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1 Corinthians 6:7–8

“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!”

Continuing our study of 1 Corinthians 6, we must be clear on what Paul is not saying when he addresses the problem of believers’ going to secular authorities to settle disputes. We have seen that the Apostle is not talking about serious disputes that involve criminal activity. However, let us also note that Paul does not deny that believers have rights even in minor matters. After all, in 1 Corinthians 6:8, he criticizes believers for wronging and defrauding one another in Corinth even after telling them in verse 7 that they should endure being wronged and being defrauded. Paul can criticize believers for wronging and defrauding each other in minor ways only by assuming that wronged parties have been sinned against, that they have certain rights granted by God that others have infringed. Indeed, this must be so. The Bible is full of legal directives and principles for dealing with personal wrongs. This makes sense only if human beings have actual rights from the Creator.

What, then, are we to make of the fact that Paul assumes human beings have rights that can be unlawfully violated and yet also that he says believers should not go to the secular courts every time this happens? The answer is that our having certain rights does not necessarily mean we should always demand our rights. Consider Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 5:38–42 that we turn the other cheek. In that text, our Lord is talking about not repaying verbal insults in kind. Unlawfully insulting other people is a sin and an assault on them and on the right to dignity they possess because they bear God’s image (see James 3:1–12). However, when we face trivial insults, we should surrender our right of retaliation and endure being wronged.

Certainly, Paul’s admonition that we allow ourselves to suffer wrong is no license for others to wrong us or for us to wrong others. Paul will make that clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11. Still, when others wrong or defraud us in the church, our default inclination should be to suffer the wrong without seeking redress from the civil authorities except in particularly serious circumstances. In doing this, we imitate God. Our sins against Him are always serious—instances of cosmic treason, as Dr. R.C. Sproul frequently reminded us. Yet, the Lord does not take advantage of His right to destroy us every time we sin; rather, He shows us grace, having chosen to bear that sin in Christ (1 Peter 2:24–25). If the Lord could do that when He was seriously wronged, surely we can endure the minor offenses others commit against us.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry writes: “It is utterly a fault to wrong and defraud any; but it is an aggravation of this fault to defraud our Christian brethren. The ties of mutual love ought to be stronger between them than between others.” Some professing believers take advantage of other Christians because they assume that they will be forgiven. Let us not commit that error but deal honestly with all fellow believers in Jesus.

For Further Study
  • 1 Samuel 12
  • Proverbs 12:17
  • Zephaniah 1:9
  • Luke 19:1–10

Settling Disputes Among Believers

Inheriting the Kingdom of God

Keep Reading The Christian Ethic

From the March 2021 Issue
Mar 2021 Issue