corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 Corinthians 1



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Παῦλος. We find this name first given to the Apostle in Acts 13:9. His real name was Saul. But it was usual for Jews to have a name of similar sound to their own for use in the Gentile world, as Jason for Joseph, Ἰοῦστος (perhaps) for Ἰησοῦς (Colossians 4:11), and the like. Some have suggested that St Paul took the name in honour of Sergius Paulus, who is mentioned in the same chapter in which the change of name is recorded. This is hardly probable; though it is probable that the name may have at that time suggested itself to the Apostle as suitable [1] from its similarity of sound to Saul, and [2] as falling in with his deep humility. He was wont to style himself the least of the Apostles, and paullus means little.

κλητός. Cf. Romans 1:1; Romans 1:6-7 and especially Romans 8:28 κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς. The only other passages in which the word occurs are in this chapter, Matthew 20:16, and Judges 1:1. It is used of any office or character which is of Divine appointment. So the assembly of God’s people is called a κλητὴ ἀγία (Exodus 12:16 &c.) as having been called together by His appointment. Cf. κλῆσις, 1 Corinthians 1:26, 1 Corinthians 7:20. ὅρα πῶς εὐθέως ἑκ προοιμίων τὸν τῦφον κατέβαλε, καὶ χαμαὶ ἔῤῥιψε πᾶσαν αὐτῶν τὴν οἴησιν, κλητὸν ἑαυτὸν εἰπών. οὐ γὰρ αὐτὸς εὗρον, φησίν, ὅπερ ἔμαθον, οὐδὲ οἰκείᾳ κατέλαβον σοφίᾳ, ἀλλὰ διώκων καὶ πορθῶν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, ἐκλήθην. Chrysostom.

ἀπόστολος. This word differs from ἄγγελος chiefly in the fact that the latter has special reference to the message, the former to the messenger. ἄγγελος denotes one who has a message to deliver; ἀπόστολος is used of one who is commissioned to deliver the message, with some reference to the person or persons from whom the message is sent. From the heathen sense of one commissioned by man, we pass on in the N. T. to one commissioned or delegated by God. See Bishop Lightfoot’s note, Ep. to Galatians, p. 92. Also John 17:18.

διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ. St Paul here as elsewhere asserts his Divine commission. This was necessary because a party had arisen which was inclined to dispute it. We read in the Epistle to the Galatians of the ‘false brethren unawares brought in’ whose doctrine he was compelled to withstand and to assert the Divine origin of his own; and in the second Epistle to the Corinthians we find many allusions to those who rejected his authority, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 10:7; 1 Corinthians 10:10, and the whole of chapters 11 and 12. They no doubt laid much stress on the fact that St Paul had not received the call of Christ as the Twelve had (see notes on ch. 9), and also on the different complexion his doctrine, though in substance the same, necessarily bore, from the fact that it was mainly addressed to Gentiles and not to Jews. It is worthy of remark that in the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, written before the controversy arose, no such clause is found, while after the commencement of the dispute the words or some equivalent to them are only absent from one Epistle addressed to a church.

Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφός. Literally, the brother. He was probably not the Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18:17, who was an opponent of the faith, but some one well known to the churches in the Apostolic age. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. I. 12, mentions a report that he was one of the Seventy.

Verses 1-9


Verse 2

2. τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ. ἐκκλησία signifies an assembly. St Paul adds the words ‘of God’ to shew that it should be one in Him, ‘For the Church’s name is not one of separation, but of unity and concord.’ Chrysostom.

ἡγιασμένοις. Literally, to them that have been sanctified. The word here rendered sanctify means [1] to consecrate to the service of the Deity, and hence [2] to purify, make holy. The word here partakes of both senses. Those who have become united to Christ by faith have not only been dedicated to Him, but have been made partakers of His holiness by their participation in the Life that is in Him. But such persons were by no means as yet free from actual sin, as chapters 5, 6, 8, 11 conclusively prove. ‘The Church of Christ, abstractedly and invisibly, is a kingdom where no evil is; in the concrete, and actually, it is the Church of Corinth, Rome, or England, tainted with impurity. And yet, just as the mudded Rhone is really the Rhone and not mud and the Rhone, so there are not two churches, the Church of Corinth and the false church within it, but one visible Church, in which the invisible lies concealed.’ Robertson, On the Corinthians, Lect. 2. The change of construction from the singular to the plural here, from the idea of the Church as a collective whole to the aggregate of the persons that compose it, should be noted. This construction is not uncommon in Greek, as ‘the liveliness of the Greek language’ (see Kühner, Grammatik der Griech. Spr. sec. 371, 5 a) would lead us to expect. If, with Lachmann and Tregelles, we place τῇ οὔσῃ ἑν Κορίνθῳ between ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χ. . and κλητοῖς ἁγίοις the construction is harsher than that in the text.

