For an introduction to this series, click here.
This chapter begins by addressing another serious problem in the church: fighting and arguing to the point of dragging each other into court:
"When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud— even your own brothers!" (6:1-8)
This is a very serious matter. It is bad enough that people in the church are fighting with each other to the point of needing to go to court. What makes it worse is the fact that they were taking each other to court in the corrupt and heathen court system. I think the most important quote from this passage is "Why not suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" Jesus was wronged by practically everyone in His life at some point. This is an important thing to consider in our lawsuit-happy society. If Christians would take the lead and not sue at the drop of a hat, not even lost people, our society and our court system would be a lot better off. Certainly it is an important principle not to take a brother in the Lord (especially in the same congregation) to the secular court. But more than that, we need to learn to get along with everyone and to overlook the faults of others.
Another major fault of the Corinthians was that they viewed practically everything as a matter of personal choice. Paul confronts this error, saying there are some things that are non-negotiable:
"'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything. 'Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food'— and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (6:12-20, ESV)
"All things are lawful for me" must have been a favorite quote of the Corinthian church. Paul is telling the believers that yes, there are such things that are matters of personal choice. Whatever kind of food you want to eat is your personal choice. Christians are not under the Jewish dietary laws: there are no foods that are improper to eat. But personal choice does not extend to sexual immorality. God's plan always was and still is for sex to be only a part of a monogamous married relationship. But apparently some of the more "broad-minded" members of the church were saying that it was OK to engage in sex with others, particularly prostitutes. Now in our society we consider prostitution to be a terrible and taboo thing, and of course that is as it should be, but in the 1st century Roman world prostitution was common. Lots of pagan religions had religious prostitutes in the temples, and apparently a lot of Roman people thought it was OK. I guess they figured as long as they were committed to one, it didn't matter how many others they fooled around with.
Paul's condemnation of this sin could not be more vehement. In large part thanks to this passage, it is hard to imagine a Christian who thinks sexual immorality is not a problem. Not that people don't do it, but the scripture has taken root to the point that they know it is wrong. Before you get too hard on these Corinthians, remember that they were still trying to figure out what it meant to be Christian. They did not have any of the New Testament yet, as far as we know, and they were mostly just conforming to the norms of their own society. Even though our society is trying to throw off Christianity as fast as it can, we can still be thankful for the remaining effects of Christianity on our society and way of thinking.