the very least , if they should have disagreements ( which are inevitable) , their conflict resolution should be aided by the church . Unfortunately this is not always so!
One word of clarification . We must not think that the apostle Paul is against the use of civil law here . After all he teaches in Romans 13:1-7 that civil authority is given by God for our benefit . It is part of God’s common grace to mankind . In 1 Tim2:1,2 he urges Christians to pray for civil authorities because of their role in providing stability.
What is the point here ? The point is that these things for which they were dragging each other before the court were moral issues in the church , which needed to be solved internally – mainly to avoid the fact that the non Christians should have any reason to slander Christ and Christians . You have often heard it said by non Christians : “Well, if that is how Christians behave…” . Just think what a Roman magistrate and all those outsiders listening to the case ( who has no standing in the church- 6:4) would have thought : “ Joseph of the Corinth Christian Church accuses Nicodemus (also of the Corinth Christian Church) of sexual immorality - of committing adultery with his wife ! “ Now , quite frankly , the pagan judges did not have huge issues with matters of adultery ( for the society was rife with these). Moreover it would have simply become a game between 'your lawyer and mine'. The Graeco Roman system loved litigation (engagement in lawsuits) . The law-courts were in fact one of their chief amusements and entertainments.. Lawyers used these forums to test their oratorical and logical skills.
The real issue was that this “dirty laundry” by Christians which was publicly displayed. This did little to make the gospel attractive . Paul deals with this matter in Rom 2:24 where he says “(because of these things) the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you.”
6: 2-4 : "Or do 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? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? In the church we do have sufficient competency to judge such matters! And Paul here makes the stunning assertion that in the Judgment Day we will be called to take part in God’s judgment of the unrighteous – both fallen man and fallen angel ! (e.g. Daniel 7:9-27) . The point surely is clear: If you Christian people are going to be partakers in the great judgement to come , then should you not be able to handle matters pertaining to this life ( NIV – trivial cases) ?
Now Verse 4 can be understood in two ways , and they are reflected in different Bible translations . The one I am using, the ESV , asks the question why the saints are turning to judges outside the church to settle their differences.
The KJV and NIV translates the phrase as a command for the saints to appoint the least among them as judges for their disputes. Thus, Paul is saying that even the least among the saints serve as better judges than those outside the church.
I am not sure which translation would be more accurate , but surely both principles could be true :
(i) Don’t turn to judges outside of the church.
(ii) Even the least in the church would be better judges than any outsider
6:5-6 : I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? Here Paul’s sense of indignation gives way to irony . The Corinthians claimed to be so wise ( see 4:10) . So why can they not now use their great wisdom to settle these issues? Surely being a Christian means that you have received the spirit of discernment (2:14) ? He has reminded them in 1 Cor 1:5 that "in Christ they had been enriched in all speech and all knowledge ...” . On the strength of these texts we must believe that God has given the church everything - enough knowledge , enough wisdom etc. to solve every problem! And if such wisdom cannot be found in the church, then surely the Christians must go back to the drawing board. Whenever personal relationships become strained within the church, godly and gifted members must bring the wisdom of God into the situation. Few things dampen the witness of a church more than disagreements or broken relationships.
The best people for healing fractured relationships are usually those with listening hearts and patience to listen to both sides.Those who are possessed with the gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8, to them are given “through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge …”
6:7 -8 : “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” To go to law against a Christian brother is a contradiction in terms . The spirit of the church is supposed to be different. The difference is seen in the fact that even if I am wronged, I will turn the other cheek ( see Matt 5:38-40)
Paul’s questions answer to a different logic : Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? Why not rather suffer wrong? This Christian logic takes the wind out of people’s sails! It shows you who you really trust in the end , and it robs people of any further arguments. Having said that however , we are not saying that abuse of this nature is right or justified. It is clear that Paul doesn't think that this is right . And Paul says it plainly: "But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” This leads him into a stern lecture in vv 9 – 11 which we shall consider (D.V.) next week.
Application : Towards a theology of Biblical Peacemaking
#1. Understanding the root of all strife : What causes quarrels and fights? James answers – its our desires and passions that are at war with in us; it is a friendship with the philosophies of the world rather than the theology of God . (James 4:1ff) . This is Paul’s point in Chapters 1 & 2 where he deals with this matter of the wisdom of the world versus the wisdom that is from God . Whatever rules your hearts , will ultimately give ventilation to your desires.
#2 . The gospel applies to every area of our lives. The whole gospel must rule your whole life . Unfortunately the enemy has persuaded us that Church and work and family and leisure etc are different compartments of our life , with different sets of principles for each e.g. at church you act nice and pious, while at work you are a tyrant, and at home you don’t lift a finger to help. There is no such thing. To be a Christian is to be Christ’s witness all the time, in every area of life, and in all ages. In this we are not led by the opinions of Apollos , Paul or Peter who have different ideas about work ethics or child raising principles or worship styles . We are led by Christ and His Word alone - and especially in the matter of our treatment of one another.If we are agreed upon and committed to the Word of God as our final authority , we shall avoid much quarrelling.
#3. We have to understand the implications of what it means to belong to a covenant community in Christ ! Our biblical status is that we are the body of Christ. We have been united to one another through the blood of Christ. He is the glue that holds us together. We cannot deny our family in Christ , just as little as we could deny our human blood family. We must stop to think of ourselves as a individuals that come to church on a Sunday. WE ARE THE CHURCH – we belong to each other .. . “ all things are yours” (3:21)! We must stop thinking of the church as a service organization that exists to meet our spiritual needs. You are not paying for my services! In that case I should act like a professional, charging per hour in terms of consultation fees, and you would have the right to complain if I gave you poor service. No! We are the body of Christ. We are fitted together for the glory of God ! We worship God as we live for His glory , and that includes the way in which I treat you ! It means sacrificial love. It means not insisting on my rights . It often means that you and I may have to overlook the offense of a brother and sister. This plain principle is what the Corinthians overlooked : they were not a set of individuals in a service organization . They were a covenant community !
#4. We need to get our priorities right : Our philosophy of life – our core values, our thinking dictated by Scripture will ultimately determine how we handle adversity and conflict. To have peace in our lives; to become peacemakers, we’ve got to start by readjusting our perception of who we are in Christ and what matters in life. And quite frankly you can only get your priorities right if you have Jesus and His Word constantly before you as a mirror that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.(2:5) . So , stop seeing yourself as having to get through life as comfortably and successfully as you possibly can.
Learn the logic that Jesus teaches and practice it.
Learn the sacrificial Love that Jesus and His Word teaches and obey it.
The Corinthians forgot it . But you , don’t !
And you will be a blessed Peacemaker and a son of God ( Matt 5:9 ). Amen.