κλητοῖς ἁγίοις. See note on κλητός above. The Corinthians were designed by God’s appointment for holiness. That was the purpose of His call (κλῆσις). ἁγίοις differs from ἡγιασμένοις in this, that the latter expression refers to the past act of God’s mercy in cleansing believers from sin and imparting holiness to them, the former to the abiding condition into which that act introduced them.

σὺν πᾶσιν. This is added, either [1] because the Epistle, which dealt with so many and such weighty truths, was not to be treasured up as the peculiar heritage of the Corinthian Church, but was to be regarded as the common possession of the universal Church of Christ. Or [2] perhaps it is better, with Olshausen, to regard the Apostle as reminding the Corinthians that they form only a part, and that but a small one, of the whole Church of Christ, a consideration which their self-satisfaction was leading them to forget.

ἐπικαλουμένοις is rightly rendered in A.V. of the habitual calling on the name of Christ.

αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν. Their Lord and ours. This addition tends to confirm the second of the two interpretations given in the last note but one.

Verse 3

3. ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. The close association of these words—for the preposition is not repeated twice—has been held to imply the oneness of substance of the Father and the Son. See Winer Gr. Gram. § 50, 7. It is also worthy of remark that the grace and peace are said to come from our Lord Jesus Christ equally with the Father, The same formula is to be found in the greeting of every Epistle. But the most remarkable instance of this form of speech is certainly that in 1 Thessalonians 3:11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, where the Father and the Son stand together as nominatives to a verb in the singular.

Verse 4

4. τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Literally, the favour of God which was given you in Christ Jesus. χάρις is here used in the signification of favour, kindness, rather than in the usual theological signification of Divine assistance. The Apostle is speaking of that Divine favour in the sunshine of which the believer is privileged to dwell, and which produces peace of mind as its natural effect. For it is a cardinal point of his teaching that ‘there is henceforth no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ It is to be remembered that our word grace is derived from the Latin gratia, the original signification of which is favour, kindness. ‘We are to conceive of Jesus Christ as filled with grace and as pouring it out upon the human race’ (Olshausen). Or rather perhaps, All gilts are the result not of our merit, but of God’s good-will, and are not only given to us by Jesus Christ, but are results of His indwelling in the soul. See next note but one. The aorist probably refers to baptism.

Verse 5

5. ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε. Because in every thing ye were enriched, i.e. at your baptism, when you entered into the covenant-union with Christ. See last note. The gifts of utterance, knowledge and the like, were the result of the favour of God towards you. It appears evident from the rest of the Epistle that the Apostle was thinking rather of the powers conveyed to the Corinthians by their translation into Christ, than of the use they had made of them. The Corinthians as a body were not as yet remarkable for their Christian knowledge, though many individuals had no doubt made great spiritual progress.

ἐν αὐτῷ. That ἐν is sometimes equivalent, or all but equivalent, to διὰ with gen. cannot be denied, in the face of such passages as Luke 22:49, Revelation 6:8. But wherever there is a doubt, it is best to give ἐν a wider signification than that of the instrument. And this is especially the case where ἐν is connected with Christ’s Name. Cf. ἐν πνεύματι, Mark 1:8; Luke 1:17. ἐν λόγῳ, ἐν γνώσει, bear the same relation to ἐν αὐτῷ that the stream does to the source. For γνῶσις see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:8.

Verse 6

6. καθώς. Inasmuch as. The ground of the former assertion is here given. Ye were enriched, because the testimony of Christ was made sure unto you. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 1:28; Ephesians 1:4, &c. Or, even as, the usual sense of καθώς, i.e. in exact measure as.

τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. The objective genitive, the testimony concerning Christ. This testimony was St Paul’s preaching concerning Him. It was ‘confirmed’ by the evidence of the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit.

