Striving for Unity: 1 Corinthians Part 9 – Concerning Lawsuits and the Body

By Jenny Fulton

In this Series

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Acts 18: How It Began

Part 3: A Prominent City (Overview)

Part 4: Where Unity Begins (Chapter 1)

Part 5: In Demonstration of the Spirit (Chapter 2)

Part 6: “Let No One Boast in Men” (Chapter 3)

Part 7: Traits of a Godly Servant Leader (Chapter 4)

Part 8: Addressing Immorality in the Church (Chapter 5)

Part 9: Concerning Lawsuits and the Body (Chapter 6)

Part 10: To be Married or Single (Chapter 7)

1 Corinthians Chapter 6

Chapter 6 consists of two main topics: civil lawsuits among Christians and the value of the physical body.  

Part One: Civil Lawsuits

*Note : commentaries agree that Paul is specifically referring to civil cases in these verses, not harmful criminal or violent cases which should be taken to the governing authorities to be dealt with – Romans 13:3-4.

Verses 1-11. The opening to this chapter springboards off the last three verses in Chapter 5. In 5:11, Paul tells the Corinthians not to associate or even eat with someone who calls himself a Christian but is living and practicing a life of immorality, greed, idol worship, slander, or robbery.

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders?” Paul says. “Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.[1]

Having told them to rightly judge situations within the church, Paul launches into the problem of members suing each other and taking their problems to be judged by a worldly court outside the body of Christ.

Wait a minute. Why are fellow Christians, fellow members of the body of Christ, suing each other?

“Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?[2]

Wait a minute. Why is one Christian wronging and defrauding another in the first place?

Yes, these lawsuits are a defeat, and taking them before a secular authority who doesn’t follow God or have a Christian worldview is a double defeat. There is no winner in this. God said they will know us by our love (John 13:35). What does it say about God when Christian disagreements have become so bad they necessitate a civil court to mediate them?

While these quarrels among believers shouldn’t be happening at all, Paul urges the church that if, and when, they do occur, they should be settled by wise and discerning members within the church who can judge civil disputes from a place of Godly guidance and wisdom.

Why shouldn’t these cases be taken to the governing authorities outside the church? Because those authorities are part of another kingdom. While the Christians, or saints as Paul calls them, are part of God’s Kingdom, those outside the church are part of the kingdom of this world. They operate under a different set of beliefs, values, morals, and make judgments based upon that worldview.

In verses 9 and 10, Paul expands upon the list given in 5:11 to include a more thorough description of the life practices of those who aren’t (unless they come to God to be cleansed, justified and sanctified – 6:11) part of the Kingdom of God and who will not inherit that Kingdom. Once again, Paul is emphasizing that the unrighteous – those who are outside the kingdom of God – shouldn’t be called upon to mediate and judge civil matters between those who are part of the God’s Kingdom. Non-Christians shouldn’t be mediating disagreements between Christians.

Do you see these kind of conflicts among Christians today? Do you see Christians wrong and defraud each other in matters of business or become so heated in their differences that they require a mediator?

Take-Away: If we have a civil disagreement with another Christian that escalates to such a degree that we need a mediator, we should seek out a Christian counselor or mediator to help us resolve the issue.

Part 2: The Value of the Physical Body

Verses 12-20. Paul begins this section in a way that seems a bit strange considering the rest of the segment. It’s almost as though verses 6:1 and 10:23, which say almost exactly the same thing, are bookends of one main point.

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.[3]

In other words, the fact that we are allowed to do something doesn’t mean it’s good for us or that we should do it.

Take-Away: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Paul then makes a comparison between food and sexual immorality. Food, a purely physical substance with purely physical effects, was created to go into the stomach to provide nourishment for the body. This isn’t a spiritual interaction since food doesn’t have a spirit. Sex, however, is different. As much as some would like to claim that it’s a purely physical interaction between two bodies, it is so much more. Each body also has a spirit and when the bodies come together, their spirits are joined as closely as their bodies. Taken within the context of a godly marriage between a man and a woman, sex is a beautiful and empowering act that draws the individuals closer to each other and to God. Taken outside of that context, it’s incredibly destructive to the spiritual and emotional well-being of all involved. Sexual sin is a sin against one’s self and a sin against the other. Since our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, any assault or sin of this nature is also a sin and assault against the Holy Spirit who is within us.

“Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.”[4] But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.[5]

Take-Away: Sexual immorality is a serious physical and spiritual sin that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

God values the bodies He gave us. Our bodies are good. Chapter 6 mentions God’s intent to resurrect our bodies as He did Christ’s (v. 14). He says our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within us (v. 19), that we have been bought at a price (v. 20), that we are His (v. 19) and that we are to glorify Him with the body He gave us (v. 20). It is through the use of our body that we serve God, that we display in physical form the beliefs we hold in spiritual form.

Take-Away: The knowledge that our body belongs to God places a greater importance on how we present it, what we do with it, and how we treat it.

It becomes not a matter of “my body, my choice,” but “God’s body, His choice.” What would God have us do? What choices honor Him? How does He want us to treat our body?  

United or Divided?

In light of the overall theme of 1 Corinthians and Paul’s call to unity, 

Actions That Divide Us:

  • Cheating and wronging fellow Christians
  • Taking another Christian to court over a civil case.
  • Engaging in sexual immorality

Actions that Unite Us:

  • Treating each other in a fair, appropriate, and loving manner.
  • Settling civil disagreements and conflicts within the church.
  • Maintaining purity in our relationships.
  • Honoring and glorifying God with our physical body.

What Do You Think?

  • What stands out to you from this passage?
  • Have you ever seen Christians wrong or defraud each other? How was the situation handled? Do you think it should have been handled differently?
  • Do you think Paul’s urging for Christians to handle civil cases within the church still applies to today? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think God views sexual sin as so much worse than other sins? Have you ever seen or experienced the impact of sexual sin?
  • What are the implications of viewing our bodies as belonging to God and thinking in terms of “God’s body, God’s choice” rather than “My body, my choice.”

Women, Join In!

For the last year, the book of 1 Corinthians has weighed heavy upon my heart. In May, I joined a women’s online fellowship site, Bloom.com, and decided to lead a Bible study on this book. These musings are a summary of my findings and the relevance/application I see surrounding us today. If you’re a woman and would like to participate in the study, head on over to www.Bloom.com and join the 1 Corinthians Bible Study group where you’ll find study guides to follow and discussion threads to participate in. 


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 5:12–13.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 6:7.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 6:12.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 6:16.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 6:17.

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