Summary: As a Christian we can think we are wiser than we really are. Our wisdom is discovered in our behavior.
“Don’t you know better?” Have you had someone talk that way to you (besides your parents)? “Are you telling me that you don’t know…?” The Corinthians are getting the “don’t you know” treatment from Paul. Six times in chapter six he asks them the question, “Do you not know?”
Paul is using the question as a literary device to drive home the points he wants to make, but still, one can’t help but get the impression that the man who considers himself the spiritual father of the Corinthian saints is feeling somewhat exasperated as he talks to his children. “You are doing what? Do you not know…? Didn’t I raise you to know anything? And you think you are wiser than I am!”
What is aggravating Paul? First, he is annoyed with their spiritual pride. They think they have outgrown his simple gospel preaching about the cross; they have entered a higher plane of spiritual wisdom as evidenced by their spiritual gifts. Paul’s perspective is that they have regressed to childish thinking. In reality, they have retained the world’s approach to wisdom. This has led to inevitable division in the church as they compete with one another; in particular it has strained their relations with Paul who is diminishing in stature before their eyes.
This is enough to bother the most patient man, but still, Paul could have handled his feelings. We all know the tendency of young people as they gain the excitement of learning new things to think they know more than they really do. This is also true of young Christians. The thrill of coming into a new life in Christ and discovering spiritual truths that one could not grasp before is a heady experience. One can easily think that he is wiser than he is. Paul, as the Corinthians’ spiritual father would understand this. It is their foolish, dangerous behavior that alarms him.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! (5:1,2). Are you out of your mind? What are you doing letting this go on? Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (v. 6) Has it not occurred to you that letting such sin go on in your midst is exposing your whole church to infection with the same type of sin?
We learned from 1:11 that “Chloe’s people” are informing on the Corinthians to Paul. They tell him another thing: the church members are taking each other to court. When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? (6:1). What is going on? You’ve got plenty of spiritual pride; don’t you have any pride for your Lord? You’ve got to turn to judges outside the church to handle your conflicts? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? (2, 3) And what’s with the conflicts? How can it be that you are wronging and defrauding each other? Do you not know…?
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Paul raises the seriousness of his lecture. He goes beyond warning them that they are getting into trouble. Here is a sobering statement about who is in the kingdom and who is not, and he is certainly trying to make the Corinthians pause. They have too easily walked along the world’s path believing that they are okay with God. Wait a minute, he is telling them. Consider the consequences of your behavior.
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sure, Paul, we know that. Jesus did the work of making us righteous on the cross. You taught us that. You can’t seem to get beyond that message, but we remember it. We are saints in Christ. We are spiritual people now. Haven’t you noticed our gifts?
Paul has noticed their gifts. He thanked God for them (1:4-8). What is lacking, however, is fruit of righteousness. Indeed, their behavior is that of the unrighteous. Do not be deceived. Don’t fool yourselves about this, he tells them. You cannot keep acting as you did under the old life and expect to inherit the kingdom of God.
What does Paul mean by “inherit the kingdom”? It is a phrase indicating salvation. In one sense to be a Christian is to have inherited the kingdom, i.e. already entered into it. Thus Paul speaks of having obtained an inheritance in Ephesians 1:11. There is also the sense, however, of a future time in which we will come into our inheritance. Right now, we have the promise, as when children are informed by their parents that the children are heirs of their estate when they die. The children may be heirs, but they do not come into their inheritance until Mom and Dad pass on. Meanwhile, they must bide their time and behave reasonably well so they are not excluded from the will. Paul is warning them about this very thing.