1 Corinthians 6:2-3

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels?

Can someone please explain? I thought God was the ultimate judge and I also thought that angels have already been judged...


  • Here is St John Chrysostom's Homily 16 on St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians

    Basically, St John makes a strong argument that the saints - those who witness by living in purity (not those who are "accurate in hearing a case") - will judge the world. It is not that they will sit on a judgment throne but their actions (the saints') will condemn the world. He gives the example of the Gospel's testimony that the "Queen of the South will rise and condemn this generation" because by her actions, (she sought to see King Solomon and believe the words of God without a sign) she showed the evil and adulterous generation who sought a sign that no sign is needed to believe and act according to God's law. The same is true for the people of Nineveh. Without a sign, they repented and sat in ashes. The people of Nineveh will condemn that same evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign to believe.

    This reminds of the words of the Coptic hymn Enthoten ze. One would assume that when Christ tells his disciples "I will make you ... sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" it implies the Apostles will sit on judgment seats to judge Israel. However, if you look at the first verse, it is clear that it was their actions that will condemn the twelve tribes of Israel in the final judgment.

    St John Chrysostom says that verse 2 should read, “And if the world is judged in you (not "by you"), are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” This makes sense, even though every English translation of the Bible reads "by you". If "by you" was meant, then it would contradict the scriptures where Acts 17:31 reads, "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained." Obviously, this means only God will judge the world. In Romans 3:6, St Paul is clear "For then how will God judge the world?" But if we understand 1 Corinthians 6:2 with "in you", then it does not conflict with the Orthodox understanding of God as the only true judge of the world in the second coming.

    Lastly, who are the angels we shall judge? St John states the angels are demons, not priests or bishops as some have claimed. It is clear from the second half of verse 3, that it can't be priests or bishops. St Paul makes a distinction between judging angels in the first half of verse 3 with judging "things that pertain to this life". Priests and bishops, however sinful they may be, are things that pertain to this life not the incorporeal world of angels. We, as saints who believe and act according to the Gospel, will judge the demons who have rebelled against God. Again, not that we will become judges, but our righteousness and belief in the Gospel will condemn the demons in the final judgment. St John Chrysostom says, "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. And many such ways of judgment one will find there (whether judgment against the twelve tribes of Israel, judgement against non-Christians, judgment against angels/demons or judgment as Christians who act as non-Christians).

    Keep in mind, St Paul wrote this chapter to put to shame Christians who were doing non-Christian things: choosing to judge fellow Christians by a foreign law than resolving conflicts with the help of Christian elders. This rose to the level of taking a fellow Christian to court to settle conflicts of faith by non-Christians. St John Chrysostom summarizes it very nicely. “For, how can it be otherwise than absurd that one who is at variance 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?”

    Does this help?
  • Thank you very much. This was very well written and detailed.
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