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Sep 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 5, 2021



When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 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 not standing in the church? 1 Corinthians 6:1-4

Intro: I read through 1 Corinthians in June,

Tracking how Paul was guiding these Christians to the mind of Christ
– but when I came to this chapter, I felt disappointed
• here, the subjects he addresses are so “unspiritual,” so this-worldly
• a civil court, wrongdoers, and curbing sexual appetite
– but then I noticed a revelation underneath the text
• you know how a card might come with a sticker you have to peel off,
◦ and when you do, you find a code?
• looking underneath the text helped make sense of what’s on surface

For instance, the wrongness of litigation within the church

Paul acts astonished that one Christian would sue another
– even the most honest and wisest judge in world, isn’t qualified to handle spiritual disputes
• the relational dynamics of Christian spirituality are different
◦ justice is not the only criterion in deciding our cases
◦ there’s forgiveness, mercy, and the will of God revealed by Spirit
• there’s a backstory to this whole issue (see Acts 18:12-15)
◦ a judge in the civil court of Corinth refused to try a religious case
◦ this does not say that Christians cannot pursue a civil suit with unbelievers
(however, it may not be irrelevant to such cases either)
– Paul’s first piece of advice makes rational sense
• find someone in the church with the wisdom and discernment to resolve the dispute
• it can be handled like normal arbitration, only,
◦ with a mediator familiar with Christian faith and practice

So far, so good
– however, Paul’s second piece of advice is harder to digest
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? (v. 7)
• what can possibly prepare us to accept a personal act of injustice against ourselves?
◦ to put up with the wrong done to us, or be defrauded without a reprisal?
◦ or to turn the other cheek, as Jesus taught?
• this is an extremely difficult adjustment for us to make
◦ we assume the courts are there to guarantee our rights
◦ when wronged, it seems impossible for us to let it go
– one of my kids was involved in a law suit that went on for a year
• it was bogus from the outset – an obvious case of insurance fraud
• reading Matthew 6 one morning, it seemed right to give up the fight
◦ what amazed me was the peace that came to me after making that decision
◦ much more peace than all my fantasy plotting of bringing down corrupt lawyers and the whole judicial system in California

A second example in this chapter
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” — and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. . . . Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (vv. 12- 18)

Paul assumed the men in Corinthian church would steer clear of prostitutes
– and why? Because their own bodies were appendages of Jesus’ body
• not only that, but each one’s body was a temple of God’s Spirit
• but were any of those men aware of being a temple before Paul told them they were?
◦ we do not find these same concepts in Jesus teaching,
◦ or anywhere else in the New Testament prior to this letter

So, like I said, at first I was disappointed when I came to this chapter
– but as I meditated on it,
• I realized how much I needed the revelation behind the text
◦ like the Corinthians, I needed:
1. to be shown what I did not know
2. to learn why I had not known these things before now
3. and I could come to the knowing of these things
• I intentionally said “knowing” rather than “knowledge”
◦ knowledge is static; knowing is dynamic
◦ and what needs to be known has a spiritual vitality
– like God’s word, these truths are alive and powerful

What was it that the Corinthians did not know–and neither did I?

It is simple, really: My perspective is too limited and warped
– our perspective depends on our vantage point
• the more you see, the larger your perspective
• also, what we have been conditioned to see, we notice
◦ what we’re not conditioned to see fades into the background
– perspective affects everything
• how we think, what is important to us, how we respond to events
◦ I know my perspective is too limited to discern some things
◦ I have partial color blindness–certain shades of red, brown, and green do not exist for me
• we cannot make right decisions regarding what we cannot see
◦ we cannot even have the right attitude or feelings when our perspective is limited
◦ if something does not exist for us, it cannot influence us

I doubt that the Corinthians knew being defrauded was even an option
(certainly not an attractive one to our human way of thinking)
– Jesus taught his followers, they did not have to retaliate
. . . if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well (Mt. 5:40)
• this sounds really silly – give them more than they demand
• it sounds silly, because our perspective doesn’t allow room for it
– Jesus was bringing the kingdom of God into view
• if they could see the kingdom it would change their perspective on everything

What limited the Corinthians’ perspective until now?

