Brethren Suing Brethren


      The church at Corinth had many problems. Paul had learned of the problems at Corinth from several sources (Chloe, 1: 11, church itself, 7: 1, and others). Paul immediately issued relevant teaching which was designed to correct the irregularities. Paul specifically and cogently addressed the sin of division (chs. 1, 2), the sanctioning of fornication and their failure to withdraw (ch. 5), many marital situations and questions (ch. 7), flagrant disregard one for another (chs. 8, 10), improper attitude toward the support of preachers (ch. 9), the abuse of the occasion of the Lord's Supper (ch. 11), headship (ch. 11), and the proper exercise of spiritual gifts (chs. 12, 14). In chapter fifteen Paul challenges and exposes the false teachers who taught "there is no resurrection of the dead" (15: 12).

     Among the many problems at Corinth there was also another equally degrading and spiritually threatening problem - brethren suing brethren before civil magistrates (ch. 6). Paul unequivocally states such action is wrong (vss. 1, 5, 7). He said, "…there is utterly a fault among you…" (vs. 7). We are in a litigious society today. More and more brethren are found suing brethren. It appears many have forgotten Paul's teaching on this subject and reprimand for engaging in such sinful action.

     Paul points out that brethren should take care of their own problems. Hear him, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" (vs. 1). Paul chides them, "I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?" (vs. 5). God has made provision for believed infractions among brethren (Matt. 18: 15-17). Not only is it wrong to parade "church problems" before the unbelieving civil magistrates, but such judges are not equipped to handle spiritual problems (vss. 1, 5). There are issues which do involve civil magistrates. Legal issues such as land ownership, etc. are matters for the civil courts to address.

     The descriptive actions of the Corinthians. "But brother goeth to law with brother…," Paul writes (vs. 6). Again, "…because ye go to law one with another…" (vs. 7). They were dragging one another to the pagan counts for the hearing and sentencing of matters which they themselves should have been addressing. They were litigating for selfish reasons: "…why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (vs. 7). He continues, "Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren" (see "Brethren Suing Brethren" in the Quotations section, enter through the door on the home page and click on "Quotations," scroll down on the left side of the page).

     Rather than engage in their shameful actions, they should have suffered the wrong. Paul does not tell them they had no recourse (Matt. 18: 15-17), but rather than do as they were, "…why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (vs. 7.)

     Lawsuits have become common place today. We even hear increasingly of brethren suing brethren. There is a legitimate use of the civil counts, as acknowledged, but many seem to have forgotten Paul's teaching to the Corinthians. Paul is describing matters which brethren should have been capable of handling and rendering judgment. Also, keep in mind Paul is condemning the attempts to extract from others that to which they (the plaintiffs) had no moral claim.

     Lawsuits such those described in I Corinthians 6: 1-8 are sinful! All such litigation is meant in the statement, "know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" (vs. 9.)