Question: What is the meaning of I Corinthians 6:1-3? Especially deal with Paul’s statement, “The saints shall judge the world.” How much territory does this cover, and what does it not cover?
Answer: I Corinthians 6:1-3 reads, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”
The apostle here is giving out a strong reproof against the saints at Corinth for going to law one against another in the common courts of the land before the unbelieving (heathen) judges and putting on display their strife and disagreements before the world, whereas they should be showing to the outside world the picture of love, mercy, long-suffering and forbearance, charity and unity. He calls this a shameful thing, and surely it is a shameful thing and a reproach to the Christian profession. He argues that all their disagreements and differences should be tried before a select group of saints or even one who would have divine wisdom and be able to judge between his brethren. This is still good advice for saints today. We should never carry our affairs of any nature before the outside world to judge. A person who would not submit to the judgment of qualified Spirit-filled men of God would be wrong at heart even before he filed a case in court. Of course, it is a different matter if a saint is drawn into court by someone of the outside world through circumstances over which he has no control and should not be condemned by other saints for being in such a case unless he has given some occasion for it. If he has given such occasion or been at fault in the matter, then he would strive by all means available to him to correct his fault and settle the matter before it gets into court.
In verse 3 it says, “…We shall judge angels.” Apparently the apostle here is referring to himself and his brother ministers in this case and not the saints in general as in verse 2. I have not had any very good explanation or understanding on this statement. However, Adam Clarke says that “Angels” here is generally believed by Bible scholars and commentators to refer to devils. This interpretation has a foundation in the Scriptures in II Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Also in Revelation 12:7 of the dragon (Paganism; heathenism) which is also called the Devil and Satan (that great opposer of the truth, the gospel of Christ, and believers in Him) and his angels. This text makes it clear that Satan has angles the same as God. Adam Clarke further says that it was through the preaching of the gospel by Paul and his brother ministers (Holy Spirit-filled men) that these satanic angels (false apostles and prophets that spoke contrary to the truth) and also evil spirits of all kinds were exposed and judged and cast out. Thus “we” (the Holy Spirit-filled ministers of Christ) judge angels (the evil spirits and agents of Satan). I have followed Adam Clarke at this place and have no better explanation that I can give at this time.
Now, in I Corinthians 6:2 it says, “…The saints shall judge the world.” This is where the special emphasis is in the question. Again Adam Clarke says that, “the world” is a term in the Scriptures which generally refers to the Roman Empire or sometimes to the Jewish State. But in my discussion here I prefer to extend it beyond those borders to the whole wide world, even though in its direct meaning it may refer to a more restricted area. This is because I see it applying to our times also and in about the same way. In other words, the same Scriptures would apply in either case.
All will agree, no doubt, that the preaching of the gospel under Holy Spirit anointing and power is a judgment against all sin and unrighteousness. In Romans 1:16 Paul says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. In verse 17 it says that in the gospel is revealed the righteousness of God, and in verse 18 he says that in the gospel is revealed the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The judgments of God through His Word liberates and saves all who will accept His judgments. They also condemn all who refuse to accept them. I Peter 4:17 says “…The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God:…” Isaiah 1:27 says “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.” Isaiah 4:4 says Jerusalem shall be purged “…by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” Isaiah 9:7 says the kingdom of God shall be ordered and established with judgment forever. Isaiah 58:1 says, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” All these scriptures refer to the preaching of the gospel and its effects, and that the same judgments that will condemn and destroy some will liberate, establish, purge and save others. It all depends on our response and attitude toward it.
The 149th Psalm is a psalm about the saints and their joyful habitation and their position of holy power. They possess in their hand a two-edged sword (the Word of God Hebrews 4:12). “…To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all his saints.” This is exactly what they did when through the preaching of the gospel the works of the devil were exposed and the dragon bound and cast out. Devils were cast out of many by those whom Jesus sent out to preach and their successors after them. The kings and priests of the heathen world and pagan religions lost much of their influence with the people. It is also the same today where the pure Word of God is preached. He still honors His saints and confirms His word with signs following. In Isaiah 2:3, concerning the kingdom of God and its establishment, it says, “…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” This describes the Church of God in action, executing the judgment written, and in this sense the “saints judge the world.”
Psalm 1:5 says that sinners shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous. This introduces the thought that when sinners come into a congregation of the righteous where the saints are filled with the Holy Ghost and fire, and the Holy Spirit is anointing and reigning supremely, sinners and lukewarm professors are not able to stand there. They will be very uncomfortable and strongly convicted of their sins and lukewarmness. I Corinthians 14:24-25 says, “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” The results of a good, spiritual service is a judgment against all unrighteousness and a conviction of sinners. In this way also the saints judge the world.
