In these eight verses the apostle exposes another fault in the Corinthian church taking one another to court before unbelievers to settle their differences. The rebuke consists of two parts:
1. Our differences ought to be settled among ourselves on the basis of love and grace, not before the wicked, who know nothing of either. Not to be able to do this makes the gospel we believe to be held in contempt by wicked men.
2. True believers ought to endure injuries and misunderstandings with patience, love and forgiveness, rather than seeking revenge and compensation.
(Vs. 1.) Paul expressed surprise that one believer, with a complaint against another believer, would dare to take the matter to a court of law to be decided by unbelievers. He is not condemning courts of law or magistrates (who must administer justice to all) nor those who are summoned to court and must appear to maintain their cause. He is rather condemning those who bring their brethren into such situations when it is in their power to employ other remedies.
(Vs. 2.) When we seek the judgemnet and advice of unbelieving lawyers and magistrates, we are insinuating that there is no one in the society of the godly who is qualified to settle our disputes. True believers are endowed with spiritual wisdom and will one day judge the world, for they shall reign with Christ! Are they then not capable or worthy to deal with minor, personal matters? Noah, by his faith and obedience, in a sense judged and condemned the world (Heb. 11:7). The judges of this world are not qualified to judge spiritual matters. The basis of their judgment is "an eye for an eye", while the foundation of our judgement is mercy and grace (I Cor. 2:14, 15).
(Vs. 3.) Even the angels are subject to the Word of God which we preach (Gal. 1:8). But the reference here is probably to the fallen angels who are already under judgement (Jude 6). When we believe the Word, bow to the will of God and look to Christ for redemption (while they do not), it is clear that we act in wisdom and righteousness (and they act foolishly). This is to judge them and their action. If, by the grace of God, a believer can discern heavenly things, can he not much more deal with the things which pertain to the earth?
(Vs. 4.) The Authorized Version is not as clear on this verse as some others. All agree that Paul continues his rebuke and is saying, "When you have cases of everyday life to decide, why do you set these matters before such men as lawyers, judges and outsiders, who have no standing in the church, have no esteem and are of no account to the church?"
(Vs. 5.) "I say this to move you to shame. You certainly ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Can it be that there is not in your fellowship one wise man who is competent enough to decide grievances, disputes and quarrels between brothers? You boast of your wisdom and gifts, yet you deny it all by your actions."
(Vs. 6.) The brother relationship here is spiritual, for we are all sons of God, born again and one family in Christ. "Brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers". This is a serious and shameful thing, for it brings reproach on the name of Christ and on the church.
(Vs. 7, 8.) "This is not only shameful, but it indicates a serious defect in you. It admits to defeat and is another evidence of carnality (1 Cor. 3:3). Instead of seeking revenge or legal settlement, why not rather take the wrong? Why not let the brother have his way? Rather than go to court, cause division or upset the fellowship, bear injustices patiently and thereby glorify Christ" (Luke 6:27-36). It is more advisable for a believer to suffer wrong, and even to be cheated, than for him to go to court with his brother.
Instead of this, it is you who do wrong and defraud your own brethren by treating them in this manner.