Did the Jews permit their disputes to go before Gentile courts?

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Gentile courts

The Jews did not permit their disputes to go before Gentile courts. It was an agreed law among them that arguments should be subject to the consideration of assigned men of their own religion and land (Talmud Giṭṭin 88b, Soncino ed., pp. 429, 430).

Gallio, the Corinthian Roman deputy, clearly understood this when he didn’t accept to hear the charges made by the Jews against Paul. He said, “But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters” (Acts 18:15). And Gallio waived jurisdiction over the dispute because it did not concern Roman law.

The process of settling disputes

Jesus Christ gave instruction regarding the process to be followed for settling disputes among church members. He said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:15–18).

In this process, the offended person was to go to the offender to fix their disagreement. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). To circulate rumors concerning what “your brother” may have done will make things worse, and make it impossible to amend things. Here, the golden rule should be applied. “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).

If the offender doesn’t respond in a positive manner, then the offended should take with him two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). According to Hebrew law no man should be punished on the testimony of one witness. For there are two sides to every dispute, and both must have a just evaluation before a decision is taken.

And if the offender still doesn’t respond, then the offended should take the dispute to the church body and not to the civil courts. For a brother to take his dispute to civil courts against brother brings dishonor to the church and belittles the power of God to lead His children in all the affairs of their lives.

The Lord has committed the power of “binding” and “loosing” to “the church.” Heaven’s approval of the decision on earth will take place only if the decision is made in harmony with the principles of Scriptures. All who deal with those that have done wrong must keep in mind that they are dealing with the eternal destiny of souls, and that the consequences of their acts will be eternal.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers who were taking their disputes to civil courts, ‘Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 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? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:1).

Believers can take non-believers to civil courts

There is no ban in the Bible against a Christian to sue a non-Christian in a secular court to resolve their legal disputes. For secular courts are designed by God to maintain law, order, and peace. Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves …” (Romans 13:1-7). The Apostle Paul quoted Roman law and appealed to secular courts to receive his legal rights (Acts 16:37-38; 22:25-29 and 25:10-12).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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