Also, individually a person who is filled with the Spirit of God and manifesting a holy life will be a sharp rebuke and bring a conviction against the frivolous, foolish, and evil ways of the world when he is in the presence of worldly people. In this way also the saints shall judge the world.
John 5:22 says that the Father has committed ALL judgment unto the Son. Hence, the statement, “The saints shall judge the world” could not possibly refer to the saints participating in the general judgment on the last day. Jesus Christ Himself will be the one and only Judge on that day, and will judge all men including the saints. But the saints do stand in a very particular relation to this world and in a very unique relation with Christ and the Father. God has chosen to carry on His work and promulgate His gospel in the world through the Church, the body of Christ. The Bible says that the saints are “workers together with God” (I Corinthians 3:9 and II Corinthians 6:1), and Jesus commissioned His apostles and also their successors throughout this age of time to “Go…and teach all nations,…” Matthew 28:19 and again, “…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. Incidentally, here is the answer to that part of the question, “How much territory does this cover?” That is, the entire world, all nations, and every creature.
You may ask, but what does all this have to do with the saints judging the world? Simply this: The proclamation of the gospel of Christ is a judgment against sinful men, and Jesus is with those who go forth with it (Matthew 28:20) and works with them, confirming the Word with signs following (Mark 16:20). Jesus said in His commission in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Thus, a judgment (preliminary) is going on continually by the faithful giving forth of the pure gospel from the Church and its God-called, God-sent, God-qualified, Spirit-filled and anointed ministry.
In Matthew 18:15-18, where Jesus is giving step by step instructions on how to deal with an offending brother, the final step is to take the matter to the Church and let them judge; then He said in verse 18, “…Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This makes it clear that God works in and through the Church and backs up and confirms its judgments when done in the Name of Jesus through the divine anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote in II Corinthians 2:15-16, “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?” This makes it clear that those who go forth in Jesus’ name carrying on the work of God are a sweet savor unto God regardless of the people’s response to the gospel. It also makes it clear that the results are entirely in the people’s hands as to how they respond and react to the gospel. Then the very solemn question: “Who is sufficient for these things?” Obviously the answer is, “Only those who are living victoriously and triumphantly.” They only will be sufficient to execute judgment against sin of all kinds. II Corinthians 10:6 says, “And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, WHEN your obedience is fulfilled.” In some instances judgment against evil is rendered ineffective when people who are not fulfilling these requirements get into it and endeavor to execute judgment. This only complicates things for those who are qualified and endeavoring to work out a problem.
Now let us look in upon a church (a congregation of saints) who is up to this standard and fulfilling these requirements and see how it works. If all the saints are on fire for God and full of zeal and fervency of spirit, and a lukewarm professor comes in among them, he will soon recognize that he does not fit in that atmosphere and become convicted of his need. If all the saints are manifesting an attitude of mutual concern for one another’s welfare, bearing one another’s burdens, and showing a disposition to help and encourage one another, and a self-loving, self-centered person comes in among them, it will be the same. If all the saints are joyful, happy and cheerful and manifesting a positive outlook on life; and some person who is glum and down in the dumps and with a sour disposition toward the world and everybody in it comes in, he will soon recognize that all that negativism does not fit in this positive crowd and will become convicted. If all the saints are full of expressions of appreciation for one another and for God and His blessings, and a habitual, chronic critic comes in among them, he will soon recognize that his criticism does not fit in that atmosphere and will be put to silence. If a covetous person comes in among a generous, liberal, free-hearted, big-hearted bunch of saints, it is not likely he will feel very comfortable and snug among them. In these ways and many more “The saints judge the world” by their outflow of godliness and manifestation of abundance of grace on every line.
In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Note: He said the preaching of the gospel was FOR A WITNESS. In Isaiah 43:10 and 12 God says to the Church, “Ye are my witnesses,…” God will surely execute judgment upon all sin and all sinners; but He must be justified when He speaketh, and be clear when He judgest Psalm 51:4. Therefore He wants His truth preached unto the glorious end of time as a witness even though it may prove a savor of death to everybody. He also wants the gospel lived and practiced by the Church as a witness unto the world. Therefore, He could clearly state to the condemned when pronouncing judgment upon them, “Here are my prophets who preached My gospel unto you and preached unto you the way of salvation and you rejected and refused them and would none of their reproof; and here are My saints who lived and practiced the principles of My truth right among you to show you the way; you made light of them, persecuted them and they were down-graded among you; and now you can only go your way to your own place.” Of course, all of this speech will not be necessary and will not be said. Just seeing the saints whom they knew in this world, who manifested unto them the Spirit of Christ, the glorious life of the gospel, its standards of truth and holy living and let their light shine unto them, will be sufficient to condemn them in their own conscience and cause them to go away. In this very real sense, “The saints will judge the world.”