1 Corinthians 6 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of 1 Corinthians 6)


1. Dare--This word implies treason against Christian brotherhood [BENGEL].
before the unjust--The Gentile judges are here so termed by an epithet appropriate to the subject in question, namely, one concerning justice. Though all Gentiles were not altogether unjust, yet in the highest view of justice which has regard to God as the Supreme Judge, they are so: Christians, on the other hand, as regarding God as the only Fountain of justice, should not expect justice from them.
before . . . saints--The Jews abroad were permitted to refer their disputes to Jewish arbitrators [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 14.10,17]. So the Christians were allowed to have Christian arbitrators.

2. Do ye not know--as a truth universally recognized by Christians. Notwithstanding all your glorying in your "knowledge," ye are acting contrary to it (1Co 1:4, 5; 8:1). The oldest manuscripts have "Or" before "know ye not"; that is, "What! (expressing surprise) know ye not," &c.
saints . . . judge--that is, "rule," including judgment: as assessors of Christ. Mt 19:28, "judging," that is, "ruling over." (Compare Ps 49:14; Da 7:22, 27; Re 2:26; 3:21; 20:4). There is a distinction drawn by able expositors between the saints who judge or rule, and the world which is ruled by them: as there is between the elected (Mt 20:23) twelve apostles who sit on thrones judging, and the twelve tribes of Israel that are judged by them. To reign, and to be saved, are not necessarily synonymous. As Jehovah employed angels to carry the law into effect when He descended on Sinai to establish His throne in Israel, so at His coming the saints shall administer the kingdom for, and under, Him. The nations of the earth, and Israel the foremost, in the flesh, shall, in this view, be the subjects of the rule of the Lord and His saints in glorified bodies. The mistake of the Chiliasts was that they took the merely carnal view, restricting the kingdom to the terrestrial part. This part shall have place with the accession of spiritual and temporal blessings such as Christ's presence must produce. Besides this earthly glory, there shall be the heavenly glory of the saints reigning in transfigured bodies, and holding such blessed intercourse with mortal men, as angels had with men of old, and as Christ, Moses, and Elias, in glory had with Peter, James, and John, in the flesh at the transfiguration (2Ti 2:12; 2Pe 1:16-18). But here the "world" seems to be the unbelieving world that is to be "condemned" (1Co 11:22), rather than the whole world, including the subject nations which are to be brought under Christ's sway; however, it may include both those to be condemned, with the bad angels, and those about to be brought into obedience to the sway of Christ with His saints. Compare Mt 25:32, 40, "all nations," "these my brethren" on the thrones with Him. The event will decide the truth of this view.
judged by you--or, before you (compare 1Co 3:22).
smallest matters--The weightiest of earthly questions at issue are infinitely small compared with those to be decided on the judgment-day.

3. judge angels--namely, bad angels. We who are now "a spectacle to angels" shall then "judge angels." The saints shall join in approving the final sentence of the Judge on them (Jude 6). Believers shall, as administrators of the kingdom under Jesus, put down all rule that is hostile to God. Perhaps, too, good angels shall then receive from the Judge, with the approval of the saints, higher honors.

4. judgments--that is, cases for judgment.
least esteemed--literally, "those of no esteem." Any, however low in the Church, rather than the heathen (1Co 1:28). Questions of earthly property are of secondary consequence in the eyes of true Christians, and are therefore delegated to those in a secondary position in the Church.

5. your shame--Thus he checks their puffed-up spirit (1Co 5:2; compare 1Co 15:34). To shame you out of your present unworthy course of litigation before the heathen, I have said (1Co 6:4), "Set the least esteemed in the Church to judge." Better even this, than your present course.
Is it so?--Are you in such a helpless state that, &c.?
not a wise man--though ye admire "wisdom" so much on other occasions (1Co 1:5, 22). Paul alludes probably to the title, "cachain," or wise man, applied to each Rabbi in Jewish councils.
no, not one--not even one, amidst so many reputed among you for wisdom (1Co 3:18; 4:6).
shall be able--when applied to.
brethren--literally, "brother"; that is, judge between brother and brother. As each case should arise, the arbitrator was to be chosen from the body of the church, such a wise person as had the charism, or gift, of church government.

6. But--emphatically answering the question in the end of 1Co 6:5 in the negative. Translate, "Nay," &c.

7. utterly a fault--literally, "a shortcoming" (not so strong as sin). Your going to law at all is a falling short of your high privileges, not to say your doing so before unbelievers, which aggravates it.
rather take wrong-- (Pr 20:22; Mt 5:39, 40); that is, "suffer yourselves to be wronged."

8. ye--emphatic. Ye, whom your Lord commanded to return good for evil, on the contrary, "do wrong (by taking away) and defraud" (by retaining what is entrusted to you; or "defraud" marks the effect of the "wrong" done, namely, the loss inflicted). Not only do ye not bear, but ye inflict wrongs.

