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The Litigious Christian

The Litigious Christian

Words of Faith 5-22-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Corinthians 6

   If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? [2] Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? [3] Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! [4] Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! [5] I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? [6] But instead, one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers!

   [7] The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? [8] Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.


         Not every problem in the church is a huge moral issue, but even the smaller matters can be very hurtful to the cause of Christ. The church at Corinth had failed to provide a way for believers to resolve personal disputes that arose between them so they were going into civil court.

       These divisions were not just over "spiritual claims" and haughtiness. They had regular day to day grievances that they brought into the secular court system to file suit against each other. This was yet another manifestation of the divisive spirit which racked the congregation.

         Paul used the phrase "Do you not know" six times in this chapter to point toward certain truths which should have prevented these problems in the first place. The implication that they should have known these things must have painfully hit home to a church enamored with its own wisdom and knowledge.  

       Paul's painful response about this issue was rooted in the fact that these lawsuits not only further divided the church, but also hindered the work of God among the non-Christians in Corinth. As believers, everything that we do in the public arena is under the scrutiny of the world and is "in the Name of Jesus".

       Paul will later warn the Corinthians-- "Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God" (10:32). Those related by faith needed to settle their disputes like brothers, not adversaries... in the Name of Jesus.

       Paul had probably taught this doctrine concerning the role of saints (believers) judging. Jesus revealed that all judgment has been entrusted by the Father to the Son (John 5:22). Jesus said: "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne" (Rev. 3:21). Since they were going to judge supernatural beings-- the fallen angels-- (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), surely they should handle the mundane matters of this life!

       Paul says this "to shame you". This was not a “moral shaming.” Rather he scolded the Corinthians for this terrible situation within the fellowship. Shame on you for treating the Name of Jesus in this way! Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?

         Paul suggests that it would be better to appoint those "of little account" in the church to make such judgments, than to bring matters before an unbelieving judge or jury. Paul's concern was both the harmful outcome for believers and the harmful effect such legal wrangling would have on the cause of the gospel in Corinth (9:23). Such lawsuits between believers certainly did not glorify God.

         We should be clear that Paul was not talking here about criminal matters. In criminal cases, Paul teaches elsewhere that these must be handled by the state. The governing authorities have been allowed by the establishment of God and we are to be submitted to the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-4). Hiding or covering up criminal activity within the church is not in any way supported by scripture. Only in the extreme unjust conflicts of God's law and man's law are criminal acts possibly supported (Exodus 1; Daniel 3, 5; Acts 5:29).

         In Corinth, the greed of those going to court against a brother or sister dishonored God. Paul concluded that the important issue was lost before the case had begun-- "You have been completely defeated already". He therefore said that a mundane financial loss was preferable to the spiritual loss which the lawsuits produced. "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers."

         The Corinthian lawsuits seemed not to have been so much a matter of redressing wrong or seeing justice served as a means for personal gratification at the expense of fellow believers. This was "body life" at its worst!

         What do we do with this biblical direction? In our super litigious society, there is a lot here for us! On a personal level, we should know that bringing a fellow Christian into court for a lawsuit is not supported in scripture for all the reasons argued here. We should make every attempt to resolve disputes between parties and within the church. Ministries such as Peacemakers provide a wonderful structure for Christian mediation when there are disputes.

           We may still have to respond to a lawsuit by a fellow believer, but we should make every effort to handle such a situation outside of civil court and be very careful should we find ourselves in court. It is an ugly mockery of what Jesus did for us on the cross, when two Christians fight it out in a legal setting.


         Father God, help us to get along, we who claim the name of Christ and call upon His grace. Help us to see the big picture of eternity. Keep us out of the civil courts so that we may be a testimony of the fruit of Your Spirit in every possible way. In Jesus' Name.