ἐβεβαιώθη. Stronger than our ‘confirm.’ Render, was made firm, or was secured. The aorist relates to the historical fact that such gifts as the Apostle speaks of had been actually poured out on them.

Verse 7

7. ὑστερεῖσθαι. Are lacking. Cf. ἐπλουτίσθητε above. No comparison with other churches is hinted at. The middle voice here seems to decide this point.

χαρίσματι. See ch. 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Corinthians 12:4, note. The special gifts of the Spirit are intended. The Apostle’s drift in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7 is as follows: ‘I thank God for the evident signs of His favour in you, for you have in every way been enriched by Him. For our testimony concerning Christ was established among you by certain unequivocal results: so that every special gift of His Spirit was vouchsafed to you, and you were as men who waited for the further revelation of His power.’

ἀπεκδεχομένους. Not merely awaiting, but awaiting from some one, looking out for, as we say. In this case the thing waited for comes from God.

ἀποκάλυψιν. Unveiling. The margin of the English version has revelation. But this is not always equivalent to the coming of the A.V. The ‘revelation of Jesus Christ’ unquestionably means [1] the Last Day in such passages as 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 1 Peter 1:7. In Luke 17:30 it refers to that anticipation of the Last Day, the destruction of Jerusalem. But on the other hand, in passages such as 2 Corinthians 12:1; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:2, it means [2] the fuller revelation of the mysteries of God’s kingdom; while in Revelation 1:1 it signifies [3] the unfolding of things to come. The second of these three meanings would seem most appropriate here. The testimony of Christ, confirmed originally by the inward witness of the Spirit, receives additional confirmation by the gradual unveiling of Christ, until the believer, fully grounded in the faith, stands without reproach before Him at His coming. See next verse.

Verse 8

8. ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς. ‘Who shall establish us, so that we shall be blameless in the day of Jesus Christ.’

ἕως τέλους. This fixes the sense of ἀποκάλυψις above as a gradual revelation, leading up to the great day.

ἀνεγκλήτους. The construction is ‘shall make you firm, as men against whom no accusation can be brought.’ The word ἀνέγκλητος signifies one against whom no charge (ἔγκλημα) can be sustained.

Verse 9

9. πιστός. God is faithful, i.e. to be depended upon. He will not fail on His part, if we are but true to ourselves and to Him.

δι' οὗ. This use of διὰ in reference to the causa principalis is unusual. See Winer, Gr. Gram. Pt III. § 47.

κοινωνίαν. The important word here rendered fellowship in A.V. has unfortunately different renderings in that Version. Sometimes, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 10:16 (where see note), it is rendered communion; and in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where it is thus rendered, another word is rendered fellowship. In 2 Corinthians 9:13, it is rendered distribution. Its usual signification would appear to be the sharing together, joint participation as common possessors of anything. But it is impossible to go so far as Cremer in his Lexicon of the N. T. and assert that it never has the active sense of communication, in the face of such passages as Romans 15:26 (where it is rendered contribution); 2 Corinthians 9:13. Here it refers to the life which by means of faith is common to the believer and his Lord. Cf. Galatians 2:20.

Verse 10

10. παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς. See ch. 1 Corinthians 14:31, note. The Apostle now enters on the subject of the divisions among his Corinthian converts, for which his introduction (see next note) was intended as a preparation.

διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. St Chrysostom says that the reason why the name Jesus Christ appears so often in the introduction (it occurs eight times in nine verses) is the desire to censure indirectly the divisions existing in the Corinthian Church by reminding its members of Him in Whom they were made one, and Whose name told of nothing but love and peace. Such is also his object in reminding them that they have been called to share (εἰς κοινωνίαν) in Jesus Christ. See last verse.

τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε. Cf. Romans 15:5-6; 2 Corinthians 13:11. As the context shews, it does not refer to doctrine, but to the general absence of a contentious spirit. See Philippians 2:2-3, and Cicero Phil. I. ‘una mente et voce inter se consentire.’

σχίσματα. The margin of A.V. has ‘schisms.’ But the recognized theological sense of the word ‘schisms’ renders it unsuitable here, where the idea is rather that of divisions in, than separation from, the Church. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 11:18.

