November 26, 2023 | Duane Roberts
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“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!”—1 Corinthians 6:1–6 (NIV)
Much of what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians seems so foreign and wrong to our modern, western cultural ideology and may rub people the wrong way—even believers. Today’s passage is one such example.
Here, Paul is referring to when one believer sues another believer in secular court. How can believers who know Jesus and have the indwelling presence of the Spirit, who have the Church to provide wisdom, guidance, intercession, mediation, reconciliation, resolution, and justice, and who can prayerfully and humbly seek God’s will and heart in disputes forsake that and prefer the judgment of a secular system that cares very little for the spiritual wellbeing of either parties?
This is wrong, friends. Believers, within the safety of a gospel-centric, Spirit-led church or Christian arbitration, should be able to judge and mediate matters between themelves, as we will one day reign with Christ and judge the world—even the angels. Regarding this judgment, Barnes wrote: “The apostle is evidently saying that Christians will occupy so high and important a station in the work of judging the world that they ought to be regarded as qualified to exercise judgment on the things pertaining to this life.” By the power of the Spirit in us, “the saints in the day of judgment shall judge the world, approving the sentence of Christ pronounced against the world, and as being assessors with Christ” (Matthew Poole).
There are a variety of viewpoints on the full meaning of these judgments, but regardless of where you land, the bottom line boils down to two things: 1) Along with and in submission to Christ, we will play a part in the judgment, and 2) because we have the Holy Spirit here and now, we’re qualified to make judgments and mediate human, earthly disputes within the Spirit-led safety of the Church.
But there’s another layer here. What witness are we as believers setting when we squabble and dispute in court before nonbelievers? What example are we setting? How are we reflecting Christ who called us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, and go the extra mile? What does this behavior show the watching world? And what does it say about our churches—that we don’t have anyone qualified to mediate and settle disputes in such a way that leads to reconciliation and justice for the parties involved?
But what about criminal offenses? Paul doesn’t say the Church should handle criminal law. In Romans 13:3–4, Paul writes the state should handle criminal matters. Christians should; however, be able to handle civil matters among themselves according to biblical principles. This can be done either through the church or through Christian arbitration.
Friends, I know this may be hard for some people to wrap their heads around, but the Bible is clear here. So, when the rubber meets the road, will we submit to the Word or go our own way (Proverbs 14:12)?
Pause: Why does Paul take such a strong stance in this passage?
Practice: Here we find yet another passage that must be reckoned in our hearts. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with Paul? Why or why not? Consider what has brought you to either side of this directive. If you have questions or want to discuss further, please reach out to me at DanielS@CalvaryFTL.org.
Pray: Father, help me to simply align my heart and worldview, my philosophy and ideologies in all things, to Yours. Help me to surrender and submit to Your Word and Your ways and to recognize the Spirit’s wisdom and direction in my life. If there is any area where I’m not aligned with You, Lord, reveal it and remove it! Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.