The saints shall judge the world? - Nothing can be more evident than that the writers of the New Testament often use ὁ κοσμος, the world, to signify the Jewish people; and sometimes the Roman empire, and the Jewish state; and in the former sense it is often used by our Lord. When, says he, the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, then shall ye sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28. It is supposed that he refers to the same subject as that mentioned here - the saints judging the world; and that St. Paul has his words in view in what he says here to the Corinthians. By judging the twelve tribes of Israel, some have imagined that having authority in the Church is merely intended; but Dr. Lightfoot contends that the words referred to the coming of our Lord to execute judgment on the Jews, and to destroy their state; and that the doctrine of the apostles, not themselves, was to judge and condemn that most disobedient people. The place before us is generally understood to imply, that the redeemed of the Lord shall be, on the great day, assessors with him in judgment; and shall give their award in the determinations of his justice. On reviewing this subject, I am fully of opinion that this cannot be the meaning of the words, and that no such assessorship as is contended for ever will take place; and that the interpretation is clogged with a multitude of absurdities.
2. It would be absurd to suppose that thrones should be erected for the purpose of saints sitting on them to give their approbation in the condemnation of the wicked; of what use can such an approbation be? is it necessary to the validity of Christ's decision? and will not even the damned themselves, without this, acknowledge the justice of their doom? I therefore think with Dr. Lightfoot, that these words of the apostle refer to the prediction of Daniel, Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:27, and such like prophecies, where the kingdoms of the earth are promised to the saints of the Most High; that is, that a time shall come when Christianity shall so far prevail that the civil government of the world shall be administered by Christians, which, at that time, was administered by heathens. And this is even now true of all those parts of the earth which may be considered of the greatest political consequence. They profess Christianity, and the kings and other governors are Christians in this general sense of the term.
Do ye not know - The object of this verse is evidently to show that Christians were qualified to determine controversies which might arise among themselves. This the apostle shows by reminding them that they shall be engaged in determining matters of much more moment than those which could arise among the members of a church on earth; and that if qualified for that, they must be regarded as qualified to express a judgment on the questions which might arise among their brethren in the churches.
The saints - “Christians,” for the word is evidently used in the same sense as in 1 Corinthians 6:1. The apostle says that they knew this, or that this was so well established a doctrine that none could doubt it. It was to be admitted on all hands.
Shall judge the world - A great variety of interpretations has been given to this passage. Grotius supposes it means that they shall be first judged by Christ, and then act as assessors to him in the judgment, or join with him in condemning the wicked; and he appeals to Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30, where Christ says that they which have followed him should “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” See the note at Matthew 19:28. Whitby supposes that it means that Christians are to judge or condemn the world by their example, or that there shall be Christian magistrates, according to the prophecy of Isaiah Isaiah 49:23, and Daniel Daniel 7:18 - Rosenmuller supposes it means that Christians are to judge the errors and sins of people pertaining to religion, as in 1 Corinthians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:16; and that they ought to be able, therefore, to judge the smaller matters pertaining to this life. Bloomfield, and the Greek fathers, and commentators, suppose that this means, that the saints will furnish matter to condemn the world; that is, by their lives and example they shall be the occasion of the greater condemnation of the world. But to this there are obvious objections:
(1) It is an unusual meaning of the word “judge.”
(2) it does not meet the case before us.
The apostle is evidently saying that Christians will occupy so high and important a station in the work of judging the world that they ought to be regarded as qualified to exercise judgment on the things pertaining to this life; but the fact that their holy lives shall be the occasion of the deeper condemnation of the world does not seem to furnish any plain reason for this - To the opinion, also, of Whitby, Lightfoot, Vitringa, etc. that it refers to the fact that Christians would be magistrates, and governors, etc. according to the predictions of Isaiah and Daniel, there are obvious objections:
(1) The judgment to which Paul in this verse refers is different from that pertaining to things of this life 1 Corinthians 6:3, but the judgment which Christian magistrates would exercise, as such, would relate to them.