9. unrighteous--Translate, "Doers of wrong": referring to 1Co 6:8 (compare Ga 5:21).
kingdom of God--which is a kingdom of righteousness (Ro 14:17).
fornicators--alluding to 1Co 5:1-13; also below, 1Co 6:12-18.
effeminate--self-polluters, who submit to unnatural lusts.

11. ye are washed--The Greek middle voice expresses, "Ye have had yourselves washed." This washing implies the admission to the benefits of Christ's salvation generally; of which the parts are; (1) Sanctification, or the setting apart from the world, and adoption into the Church: so "sanctified" is used 1Co 7:14; Joh 17:19. Compare 1Pe 1:2, where it rather seems to mean the setting apart of one as consecrated by the Spirit in the eternal purpose God. (2) Justification from condemnation through the righteousness of God in Christ by faith (Ro 1:17). So PARÆUS. The order of sanctification before justification shows that it must be so taken, and not in the sense of progressive sanctification. "Washed" precedes both, and so must refer to the Christian's outward new birth of water, the sign of the inward setting apart to the Lord by the inspiration of the Spirit as the seed of new life (Joh 3:5; Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5; Heb 10:22). Paul (compare the Church of England Baptismal Service), in charity, and faith in the ideal of the Church, presumes that baptism realizes its original design, and that those outwardly baptized inwardly enter into vital communion with Christ (Ga 3:27). He presents the grand ideal which those alone realized in whom the inward and the outward baptism coalesced. At the same time he recognizes the fact that this in many cases does not hold good (1Co 6:8-10), leaving it to God to decide who are the really "washed," while he only decides on broad general principles.
in the name of . . . Jesus, and by the Spirit--rather, "in the Spirit," that is, by His in-dwelling. Both clauses belong to the three--"washed, sanctified, justified."
our God--The "our" reminds the that amidst all his reproofs God is still the common God of himself and them.


12. All things are lawful unto me--These, which were Paul's own words on a former occasion (to the Corinthians, compare 1Co 10:23, and Ga 5:23), were made a pretext for excusing the eating of meats offered to idols, and so of what was generally connected with idolatry (Ac 15:29), "fornication" (perhaps in the letter of the Corinthians to Paul, 1Co 7:1). Paul's remark had referred only to things indifferent: but they wished to treat fornication as such, on the ground that the existence of bodily appetites proved the lawfulness of their gratification.
me--Paul giving himself as a sample of Christians in general.
but I--whatever others do, I will not, &c.
lawful . . . brought under the power--The Greek words are from the same root, whence there is a play on the words: All things are in my power, but I will not be brought under the power of any of them (the "all things"). He who commits "fornication," steps aside from his own legitimate power or liberty, and is "brought under the power" of an harlot (1Co 6:15; compare 1Co 7:4). The "power" ought to be in the hands of the believer, not in the things which he uses [BENGEL]; else his liberty is forfeited; he ceases to be his own master (Joh 8:34-36; Ga 5:13; 1Pe 2:16; 2Pe 2:19). Unlawful things ruin thousands; "lawful" things (unlawfully used), ten thousands.

13. The argument drawn from the indifference of meats (1Co 8:8; Ro 14:14, 17; compare Mr 7:18; Col 2:20-22) to that of fornication does not hold good. Meats doubtless are indifferent, since both they and the "belly" for which they are created are to be "destroyed" in the future state. But "the body is not (created) for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body" (as its Redeemer, who hath Himself assumed the body): "And God hath raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us" (that is our bodies): therefore the "body" is not, like the "belly," after having served a temporary use, to be destroyed: Now "he that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body" (1Co 6:18). Therefore fornication is not indifferent, since it is a sin against one's own body, which, like the Lord for whom it is created, is not to be destroyed, but to be raised to eternal existence. Thus Paul gives here the germ of the three subjects handled in subsequent sections: (1) The relation between the sexes. (2) The question of meats offered to idols. (3) The resurrection of the body.
shall destroy--at the Lord's coming to change the natural bodies of believers into spiritual bodies (1Co 15:44, 52). There is a real essence underlying the superficial phenomena of the present temporary organization of the body, and this essential germ, when all the particles are scattered, involves the future resurrection of the body incorruptible.

14. (Ro 8:11).
raised up--rather, "raised," to distinguish it from "will raise up us"; the Greek of the latter being a compound, the former a simple verb. Believers shall be raised up out of the rest of the dead (see on Php 3:11); the first resurrection (Re 20:5).
us--Here he speaks of the possibility of his being found in the grave when Christ comes; elsewhere, of his being possibly found alive (1Th 4:17). In either event, the Lord's coming rather than death is the great object of the Christian's expectation (Ro 8:19).

