1Co 6:4-6 “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.”
While there are many reasons why people do not join the church, one common complaint is because they have seen congregations divided and virtually at war with each other. They have made their disputes public and shared them with any who would listen. Sometimes the issue was a question of spiritual significance, but more often it was a matter of jealousy or of some matter of daily living, or worse yet, an imaginary slight of some sort.
The overarching tone of Paul’s instruction here is that the church should handle disputes among brethren quietly and with patience. These are not matters to be broadcast to unbelievers because they are already looking for a reason to disparage the church. We are not being taught to pretend that there are never any differences among the brethren, but rather that these differences should be handled by the brethren.
Note that the “judgments” under consideration are those that pertain “to this life.” We have no right or ability to judge things pertaining to eternity: this is God’s domain and His alone. Furthermore, Paul instructs to search out a very particular type of person to be judge in these matters. Judges in the church over matters pertaining to this life should be selected from those who are lease esteemed in the church.
Knowing Christ’s teaching that “the last shall be first” in the kingdom and the myriad instructions throughout scripture to not belittle our brothers and sisters, we have to consider Paul’s words here very carefully. He is not instructing us to choose brethren who behave foolishly, who are weak in faith, or that there are some whom we should look down on. It seems that this admonishment is more along the lines of not bringing these matters to the apostles, to their pastors or other leaders, but rather to seek a brother (or brothers) who as shown himself to have wisdom, to live quietly, and to love the Lord but otherwise hold no particular office in the church.
I remember a few times in my life as a child when my conduct had not been according to the teaching and requirements of my parents. I clearly remember a few of those times when my Dad looked at me and simply said “You ought to be ashamed.” If I was not ashamed before, I certainly was then! It is with this same admonition and authority that Paul says to the Corinthian brethren “I speak to your shame.”
Paul tells us that we should be ashamed, as brethren, to be willing to air our grievances before unbelievers. It should shame us to be willing to present out case in the “court of public opinion” just for the momentary sop to our ego of finding others to agree with us. It should shame us that we do not feel we have brethren among us who have godly wisdom that we can talk to about these matters “of this life.”
May God give us the grace and wisdom to love each other, trust each other, and counsel each other on things pertaining to this life in the confidence that He has given us brothers in the church who are able to judge such matters!