κατηρτισμένοι. The Apostle is hardly to be supposed here to require absolute unity of opinion, a thing impossible among men, but rather that mutual affection which would knit the disciples together in all essentials, and would prevent all acrimonious discussion of nonessentials. The word rendered joined together in A.V. is literally fitted together, as the fragments in a piece of mosaic, in which each minute portion exactly fills its proper place. See Schleusner, Lexic. s. v. Our word perfect has a very similar sense. Cf. Hebrews 10:5; also Herod. 1:106 κεῖνα πάντα καταρτίσω ἐς τωὐτό.

ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμη. The word translated in A.V. mind, which is kindred with the Greek γινώσκω, the Latin nosco and our know, has the signification in the N. T. [1] of the organ of perception, mind, intellect, [2] of the perception which is the result of the action of that organ, understanding, and [3] of the decision to which the understanding comes. The latter is the meaning here. For an example of [1] see ch. 1 Corinthians 2:16 and note; of [2] see Revelation 13:18. In Romans 7:25 it would seem to have [4] a meaning which includes moral as well as intellectual qualities, γνώμη is usually employed in the sense of opinion. But it has also the sense of purpose or consent. See Polybius, Bell. Pun. III. 13 μιᾷ γνώμῃ κυρίαν ἐποίησαν τὴν τῶν στρατοπέδων αἵρεσιν. There, as here, the decision of the mind is meant, rather than the opinion upon which it was formed. See note on κατηρτισμένοι. The Apostle is speaking, not of opinion, but of consent precedent to action.

Verses 10-17


Verse 11

11. ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι. The aorist here seems to imply some special occasion on which St Paul met his informants, and received the intelligence which pained him. Of Chloe nothing is known.

Verse 12

12. λέγω δὲ τοῦτο. The force of this is well given by the A.V. Now this I say, and still better by the R.V. (especially if transposed) Now I mean this.

ἕκαστος ὑμῶν. This is not to be pressed literally. It is a Hebraism for ‘the great majority of you.’

ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου. The idea of some commentators that there were defined parties in the Apostolic Church under the leadership of Apostles and their Master, a Paul-party, a Peter-party, a Christ-party, is refuted by ch. 1 Corinthians 4:6, where St Paul plainly states that he had replaced the names of the antagonistic teachers at Corinth by those of himself and Apollos, in order to secure his rebukes from assuming a personal form.

Ἀπολλώ. See Acts 18:24-28. From this passage we gather that he was a Hellenistic Greek, of the school of philosophical Judaism which flourished at that time at Alexandria, and was an admixture of the doctrines of the Platonic philosophy with those of the Jewish religion. It is possible that he may have been a disciple of the celebrated Alexandrian teacher Philo, who was contemporary with the Apostles. Learned and zealous, he could not be confined within the bounds of any particular school, but diligently acquainted himself with all the movements which sprang up in the Jewish Church. Thus he became a disciple of John the Baptist, whose doctrines had been widely spread abroad by that time (Acts 19:1-3), and as his fervent spirit was allied with the gift of eloquence, he speedily endeavoured to communicate to others the new light he had received. He is described as being ‘accurately instructed in the things concerning the Lord,’ although he knew ‘only the baptism of John.’ We are not to suppose by this that he had a perfect knowledge of the system of Christianity, or it would have been impossible for Aquila and Priscilla to have explained it to him ‘more accurately.’ His knowledge was probably confined to the Baptist’s witness to Christ as the Messiah, to the more general moral teaching of Christ, as contained in the first three Gospels, to a grasp of the spiritual meaning of the O. T., such as is displayed by Philo and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (who may have been Apollos himself), to the facts of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension, though without a clear comprehension of their spiritual significance, and to those remarkable glimpses of the inner mysteries of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 3:9; John 3:27-36, and compare John 8:39; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 9:7) which our Gospels shew the Baptist to have had. But with that inner teaching as a whole, as confided by Christ to His disciples, and afterwards given to the world in the preaching and writings of the Apostles, and in the Gospel of St John, he had no acquaintance when he came to Ephesus. Endowed with this knowledge through the instrumentality of Aquila and Priscilla, he became an effective preacher of the Gospel, and filling St Paul’s place when the latter had left Corinth, ‘he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.’ But disgusted possibly by an attempt on the part of some (see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 16:12) to set him up as a rival to St Paul, he left Corinth and returned to Ephesus, and we know not whether he ever visited Corinth again. See also Titus 3:13.

