1 Corinthians 6
6:1-8 Believers as Judges
1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 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? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 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, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! (English Standard Version)
Paul continues his discussion of the church. He has been discussing its purity. Then he discussed its authority, saying the church should discipline the believer who is living in sexual immorality. Now, in chapter 6, he continues his discussion of church authority by discussing disagreements between believers within the church.
In verse 1, he condemns the practice of taking a fellow saint before the secular legal authorities in a civil law suit. His use of the word “dare” in verse 1 is an expression of shock. He says the saints have the best ability to judge. He knows this because saints will judge: (1) the world; (2) the angels.
Also, some commentators say “judge” here is the same as “rule”. The saints will rule over the world. This is stated in Psalm 49:14 and Daniel 7:22, 27, and Revelation 2:26-27. However, the context here is clearly judging.
2 Peter 2:4 says “for if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment…” We might infer from this that we will judge the fallen or rebellious angels. Paul seemed to know this as a matter of revelation.
Since this is so, how could you not judge disputes? In verse 2, he says these are trivial cases compared to judging the world and judging angels. So, sending disputes between believers to the courts is a failure for the church.
Then, he said it would be better to suffer the wrong than to take a fellow believer to court. Here we again see that much of the Christian life is about giving up rights, not asserting them. This is similar to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:39-42: “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
This is another continuation from the practice of Old Testament Israel. Beginning with Moses, they set up their own judges for their disputes, and no Israelite would have thought of going outside to Gentiles to judge disputes. Here Paul calls the non-believers the “unrighteous” or the “unjust”. Even after the Jews lost their authority over civil government, they appointed arbiters who handled their disputes within the community so they would not bring each other before the courts of the Gentile pagans.