15. Resuming the thought in 1Co 6:13, "the body is for the Lord" (1Co 12:27; Eph 4:12, 15, 16; 5:30).
shall I then--such being the case.
take--spontaneously alienating them from Christ. For they cannot be at the same time "the members of an harlot," and "of Christ" [BENGEL]. It is a fact no less certain than mysterious, that moral and spiritual ruin is caused by such sins; which human wisdom (when untaught by revelation) held to be actions as blameless as eating and drinking [CONYBEARE and HOWSON].

16. Justification of his having called fornicators "members of an harlot" (1Co 6:15).
joined--by carnal intercourse; literally, "cemented to": cleaving to.
one body--with her.
saith he--God speaking by Adam (Ge 2:24; Mt 19:5). "He which made them at the beginning said," &c. (Eph 5:31).

17. one spirit--with Him. In the case of union with a harlot, the fornicator becomes one "body" with her (not one "spirit," for the spirit which is normally the organ of the Holy Spirit in man, is in the carnal so overlaid with what is sensual that it is ignored altogether). But the believer not only has his body sanctified by union with Christ's body, but also becomes "one spirit" with Him (Joh 15:1-7; 17:21; 2Pe 1:4; compare Eph 5:23-32; Joh 3:6).

18. Flee--The only safety in such temptations is flight (Ge 39:12; Job 31:1).
Every sin--The Greek is forcible. "Every sin whatsoever that a man doeth." Every other sin; even gluttony, drunkenness, and self-murder are "without," that is, comparatively external to the body (Mr 7:18; compare Pr 6:30-32). He certainly injures, but he does not alienate the body itself; the sin is not terminated in the body; he rather sins against the perishing accidents of the body (as the "belly," and the body's present temporary organization), and against the soul than against the body in its permanent essence, designed "for the Lord." "But" the fornicator alienates that body which is the Lord's, and makes it one with a harlot's body, and so "sinneth against his own body," that is, against the verity and nature of his body; not a mere effect on the body from without, but a contradiction of the truth of the body, wrought within itself [ALFORD].

19. What? know ye not? &c.--Proof that "he that fornicates sinneth against his own body" (1Co 6:18).
your body--not "bodies." As in 1Co 3:17, he represented the whole company of believers (souls and bodies), that is, the Church, as "the temple of God," the Spirit; so here, the body of each individual of the Church is viewed as the ideal "temple of the Holy Ghost." So Joh 17:23, which proves that not only the Church, but also each member of it, is "the temple of the Holy Ghost." Still though many the several members form one temple, the whole collectively being that which each is in miniature individually. Just as the Jews had one temple only, so in the fullest sense all Christian churches and individual believers form one temple only. Thus "YOUR [plural] body" is distinguished here from "HIS OWN [particular or individual] body" (1Co 6:18). In sinning against the latter, the fornicator sins against "your (ideal) body," that of "Christ," whose "members your bodies" are (1Co 6:15). In this consists the sin of fornication, that it is a sacrilegious desecration of God's temple to profane uses. The unseen, but much more efficient, Spirit of God in the spiritual temple now takes the place of the visible Shekinah in the old material temple. The whole man is the temple; the soul is the inmost shrine; the understanding and heart, the holy place; and the body, the porch and exterior of the edifice. Chastity is the guardian of the temple to prevent anything unclean entering which might provoke the indwelling God to abandon it as defiled [TERTULLIAN, On the Apparel of Women]. None but God can claim a temple; here the Holy Ghost is assigned one; therefore the Holy Ghost is God.
not your own--The fornicator treats his body as if it were "his own," to give to a harlot if he pleases (1Co 6:18; compare 1Co 6:20). But we have no right to alienate our body which is the Lord's. In ancient servitude the person of the servant was wholly the property of the master, not his own. Purchase was one of the ways of acquiring a slave. Man has sold himself to sin (1Ki 21:20; Ro 7:14). Christ buys him to Himself, to serve Him (Ro 6:16-22).

20. bought with a price--Therefore Christ's blood is strictly a ransom paid to God's justice by the love of God in Christ for our redemption (Mt 20:28; Ac 20:28; Ga 3:13; Heb 9:12; 1Pe 1:18, 19; 2Pe 2:1; Re 5:9). While He thus took off our obligation to punishment, He laid upon us a new obligation to obedience (1Co 7:22, 23). If we accept Him as our Prophet to reveal God to us, and our Priest to atone for us, we must also accept Him as our King to rule over us as wholly His, presenting every token of our fealty (Isa 26:13).
in your body--as "in" a temple (compare Joh 13:32; Ro 12:1; Php 1:20).
and in your spirit, which are God's--not in the oldest manuscripts and versions, and not needed for the sense, as the context refers mainly to the "body" (1Co 6:16, 18, 19). The "spirit" is incidentally mentioned in 1Co 6:17, which perhaps gave rise to the interpolation, at first written in the Margin, afterwards inserted in the text.