#13 Higher Ground

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(A Sermon Series on I Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 6/14/98        I Corinthians 6:1-8

PROPOSITION:  In dealing with comparatively trivial disputes within the family of God, Paul calls the saints of Corinth to the higher ground of the church’s exalted ministry, its exalted mission and its exalted model.

I. introduction

-     THE apostle Paul spends a lot of time in his first epistle to the Corinthians dealing with relationships between believers inside the church in Corinth.

-     IN fact, a great deal of the content of the epistles in the New Testament have to do with our relationships within the church of Jesus.

-     THIS is because your salvation and your life of faith is not something lived out in isolation....just Jesus and you.

-     YOU are saved to be an interactive part of the community of faith.

-     GOD lives in community.

*     God the Father loves the Son.

*     God the Father speaks to the Son.

*     Jesus loves God the Father.

*     Jesus listens to the voice of the Father and does what He hears His Father saying.

*     The Holy Spirit communes with the Father and reveals to us what is on the heart of the Father.

*     Jesus intercedes for us before the Father.

*     The Holy Spirit also interceded before the Father on our behalf.

-     GOD is community!

-     YOU and I are born again so that we can escape sin, guilt and the judgment of God.

-     BUT we are born again also to share in the community of God.

      “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus...” (Ephesians 2:6)

-     THE Christian life is a calling to live on higher ground.

-     BUT it is not just the community of God in heavenly places that we are called in to.

-     WHEN we are born again, we are also saved into community with God’s people here on earth.

      “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free...” (I Corinthians 12:13)

-     YOUR Christian life is not some spiritual experience lived out in isolation. Your Christian life involves every other believer with whom you are in fellowship.

-     THIS is a package deal.

-     WE belong to God now and to each other (I Corinthians 12).

-     AND the life that we live together as the Body of Christ  is a witness to the world of the reality of God and the power of the Gospel.

      “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

-     IT is also a foretaste, a promise, visible in this life, of the community that exists within the Godhead...and that we will all enjoy someday soon with Him.

-     SO, compared to the quality of life lived by citizens of this world, the quality of life in the church of Jesus is to be higher ground.

-     LORD lift us up and make us stand...on higher ground.

-     NOW the believers in the church in Corinth were having a little trouble living on higher ground.

-     TURN with me to I Corinthians 6 (pg. 1131)

-     INSTEAD of living in harmony and peace, the believers in Corinth were fighting and disputing over what verse 3 calls the “things of this life.”

-     HOW many of you know that disputes happen when you have more than one person in a fellowship?

-     AND some folks are more prone to disputing than others. Which must be why Paul wrote,

      “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

-     THE Corinthians loved a good fight.

-     IN fact, trials of law were a major form of entertainment in Greek culture.

-     IN Corinth, if you had a dispute with another citizen of the city....

*     The first option open to you was to use an arbiter. Your opponent picked an arbiter, and then both of you would agree on a third. Then the dispute would be arbitrated between you.

*     If that didn’t work, then “The Forty” was used. “The Forty” was a trial conducted before all citizens over the age of 60 years in public arbitration.

*     If that didn’t work, then a jury trial was held.

•     If the dispute was for $100 or less, a jury of citizens would be called to hear the case....of 201 citizens over the age of 30.

•     If the dispute was for over $100, a jury of 401 would be called to hear the case.

•     Some juries had up to 6,000 jurors.

-     SO, you can see that civil disputes and litigation were a huge part of Corinth’s culture.

-     IT was the way of the world.

-     IT had crept into the life of the church there.

-     PAUL can’t believe what he has been told about how the Corinthian believers have been handling their disputes.

-     THEY had been taking each other to court....possibly over property, financial or business matters.

-     SO, Paul writes the believers in Corinth in I Corinthians 6:1 and says,

      “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?” (I Corinthians 6:1)

-     HE is incredulous that this kind of public spectacle is going on between believers...and in the next few verses he calls them to higher ground.

-     GIVEN the Greek judicial system, these disputes were being handled, depending on the amounts involved, before hundreds, possibly thousands of the unbelieving citizens of Corinth.

ii. Higher ministry

-     FIRST he reminds them that they have a higher ministry.

-     READ verses 2 and 3 with me please.

      “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? (3) Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” (I Corinthians 6:2-3)

-     IT is so easy for us to get drawn into thinking like the world thinks.

*     Trivial things are made into huge deals....because that is how the world views them.

•     Trivial compared to God and His kingdom.

•     Trivial compared to eternal life.

•     Trivial compared to eternal fellowship.

*     The things of this life are given a place of eternal importance.....because that is how the world views them.

•     Houses, cars, clothes, position.

-     AND before we know it we are flailing away at each other in disputes over things that seem so important to us at the time....but are actually trivial and only of this life.

-     AND because these trivial things have become so important to us, we are willing to take disputes over them to the courts before an unbelieving world.

-     AND Paul cries out to them.....you have a higher ministry than that. You are the saints of God who will...

*     ...judge the world.

      “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

*     ...judge angels.

      “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home-- these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” (Jude 6)

-     WE have been called to a higher ministry....that is being prepared for those who believe.

-     WE have been called to reign and rule with Christ in His kingdom.

-     AND in a measure we are living in that kingdom now.

-     SO, with so high a ministry calling, what are we doing disputing with one another, and taking each other to court before the ungodly.

-     IF we have been called to reign and rule with Christ, why would we stoop to taking disputes over trivial matters before the world?

-     WE are called to a higher ministry than that.

iii. higher mission

-     NEXT Paul moves to our higher mission.

-     VERSES 4-6,

      “Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! (5) I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? (6) But instead, one brother goes to law against another-- and this in front of unbelievers!” (I Corinthians 6:4-6)

-     THE key phrase is in verse 6,

      “...in front of unbelievers.

-     WHAT is the church’s mission to the unbelievers?

-     IN Matthew 5:13 Jesus said,

      “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. (14) You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

-     WHAT is the mission of the church to unbelievers?

-     IN John 13:35 Jesus said,

      “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

-     INSTEAD the Corinthian believers were carrying their disputes before hundreds of the unbelieving citizens of the city.

-     PAUL calls the church to a higher mission.

-     HE says that one of the least of them ought to be able to arbitrate their disputes instead of taking it before the world.

iv. higher model

-     THEN, lastly, Paul reminds them of their higher role model.....Jesus.

-     VERSES 7-8,

      “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? (8) Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.” (I Corinthians 6:7-8)

-     THERE is a higher way to live than demanding you have what is rightfully yours....and it is the way that Jesus taught us.

-     IN Matthew 5:39-42, Jesus said,

      “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.(40) And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (41) If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (42) Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:39-42)

-     PETER writes about Jesus,

      “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” ( I Peter 2:23)

-     THE church in Corinth was doubly defeated because there were those demanding their rights...and there were others cheating and wronging their brothers.

-     PAUL calls them to a higher role model.....Jesus.

v. conclusion

-     THERE is a higher way for us to live.

-     IN fact, since we have the life of Christ within us, we have no option but to live on higher ground.

-     IN II Corinthians 3:18 Paul writes,

      “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

-     HOW about it saints?

-     ARE there any of you with disputes between you and other brothers or sisters in Christ?

-     PAUL calls you to....

*     Higher ministry....you are called to reign and rule with Him some day.

*     Higher mission....you are called to be a witness to the world of His grace.

*     Higher model....Jesus is our goal.

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