How Should Matters between Christians That Involve Suits, Cases, Or Litigations Be Addressed?

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

In the Corinthian church, believers were taking legal action against their fellow believers before pagan or unbelieving judges. It appears that these suits were considered legal, constituting civil issues, which were considered as being small matters. Small matters seem to refer to the smallest matters that are involved in suits, cases, or litigations.

     These small matters could be classified into two different categories. They can be explained as being those minor offences that were addressed in the lesser Jewish courts known as a Bench Of Three Judges or The Bench Not Authorized,  which involved suits for debts, robberies, bodily injuries, compensation for damages, thefts involving a twofold, fourfold, or fivefold value to the proprietorseduction (to persuade to do something bad or wrong), slander5 (a spoken statement that harms a person’s reputation in an unfair way and makes others laugh at or hate the person6). The other category could be that small matters refer to property matters or family inheritance.

     There appears to be two ways to address these small matters in the church.

5 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?

     The first is to have the case be brought before someone that is appointed by the church, who is governed by piety and integrity, to decide in these cases. Some would call this person an arbiter. In the case of minor offenses which involved suits, cases, or litigation the arbiter would decide wrong and the appropriate rendering.

7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

     The second option concerning addressing these legal matters seems to suggest that if an arbiter is not available, then it would be better to endure the wrong patiently and cheerfully instead of taking it before a civil pagan court. This would indicate an ability to bear wrong, and signified a mind made strong by adherence to the word of God. As the Lord commands us (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:21) to not to be overcome by evils, but on the contrary to overcome injuries by acts of kindness, it is certain, that those who cannot control themselves so as to suffer injuries patiently commit sin by their impatience. If contention in law-suits among believers is a token of that impatience, it follows that it is faulty7.

     The main focus is to provide an avenue for Christians to resolve suits, cases, or litigations by either the use of a Christian arbiter or if one is not available to bear the injustice instead of having the matter decided before unbelieving judges. Even though the word forgiveness is not mentioned in any of these verses, what I wanted to help get across to you is that for many Christians issues such as this might be dismissed by them meaning that they have chosen not to address them, because of their perception of Christ’s forgiveness on the cross toward those (unbelievers) who mistreated him.

     What about the addressing of large or criminal matters such as murder, rape, pedophilia, etc? These would be police matters and should be brought before such.

     I hope that what you have learned is that the protocol for providing forgiveness toward unbelievers is different from the protocol for providing forgiveness toward believers. And along with this that the protocol of providing forgiveness from believers toward believers can also vary. I have a closing word for you.


Knowing How to Forgive while Operating under the Influences of the Holy Spirit Is Extremely Important                                                                                                    

I hope that you have enjoyed this paper on forgiveness. Like any biblical subject, which relates to our spiritual walk, we should be fully informed by the teaching of our church assembly so that we can think, speak, and act in a godly manner.

     What is meant by forgiveness is determined by who is involved and what the situation is.

     Knowing when to forgive and how to forgive is hopefully what you have learned from this study.

     I think it would be appropriate to leave you with this summary in regards to the question, what does forgiveness mean?

●If a believer is being persecuted for their faith by unbelievers, then they should pray to Jesus to forgive (to not punish those who caused the physical injury, along with the hope for their salvation) them. Luke 23:34

●If a believer has been injured by words, physical harm, or in regards to their property (having it damaged, stolen, etc.) by a fellow believer, which includes those in leadership, they should go to the offending believer alone in order to address the matter. If the offending believer admits guilt, then they are to be forgiven. Even though the word forgiveness is not used here the idea of forgiveness is being conveyed. The payment required in order to resolve the believer’s offense is for them to confess their fault to the victim. Forgiveness is provided toward them by the victim according to the word “gained” (accepting them back into fellowship with themselves). Besides reconciliation, hopefully the victim will provide spiritual instruction so that the repentant will have an opportunity to operate in a renewal of mind toward this area weakness.

     If the offending believer refuses to admit wrong, then go back to them with at least one first-hand witness.

     And by the way if there are no other witnesses then no forgiveness is provided. Leave the matter in the hands of the Lord to address in his way and in his time.

     If they still refuse to admit guilt, then bring the matter before the judicial authority of the church. If wrong is admitted, then discipline could be imposed in the form of a censure. This would remove the person from the fellowship for a period of time. When the time was fulfilled, forgiveness (restoration to participate in the church assembly) would be forthcoming.

     If they still refused to admit guilt, they would be removed from the fellowship indefinitely with no forgiveness. This means that the victim along with the other members of the assembly would have no religious contact or communion (not associate, eat, or travel) with this person.

●If a believer catches another believer by surprise in the act of committing sin, they should go to them to restore (used of one, who by correction, may be brought back into the right way). Even though the word forgiveness is not used it is implied by the word restore (to be brought back into the right way).

If they refuse to admit guilt, then they are not forgiven. The idea being implied here is that chastisement from God will not be removed.

     If a believer who has witnessed another believer committing sin realizes that in addressing this sin with the offender they could be attracted to doing wrong and yield to the attraction, they should not go to them. Instead they should go to a fellow believer who is spiritual (filled and governed by the Spirit of God; under the influences of the Spirit; spiritual experts in mending souls), letting them know that a fellow believer needs help. Galatians 6:1

●If a church member is involved in public egregious sin, they along with at least two witnesses should be brought before the judicial court of the assembly being rendered innocent or guilty. If the accused is found guilty, and admits guilt, then the announcement is made before the church without the accused believer being present declaring the nature of the offence and such a censure as the case demands8. This would remove the person from the fellowship for a period of time. When the time was fulfilled, forgiveness (restoration to participate in the church assembly) would be forthcoming.

     If they refuse to admit guilt in light of the factual evidence, they would be removed from the fellowship indefinitely with no forgiveness. This means that the church members would have no religious contact or communion (not associate, eat, or travel) with this person.

●How should the sin of a pastor be addressed?

Based on the two scripture sections which were presented I’ll leave this up to you to decide. Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 5:19-20

     Well what are you thinking?

     Pretty comprehensive?

     Usually when a biblical topic is looked at there is more to it than just presenting a one-line scriptural response as to what it means. It is important that we as believers in Christ are fully instructed in a clear and concise manner concerning the many church topics that are presented to us. I hope that this study has helped you in gaining a fuller understanding on this topic of forgiveness with the hope that you will apply it by keeping in mind to whom it is directed and the situation at hand.

   God Bless.



5McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 10 Jan. 201414  ˂>.

7Calvin's Commentaries Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 15 Jan. 2014˂>.

8Bible Exposition.

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How should matters between Christians that involve suits, cases, or litigations be addressed?