Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians;
A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – August 30, 2022 – 1st Corinthians 5.9-6.11 Session 17 – Homily 16
Prayer before reading of the Holy Scriptures: Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things which are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, always now and forever and to the ages of ages.
- It would be impossible to avoid all sinners in the world even if we wanted to – SJC For that they might not think that he charged not this upon them as being rather imperfect, and should attempt to do it under the erroneous impression that they were perfect, he shows that this were even impossible to be done, though they wished it ever so much. For it would be necessary to seek another world.
- St Paul considers context when writing to one church or another. Each community has its unique context. SJC For the fault in this case and in that was not the same, but in the Thessalonians it was less. For there he is reproving indolence; but here fornication and other most grievous sins.
- Different people receive different punishment for different goals – SJC On which account one might reasonably question, why in that case he conceded that the sinner should be severely punished and stoned, but in the present instance not so; rather he leads him to repentance. Why then were the lines drawn in the former instance one way and in the latter another? For these two causes: one, because these were led into a greater trial and needed greater long-suffering; the other and truer one, because these by their impunity were more easily to be corrected, coming as they might to repentance; but the others were likely to go on to greater wickedness.
- The world has no authority to judge the Church – SJC For the present he thoroughly sifts the former subject, namely, that they should not submit matters to external arbitration. For, says he, how can it be otherwise than absurd that one who is at variance (μικροψυχοῦτα) with his friend should take his enemy to be a reconciler between them? And how can you avoid feeling shame and blushing when a Greek sits to judge a Christian? And if about private matters it is not right to go to law before Greeks, how shall we submit to their decisions about other things of greater importance?
- The Church shall judge the world by our faithfulness – SJC How then can you who art in your day to judge them, endure to be judged by them now? They will not indeed judge, taking their seat in person and demanding account, yet they shall condemn. This at least he plainly said; And if the world is judged in you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? He says not by you, but in you: just as when He said, Matthew 12:42 The queen of the south shall rise up and condemn this generation: and, The men of Nineveh shall arise and condemn this generation. For when beholding the same sun and sharing all the same things, we shall be found believers but they unbelievers, they will not be able to take refuge in ignorance. For we shall accuse them, simply by the things which we have done.
- It is better to be judged by inferior judges than by those outside the Church to avoid airing our ‘dirty laundry’ for the world to see – SJC Even though there were not a single wise man, the hearing ought to have been left to you who are unwise rather than that those without should judge. For what else can it be than absurd, that whereas on a quarrel arising in a house we call in no one from without and feel ashamed if news get abroad among strangers of what is going on within doors; where the Church is, the treasure of the unutterable Mysteries, there all things should be published without?
- The sin is multiplied by revenge, sin, outsider judges, and brother vs brother – SJC Again, it is a twofold crime, perhaps even threefold or fourfold. One, not to know how to bear being wronged. Another, actually to do wrong. A third, to commit the settlement of these matters even unto the unjust. And yet a fourth, that it should be so done to a brother. For men’s offenses are not judged by the same rule, when they are committed against any chance person, and towards one’s own member.
- All sin is lumped together as bad. Sin is sin – SJC For as when discoursing about the unclean he made mention of all together; so again, on mentioning the covetous he brings forward all, thus making his rebukes familiar to those who have such things on their conscience. For the continual mention of the punishment laid up for others makes the reproof easy to be received, when it comes into conflict with our own sins.
- God WILL judge – SJC Be not deceived. Here he glances at certain who maintain (what indeed most men assert now) that God being good and kind to man, takes not vengeance upon our misdeeds: Let us not then be afraid. For never will he exact justice of any one for anything. And it is on account of these that he says, Be not deceived. For it belongs to the extreme of error and delusion, after depending on good to meet with the contrary; and to surmise such things about God as even in man no one would think of.
- Since God has cleansed us, we should do better – SJC Knowing therefore these things, beloved, and bearing in mind the greatness of the blessing which has been wrought, let us both continue to live soberly, being pure from all things that have been enumerated; and let us avoid the tribunals which are in the forums of the Gentiles; and the noble birth which God has freely given us, the same let us preserve to the end.
- Secular law is for the lawless, not the faithful – SJC For if you choose to see how far you should keep from this sort of need, I mean that of the tribunals, by rule of the Scripture, and to learn for whom the laws are appointed, hear what Paul says; 1 Timothy 1:9 For a righteous man law is not made, but for the lawless, and unruly. And if he says these things about the Mosaic Law, much more about the laws of the heathen.
LIFE APPLICATION: Don’t Fight Back!
- We overcome injustice when we don’t fight back – SJC But if you endure the injustice, you overcome; deprived indeed of the money, but not at all of the victory which is annexed to such self-command.
- God would not ask us to endure suffering if it was wrong – SJC Had it been an evil thing to suffer wrong, God would not have enjoined it upon us: for God enjoins not evil things. What, know ye not that He is the God of Glory? That it could not be His will to encompass us with shame and ridicule and loss, but to introduce (προξενῆσαι) us to the contrary of these? Therefore He commands us to suffer wrong, and does all to withdraw us from worldly things, and to convince us what is glory, and what shame; what loss, and what gain.
- We must freely accept the suffering in order to benefit from it – SJC Knowing these things, therefore, let us of our free choice go on strict principles, and not be like the unwise, who think that they are then not wronged, when their suffering wrong is the result of a trial. But, quite on the contrary, that is the greatest harm; and so in every case when we exercise self-restraint in these matters, not willingly, but after being worsted in that other quarter.
- We are like God when we freely accept suffering – SJC And how shall I be able? Nay, but it is most easy if you will look up unto heaven; if you will behold the beauty that is in sight; and whither God has promised to receive you, if you bear wrong nobly. Do this then; and looking up unto the heaven, think that you are made like Him that sits there upon the Cherubim.
- Our needs will always be met by God – SJC For if the sparrows of the field are nourished by Him, how shall He not nourish you? Now let us not be of little faith nor of little soul, O my beloved! For He who has promised the kingdom of heaven and such great blessings, how shall He not give things present?
- Our prize is heaven – SJC Would you then desire to know in earnest how great are the blessings which await you? He opens for you the whole heaven; He makes you a fellow-citizen with the Saints; He fits you to bear a part in their choir: from sins He absolves; with righteousness He crowns. For if such as forgive offenders shall obtain forgiveness, those who not only forgive but who also give largely to boot, what blessing shall they not inherit?
SEND OFF! You Didn’t Lose – You WON!
So then you have been deprived of nothing, yea, you have been a gainer: you have received no wrongs, rather you have been crowned; in that you have become better disciplined in soul; are made like to God; are set free from the care of money; are made possessor of the kingdom of heaven.