1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
The church of Corinth was thinking like the world (1 Corinthians 1:11-2:16). The members had allowed the world's leaven, the old, unconverted lifestyle, to leaven their lump, when God wanted them to be a new lump (1 Corinthians 5:6-7). They were operating in various worldly ways that reflected their former way of doing things.
Greek culture was litigation mad, much like the United States today. Everyone was his own lawyer. Rich tradition in Greek logic and rhetoric is due their responsibility to argue for themselves in court. Their whole society was built upon arbitration of disputes before various assemblies. The converted Corinthian church was no longer to continue this practice.
Paul makes strong statements about it in chapter 6. He starts with "How dare you?" and later in v. 5, he continues with "Shame on you!" He's clear that he doesn't want church members to take other church members to secular court. Why? His first overall reason in vv. 1-6 is because of the authority of the church itself. If you read vv. 2-4, you see that he asks rhetorical questions to make the point, and in so doing he reveals God's evaluation of the authority of a New Testament church. Our evaluation of the authority of a church, an assembly, should be the same as God's. Are we more wise than God in our evaluation? (see vv. 5-6) Of course not.
The rhetorical questions of Paul in those three verses (2-4) offer four separate arguments. First, God will have saints judge the world later because God sees saints as having greater judging ability and capacity than the secular world (v. 2a). Second, God will have saints later judging even greater matters than the ones that churches are dealing with now that God wants them to judge, so they are certainly able, in God's eyes, to judge the lesser matters now (v. 2b). Third, God will even have saved people to judge angels, who are superior beings to people, so if these saved people can judge angels, they can judge these church matters (v. 3). Fourth, God considers even the least esteemed church members can judge matters pertaining to this present life in comparison to their future responsibilities in the whole world (v. 4).
These four arguments are devastating on the overall point Paul (on behalf of God) is making. The typical contention against church judgment relates to disrespect of the individual church. Paul is saying that even the least esteemed in a church, the least respected, and we are talking here about the Corinthian church, can make a better decision than the world. Why do you think? Because a church will rely on the Bible, God's Word, for decisions. Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God Himself.
We can see in the verses that this is the judgment in a church between church members, solving a dispute, even a legal one, between church members. In v. 4, he says "the least esteemed in the church." Members of a church are who he is talking about. God respects the least esteemed members of the church of Corinth to make a better decision in matters than the secular world.
Let's say that, even though God says what He says here, it is actually true that those least esteemed members couldn't make a better decision than the world, because the world has been trained in law and with advanced degrees and with a lot of respect from the world. Should we go ahead and go outside of the church into the world? V. 4 is a command, an imperative---"set them to judge." God wants church members to sit in judgment over church members. He commands it. He doesn't want the perceived quality of the judges in the church to stop the church from doing this. This is a matter of trusting God, trusting God's authority.
God respects the judgment of a church. He evaluates it higher than the world. I've been writing about this recently here at What Is Truth. The biggest argument against accepting the discipline of an individual church, according to opponents of what I wrote, was that we can't respect the judgment of an individual church. The only scriptural exegesis given for this, the only Bible referred to as a basis for disrespecting a church, was the example of the trumped up witnesses of Jezebel in the case of Naboth in 1 Kings 21. This man (who goes by the anonymous handle of "Anvil") said that we can't accept the judgment of a church because a church could have false witnesses against a disciplined member, like that in the case of Naboth with Ahab and Jezebel. Later I'm going to show how that this example is really the point for leaving it in the hands of believers in the church. It is a bogus argument, a total twisting of the Bible to overturn what we see is a biblical mandate in 1 Corinthians 6.