Κηφᾶ. See John 1:42.

Verse 13

13. μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; Some editors (e.g. Westcott and Hort) have read this affirmatively, ‘Christ is divided.’ But can Christ be divided? It seems better to render ‘Hath Christ (then) been divided?’ Dean Colet says in his Commentary on this chapter: ‘Quum itaque ejusmodi quiddam unum compositum ex Deo et hominibus constans divina mens Pauli cogitat, qui ex quamplurimis “unctis unus est Christus.”’ And he especially cites ch. 1 Corinthians 12:12. ‘This Divine whole,’ the Apostle would say, ‘cannot be separated into portions. If you break the unity of the Church, you sever yourself from Christ into Whom all have been baptized, and Whose Body (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:12) they are.’ Moreover, it is the Apostle’s wont, when strongly affected, to break into interrogations. See for instance 1 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:1, &c.

ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε. To baptize ‘into’ a name means more than to baptize ‘in’ a name. Had St Paul used ἐν, he would simply have disclaimed the desire to make proselytes to any doctrine of his own. But εἰς implies more than this. Since the name stands for the person named, to baptize ‘into’ a name means to bring the person baptized into a close inward connection with the person in whose name he is baptized. This close inward connection with the soul of the believer is the prerogative of Christ alone, and St Paul disclaims any desire to arrogate to himself any such position. Cf. Matthew 28:19; Acts 3:16; Acts 4:10; Acts 4:12.

Verse 14

14. Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον. The special honour of baptism by the hands of St Paul seems to have been accorded to Crispus, because he was ‘the chief ruler of the synagogue’ (Acts 18:8). Gaius, ‘mine host, and of the whole Church’ (Romans 16:23), must not be confounded with Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), nor with the Macedonian Gaius mentioned in Acts 19:29. Gaius or Caius was a very common Roman name. The Epistle to the Romans was written at Corinth. Paley (Horae Paulinae, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians 8) remarks on the minute yet undesigned agreement between the Epistles and the Acts. We must not fail to notice also that the Corinthian Church was by no means an exclusively Gentile community. See Acts 18:12-13.

Verse 15

15. εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα. Into my own name.

Verse 16

16. Στεφανᾶ. Probably the bearer of the Epistle. He is mentioned in ch. 1 Corinthians 16:15; 1 Corinthians 16:17.

Verse 17

17. ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι. ‘Even the less learned can baptize perfectly, but perfectly to preach the Gospel is a far more difficult task, and requires qualifications which are far more rare.’—Augustine.

οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου. For σοφία see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:8, note. What the Apostle here means is not real wisdom, which is a spiritual gift, but the so-called wisdom which consists in an ingenious use of language. Of this kind of wisdom there was abundance in the Apostle’s days.

κενωθῇ. Be made vain or worthless. The word in the LXX. is used to represent the Hebrew idea of slenderness, wasteness, and hence worthlessness. It is rarely used precisely in the literal sense of emptying, and perhaps this classical sense of the word has been too much pressed, as in Philippians 2:7, where the A.V. keeps most closely to the Apostle’s point. It refers rather to the absence of moral worth, power, or reputation. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 9:15, 1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 2:16; James 2:20. Also 2 Corinthians 9:3.

Verse 18

18. ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ. The Apostle here gives the reason why he does not use what is reputed as wisdom in the external style and framework of his discourse. It would be of no use. His teaching is not intended to convince the intellect, but to change the heart. His message is the message of the Cross. Until men have grasped the inner power of this doctrine to transform the life, it does and must appear an absurdity to them. The meaning of the words is the discourse which relates to the Cross, the genitive being the genitive of the object. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:6.

τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν. To the perishing is folly. It must have struck the cultivated Greek and Roman as the very quintessence of absurdity for anyone to go about the world maintaining that a man who had been put to death for sedition in the reign of Tiberius was the Supreme God Himself, in fleshly form. Cf. Acts 24:24. But such persons were perishing. They were on the road to destruction. Until they could acknowledge the mysterious law of redemption by the Blood of the Holiest, there was nothing to prevent them from increasing in sinfulness day by day, until their sins had brought that destruction to pass.

