Lawsuits before Unbelievers.* 1How can any one of you with a case against another dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment instead of to the holy ones? 2Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world? If the world is to be judged by you, are you unqualified for the lowest law courts?a 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? Then why not everyday matters? 4If, therefore, you have courts for everyday matters, do you seat as judges people of no standing in the church? 5I say this to shame you. Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough to be able to settle a case between brothers? 6But rather brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers?
7Now indeed [then] it is, in any case, a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another. Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?b 8Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers. 9* Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes* nor sodomitesc 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.d
Sexual Immorality.* 12“Everything is lawful for me,”* but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful for me,” but I will not let myself be dominated by anything.e 13“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food,” but God will do away with both the one and the other. The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; 14God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.f
15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take Christ’s members and make them the members of a prostitute?* Of course not!g 16[Or] do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For “the two,” it says, “will become one flesh.”h 17But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.i 18Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body.* 19Do you not know that your body is a temple* of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?j 20For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.k
* [6:1–11] Christians at Corinth are suing one another before pagan judges in Roman courts. A barrage of rhetorical questions (1 Cor 6:1–9) betrays Paul’s indignation over this practice, which he sees as an infringement upon the holiness of the Christian community. 6:2–3: The principle to which Paul appeals is an eschatological prerogative promised to Christians: they are to share with Christ the judgment of the world (cf. Dn 7:22, 27). Hence they ought to be able to settle minor disputes within the community.
* [6:9–10] A catalogue of typical vices that exclude from the kingdom of God and that should be excluded from God’s church. Such lists (cf. 1 Cor 5:10) reflect the common moral sensibility of the New Testament period.
* [6:9] The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamitus. The term translated sodomites refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys. See similar condemnations of such practices in Rom 1:26–27; 1 Tm 1:10.
* [6:12–20] Paul now turns to the opinion of some Corinthians that sexuality is a morally indifferent area (1 Cor 6:12–13). This leads him to explain the mutual relation between the Lord Jesus and our bodies (1 Cor 6:13b) in a densely packed paragraph that contains elements of a profound theology of sexuality (1 Cor 6:15–20).
* [6:12–13] Everything is lawful for me: the Corinthians may have derived this slogan from Paul’s preaching about Christian freedom, but they mean something different by it: they consider sexual satisfaction a matter as indifferent as food, and they attribute no lasting significance to bodily functions (1 Cor 6:13a). Paul begins to deal with the slogan by two qualifications, which suggest principles for judging sexual activity. Not everything is beneficial: cf. 1 Cor 10:23, and the whole argument of 1 Cor 8–10 on the finality of freedom and moral activity. Not let myself be dominated: certain apparently free actions may involve in fact a secret servitude in conflict with the lordship of Jesus.
* [6:15b–16] A prostitute: the reference may be specifically to religious prostitution, an accepted part of pagan culture at Corinth and elsewhere; but the prostitute also serves as a symbol for any sexual relationship that conflicts with Christ’s claim over us individually. The two…will become one flesh: the text of Gn 2:24 is applied positively to human marriage in Matthew and Mark, and in Eph 5:29–32: love of husband and wife reflect the love of Christ for his church. The application of the text to union with a prostitute is jarring, for such a union is a parody, an antitype of marriage, which does conflict with Christ’s claim over us. This explains the horror expressed in 15b.
* [6:18] Against his own body: expresses the intimacy and depth of sexual disorder, which violates the very orientation of our bodies.
* [6:19–20] Paul’s vision becomes trinitarian. A temple: sacred by reason of God’s gift, his indwelling Spirit. Not your own: but “for the Lord,” who acquires ownership by the act of redemption. Glorify God in your body: the argument concludes with a positive imperative to supplement the negative “avoid immorality” of 1 Cor 6:18. Far from being a terrain that is morally indifferent, the area of sexuality is one in which our relationship with God (and his Christ and his Spirit) is very intimately expressed: he is either highly glorified or deeply offended.
a. [6:2] Wis 3:8; Mt 19:28; Rev 20:4.
b. [6:7] Mt 5:38–42; Rom 12:17–21; 1 Thes 5:15.
c. [6:9] 15:50; Gal 5:19–21; Eph 5:5.
f. [6:14] Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 4:14.
g. [6:15] 12:27; Rom 6:12–13; 12:5; Eph 5:30.
h. [6:16] Gn 2:24; Mt 19:5; Mk 10:8; Eph 5:31.
i. [6:17] Rom 8:9–10; 2 Cor 3:17.
k. [6:20] 3:23; 7:23; Acts 20:28 / Rom 12:1; Phil 1:20.