How can we know which church could get a judgment right, so should be trusted? Paul is speaking to the church at Corinth, which most would say was a "bad church" at the time, certainly not the best with all its problems. But God wants trust in this church's judgment. The one criteria seems to be that the members were saints, that they were true worshipers of God, that they had believed a true gospel. What is dismissed here are the other problems. When I talked about this before, a few opponents intimated that the judgment of our church should be rejected because we used the King James Version and that the women of our church wore clothing with designed gender distinction. Our church does not add those two items to the gospel. We don't believe that in order to be saved, one must use the KJV and have these kinds of dress standards. But that is irrelevant anyway. The question should be, "Are the people in the church saved?" Do they demonstrate Christian testimony of salvation? I wouldn't question the authority of a church, unless I believed that church taught a false gospel, so that there weren't saints to do judgment in that church. That is the case with some churches, so I think it is a legitimate concern, but it isn't one with our church, unless someone could demonstrate that. I, for one, would be happy to hear how it is that we preach a false gospel, if that were the case. We are very careful in our soteriology.
If a church is truly a church of saints, with a regenerate membership, its authority should be trusted by other churches. God trusts it. God demands it. How dare you not trust church authority? Shame on you if you don't trust authority. And I mean the opposition to our church when I say that. Shame on you!
That lack of a trust in a church, which is required by scripture, I see as coming out of fundamentalist and evangelical politics. Fundamentalist and evangelicalism are willing to disrespect the church discipline, the judgment of an individual church of regenerate members, for sheer political reasons that relate to a larger, unscriptural group think. Jesus loves His church. These outside factions do not love the church. They love their own opinions, which contradict the Bible. They truly think of themselves more highly than they ought to think.
Let God be true and every man a liar.
Addendum on 1 Kings 21 and the Witnesses for Jezebel
1 Kings 21 represents two world views, a biblical world view and a secular world view. The biblical view of the world comes from Naboth and Elijah. The secular one comes from Jezebel, her sycophantic supporters, and her compliant husband, Ahab.
Ahab wanted Naboth's land. Naboth would not give it up because (vv. 2-3) God's law would not allow it. It was not his inheritance to give away, based on laws in Numbers and Deuteronomy. He said (v. 2), "The LORD forbid it me." God wouldn't let him make the deal with Ahab.
Of course, Ahab does not take the correction of God's Word very well. I find this with fundamentalists and evangelicals. They love their opinions so much that they think you're being "mean" when you point out what the Bible says about their views. He went home and sulked. Jezebel noticed and she asked him what the problem was.
Jezebel didn't see kings as "under the law" as the Bible taught. Deuteronomy 17 says that the Israelite king needed to write out by hand his own copy of the law. He was to rule under the law of God and he was to subject himself to those laws. That is foundational to Judeo-Christian ethics. Jezebel, a pagan, a secularist, saw kings in her tradition as just taking what they wanted. They didn't have to ask. They didn't have to sell. So she brought her Phoenecian world view into this matter.
She forged signatures and recruited trumped up witnesses in order to testify against Naboth, and they killed Naboth and, we know from later, also his sons. Ahab took what he wanted with Jezebel's guidance. The secular, pagan view of the world was that king's were not under the law. Ahab could take the property of Naboth without repercussions. Of course, this act led to the death of Naboth and all his sons, so it wasn't true. God's law was still operating, which is a major them in 1 Kings itself if you work your way through there.
Enter our opponent, Anvil, from the comment section. He doesn't respect the authority of our church because our witnesses could be the very type that Jezebel, the pagan queen, recruited to offer her talking points. Unsaved witnesses. Not saints. Offering secular judgment. Of course, in this picture, I am Jezebel. And our church are these two witnesses. This is Anvil's view of our church. And this is a view that is supported by a chunk of fundamentalism. They accede to this view in order to operate how they want, for their own convenience. We are railroading a church member out of the church with trumped up charges for what reason? The analogy doesn't work very well here, but who cares? We needed to take something from him? We needed something he had? We wanted to get rid of him? Actually no to all that. It doesn't work in any way in parallel with what Jezebel did. We just wanted to obey 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 and 1 Timothy 5:8, among other places. And God tells our church to make those types of judgments as saints who will some day judge the world and angels, even the least of our members should be able to judge.
How dare you?!? Shame on you who view the regenerate membership of a church like the secular, pagan view of the world! Woe unto you who call good evil and evil good!