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1 Corinthians 6:1-3 “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?”
Paul is amazed that his brothers and sisters in Christ are suing one another before worldly tribunals. His first response is not to give them a lesson in the first principle that forbids us from going to law to settle our differences with anyone never mind with brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather he brings them back to that most fundamental of all first principles, the one which must be the foundation of all our actions in this world, the Kingdom of God. Peter does this too, in 2 Peter 3:10-14 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless
That’s the proper perspective on the things of this life: What manner of person ought you to be? We need to spend time wrestling with that question. We need to come to grips with the kind of person our Father wants us to become and, with His help and by His grace, to strive with all our might to become that person.
Scripture has wonderful examples of those who struggled to become citizens of the kingdom of God during their mortal probation. Hebrews 11 is an honour-roll of those who had this perspective.
Hebrews 11:13,14,16 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
These faithful brothers and sisters saw themselves as citizens of the Kingdom. It was their identity – who they were. They lived their lives by that vision.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul brings his readers up short by dealing with their wrong litigious behaviour in the context of their faith in the Kingdom of God. It is instructive that, in Acts 8:12 and 28:23,31, the definition of the Gospel is boiled down to two elements: The things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. Of these two, the Kingdom is listed first. All of our first principles flow from these two elements.
What is a first principle? It is a clear-cut Bible teaching that impacts our behaviour. There is a danger that we can view these principles as static items in a laundry list of beliefs. They are not. Our belief in the things of the Kingdom must inform everything we do while we live in the “Kingdom of this world.”
So Paul says in 1 Cor. 6 “do you not know….” Know = eido means to “see” or “understand” or more colloquially he is saying, “Don’t you get it?” The saints shall “judge” the world. The word “judge” is “krino” which means to decide between and has an administrative connotation rather than the sense of passing a sentence. The word is used by the Lord in Luke 22:29, 30 "But you are those who have continued with me in my trials and I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
Any condemnatory judgement is in the Lord’s sphere of activity both now and in the Kingdom. This is a principle we would do well to remember when we harbour harsh thoughts about a brother or sister. John 5:22, 27 “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;” “And hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of man” The word for judgement here is “krisis” and it carries the connotation of divine condemnation – the carrying out of a sentence. Although this kind of final judgement belongs to Christ alone, judgement in the sense of day to day administration in the Kingdom as it is now in the realm of the Ecclesia will be delegated to us, including the administration of subordinate angels.
Hebrews 2:5-10 “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. 6But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? 7You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. 8You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
By our heavenly Father’s good grace, we will be among those many children whom he will “bring to glory” and with whom he will share his gracious rule throughout the earth. May we be among those who sing the “new song” to our redeemer as recorded in Revelation 5:9, 10
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Or Daniel 7:27 Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’
What a glorious hope we have and what responsibility has been entrusted to us! Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are preparing themselves in this life for great and glorious responsibilities in the Kingdom age. “What?” says Paul, “You can’t even decide on trivial matters to the point where you resort to worldly arbitration to settle your differences?”
They would have been better off appointing the least respected member of the church to solve their problems than to have exposed their incompetence to the world.
He continues, “Do you mean to say that your whole community is so lacking in wisdom that you can’t find someone among you to sort through these mundane and, in the end, trivial issues? Not even one? Shame on you! And you expect to be given administrative authority over angels?” says Paul.
That puts things in real perspective. We are being prepared for a role of such authority and responsibility that we can only dimly begin to comprehend.
Hebrews 1:14 “Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
This verse has a present application but it will be especially fulfilled in the Kingdom. We will know these angels by name. We will consult with them; assign them tasks; seek their counsel and share a deep and eternal friendship with them. This is what awaits us! This is what we are being prepared for! How can we allow ourselves to become entangled in the wickedness of a world our Father has devoted to destruction?
It is only when we allow the hope of the Kingdom to move from the pages of our Bibles to the deepest recesses of our hearts that we will be able to live our life in Christ the way we have been called to live it!
If the apostle Paul were to assess our conduct as he did that of the Corinthians, what would he say to us? Would he utter words of approval or would he start off his conversation with the same words spoken to the Corinthians? “What?? Don’t you know that you are being groomed to administer the world? Don’t you understand that one day you will manage angels? Yet you refuse to manage your own mortal life by the principles of God’s kingdom? How do you expect to be able to exercise those principles in the future if you won’t conform to them now?”
That’s the question we all need to ponder as we meditate on the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who so fully exemplified the principles of the Kingdom in his mortal life that he could say of himself to his enemies, “The kingdom of God is among you.”
For the Lord Jesus Christ, the “first principle” of the Kingdom of God was not just an idea, an article of belief; it was a way of life. So must it be for us for as the apostle John says, “because as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)
I hope you have found this helpful.