In this chapter, Paul continues addressing two major issues plaguing the Corinthian church: division within the church and sexual immorality.
LAWSUITS WITHIN THE FAMILY
It appears that members of the church were filing lawsuits against other members of the church. Paul does not specify what these lawsuits were regarding, but for Paul, this does not matter. Whether the reasons for filing these lawsuits were legitimate or not is not the issue, as he says in verse 7, “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” Paul is saying that even if the reason for the lawsuits are legitimate, it would be better to absolve the wrongdoer of their sins than to file a lawsuit against them in public court.
In order to understand Paul’s stance in this matter a little better, we need to understand the culture of first century Corinth. This was an honor and shame culture, and the loser of a public trial would receive a lot of shame, and this would be devastating for them. So for one church member to file a lawsuit against another in court would be to essentially bring them shame.
First century Corinth also highly valued the concept of family, which is why Paul purposefully calls out the Corinthians for wronging and defrauding their own “brothers”. He reminds them that as the Church, they are family. Family was to protect one another and to bring shame upon another family member was to commit a terrible wrongdoing, even in the eyes of non-believers.
THE WITNESS OF THE CHURCH
This, in essence, hurts the witness of the Church. How could a non-believer see Christ’s followers shaming each other and not be repulsed by the Church? Filing lawsuits is not something that one does against their own family member, especially in this culture, and for the Corinthian church to do so is behaving opposite of what a follower of Christ should do. And Paul reminds them in verse 11 that they “were washed, [they] were sanctified, [they] were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Likewise, we are to recognize that we, as believers, are the family of Christ. And the way we treat one another will be a witness to the rest of the world of who our Christ is. When we treat each other poorly, we testify to the world that our God is no different from the other gods that the world worships. However, when we treat each other with Christ-like love, we testify that our God is far greater, far more loving, far more worthy of worship than anything and anyone else.
WE BELONG TO GOD
In the next section of this chapter, Paul addresses the issue of sexual immorality in the church. He exhorts the Corinthians to abstain from sexual immorality, and his reason for this is that our bodies belong to God. We are God’s own creation, and furthermore, we have been bought by Jesus through his death and resurrection, and we are to now glorify God with our bodies.
When we truly believe that Christ has paid a price to redeem us from our sins and make us children of God, our response ought to be to desire to give Him our everything. We have been made one with Christ, so we must flee from sexual immorality, which threatens to compete against Christ and pull us away from Him. We were created to honor God with our bodies, and to use them for what He has created them for. God has created us to be joined in marriage to one other person, and has given us the gift of sex to be enjoyed within the context of marriage. And God knows that when we stray from what He has created us to do, we will be hurt. Sexual immorality, first of all, is not glorifying to God, but second, it causes us pain. And God, as our good and loving Father, desires that we flee from sin, because He knows that it will cause us pain, whether now or later.
LET US LIVE
We are the family of God, joined as one body. So let us live as we were created to. Let us live as brothers and sisters in Christ, showing each other Christ-like love. Let us live as the body of Christ, honoring Christ with our bodies. Let us do all this knowing that we live for a God worthy of it all.