Let us look further at this third problem in the church that Paul discusses in chapter 6. Apparently, Christians in Corinth were taking each other to court. We have to be careful not to get the idea that somehow the courts are utterly illegitimate, because they are not. All you have to do is read the Bible to discover the contrary.
I want to say something about the role of the state because although Paul does not develop it here in 1 Corinthians 6, considering another context will give us a more complete picture of this issue. What is the role of the state? Does the state have legitimate authority over the lives of Christians?
Everyone knows the difference between a person who speaks out of a vast and accurate knowledge of his subject and one who merely repeats what he has heard from others. The one is the voice of authority; the other is the voice of a parrot. The first is the sound of the fountain bubbling forth freshly from the ground; the second is the empty sound of the cistern.
Christ’s most startling revelation was Himself. As early as the Beatitudes, in His words about persecution, Jesus assumed that the persecution His hearers would experience would be persecution “for His sake,” not for His teaching’s sake but because of their relationship to Him. In the next section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus set Himself up as the authoritative expounder of the law. He repeatedly said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, Thou shalt do so and so. But I say unto you…” thereby placing Himself above the rabbis and scribes and doing so without the slightest apology, reserve, or qualification.
But Jesus did not only speak with authority. He also acted with authority. And thus, His works serve to substantiate His claims. What were His works? By the time of the preaching of this Sermon, according to Matthew (4:23-25), Jesus had already healed various types of sickness among the people and had cast out demons. They were yet to see lepers cured, the eyes of the blind opened, the dead raised to life, the storms stilled, water turned to wine, thousands fed from just a few shreds of lunch, and heaven opened. These works were meant to accredit Him by revealing the source of His teaching. We cannot study them candidly without coming to the conclusion reached by Nicodemus: “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2).
The final and in many ways the conclusive bulwark of the authority of Jesus Christ is His resurrection from the dead. At the time of the preaching of this Sermon, of course, Jesus had not yet died, let alone been raised from the dead. But we remember that He was ending His Sermon with an encouragement for His hearers to keep on as His disciples until they came to that point. And, whatever the case may have been for them, for us the resurrection is paramount. Did Jesus rise from the dead? If He did, then His authority is established. His teaching is established. His deity is established. And Christianity rests upon an impregnable foundation.
What is the most important message of this Sermon? Certainly, it is the person of Jesus of Nazareth Himself, the Son of God, who spoke as no man had ever spoken before or since, who lived as He preached, and who then died and rose again that He might offer us a full and perfect salvation. Do you believe that? Have you committed your life to His care?
Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
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