I will try to break this down for you
– the way we reason our way through challenges, depends on certain factors, that are bound in a cause and effect relationship:
• I perceive x,y,z
• I react to x,y,z
• my reaction leads me to do a,b,c
◦ usually this process goes on automatically and unconsciously
– why do I perceive only xyz?
• there are twenty-three other letters that could be factored into my perspective
• but I have been conditioned to perceive only xyz — it’s a reflex

In high school, one of the books that was a required reading was The Red Badge of Courage. It was set during the time of the American Civil War. The story is filled with the carnage caused by new types of rifles and cannons. At one point two soldiers stand near a dead body. One of them makes the observation (in essence) that life is filled with risks and ends in death, and in the meantime the best thing to do was to look out for number one.
– that theme has been given priority in our culture
• you have one life, it’s short, watch out for yourself
• advertisers drum this theme into our brains
◦ self-centeredness is a North American cultural virtue and priority

Parents, school, and culture are the prime influences of our perspective
– Israel’s prophets always maintained some distance from culture
• they stayed close enough to be well-informed regarding its flaws
◦ but not involved enough to be controlled by same flaws
• the minds of most people are immersed in cultural values,
◦ they’re not aware of how those values dominate their thinking and control their lives
◦ even when their thinking is anxiety ridden or depressive, it’s all they know
– pastors who are captive to same values, cannot offer much help in enlarging our perspective
• the Corinthians’ perspective was limited by a lack of awareness

How could Paul guide the Corinthians to a new perspective?

This is a huge challenge, because a new perspective requires a new vantage point
– and that vantage point basically consists of seeing him who is invisible (11:27)

The main thrust of Paul’s efforts to broaden their perspective was to challenge the range of their insight
– to do this, he repeated asks them, Do you not know . . .?
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world (v. 2)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (v. 9)
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? (v. 15)
Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? (v. 16)
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you . . .? (v. 19)
• know translates the Greek, eido: to perceive with the eyes – or perceive with the senses
◦ or to know from experience
• Paul questions them regarding the spiritual breadth of their perspective

Paul also challenges them to rethink some of their cultural slogans
All things are lawful for me (v. 12)
(he does this again later: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up (1 Cor. 10:23)
– it was true that not being under the law, but in grace, Christians experienced a new freedom
• however, exercising that freedom carelessly could have negative consequences
◦ it could blind them rather than enlighten them
◦ it could break them down rather than build them up
– another slogan: Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food
• this also required careful handling
• they needed to have greater awareness in order to have a broader perspective

Paul wanted the Corinthians to see!
– to see that they were joined to Jesus
– to see that each person’s body was a temple of the Spirit

I’m convinced that Paul wanted to awaken them to their true selves – the aware self or spirit
– he wanted more for them– more than his enlightened perspective alone
• he wanted them to become the spiritual persons they were not, but could be (1 Cor. 3:1)
• the aware self does not have to be not imprisoned by thoughts or feelings
◦ it can be aware of its thoughts without being defined by them
◦ it can be aware of its feelings without being controlled by them
• the aware self is the believer’s new vantage point
◦ if developed, it will yield a broader perspective
The aware self:
– discerns automatic patterns of thoughts and behavior
– discerns cultural influences for what they are
– is not defined by thoughts or feelings
– is not material, but spiritual; not transient, but eternal
– lives in a larger universe – and so, has an array of new options,
because the aware self is free of earthly and personal restraints

Conclusion: While taking a walk yesterday evening,

I was reflecting on my body as a temple of the Spirit
– the thought occurred to me that in the Scriptures
pagan temples had idols, but no breath (ruach: breath or spirit; Ps. 135: 15-17; Jer. 10:14)
God’s temple had no idols, but breath
The living breath of God in us changes everything

Okay, so we did not learn this on our own
Paul gave us a look at a cheat sheet
Sometimes we need this kind of boost
from someone more enlightened than ourselves
At any rate, now these truths are ours
And they can help us increase our awareness of our world
and our lives in it
They can help expand and extend our perspective
And they can help us experience the truth of things for ourselves
We just have to wake up

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