In 6:1-11 Paul covers the matter of going to secular law. As we read this portion of 1 Corinthians, we need to get into the depths of these verses and not only care for what is written in black and white, but also touch the burden in Paul’s spirit as he was writing.
The third problem this Epistle deals with is the matter of one brother going to law against another. This is not a sin like division, which is initiated by the soul, nor a gross sin like incest, which is carried out by the lustful body. This is a case of one claiming his legal rights, not willing to suffer wrong, not willing to learn the lesson of the cross.
We have pointed out that Paul in this book covers at least ten different problems. The first is the problem of division, and the second that of the gross sin of incest. Third he deals with the problem of a brother who took another brother to a secular law court. Why does Paul make this the third case he deals with and not the second or the fourth? If we would answer this question, we must look into the depths of this book.
Paul’s burden in writing this Epistle is to deal with the replacements for Christ. The Corinthian believers were replacing Christ with their Greek culture, philosophy, and wisdom. These were all good things, the leading products of society. If we do not have culture, we shall be unrestrained. If we do not have philosophy and wisdom, we shall be foolish. Every human being needs culture, wisdom, and philosophy. The problem among the believers at Corinth was that these good things were replacing Christ. Therefore, the burden in Paul’s spirit was to bring these believers back to Christ, God’s unique center.
God’s intention is to work Christ into His chosen people so that Christ may become their life and everything to them and that they may live Christ and thereby in experience become the members of Christ. In this way Christ will have the Body, the church. This vision was in Paul’s spirit as he was writing 1 Corinthians. In this Epistle Paul first deals with the problem of division. Division has its source in the soul, in particular, in the mind. For this reason, Paul deals with the philosophical mind of the Corinthian believers. Then he goes on to deal with a gross sin. This sequence indicates that if Christians live by the soul and by culture instead of Christ, the door will be opened to the lusts of the flesh.
It is common for Christians today to take various soulish things as replacements for Christ. This opens the way for the lusts of the flesh to come in. Thus, among God’s redeemed people there are the problems of the soul and of the lusts of the flesh.
Soulish things are more refined than the lusts of the flesh. Culture enables people to become refined. To be cultured is simply to be refined. The lusts of the flesh, on the contrary, are crude and gross. Nevertheless, whenever people live in the soul, the door is opened wide to the lusts of the flesh. In fact, many times the most sinful and lustful things are done by those who are the most cultured. Often those who are not as highly cultured are not as sinful in their living. It is a fact that in many cases those who are most given to the exercise of the soul are very sinful. On the one hand, they live a soulish life; on the other hand, they indulge in the lusts of the flesh. Many of today’s Christians also follow this trend.
We have seen that after dealing with the soul and the lustful flesh, Paul turns to the matter of going to secular law. This is a matter of claiming our rights and of not being willing to suffer loss. When we are soulish and fleshly, we shall always claim our rights. We shall not be willing to be wronged by anyone. For this reason, Paul makes the third dealing in this Epistle that of claiming one’s personal rights. This problem was found among the believers at Corinth.
The problem of claiming our rights is found not only in society and in the church, but also in married life. If a husband and wife live in the soul and according to their lusts, both will claim their rights. Neither will be willing to give in to the other. Only when we live in the spirit are we willing to give in and not insist on our rights. When we have a life by the mingled spirit, we shall not claim any rights for ourselves. It may seem to us that we do not have any rights to claim. The reason we claim our rights is that instead of living by the mingled spirit, we live in the soul and in the flesh. Because the soulish life was prevailing and because the door was open to the lusts of the flesh, there were lawsuits among the believers in Corinth. The sequence is that first we have a soulish life, then the lusts of the flesh, and then the claiming of our rights.
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