Summary: As we get into this passage concerning legal disputes we need to note that this passage only deals with disputes between Christian brothers. It doesn’t say anything about going to court against unbelievers.
As we get into this passage concerning legal disputes we need to note that this passage only deals with disputes between Christian brothers. It doesn’t say anything about going to court against unbelievers. Note the progression of Paul’s argument. He progresses from question to question in this passage until he reaches the great Christian principle itself: the believer ought to suffer wrong rather than run the risk of doing wrong. I will explain this as we go along.
READ v. 1. The first question Paul asks is, “Do you dare go before a secular court instead of saints to settle matters between Christian brothers?” In the original Greek, it is more forceful. “How dare you who are the saints of God go to law before the ungodly of the world?”
Believers aren’t supposed to argue and dispute over the things and possessions of this world. That includes arguing over who has the right and authority over these things. We are supposed to be working and using a portion of what we earn for Christ and His cause.
This wasn’t the case in the Corinthian church. They were divided. Some were seeking legal judgment against their brothers in Christ. We are not sure exactly what the dispute involved but it was of such a nature that legal action was being taken.
The conflicting parties were believers. The secular judges were unbelievers. Paul calls these judges the “ungodly.” This doesn’t mean that the judges were unjust. People would probably get a fair trial. He was referring to them as a class of people who are ungodly or unjustified before God.
Paul is showing the contrast between the church and the world, the believer with the unbeliever. Believers are to settle their disputes between themselves, within their own Christian society and be governed by the life of Christ and the law of God. Hear this: In God’s eyes, it is wrong for believers to go to law against each other before the world’s judges. There are at least three reasons why it’s wrong:
1. Believers who settle differences before the world damage the name of Christ and the testimony of the church. It happens every time. The name of Christ is always hurt when believers carry their differences before the world. Just think about it. It goes against the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Picture the scene from God’s point of view. Two people who really trust God, standing before a judge who rejects and rebels against God. And they are asking him to judge between them instead of asking God or some Christian leader to help them see the matter clearly.
2. Believers who settle differences before the world fail the Lord and fail Him miserably by failing to govern their affairs by the law of God. We are to live by Christ, not by the standards and rules of this world. Christians are to be the standard of the world, not the other way around.
3. Believers have both the Holy Spirit and Christ-centered leaders to help them determine God’s wisdom. Now hear this: every genuine believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, and has leaders within his church who can give him spiritual counsel. That is why God gives His Spirit to His people—for guiding and teaching them.
READ vv. 2-3. Paul’s second question is, “Don’t you know your high and exalted authority?” This clarifies the fact that believers are to judge all disputes between themselves. They are to judge “the trivial cases” and the “things of this life.” Paul stresses that believers are to judge and govern the world. In fact, he says that believers are to even judge and govern angels in the next world.
So if believers try to secure a verdict from the world, they lower themselves, they lose their dignity as saints, and walk out of their exalted position. Paul is telling believers that they shall direct and oversee the world and angels when Christ returns.
For some unknown reason, we so often picture eternal life as some dreamy sleep or semi-conscious type of existence that puts us on a fluffy cloud. We have a tendency to picture eternal life and being in a state of inactivity. But Jesus says that in the new heavens and earth, we believers will rule and govern the whole universe. There will be judging, governing, supervision throughout eternity. All this activity, of course, is under Christ.
READ v. 4. The third question Paul asks is, “Do you choose unbelievers as judges? Again, in the original Greek texts it is more emphatic. Paul says that the unbelievers are as nothing in the church. They are of no account in judging matters in the church. They are not held in high esteem within the church. They have no standing in the church.