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In Context of Court

by Tim O'Hearn

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor men who sleep with men, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)

This is a favorite passage of many. Sometimes it is a favorite of those who vehemently oppose homosexuality. For others it is a favorite because it shows that God is willing to forgive anyone. It is a good passage; but people often take it out of the context.

What is that context? He wasnít talking about sin, or Godís grace, or how to get into the church. He wasnít propounding great theological truths. It seems strange, but this is the conclusion of a discussion about Christians taking other Christians to court before unbelievers.

Read it in that context:

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye notÖ (1 Cor 6:1-9)

Does this, perhaps, shed a slightly different light on this passage? It is not about sin, or salvation. It is about brotherhood.

Paulís initial complaint is that they were choosing unrighteous people to judge righteous matters. They may have been taking matters of faith to the unjust to judge. That would be like taking a matter of American civil law to a South African court for judgement. Why not settle the dispute in the proper jurisdiction? Why not take matters between believers to even the youngest novice in the church? Even he would be more qualified.

He goes on to say that it is not only wrong to expect an unbeliever to judge these matters. Even if you are in the right and a brother is taking away your rights in the church, it is better to be deprived than to take the matter to unbelievers. In fact, by taking these matters to the wrong court, the one being deprived was actually depriving the other of his rights.

And here is where the passage in question comes in. Donít you know that those in the kingdom are not unrighteous, like the judges you are using? Yes, they had various sins. They were once unrighteous, too. But now they have been cleansed. They have been made righteous. Does that not make them better judges of things to the church? Is not a person who has been forgiven much more likely to forgive much? Is not one who has known the consequences of and relief from sin more able to judge between others who have been so relieved? This is the real context of this passage. Trust your brother to judge fairly. After all, he was, and is, just like you.