τοῖς δὲ σωζομένοις ἡμῖν. But to us who are in a state of salvation, or rather, perhaps, in process of salvation. The word σώζω signifies to rescue from any kind of present danger or evil. See Schleusner, Lex. s. v. In the LXX. it is used in several senses: [1] of saving from danger, Psalms 68 [69]:1, 43 [44]:3; 2 Chronicles 32:22, [2] of helping, 2 Chronicles 32:8, [3] of healing, Jeremiah 17:14, though this is not quite certain. For a similar use of the word and its derivatives in the N.T. see [1] Matthew 24:22; Matthew 27:42; Matthew 27:49, [3] Matthew 9:21; Matthew 14:36; Mark 6:56. [2] is not found. For instances of the use of this word in the Classics we may take Soph. Phil. 919 σῶσαι κακοῦ μὲν πρῶτα τοῦδε, Thuc. I. 74 ἔσωσε τὰ πράγματα. Cf. Xen. Hellen. VII. 5, also Arist. Nic. Eth. II. 2 σώζειν τὴν ὑγίειαν, and Dion. Hal. De Comp. Verb. 15. σώζειν δύναμιν, to preserve the force of syllables, and according to some editors σώζειν συμμετρίαν to preserve symmetry of sentences. Here the word refers to a power existing in the Cross capable of rescuing men from the dominion of their sins. Cf. Matthew 1:21. Its use differs both from the LXX. and classical Greek. See also note on ch. 1 Corinthians 7:14. ἡμῖν is by its position emphatic.

δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστίν. It is the (or a) power of God. The death of Christ on the Cross was the great motive power of human regeneration. From that full and complete surrender of His Life and Will, His whole Self, to the Will of the Father, mankind derived the strength which, if used, would enable them also to free themselves from the yoke of sin. The power of God means here the God-given faculty of overcoming sin. δύναμις (see Aristotle, Nic. Eth. I. 1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, &c.) signifies power in itself, the capacity or faculty for doing things, as opposed to ἐνέργεια, which signifies power in action. We can now see how the employment of ‘wisdom of words’ would make the Cross ‘of none effect.’ It is the eloquence not of words but of facts which St Paul wishes to use. And he points to the Cross as the one great Fact which has changed the relations of God and man. Anything which serves to exalt man’s opinion of himself apart from that great Fact, is only to rob it of its power to change the life. Cf. Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 3:20. Also ch. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; Philippians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:5. Thus the term ‘saving power’ is applied by St Paul to the Gospel, to the Cross, to the Resurrection, to the Holy Spirit, to Christ, and directly to God Himself. And rightly so, for from God, through Christ, in the Spirit, imparted to us by the Gospel, comes a power which is able to transform us, who are crucified with Christ, from the likeness of sinful flesh into the image of the living God. See also Colossians 1:29.

Verses 18-31


Verse 19

19. γέγραπται γάρ. In Isaiah 29:14.

τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν. The distinction between σύνεσις and σοφία is said by Cremer in his Lexicon to be that between reflective and productive thinking. Rather perhaps, between reflection and intuition. For σύνεσις (from σύνειμι or συνίημι) involves a process. Aristotle (Nic. Eth. VI. 10) distinguishes σύνεσις also from φρόνησις, the former being intellectual, the latter practical. See also Nic. Eth. VI. 11.

Verse 20

20. ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συνζητητής; i.e. ‘the wise generally, the Jewish scribe, the Greek disputer.’—Dean Alford.

τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου. These words, according to De Wette, apply, not to the last of the three substantives, but to all of them. αἰών is rather age than, with A.V., world.

οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν. Hath not God made foolish? μωραίνω, like περισσεύω and other verbs, is used transitively in N. T., to make up for the absence in Greek of the causative voice, so common in the Hebrew.

Verse 21

21. ἐπειδὴ γάρ. A.V. ‘for after that.’ But Winer, Gr. Gram. Pt III. § 53 (and Moulton’s note), says that ἐπειδή is not used of time in N. T. Translate therefore for since. The meaning is that since human wisdom could not enlighten the world, it pleased God to enlighten it by what man in his self-conceit regarded as folly, and thus to display man’s folly to himself.

ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ. We have here a contrast drawn between God’s wisdom and that of man. Man’s wisdom could but inquire and argue. God’s wisdom had decreed that by such means man should only learn his weakness.

διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος. Translate with the Rhemish version, by the foolishness of the preaching, i.e. of the gospel. The word translated preaching should rather be rendered what is preached. It is called foolishness [1] because ‘those who were perishing’ thought it so; [2] because it required no high intellectual gift, but simple faith in a crucified and risen Lord. This abnegation by man of his natural powers was the first step in the road to salvation. But we are not to suppose that after man had thus surrendered those powers to God in a spirit of childlike faith, he was not to receive them hack regenerated and transfigured.

σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας. The aorist refers back to εὐδόκησεν. From the time when God sent the Gospel into the world, it became a means of salvation to those who believe it. The present πιστεύοντας implies that this faith is to be a continuous condition. It is not ‘to save those who believed,’ πιστεύσαντας, but ‘those who continue believing.’ The present also contemplates the continual addition of new believers to the body—those who at any time are believers in Christ.

Verse 22

22. ἐπειδὴ καί. Since also. Another proof of how little human wisdom availed to penetrate the counsels of the Most High.

σημεῖα. The Jews (Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; John 2:18; John 6:30) required external attestations of the power of Christ, and especially that of the subjugation of the world to His kingly authority. The Greeks sought dialectic skill from one who aspired to be their teacher.

Verse 23

23. ἡμεῖς δέ. We, on the contrary.

Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον. The Christian doctrine was the very reverse of what Jews and Greeks demanded. Instead of Messiah upon an earthly throne, triumphant over His enemies, instead of a skilful and original disputant, the Christian preachers speak of a condemned criminal. As a temporal Prince He had no pretensions to notice. To the title of philosopher, at least in the Corinthian sense of the term, He had no claim. His one argument was His Life and Death. What wonder if this doctrine were to the Jews an offence, and sheer nonsense in the ears of the inquisitive and argumentative Greek? Moreover the curse pronounced in Deuteronomy 21:23 was a great difficulty in the way of the reception of the Gospel by Jews.

σκάνδαλον. The A.V. translation stumblingblock is most probably incorrect. σκάνδαλον is properly a trap to catch birds, and it is ordinarily used in the LXX. as equivalent to snare. See Judges 2:3; 1 Samuel 18:21. It is, however, used to translate a word equivalent to stumblingblock in Leviticus 19:14. Cf. Galatians 5:11.

μωρίαν. Folly. The A.V. foolishness hardly gives a strong enough sense, since the word has gone out of common use and remains for us only in the Scriptures.

Verse 24

24. αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς. But to the called themselves, i.e. as opposed to all others.

Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν. He is so called, because in Him dwelt all the fulness of the Divine manifested in bodily form, Colossians 2:9. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Verse 25

25. ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ θεοῦ. Dean Colet remarks that this may either refer to what precedes or what follows. If to the latter, it refers to those who receive the Gospel, who are wiser and more powerful than other men. If the former, we must explain it thus. What was folly in the eyes of the Greek, or weakness in the eyes of the Jew, was yet far wiser and stronger than their highest conceptions. The revelation of God in the man Christ Jesus—the foolishness of God, the Infinite allying itself to the Finite—was the perfection of the Divine Wisdom; the crucifixion of sin in the Death of Christ—the weakness of God, God suffering, dying—was the highest manifestation of Divine Power, in that it destroyed what nothing else could destroy. For Christ, by submitting to the Law of God as it affected sinful man, made reconciliation for sin, and gave to all who by faith in His Blood united themselves to Him the power to destroy sin, and to become one with God.

Verse 26

26. βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν. Perhaps, Behold your calling. So Vulgate, Wiclif and Tyndale. The Apostle adds an illustration of his paradox in 1 Corinthians 1:25. The truth is exemplified in the growth of the Christian Church. Its law of progress is the very opposite to that of all ordinary bodies. Not the powerful in rank, authority, and intellect, but the poor, the uneducated, the uninfluential, were first attracted to Christ, until by ‘a progressive victory of the ignorant over the learned, the lowly over the lofty, the emperor himself laid down his crown before the Cross of Christ.’—Olshausen. Thus the real weakness of man and his incapacity unaided to attain to God were demonstrated, and God’s object, the depriving humanity, as such, of all cause of self-satisfaction (1 Corinthians 1:29), attained. It is necessary to add here that κλῆσιν does not mean what we usually understand by the words vocation in life, but rather ‘the principle God has followed in calling you’ (Beza); cf. Ephesians 4:1, where the same Greek word is translated vocation, and is followed by wherewith.