(2) it is not easy to see in this interpretation how, or in what sense, the saints shall judge the angels, 1 Corinthians 6:3, the common interpretation, that of Grotius, Beza, Calvin, Doddridge, etc. is that it refers to the future judgment, and that Christians will on that day be employed in some manner in judging the world.
That this is the true interpretation, is apparent for the following reasons:
(1) It is the obvious interpretation - that which will strike the great mass of people, and is likely, therefore, to be the true one.
(3) it is the only one which gives a fair interpretation to the declaration that the saints should judge angels in 1 Corinthians 6:3. If asked “in what way” this is to be done, it may be answered, that it may be meant simply that Christians shall be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and shall encompass his throne; that they shall assent to, and approve of his judgment, that they shall be elevated to a post of honor and favor, as if they were associated with him in the Judgment. They shall then he regarded as his friends, and express their approbation, and that “with a deep sense of its justice,” of the condemnation of the wicked. Perhaps the idea is, not that they shall “pronounce” sentence, which will be done by the Lord Jesus, but that they shall then be qualified to see the justice of the condemnation which shall be passed on the wicked; they shall have a clear and distinct view of the case; they shall even see the propriety of their everlasting punishment, and shall not only approve it, but be qualified to enter into the subject, and to pronounce upon it intelligently. And the argument of the apostle is, that if they would be qualified to pronounce on the eternal doom of men and angels; if they had such views of justice and right, and such integrity as to form an opinion and express it in regard to the everlasting destiny of an immense host of immortal beings, assuredly they ought to be qualified to express their sense of the smaller transactions in this life, and pronounce an opinion between man and man.
Are ye unworthy - Are you disqualified.
The smallest matters - Matters of least consequence - matters of little moment, scarcely worth naming compared with the great and important realities of eternity. The “smallest matters” here mean, the causes, suits, and litigations relating to property, etc.
The saints are to judge the world. Then are they to depend upon the world, and upon the world's lawyers to settle their difficulties? God does not want them to take their troubles to the subjects of the enemy for decision. Let us have confidence in one another.—Manuscript 71, 1903. 3SM 303.2Read in context »
I call upon you in the name of Christ to withdraw the suit that you have begun and never bring another into court. God forbids you thus to dishonor His name. You have had great light and many opportunities, and you cannot afford to unite with worldlings and follow their methods. Remember that the Lord will treat you according to the stand that you take in this life.... 3SM 304.1
I tell you solemnly that if you take the action which you now purpose to take, you will never recover from the result of it. If you open before the world the wrongs that you suppose your brethren have done you, there will be some things that will have to be said on the other side. I have a caution to give you. 3SM 304.2
In regard to the case of those who shared large responsibilities with you in the Review and Herald, and who have turned to be enemies of the work, you will not wish to hear the verdict that shall be passed upon them when the judgment shall sit and the books shall be opened, and every man shall be judged according to the things written in the books. I want to save you from following a course that would link you up with those who have linked themselves up with fallen angels, to do all the harm they possibly can to those who love God, and who, under great difficulty, are striving to proclaim present truth to the world. 3SM 304.3Read in context »
Another grave evil that had arisen in the church was that of brethren going to law against one another. Abundant provision had been made for the settlement of difficulties among believers. Christ Himself had given plain instruction as to how such matters were to be adjusted. “If thy brother shall trespass against thee,” the Saviour had counseled, “go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:15-18. AA 304.1
To the Corinthian believers who had lost sight of this plain counsel, Paul wrote in no uncertain terms of admonition and rebuke. “Dare any of you,” he asked, “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? 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. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? ... Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” AA 304.2
Satan is constantly seeking to introduce distrust, alienation, and malice among God's people. We shall often be tempted to feel that our rights are invaded, even when there is no real cause for such feelings. Those whose love for self is stronger than their love for Christ and His cause will place their own interests first and will resort to almost any expedient to guard and maintain them. Even many who appear to be conscientious Christians are hindered by pride and self-esteem from going privately to those whom they think in error, that they may talk with them in the spirit of Christ and pray together for one another. When they think themselves injured by their brethren, some will even go to law instead of following the Saviour's rule. AA 305.1Read in context »