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1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Study Guide: Why Not Rather Be Cheated?

Study Information:
How does a gospel shaped community handle disagreements, grudges and wrongs done to one another? Paul speaks to another specific problem in the Corinthian church, namely a person or a group of people who are taking other believers to court to settle disputes. You may wonder how this applies to you since you may not have gone to court or sued another Christian, but this is really about a much larger issue, namely how do Christians handle conflict in light of being a gospel shaped community. Note, Paul is not talking about criminal cases here, but rather a practice in the Greco-Roman world to seek legal suit to solve matters of conflict. For Christians to handle cases of abuse, embezzlement or sexual misconduct “in house” would be wrong and functionally saying that we do not believe Romans 13:3-4 and that God uses the authorities as agents for good and to seek justice. Rather, Paul is appealing for us to deal with sin against one another directly, pursue humility, forgiveness and restitution because of how Jesus made those things possible on our behalf. 
Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and take note how Paul uses the language of “judge” as well as language of identity like “saints” and “brothers/sisters”. 
How does Paul push them towards gospel based reconciliation? 
First, Paul reminds them that they are saints:
We first came across this shocking statement of identity in 1 Corinthians 1:2 where Paul declared that they are saints together. To be a saint is to be a follower of Jesus, they are synonymous terms because Jesus has purchased our sin through his substitutionary death and in process we have received his righteousness. Though we struggle with sin and may not feel “saintly” we are still set apart and seen as holy because of what God has done for his church in Christ. Paul uses this language of “saint” intentionally to recall to them who they are and how their conduct is not in step with what they ought to believe (1 Corinthians 6:1). 
As saints, this means they have resources to appropriately judge the world. This word “judge” has popped up many times between 1 Corinthians chapters 2-4 and is used to discern or evaluate (1 Corinthians 6:2). Paul is not speaking of us condemning the world because he already told the Corinthians not to do that just a few verses earlier (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Rather, he is saying “why are you appealing to outsiders who are not shaped by the gospel in this matter?” The irony is that they handled the sexual misconduct “in house” but were taking issues of conflict outside. We do not know the exact nature of this lawsuit but we can speculate that it had to do with either the situation descried in chapter 5, the case of incest and if that was the case then it appears that someone in the church wants to bring correction to this situation through the legal system which would bring shame to the church. However it could be a different case involving some sort of financial loss or fraud based on Paul’s statement that they should rather be cheated instead of going to the courts with another believer. 
Notice though that Paul does not stop at how believers ought to evaluates the world, they are also to judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Paul is giving us a hierarchy in terms of who is to rule and who is most shaped by the word and ways of God. It may surprise you that if you are in Christ you are higher than the angels. The angels look on this unfolding story of redemption and they serve as ministering spirits from God, but they are not partakers in redemption and reconciliation with God and they are not image bearers. 
These images are use to drive home the idea that if you are in Christ then how you handle conflict should be wiser and more gracious than how the world handles conflict. Instead of division, abandonment, gossip or malice the church should be a place where people confess sin, seek reconciliation and offer restitution, which is the making right of a loss of property or payment. This brings to mind someone like Zaccheaus from Luke 19 who desires to follow Jesus and yet as a chief tax collector he has taken part in fraud and financial misappropriation of other Jews. Zacchaeus responds to Jesus inviting himself over for dinner by being overcome by his own lostness and offering to pay back what he took four fold. That is restitution, and follower of Jesus, that is what the gospel of Jesus looks like to someone who realizes their need for the Lord. Worldly possessions become a tool for reconciliation and restitution rather than a thing to hold onto to our own detriment. 
Second, living as saints requires humility and remembering you’re part of a spiritual family. 
The Greco-Roman legal system seemed to be used to establish one’s honor and status, rather than determine criminal wrong doing. They were well known for corruption and favoring those in power or higher status (James 2:6). It was not a place where you could consistently trust in a fair process. That is why the church should resolve conflict as a spiritual family, as “brothers and sisters.”
Think about a time when you were a kid and you got into conflict with a sibling or a friend. Most times when this happen we want to appeal to our parent to present ourselves in the best possible light to try and gain higher favor, status or possessions. So you fight over the tv remote, appeal to the authority and receive a higher status namely the remote control. This is being played out in a more serious way in Corinth, but in Paul’s mind he still sees them as ultimately trivial. And they are going about it the wrong way, instead of appealing to a brother or sister in Christ or a mother or father in the faith they are appealing to people who do not know Jesus and lack spiritual wisdom to help them pursue true reconciliation (1 Corinthians 6:4-6). The worldly courts may solve your issues with financial loss and help to navigate when someone damaged your property, but if your conflict is with a brother or sister in Christ there is a deeper issue and that is reconciliation with them and true forgiveness and they cannot help you with that. 
You may not be tempted to take a brother or sister to court, but more likely you are tempted to ignore them or gossip about them or leave the church. Dealing with conflict in that way would be a Corinthian way of dealing with conflict rather than being shaped and formed by the gospel of Jesus. Christ calls us to seek peace and pursue it and to strive for reconciliation because he has sought out our peace and reconciliation with God. 
Throughout scripture God shows us the human heart and our true and real needs all over the place. When talking about christian community, Paul not only discusses our need for prayer and reading the scripture and living out obedience to God’s commands, but he also discusses how we will wrong each other and need to bear with one another in love and pursue forgiveness (Colossians 3:12-17). This is not easy and you may need to bring along another mature believer to help, but it is what God commands so that we not only resolve conflict but pursue reconciliation. 
Finally, understand that being cheated is not the worst case scenario:
The worst case scenario is not financial loss, being cheated or having to lay down our pride. This goes against most of what we feel as western Christians, but Paul is indicating that we should rather suffer loss than the worse case scenario which is to suffer disunity or disgrace to the gospel (1 Corinthians 6:7-8). He is saying that we can and should absorb the cost of being wronged because the things of the world are temporary and our relationship and reconciliation with other believers is more important and our ultimate relationship is secured with God in Christ. Christ endured wrongs done against him in order to win us to himself. Imagine a scenario where a significant financial loss takes place and instead of outdoing one another in the courts, two believers try to out do one another in sacrificial love and honor? It would testify to the gospel that even though it is difficult, our hope is not in things of this world or our status, but rather we seek to sacrifice to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. 
No one likes financial loss or humiliation, but rather than appealing to the wisdom of the worldly courts, pursue wisdom from spiritually mature people in the church and seek humility, forgiveness and restitution and if those things fail it would still be a better outcome to suffer loss than to turn to world to find restitution against a fellow Christian. 
So, why not rather be cheated?
Main idea:
Conflict in the church will happen, but rather than appealing to settling matters outside the church, in terms of non-criminal conflict, Paul would have us look to the wisdom of other brothers and sisters in Christ because their minds are formed and shaped by the things of God. Christ shows us in his life and death that reconciliation comes at a cost, but we are to pursue forgiveness and restitution with other followers of Jesus. 
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 
Discussion Questions:
Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8
What are some reasons for Paul’s use of family language and reminding the Corinthians that they are “saints?”
Many people are uncomfortable with conflict. What are some barriers we experience to seeking reconciliation, forgiveness and dealing with sin with other believers?
What reasons does Paul give in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 for why believers should be able to handle conflict better than the world? 
How does Jesus show us the principle of “why not rather be cheated?”
What are some steps you can take to resolve conflict with another believer when you have seemed to hit a roadblock?