δυνατοί. Powerful, or we should now say influential. See Thuc. II. 65, where it is explained by τῷ ἀξιώματι καὶ τῇ γνώμῃ.

εὐγενεῖς. Lit. well-born. Winer and Meyer prefer to complete the sentence with εἰσί here instead of with the ‘are called’ of the A.V.

Verse 27

27. ἐξελέξατο. Selected. The preposition denotes selection from among a number; the voice denotes the purpose for which God called them, i. e. to do His work; the tense denotes the act of choice itself.

ἵνα καταισχύνῃ. In order that he might bring to shame. It is stronger than the A.V. ‘confound.’ Man’s ill-placed self-confidence demanded humiliation.

Verse 28

28. ἀγενῆ. Low born. Men of no family, as we should say.

ἐξουθενημένα. The perfect participle intensifies the contempt.

τἀ μὴ ὄντα, i.e. ‘things which by comparison are non-existent’—things which by the side of other things of higher importance in our human eyes appear to us as nothing. Yet these, in the counsels of God, are to change places, and more than change places, with things that are highly regarded in the sight of men. It we omit καί (see Critical Note) we make these words not the climax of the sentence, but merely a clause in apposition to the rest. Thus internal evidence is in favour of the retention of καί.

καταργήσῃ. This word is frequently used by St Paul. But except in his Epistles it only occurs twice in the N. T., and this, it is worthy of remark, in writers under his influence. See Luke 13:7; Hebrews 2:14. The first of these passages gives the exact sense of the word. Derived from α privative and ἔργον (κατὰ denoting completeness) it means to render useless, to make of none effect. It is variously translated in the A.V. Here the idea is of reducing to insignificance things which hitherto were in high regard. Cf. ἄργην φιλίαν Arist. Nic. Eth. IX. 5.

Verse 29

29. ὅπως. God’s purpose in all this is here distinctly pointed out. It was to remove all possibility of self-glorification from mankind.

Verse 30

30. ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς. From Him, i.e. as the source of your life. To the world you seem as nothing. Yet in truth, as being in Him, through His Son (ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ), you are greater than all beside. For yours, as derived from Him, is the only true birth and being. Cf. John 1:13; John 1:16.

ὃς ἐγενήθη. Who was made, or became. It is not certain that the passive sense can be pressed here. See Ellicott’s note on 1 Thessalonians 1:5. ‘Became’ suits the passage best.

ἀπὸ θεοῦ. In contradistinction to ἡ σοφἱα τοῦ κόσμου, 1 Corinthians 1:20.

δικαιοσύνη. Righteousness or justice. It is to be observed that in Greek, Latin and Hebrew there is no distinction between the ideas involved in these words, there being only one word to express them. Aristotle, Nic. Eth. 1 Corinthians 1:1, defines righteousness or justice as that which renders to every man what is fair and equal. This is what is implied in the English word justice. But while the Scripture use of righteousness as connected with the character of Christ has given a broader sense to the word, which with us signifies what is abstractedly right and good, we must not forget that in this idea what we call justice is included. The faculty of righteousness, we here learn, can be obtained from Christ alone.

ἁγιασμός. The result of consecration (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:2), the possession of actual holiness.

ἀπολύτρωσις. This word signifies not the result of redemption, but the ransoming process, with a special reference to its aspect of deliverance. All these things are ours by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ.

Verse 31

31. ἵνα. The sentence is incomplete. We must supply γένηται or some equivalent word.

ὁ καυχώμενος, ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω. The whole work of salvation is of God. The Corinthians, like many others since, were inclined to take some of the credit to themselves. The Apostle reminds them to Whom it is due. These words are a paraphrase of Jeremiah 9:23-24. They occur again in 2 Corinthians 10:17. The whole passage teaches us that humanity is nothing in the sight of God, except it be created anew in Christ Jesus. By virtue of His Incarnation He becomes to us wisdom, not by means of human research, but by Divine Revelation; righteousness, not by works done in obedience to law, but by the infusion of a Spirit of righteousness into the soul by Christ; sanctification (i.e. the setting apart to the working of a principle of holiness), not by human merit, but by a Divine law of growth; redemption (i.e. the paying the price of our deliverance from the captivity in which we were held by sin), because we were lost but for the Atonement made by Christ.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology