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What he had previously taught by two similitudes, he now confirms by examples. The Corinthians grew wanton, and gloried, as if they had served out their time, (520) or at least had finished their course, when they had scarcely left the starting-point. This vain exultation and confidence he represses in this manner — “As I see that you are quietly taking your ease at the very outset of your course, I would not have you ignorant of what befell the people of Israel in consequence of this, that their example may arouse you.” As, however, on examples being adduced, any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison, Paul premises, that there is no such dissimilarity between us and the Israelites, as to make our condition different from theirs. Having it, therefore, in view to threaten the Corinthians with the same vengeance as had overtaken them, he begins in this manner — “Beware of glorying in any peculiar privilege, as if you were in higher esteem than they were in the sight of God.” For they were favored with the same benefits as we at this day enjoy; there was a Church of God among them, as there is at this day among us; they had the same sacraments, to be tokens to them of the grace of God; (521) but, on their abusing their privileges, they did not escape the judgment of God. (522) Be afraid, therefore; for the same thing is impending over you. Jude makes use of the same argument in his Epistle. (Jude 1:5.)
1. All were under the cloud. The Apostle’s object is to show, that the Israelites were no less the people of God than we are, that we may know, that we will not escape with impunity the hand of God, which punished them (523) with so much severity. For the sum is this — “If God spared not them, neither will he spare you, for your condition is similar.” That similarity he proves from this — that they had been honored with the same tokens of God’s grace, for the sacraments are badges by which the Church of God is distinguished. He treats first of baptism, and teaches that the cloud, which protected the Israelites in the desert from the heat of the sun, and directed their course, and also their passage through the sea, was to them as a baptism; he says, also, that in the manna, and the water flowing from the rock, there was a sacrament which corresponded with the sacred Supper.
They were, says he, baptized in Moses, that is, under the ministry or guidance of Moses. For I take the particle εἰς to be used here instead of ἐν, agreeably to the common usage of Scripture, because we are assuredly baptized in the name of Christ, and not of any mere man, as he has stated in 1 Corinthians 1:13, and that for two reasons. These are, first, because we are by baptism initiated (524) into the doctrine of Christ alone; and, secondly, because his name alone is invoked, inasmuch as baptism is founded on his influence alone. They were, therefore, baptized in Moses, that is, under his guidance or ministry, as has been already stated. How? In the cloud and in the sea. “They were, then, baptized twice,” some one will say. I answer, that there are two signs made mention of, making, however, but one baptism, corresponding to ours.
Here, however, a more difficult question presents itself. For it is certain, that the advantage of those gifts, which Paul makes mention of, was temporal. (525) The cloud protected them from the heat of the sun, and showed them the way: these are outward advantages of the present life. In like manner, their passage through the sea was attended with this effect, that they got clear off from Pharaoh’s cruelty, and escaped from imminent hazard of death. The advantage of our baptism, on the other hand, is spiritual. Why then does Paul turn earthly benefits into sacraments, and seek to find some spiritual mystery (526) in them? I answer, that it was not without good reason that Paul sought in miracles of this nature something more than the mere outward advantage of the flesh. For, though God designed to promote his people’s advantage in respect of the present life, what he had mainly in view was, to declare and manifest himself to be their God, and under that, eternal salvation is comprehended.
The cloud, in various instances, (527) is called the symbol of his presence. As, therefore, he declared by means of it, that he was present with them, as his peculiar and chosen people, there can be no doubt that, in addition to an earthly advantage, they had in it, besides, a token of spiritual life. Thus its use was twofold, as was also that of the passage through the sea, for a way was opened up for them through the midst of the sea, that they might escape from the hand of Pharaoh; but to what was this owing, but to the circumstance, that the Lord, having taken them under his guardianship and protection, determined by every means to defend them? Hence, they concluded from this, that they were the objects of God’s care, and that he had their salvation in charge. Hence, too, the Passover, which was instituted to celebrate the remembrance of their deliverance, was nevertheless, at the same time, a sacrament of Christ. How so? Because God had, under a temporal benefit, manifested himself as a Savior. Any one that will attentively consider these things, will find that there is no absurdity in Paul’s words. Nay more, he will perceive both in the spiritual substance and in the visible sign a most striking correspondence between the baptism of the Jews, and ours.
It is however objected again, that we do not find a word of all this. (528) This I admit, but there is no doubt, that God by his Spirit supplied the want of outward preaching, as we may see in the instance of the brazen serpent, which was, as Christ himself testifies, a spiritual sacrament, (John 3:14,) and yet not a word has come down to us as to this thing, (529) but the Lord revealed to believers of that age, in the manner he thought fit, the secret, which would otherwise have remained hid.
(520) “ Comme feroyent des gendarmes, qui ont desia fidelement serui si long temps, que pour leur faire honneur on les enuoye se reposer le reste de leur vie;” — “After the manner of soldiers, who have already served with fidelity for so long a time, that with the view of putting honor upon them, they were discharged, so as to be exempted from labor during the remainder of their life.”
(521) “ Aussi bien qu’a nous;” — “As well as to us.”
(522) “ Ils ont senti le jugement de Dieu, et ne l’ont peu euiter;” — “They have felt the judgment of God, and have not been able to escape it.”
(523) “ Eux, qui estoyent son peuple;” — “Those who were his people.”
(524) “ Nous nous assuietissons et bisons serment;” — “We submit ourselves, and make oath.”
(525) “ Et terrien;” — “And earthly.”
(526) “ Mystere et secret;” — “Mystery and secret.”
(527) “ Par toute l’Escriture;” — “Throughout the whole of Scripture.
(528) “ Es Escritures;” — “In the Scriptures.”
(529) “ Nous n’en auons maintenant pas un seul mot en’toute l’Escriture;” — “We have not a single word of it in the whole of Scripture.”
3. The same spiritual meat He now makes mention of the other sacrament, which corresponds to the Holy Supper of the Lord. “The manna,” says he, “and the water that flowed forth from the rock, served not merely for the food of the body, but also for the spiritual nourishment of souls.” It is true, that both were means of sustenance for the body, but this does not hinder their serving also another purpose. While, therefore, the Lord relieved the necessities of the body, he, at the same time, provided for the everlasting welfare of souls. These two things would be easily reconciled, were there not a difficulty presented in Christ’s words, (John 6:31,) where he makes the manna the corruptible food of the belly, which he contrasts with the true food of the soul. That statement appears to differ widely from what Paul says here. This knot, too, is easily solved. It is the manner of scripture, when treating of the sacraments, or other things, to speak in some cases according to the capacity of the hearers, and in that case it has respect not to the nature of the thing, but to the mistaken idea of the hearers. Thus, Paul does not always speak of circumcision in the same way, for when he has a view to the appointment of God in it, he says, that it was a seal of the righteousness of the faith, (Romans 4:11,) but when he is disputing with those who gloried in an outward and bare sign, and reposed in it a mistaken confidence of salvation, he says, that it is a token of condemnation, because men bind themselves by it to keep the whole law (Galatians 5:2.) For he takes merely the opinion that the false apostles had of it, because he contends, not against the pure institution of God, but against their mistaken view. In this way, as the carnal multitude preferred Moses to Christ, because he had fed the people in the desert for forty years, and looked to nothing in the manna but the food of the belly, (as indeed they sought nothing else,) Christ in his reply does not explain what was meant by the manna, but, passing over everything else, suits his discourse to the idea entertained by his hearers. “Moses is held by you in the highest esteem, and even in admiration, as a most eminent Prophet, because he filled the bellies of your fathers in the desert. For this one thing you object against me: I am accounted nothing by you, because I do not supply you with food for the belly. But if you reckon corruptible food of so much importance, what ought you to think of the life-giving bread, with which souls are nourished up unto eternal life?.” We see then that the Lord speaks there — not according to the nature of the thing, but rather according to the apprehension of his hearers. (530) Paul, on the other hand, looks here — not to the ordinance of God, but to the abuse of it by the wicked.
Farther, when he says that the fathers ate the same spiritual meat, he shows, first, what is the virtue and efficacy of the Sacraments, and, secondly, he declares, that the ancient Sacraments of the Law had the same virtue as ours have at this day. For, if the manna was spiritual food, it follows, that it is not bare emblems that are presented to us in the Sacraments, but that the thing represented is at the same time truly imparted, for God is not a deceiver to feed us with empty fancies. (531) A sign, it is true, is a sign, and retains its essence, but, as Papists act a ridiculous part, who dream of transformations, (I know not of what sort,) so it is not for us to separate between the reality and the emblem which God has conjoined. Papists confound the reality and the sign: profane men, as, for example, Suenckfeldius, and the like, separate the signs from the realities. Let us maintain a middle course, (532) or, in other words, let us observe the connection appointed by the Lord, but still keep them distinct, that we may not mistakingly transfer to the one what belongs to the other.
It remains that we speak of the second point — the resemblance between the ancient signs and ours. It is a well-known dogma of the schoolmen — that the Sacraments of the ancient law were emblems of grace, but ours confer it. This passage is admirably suited for refuting that error, for it shows that the reality of the Sacrament was presented to the ancient people of God no less than to us. It is therefore a base fancy of the Sorbonists, that the holy fathers under the law had the signs without the reality. I grant, indeed, that the efficacy of the signs is furnished to us at once more clearly and more abundantly from the time of Christ’s manifestation in the flesh than it was possessed by the fathers. Thus there is a difference between us and them only in degree, or, (as they commonly say,) of “more and less,” for we receive more fully what they received in a smaller measure. It is not as if they had had bare emblems, while we enjoy the reality. (533)
Some explain it to mean, that they (534) ate the same meat together among themselves, and do not wish us to understand that there is a comparison between us and them; but these do not consider Paul’s object. For what does he mean to say here, but that the ancient people of God were honored with the same benefits with us, and were partakers of the same sacraments, that we might not, from confiding in any peculiar privilege, imagine that we would be exempted from the punishment which they endured? At the same time, I should not be prepared to contest the point with any one; I merely state my own opinion. In the meantime, I am well aware, what show of reason is advanced by those who adopt the opposite interpretation — that it suits best with the similitude made use of immediately before — that all the Israelites had the same race-ground marked out for them, and all started from the same point: all entered upon the same course: all were partakers of the same hope, but many were shut out from the reward. When, however, I take everything attentively into consideration, I am not induced by these considerations to give up my opinion; for it is not without good reason that the Apostle makes mention of two sacraments merely, and, more particularly, baptism. For what purpose was this, but to contrast them with us? Unquestionably, if he had restricted his comparison to the body of that people, he would rather have brought forward circumcision, and other sacraments that were better known and more distinguished, but, instead of this, he chose rather those that were more obscure, because they served more as a contrast between us and them. Nor would the application that he subjoins be otherwise so suitable — “All things that happened to them are examples to us, inasmuch as we there see the judgments of God that are impending over us, if we involve ourselves in the same crimes.”
(530) See Calvin on John, vol. 1, p. 247. — Ed.
(531) “ Choses qui ayent apparence sans efibt;” — “Things that have an appearance, without reality.”
(532) “ Entre ees deux extremitez;” — “Between these two extremes.”
(533) Our author, having occasion to refer to the same “Scholastic dogma” as to the Sacraments of the Old and New Testaments, (when commenting on Romans 4:12,) says, “ Illis enim vim justificandi adimunt, his attribuunt :” — “They deny to the former the power of justifying, while they assign it to the latter.” — Ed.
(534) “ Les Israelites;” — “The Israelites.”
4. That rock was Christ Some absurdly pervert these words of Paul, as if he had said, that Christ was the spiritual rock, and as if he were not speaking of that rock which was a visible sign, for we see that he is expressly treating of outward signs. The objection that they make — that the rock is spoken of as spiritual, is a frivolous one, inasmuch as that epithet is applied to it simply that we may know that it was a token of a spiritual mystery. In the mean time, there is no doubt, that he compares our sacraments with the ancient ones. Their second objection is more foolish and more childish — “How could a rock,” say they, “that stood firm in its place, follow the Israelites?” — as if it were not abundantly manifest, that by the word rock is meant the stream of water, which never ceased to accompany the people. For Paul extols (535) the grace of God, on this account, that he commanded the water that was drawn out from the rock to flow forth wherever the people journeyed, as if the rock itself had followed them. Now if Paul’s meaning were, that Christ is the spiritual foundation of the Church, what occasion were there for his using the past tense? (536) It is abundantly manifest, that something is here expressed that was peculiar to the fathers. Away, then, with that foolish fancy by which contentious men choose rather to show their impudence, than admit that they are sacramental forms of expression! (537)
I have, however, already stated, that the reality of the things signified was exhibited in connection with the ancient sacraments. As, therefore, they were emblems of Christ, it follows, that Christ was connected with them, not locally, nor by a natural or substantial union, but sacramentally. On this principle the Apostle says, that the rock was Christ, for nothing is more common than metonymy in speaking of sacraments. The name of the thing, therefore, is transferred here to the sign — not as if it were strictly applicable, but figuratively, on the ground of that connection which I have mentioned. I touch upon this, however, the more slightly, because it will be more largely treated of when we come to the 11th Chapter.
There remains another question. “Seeing that we now in the Supper eat the body of Christ, and drink his blood, how could the Jews be partakers of the same spiritual meat and drink, when there was as yet no flesh of Christ that they could eat?” I answer, that though his flesh did not as yet exist, it was, nevertheless, food for them. Nor is this an empty or sophistical subtilty, for their salvation depended on the benefit of his death and resurrection. Hence, they required to receive the flesh and the blood of Christ, that they might participate in the benefit of redemption. This reception of it was the secret work of the Holy Spirit, who wrought in them in such a manner, that Christ’s flesh, though not yet created, was made efficacious in them. He means, however, that they ate in their own way, which was different from ours, (538) and this is what I have previously stated, that Christ is now presented to us more fully, according to the measure of the revelation. For, in the present day, the eating is substantial, which it could not have been then — that is, Christ feeds us with his flesh, which has been sacrificed for us, and appointed as our food, and from this we derive life.
(535) “ Celebre et magnifie;” — “Celebrates and extols.”
(536) “ Estoit;” — “Was.”
(537) “ C’est a dire, lesquelles il ne faut pendre cruement, et a la lettre, comme on dit;” — “That is to say — which must not be taken strictly or according to the letter, as they say.” The reader will find this subject handled at some length in the Harmony, vol. 3, pp. 207,208. — Ed.
(538) “ D’vnc autre facon et mesure que nous ne faisons pas;” — “In another way and measure than we do.”
5. But many of them. We have now the reason why the Apostle has premised these things — that we might not claim for ourselves any dignity or excellence above them, but might walk in humility and fear, for thus only shall we secure, that we have not been favored in vain with the light of truth, and with such an abundance of gracious benefits. “God,” says he, “had chosen them all as his people, but many of them fell from grace. Let us, therefore, take heed, lest the same thing should happen to us, being admonished by so many examples, for God will not suffer that to go unpunished in us, which he punished so severely in them. ”
Here again it is objected: “If it is true, that hypocrites and wicked persons in that age ate spiritual meat, do unbelievers in the present day partake of the reality in the sacraments?” Some, afraid lest the unbelief of men should seem to detract from the truth of God, teach that the reality is received by the wicked along with the sign. This fear, however, is needless, for the Lord offers, it is true, to the worthy and to the unworthy what he represents, but all are not capable of receiving it. In the meantime, the sacrament does not change its nature, nor does it lose anything of its efficacy. Hence the manna, in relation to God, was spiritual meat even to unbelievers, but because the mouth of unbelievers was but carnal, they did not eat what was given them. The fuller discussion, however, of this question I reserve for the 11th Chapter.
For they were overthrown. Proof is here furnished, by adducing a token, that they did not please God — inasmuch as he exercised his wrath upon them with severity, (539) and took vengeance on their ingratitude. Some understand this as referring to the whole of the people that died in the desert, with the exception of only two — Caleb and Joshua. (Numbers 14:29.) I understand him, however, as referring merely to those, whom he immediately afterwards makes mention of in different classes.
(539) “ Il a fait une horrible vengence sur eux;” — “He inflicted dreadful vengeance upon them.”
6. Now these things were types to us. He warns us in still more explicit terms, that we have to do with the punishment that was inflicted upon them, so that they are a lesson to us, that we may not provoke the anger of God as they did. “God,” says he, “in punishing them has set before us, as in a picture, his severity, that, instructed by their example, we may learn to fear.” Of the term type I shall speak presently. Only for the present I should wish my readers to know, that it is not without consideration that I have given a different rendering from that of the old translation, (540) and of Erasmus. For they obscure Paul’s meaning, or at least they do not bring out with sufficient clearness this idea — that God has in that people presented a picture for our instruction.
That we might not lust after evil things. He now enumerates particular instances, or certain examples, that he may take occasion from this to reprove some vices, as to which it was proper that the Corinthians should be admonished. I am of opinion, that the history that is here referred to is what is recorded in Numbers 11:4, etc., though others refer it to what is recorded in Numbers 26:64. The people, after having been for some time fed with manna, at length took a dislike to it, and began to desire other kinds of food, which they had been accustomed to partake of in Egypt. Now they sinned in two ways, for they despised the peculiar gift of God, and they eagerly longed after a variety of meats and delicacies, contrary to the will of God. The Lord, provoked by this lawless appetite, inflicted upon the people a grievous blow. Hence the place was called the
graves of lust, (541) because there they buried those whom the Lord had smitten. (Numbers 11:34.)
The Lord by this example testified how much he hates those lusts that arise from dislike of his gifts, and from our lawless appetite, for whatever goes beyond the measure that God has prescribed is justly reckoned evil and unlawful.
(540) The rendering of the Vulgate is — in figura — ( in figure.) Wiclif (1380) reads the clause thus: “But these thingis ben don in figure of us.” — Ed.
(541) Our Author gives here the literal meaning of Kibroth-hatta-avah. — Ed.
7. Neither be ye idolaters He touches upon the history that is recorded in Exodus 32:7, etc. For when Moses made a longer stay upon the mountain than the unseemly fickleness of the people could endure, Aaron was constrained to make a calf, and set it up as an object of worship. Not that the people wished to change their God, but rather to have some visible token of God’s presence, in accordance with their carnal apprehension. God, in punishing at that time this idolatry with the greatest severity, showed by that example how much he abhors idolatry.
As it is written, The people sat down This passage is rightly interpreted by few, for they understand intemperance among the people to have been the occasion of wantonness, (542) in accordance with the common proverb, “Dancing comes after a full diet.” (543) But Moses speaks of a sacred feast, or in other words, what they celebrated in honor of the idol. Hence feasting and play were two appendages of idolatry. For it was customary, both among the people of Israel and among the rotaries of superstition, to have a feast in connection with a sacrifice, as a part of divine worship, at which no profane or unclean persons were allowed to be present. The Gentiles, in addition to this, appointed sacred games in honor of their idols, in conformity with which the Israelites doubtless on that occasion worshipped their calf, (544) for such is the presumption of the human mind, that it ascribes to God whatever pleases itself. Hence the Gentiles have fallen into such a depth of infatuation as to believe, that their gods are delighted with the basest spectacles, immodest dances, impurity of speech, and every kind of obscenity. Hence in imitation of them the Israelitish people, having observed their sacred banquet, rose up to celebrate the games, that nothing might be wanting in honor of the idol. This is the true and simple meaning.
But here it is asked, why the Apostle makes mention of the feast and the games, rather than of adoration, for this is the chief thing in idolatry, while the other two things were merely appendages. The reason is, that he has selected what best suited the case of the Corinthians. For it is not likely, that they frequented the assemblies of the wicked, for the purpose of prostrating themselves before the idols, but partook of their feasts, held in honor of their deities, and did not keep at a distance from those base ceremonies, which were tokens of idolatry. It is not therefore without good reason that the Apostle declares, that their particular form of offense is expressly condemned by God. He intimates, in short, that no part of idolatry (545) can be touched without contracting pollution, and that those will not escape punishment from the hand of God, who defile themselves with the outward tokens of idolatry.
(542) “ Et esgayement desborde;” — “And unbridled excess.”
(543) “ Apres la panse vient la danse;” — “After dinner comes the dance.”
(544) “ Et ne faut point douter que les Israelites n’ayent pour lots adore leur veau auec telle ceremonie et obseruation que les Gentils faisoyent leurs idoles;” — “And we cannot doubt, that the Israelites on that occasion adored their calf with the same ceremony and care as the Gentiles did their idols.
(545) “ Tant petite soit elle;” — “Be it ever so little.”
8. Neither let us commit fornication Now he speaks of fornication, in respect of which, as appears from historical accounts, great licentiousness prevailed among the Corinthians, and we may readily infer from what goes before, that those who had professed themselves to be Christ’s were not yet altogether free from this vice. The punishment of this vice, also, ought to alarm us, and lead us to bear in mind, how loathsome impure lusts are to God, for there perished in one day twenty-three thousand, or as Moses says, twenty-four. Though they differ as to number, it is easy to reconcile them, as it is no unusual thing, when it is not intended to number exactly and minutely each head, (546) to put down a number that comes near it, as among the Romans there were those that received the name of Centumviri , (547) (The Hundred,) while in reality there were two above the hundred. As there were, therefore, about twenty-four thousand that were overthrown by the Lord’s hand — that is, above twenty-three, Moses has set down the number above the mark, and Paul, the number below it, and in this way there is in reality no difference. This history is recorded in Numbers 25:9
There remains, however, one difficulty here — why it is that Paul attributes this punishment to fornication, while Moses relates that the anger of God was aroused against the people on this account — that they had initiated themselves in the sacred rites of Baalpeor. (548) But as the defection began with fornication, and the children of Israel fell into that impiety, not so much from being influenced by religious considerations, (549) as from being allured by the enticements of harlots, everything evil that followed from it ought to be attributed to fornication. For Balaam had given this counsel, that the Midianites should prostitute their daughters to the Israelites, with the view of estranging them from the true worship of God. Nay more, their excessive blindness, in allowing themselves to be drawn into impiety (550) by the enticements of harlots, was the punishment of lust. Let us learn, accordingly, that fornication is no light offense, which was punished on that occasion by God so severely and indeed in a variety of ways.
(546) “ De faire vn denombrement entier des personnes par testes, comme on dit;” — “To make a complete enumeration of persons by heads, as they say.”
(547) “ Les juges qui estoyent deputez pour cognoistre des matieres ciuiles, estoyent nommez les cent, et toutes lois il yen auoit deux par dessus;” — “The judges who were deputed to take cognizance of civil matters were called The Hundred, and yet there were two above the hundred.” As the Centumviri were chosen out of the thirty-five tribes, into which the Roman people were divided, three from each tribe, they consisted properly of 105 persons. — Ed.
(548) “ Auoit sacrifie a Baalpheor;” — “Had sacrificed to Baalpeor.”
(549) “ Non pas tant pour affection qu’ils eussent a la fausse religion;” — “Not so much from any attachment that they had to a false religion.”
(550) “ Vne impiete si vileine;” — “An impiety so base.”
9. Neither let us tempt Christ This part of the exhortation refers to the history that is recorded in Numbers 21:6. For the people, having become weary of the length of time, began to complain of their condition, and to expostulate with God — “Why has God deceived us,” etc. This murmuring of the people Paul speaks of as a tempting; and not without good reason, for tempting is opposed to patience. What reason was there at that time why the people should rise up against God, except this — that, under the influence of base desire, (551) they could not wait in patience the arrival of the time appointed by the Lord? Let us, therefore, take notice, that the fountain of that evil against which Paul here warns us is impatience, when we wish to go before God, and do not give ourselves up to be ruled by Him, but rather wish to bind him to our inclination and laws. This evil God severely punished in the Israelitish people. Now he remains always like himself — a just Judge. Let us therefore not tempt him, if we would not have experience of the same punishment.
This is a remarkable passage in proof of the eternity of Christ; for the cavil of Erasmus has no force — “Let us not tempt Christ, as some of them tempted God; ” for to supply the word God is extremely forced. (552) Nor is it to be wondered that Christ is called the Leader of the Israelitish people. For as God was never propitious to his people except through that Mediator, so he conferred no benefit except through his hand. Farther, the angel who appeared at first to Moses, and was always present with the people during their journeying, is frequently called יהוה, Jehovah. (553) Let us then regard it as a settled point, that that angel was the Son of God, and was even then the guide of the Church of which he was the Head. As to the term Christ, from its having a signification that corresponds with his human nature, it was not as yet applicable to the Son of God, but it is assigned to him by the communication of properties, as we read elsewhere, that
the Son of Man came down from heaven. (John 3:13.)
(551) “ Vn desir importun et desordonne;” — “An importunate and inordinate desire.”
(552) Billroth, in his’Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians, alleges, that the view that is here taken by Calvin “could have been suggested only by reasons of a dogmarital character.” The objection thus brought forward, however, is satisfactorily set aside in a valuable note by Dr. Alexander, in his translation of Billroth. See Biblical Cabinet, No. 21, pp. 246, 247. See also Henderson on Inspiration, pp. 553, 554. — Ed.
(553) “ C’est a dire, l’Eternel;” — “That is to say, the Eternal.”
10. Neither murmur ye Others understand this to be the murmuring that arose, when the twelve, who had been sent to spy out the land, disheartened, on their return, the minds of the people. But as that murmuring was not punished suddenly by any special chastisement from the Lord, but was simply followed by the infliction of this punishment — that all were excluded from the possession of the land, it is necessary to explain this passage otherwise. It was a most severe punishment, it is true, to be shut out from entering the land, (554) but the words of Paul, when he says that they were destroyed by the destroyer, express another kind of chastisement. I refer it, accordingly, to the history, which is recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Numbers. [Numbers 16:1 ]. For when God had punished the pride of Korah and Abiram, the people raised a tumult against Moses and Aaron, as if they had been to blame for the punishment which the Lord had inflicted. This madness of the people God punished by sending down fire from heaven, which swallowed up many of them — upwards of fourteen thousand. It is, therefore, a striking and memorable token of God’s wrath against rebels and seditious persons, that murmur against him.
Those persons, it is true, murmured against Moses; but as they had no ground for insulting him, and had no occasion for being incensed against him, unless it was that he had faithfully discharged the duty which had been enjoined upon him by God, God himself was assailed by that murmuring. Let us, accordingly, bear in mind that we have to do with God, and not with men, if we rise up against the faithful ministers of God, and let us know that this audacity (555) will not go unpunished.
By the destroyer you may understand the Angel, who executed the judgment of God. Now he sometimes employs the ministry of bad angels, sometimes of good, in punishing men, as appears from various passages of Scripture. As Paul here does not make a distinction between the one and the other, you may understand it of either.
(554) “ De n’entrer point en la iouissance de la terre promise;” — “Not to enter on the enjoyment of the promised land.”
(555) “ Ceste temerite outrecuidee;” — “This presumptuous rashness.”
11. Now all these things happened as types. He again repeats it — that all these things happened to the Israelites, that they might be types to us — that is, examples, in which God places his judgments before our eyes I am well aware, that others philosophize on these words with great refinement, but I think that I have fully expressed the Apostle’s meaning, when I say, that by these examples, like so many pictures, we are instructed what judgments of God are impending over idolaters, fornicators, and other contemners of God. For they are lively pictures, representing God as angry on account of such sins. This exposition, besides being simple and accurate, has this additional advantage, that it blocks up the path of certain madmen, (556) who wrest this passage for the purpose of proving, that among that ancient people there was nothing done but what was shadowy. First of all, they assume that that people is a figure of the Church. From this they infer, that everything that God promised to them, or accomplished for them — all benefits, all punishments, (557) only prefigured what required to be accomplished in reality after Christ’s advent. This is a most pestilential frenzy, which does great injury to the holy fathers, and much greater still to God. For that people was a figure of the Christian Church, in such a manner as to be at the same time a true Church. Their condition represented ours in such a manner that there was at the same time, even then, a proper condition of a Church. The promises given to them shadowed forth the gospel in such a way, that they had it included in them. Their sacraments served to prefigure ours in such a way, that they were nevertheless, even for that period, true sacraments, having a present efficacy. In fine, those who at that time made a right use, both of doctrine, and of signs, were endowed with the same spirit of faith as we are. These madmen, therefore, derive no support from these words of Paul, which do not mean that the things that were done in that age were types, in such a way as to have at that time no reality, but a mere empty show. Nay more, they expressly teach us, (as we have explained,) that those things which may be of use for our admonition, are there set forth before us, as in a picture.
They are written for our admonition This second clause is explanatory of the former; for it was of no importance to the Israelites, but to us exclusively, that these things should be committed to record. (558) It does not, however, follow from this, that these inflictions were not true chastisements from God, suited for their correction at that time, but as God then inflicted his judgments, so he designed that they should be kept everlastingly in remembrance for our instruction. For of what advantage were the history of them to the dead; and as to the living, how would it be of advantage to them, unless they repented, admonished by the examples of others? Now he takes for granted the principle, as to which all pious persons ought to be agreed — that there is nothing revealed in the Scriptures, that is not profitable to be known.
Upon whom the ends of the world are come The word τέλη (ends) sometimes means mysteries; (559) and that signification would not suit in with this passage. I follow, however, the common rendering, as being more simple. He says then, that the ends of all ages are come upon us, inasmuch as the fullness of all things is suitable to this age, because it is now the last times. For the kingdom of Christ is the main object of the Law and of all the Prophets. But this statement of Paul is at variance with the common opinion — that God, while more severe under the Old Testament, and always ready and armed for the punishment of crimes, has now begun to be exorable, and more ready to forgive. They explain, also, our being under the law of grace, in this sense — that we have God more placable than the ancients had. But what says Paul? If God inflicted punishment upon them, he will not the more spare you. Away, then, with the error, that God is now more remiss in exacting the punishment of crimes! It must, indeed, be acknowledged, that, by the advent of Christ, God’s goodness has been more openly and more abundantly poured forth towards men; but what has this to do with impunity for the abandoned, who abuse his grace? (560)
This one thing only must be noticed, that in the present day the mode of punishment is different; for as God of old was more prepared to reward the pious with outward tokens of his blessing, that he might testify to them his fatherly love, so he showed his wrath more by corporal punishments. Now, on the other hand, in that fuller revelation which we enjoy, he does not so frequently inflict visible punishments, and does not so frequently inflict corporal punishment even upon the wicked. You will find more on this subject in my Institutes. (561)
(556) “ Elle ferme la bouche a vn tas d’enragez;” — “It shuts the mouth of a troop of madmen.”
(557) “ Qui leur sont aduenues;” — “Which happened to them.”
(558) “ Car quant aux Israelites qui viuoyent lors, il n’estoit point requis que ces choses firssent enregistrees et mises par escrit, mais seulement pour nous;” — For in so far as concerned the Israelites who lived at that time, it was not requisite that these things should be recorded and committed to writing, but solely on our account.”
(559) The term is applied in this sense, more especially to the Eleusinian mysteries, which were called τὰ μεγάλα τέλη — the great mysteries Plat. Rep. 560 E. See also Eurip. Med. 1379. — Ed
(560) “ Dequoy sert cela pour prouuer que les meschans, et ceux qui abusent de la grace de Dieu demeureront impunis ?” — “Of what use is this for proving that the wicked, and those that abuse the grace of God, will go unpunished?”
(561) Our Author probably refers more particularly to that part of the Institutes in which he states the points of difference between the Old and the New Testaments. See Institutes, volume 1, pp. 525-529. — Ed.
12. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth The Apostle concludes from what goes before, that we must not glory in our beginnings or progress, so as to resign ourselves to carelessness and inactivity. (562) For the Corinthians gloried in their condition in such a way, that, forgetting their weakness, they fell into many crimes. This was a false confidence of such a kind as the Prophets frequently reprove in the Israelitish people. As, however, Papists wrest this passage for the purpose of maintaining their impious doctrine respecting faith, as having constantly doubt connected with it, (563) let us observe that there are two kinds of assurance.
The one is that which rests on the promises of God, because a pious conscience feels assured that God will never be wanting to it; and, relying on this unconquerable persuasion, triumphs boldly and intrepidly over Satan and sin, and yet, nevertheless, keeping in mind its own infirmity, casts itself (564) upon God, and with carefulness and anxiety commits itself to him. This kind of assurance is sacred, and is inseparable from faith, as appears from many passages of Scripture, and especially Romans 8:33.
The other arises from negligence, when men, puffed up with the gifts that they have, give themselves no concern, as if they were beyond the reach of danger, but rest satisfied with their condition. Hence it is that they are exposed to all the assaults of Satan. This is the kind of assurance which Paul would have the Corinthians to abandon, because he saw that they were satisfied with themselves under the influence of a silly conceit. He does not, however, exhort them to be always anxiously in doubt as to the will of God, or to tremble from uncertainty as to their salvation, as Papists dream. (565) In short, let us bear in mind, that Paul is here addressing persons who were puffed up with a base confidence in the flesh, and represses that assurance which is grounded upon men — not upon God. For after commending the Colossians for the solidity or steadfastness of their faith, (Colossians 2:5,) he exhorts them to be
rooted in Christ, to remain firm, and to be built up and confirmed in the faith. (Colossians 2:7.)
(562) “ Que nous-nous endormions comme gens asseurez, et sans grand soin;” — “That we should resign ourselves to sleep, as persons who are confident, and without much care.”
(563) “ Par laquelle ils disent qu’il nous faut tousiours douter de la foy;” — “By which they say that we must always doubt as to faith.”
(564) “ Se Remet du tout;” — “Commits itself wholly.”
(565) The reader will observe that our Author has already touched upon this subject at some length, when commenting on chapter 2:12. — Ed.
13. No temptation has taken you. (566) Let others take their own way of interpreting this. For my part, I am of opinion that it was intended for their consolation, lest on hearing of such appalling instances of the wrath of God, as he had previously related, they should feel discouraged, being overpowered with alarm. Hence, in order that his exhortation might be of advantage, he adds, that there is room for repentance. “There is no reason why you should despond; for I have not had it in view to give you occasion for despair, nor has anything happened to you but what is common to men.” Others are of opinion that he rather chides their cowardice in giving way, on being so slightly tried; (567) and unquestionably the word rendered human is sometimes taken to mean moderate. (568) The meaning, then, according to them would be this: “Did it become you thus to give way under a slight trial?” But as it agrees better with the context, if we consider it as consolation, I am on this account rather inclined to that view.
But God is faithful As he exhorted them to be of good courage as to the past, in order that he might stir them up to repentance, so he also comforts them as to the future with a sure hope, on the ground that God would not suffer them to be tempted beyond their strength. He exhorts them, however, to look to the Lord, because a temptation, however slight it may be, will straightway overcome us, and all will be over with us, if we rely upon our own strength. He speaks of the Lord, as faithful, not merely as being true to his promises, but as though he had said. The Lord is the sure guardian of his people, under whose protection you are safe, for he never leaves his people destitute. Accordingly, when he has received you under his protection, you have no cause to fear, provided you depend entirely upon him. For certainly this were a species of deception, if he were to withdraw his aid in the time of need, or if he were, on seeing us weak and ready to sink under the load, to lengthen out our trials still farther. (569)
Now God helps us in two ways, that we may not be overcome by the temptation; for he supplies us with strength, and he sets limits to the temptation. It is of the second of these ways that the Apostle here chiefly speaks. At the same time, he does not exclude the former — that God alleviates temptations, that they may not overpower us by their weight. For he knows the measure of our power, which he has himself conferred. According to that, he regulates our temptations. The term temptation I take here as denoting, in a general way, everything that allures us.
(566) “ Tentation ne vous a point saisis, ou surprins ;” — “No temptation has taken, or overtaken you.”
(567) “ Pour si petites et legeres tentations;” — “On so small and light trials.”
(568) The word ανθρώπινος ( human) may be understood here to mean — proportioned to man’s strength, or suited to, man’s weakness It is rendered in Tyndale’s version, and also in Cranmer’s: “Soche as followeth the nature of man.” Most interpreters understand in a similar sense an expression which occurs in 2 Samuel 7:14 — the rod of men, and stripes of the children of men. — Ed
(569) Mr. Fuller of Kettering, when comparing 1 Corinthians 10:13, with 2 Corinthians 1:8, justly observes: “The ability in the former of these passages, and the strength in the latter, are far from being the same. The one is expressive of that divine support which the Lord has promised to give to his servants under all their trials: the other, of the power which we possess naturally as creatures. We may be tried beyond this, as all the martyrs have been, and yet not beyond the other. The outward man may perish, while the inward man is renewed day by day.” — Fuller’s Works, volume 3, p. 609. — Ed.
14. Wherefore, my beloved, flee, etc. The Apostle now returns to the particular question, from which he had for a little digressed, for, lest bare doctrine should have little effect among them, he has introduced those general exhortations that we have read, but now he pursues the discussion on which he had entered — that it is not allowable for a Christian man to connect himself with the superstitions of the wicked, so as to take part in them. Flee, says he, from idolatry In the first place, let us observe what meaning he attaches to the term Idolatry He certainly did not suspect the Corinthians of such a degree of ignorance or carelessness (570) as to think, that they worshipped idols in their heart. But as they made no scruple of frequenting the assemblies of the wicked, and observing along with them certain rites instituted in honor of idols, he condemns this liberty taken by them, as being a very bad example. It is certain, then, that when he here makes mention of idolatry, he, speaks of what is outward, or, if you prefer it, of the profession (571) of idolatry. For as God is said to be worshipped by the bending of the knee, and other tokens of reverence, while the principal and genuine worship of him is inward, so is it also as to idols, for the case holds the same in things opposite. It is to no purpose that very many in the present day endeavor to excuse outward actions (572) on this pretext, that the heart is not in them, while Paul convicts of idolatry those very acts, and assuredly with good reason. For, as we owe to God not merely the secret affection of the heart, but also outward adoration, the man who offers to an idol an appearance of adoration takes away so much of the honor due to God. Let him allege as he may that his heart is quite away from it. The action itself is to be seen, in which the honor that is due to God is transferred to an idol.
(570) “ Tant despourueus de sens et cognoissance de Dieu;” — “So devoid of judgment and knowledge of God.”
(571) “ La profession et demonstrance;” — “The profession and display.”
(572) “ Les actes ou gestes externes d’idolatrie;” — “The outward acts or gestures of idolatry.’
15. I speak as to wise men. As he was about to take his argument from the mystery of the Supper, he arouses them by this little preface, that they may consider more attentively the magnitude of the thing. (573) “I do not address mere novices. You understand the efficacy of the sacred Supper in it we are ingrafted into the Lord’s body. How unseemly a thing is it then, that you should enter into fellowship with the wicked, so as to be united in one body. At the same time, he tacitly reproves their want of consideration in this respect, that, while accurately instructed in the school of Christ, they allowed themselves in gross vice, as to which there was no difficulty in forming an opinion.
(573) “ L’excellence de ce mystere;” — “The excellence of this mystery.”
16. The cup of blessing While the sacred Supper of Christ has two elements — bread and wine — he begins with the second. He calls it, the cup of blessing, as having been set apart for a mystical benediction. (574) For I do not agree with those who understand blessing to mean thanksgiving, and interpret the verb to bless, as meaning to give thanks I acknowledge, indeed, that it is sometimes employed in this sense, but never in the construction that Paul has here made use of, for the idea of Erasmus, as to supplying a preposition, (575) is exceedingly forced. On the other hand, the meaning that I adopt is easy, and has nothing of intricacy.
To bless the cup, then, is to set it apart for this purpose, that it may be to us an emblem of the blood of Christ. This is done by the word of promise, when believers meet together according to Christ’s appointment to celebrate the remembrance of his death in this Sacrament. The consecration, however, which the Papists make use of, is a kind of sorcery derived from heathens, (576) which has nothing in common with the pure rite observed by Christians. Everything, it is true, that we eat is sanctified by the word of God, as Paul himself elsewhere bears witness, (1 Timothy 4:5;) but that blessing is for a different purpose — that our use of the gifts of God may be pure, and may tend to the glory of their Author, and to our advantage. On the other hand, the design of the mystical blessing in the Supper is, that the wine may be no longer a common beverage, but set apart for the spiritual nourishment of the soul, while it is an emblem of the blood of Christ.
Paul says, that the cup which has been in this manner blessed is κοινωνίαν — the comnunion of the blood of the Lord. It is asked, in what sense? Let contention be avoided, and there will be nothing of obscurity. It is true, that believers are united together by Christ’s blood, so as to become one body. It is also true, that a unity of this kind is with propriety termed κοινωνία ( communion.) I make the same acknowledgment as to the bread Farther, I observe what Paul immediately adds, as it were, by way of explanation — that we all become one body, because we are together partakers of the same bread But whence, I pray you, comes that κοινωνία ( communion) between us, but from this, that we are united to Christ in such a way, that
we are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones? (Ephesians 5:30.)
For we must first of all be incorporated (so to speak) into Christ, that we may be united to each other. In addition to this, Paul is not disputing at present merely in reference to a mutual fellowship among men, but as to the spiritual union between Christ and believers, with the view of drawing from this, that it is an intolerable sacrilege for them to be polluted by fellowship with idols. From the connection of the passage, therefore, we may conclude, that ( κοινωνίαν) the communion of the blood is that connection which we have with the blood of Christ, when he engrafts all of us together into his body, that he may live in us, and we in him.
Now, when the cup is called a participation, the expression, I acknowledge, is figurative, provided that the truth held forth in the figure is not taken away, or, in other words, provided that the reality itself is also present, and that the soul has as truly communion in the blood, as we drink wine with the mouth. But Papists could not say this, that the cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ, for the Supper that they observe is mutilated and torn: if indeed we can give the name of the Supper to that strange ceremony which is a patchwork of various human contrivances, and scarcely retains the slightest vestige of the institution of our Lord. But, supposing that everything else were as it ought to be, this one thing is at variance with the right use of the Supper — the keeping back of the whole of the people from partaking of the cup, which is the half of the Sacrament.
The bread which we break From this it appears, that it was the custom of the ancient Church to break one loaf, and distribute to every one his own morsel, in order that there might be presented more clearly to the view of all believers their union to the one body of Christ. And that this custom was long kept up appears from the testimony of those who flourished in the three centuries that succeeded the age of the Apostles. Hence arose the superstition, that no one dared to touch the bread with his hand, but each one had it put into his mouth by the priest.
(574) “ A la consecration mystique “ — “For a mystical consecration.”
(575) “ Qu’on supplee Pour ;” — “That for should be supplied.” The original words ὅ εὐλογοῦμεν, are supposed by many eminent interpreters to be instead of καθ ᾿ ὅ εὐλογοῦμεν τὸν Θεὸν — for which we give thanks to God. — Ed
(576) The reader will find this subject more largely dwelt upon in the H arm ony, vol. 3, p. 206. — Ed.
17. For we are one bread. I have already stated above, that it was not Paul’s particular design here to exhort us to love, but he mentions this by the way, that the Corinthians may understand that we must, even by external profession, maintain that unity which subsists between us and Christ, inasmuch as we all assemble together to receive the symbol of that sacred unity. In this second part of the statement, he makes mention only of the one part of the Sacrament, and it is the manner of Scripture to describe by Synecdoche (577) the entire Supper by the breaking of bread It is necessary to warn my readers, in passing, as to this, lest any less experienced person should be put off his guard by the foolish cavil that is brought forward by certain sycophants — as if Paul, by mentioning merely the bread, had it in view to deprive the people of the one half of the Sacrament.
(577) A figure of speech in which a part is put for the whole. — Ed.
18. Behold Israel after the flesh He establishes it by another example, that such is the nature of all sacred observances, that they bind us in a kind of fellowship with God. For the law of Moses admits no one to a feast upon a sacrifice, but the man who has duly prepared himself. I speak not of priests merely, but of those among the common people who eat of the remains of the sacrifice. Hence it follows, that all who eat of the flesh of the sacrificed victim, are partakers with the altar, that is, of the sanctification, with which God has set apart his Temple, and the sacred rites that are performed in it.
This expression after the flesh, may seem to be added in order that the Corinthians, on comparing the two, might set a higher value on the efficacy of our Supper. “If there was so much virtue in the ancient figures and in those rudiments of youthful education, how much more must we reckon that there is in our mysteries, in which God shines forth much more fully upon us!” At the same time, it is more simple, in my opinion, to say that Paul intended merely by this mark to distinguish the Jews that were still under the law from those that had been converted to Christ. Now there was a contrast that remained to be made — that if the sacred rites appointed by God sanctify those who observe them, pollution, on the other hand, is contracted from the sacred rites rendered to idols. (578) For it is God alone that sanctifies, and hence all strange gods pollute. (579) Again, if mysteries (580) unite and connect believers with God, it follows, that the wicked are in like manner introduced by their superstitious rites into fellowship (581) with idols. But the Apostle, before proceeding to this, answers by an anthypophora (582) (anticipation) a question that might be proposed by way of objection.
(578) “ Des saerifiees et autres eeremonies des idoles;” — “Sacrifices and other ceremonies rendered to idols.”
(579) “ Rendent profanes ceux qui les seruent;” — “Render profane those who serve them.”
(580) “ Les sacremens;” — “The sacraments.”
(581) “ Vne conionetion et union auec leurs idoles;” — “A connection and union with their idols.”
(582) Anthypophora ( ἀνθυποφορα) is a figure of speech, by which a speaker anticipates the objections of his opponent, and answers them. — Ed
19. What do I say then? It might seem at first view as if the Apostle either argued inconclusively, or ascribed to idols something of existence and of power. Now it might readily be objected — “What comparison is there between the living God and idols? God connects us with himself by the sacraments. Be it so. How comes it that idols, which are nothing, (1 Corinthians 8:4,) have so much power, as to be able to do the like? Do you think that idols are anything, or can do anything?” He answers, that he does not look to the idols themselves; (583) but rather has in view the intention of those who sacrifice to idols. For that was the source of the pollution that he had indirectly pointed out. He confesses, therefore, that an idol is nothing. He confesses that it is a mere delusion when the Gentiles take it upon them to go through solemn rites of dedication, (584) and that the creatures of God are not polluted by such fooleries. But as the design of them is superstitious and condemnable, and as the work is base, he infers, that all who connect themselves with them as associates, are involved in pollution.
(583) “ Simplement, et en soy;” — “Simply, and in themselves.”
(584) “ Les ceremonies des dedicaces et consecrations solemlelles desquelles les Gentils vsent, ne sont que vent, et n’emportent rien;” — “The ceremonies of solemn dedications and consecrations, which the Gentiles make use of, are mere wind, and signify nothing.”
20. But the things (585) that the Gentiles sacrifice. To complete the answer, a negative must be understood in this way: “I do not say that an idol is anything, nor do I imagine it to be endued with any virtue, but I say that the Gentiles sacrifice to the devil and not to gods those things which they do sacrifice, and hence I estimate the work by their wicked and impious superstition. For we must always look to the intention with which a thing is done. He, then, who connects himself with them, declares that he has fellowship with them in the same impiety.” He proceeds accordingly with what he had commenced: “If we had to do with God only, those things would be nothing, but, in relation to men, they become faulty; because no one sits down to an idol feast, who does not declare himself to be a worshipper of the idol.”
Some, however, understand the term demons here as meaning the imaginary deities of the Gentiles, agreeably to their common way of speaking of them; for when they speak of demons they meant inferior deities, as, for example, heroes, (586) and thus the term was taken in a good sense. Plato, in a variety of instances, employs the term to denote genii, or angels. (587) That meaning, however, would be quite foreign to Paul’s design, for his object is to show that it is no light offense to have to do with actions that have any appearance of putting honor upon idols. Hence it suited his purpose, not to extenuate, but rather to magnify the impiety that is involved in it. How absurd, then, it would have been to select an honorable term to denote the most heinous wickedness! It is certain from the Prophet Baruch, (Genesis 4:7,) that those things that are sacrificed to idols are sacrificed to devils (Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalms 96:5.) In that passage in the writings of the Prophet, the Greek translation, which was at that time in common use, has δαιμόνια — demons, and this is its common use in Scripture. How much more likely is it then, that Paul borrowed what he says from the Prophet, to express the enormity of the evil, than that, speaking after the manner of the heathen, he extenuated what he was desirous to hold up to utter execration!
It may seem, however, as if these things were somewhat at variance with what I stated a little ago — that Paul had an eye to the intention of idolaters, for it is not their intention to worship devils, but imaginary deities of their own framing. I answer, that the two things are quite in harmony, for when men become so vain in their imaginations (Romans 1:21) as to render divine honor to creatures, rather than to the one God, this punishment is in readiness for them — that they serve Satan. For they do not find that “middle place” (588) that they are in search of, but Satan straightway presents himself to them, as an object of adoration, whenever they have turned their back upon the true God.
I would not that ye. If the term demon were used in an indifferent sense, how spiritless were Paul’s statement here, while, instead of this, it has the greatest weight and severity against idolaters! He subjoins the reason — because no one can have fellowship at the same time with God and with idols. Now, in all sacred observances, there is a profession of fellowship. Let us know, therefore, that we are then, and then only, admitted by Christ to the sacred feast of his body and blood, when we have first of all bid farewell to every thing sacrilegious. (589) For the man who would enjoy the one, must renounce the other. O thrice miserable the condition of those (590) who, from fear of displeasing men, do not hesitate to pollute themselves with unlawful superstitions! For, by acting in this way, they voluntarily renounce fellowship with Christ, and obstruct their approach to his health-giving table.
(585) “ Mais ie di, que les choses;” — “But I say, that the things.”
(586) “ Ils entcndoyent ceux qui estans hornroes de grand renom, auoyent este faits dieux;” — “They meant those, who, being men of great renown, had been made gods.”
(587) The following instances may be adduced from Plato (in Sympos.): — Παν το δαιμονιον μεταξυ εστι θεου τε και θνητου — Every demon holds a middle place between God and mortal man; Θεος ανθρωπῳ ου μιγνυται, αλλα δια δαιμονιων πασα εστιν ἡ ὁμιλια και ἡ διαλεκτος θεοις προς ανθρωπους — God does not hold direct converse with man, but all intercourse and communication is carried on between gods and men by means of demons; Το Δαιμονιον εστιν ερμηνευον και διαπορθμενον θειος τα παρ ανθρωπων, και ανθρωποις τα παρα θεων, των μεν τας δεησεις και θυσιας, των δε τας επιταξεις και αμοιβας των θυσιων — a demon is an interpreter and reporter from men to the gods, and from the gods to men — of the prayers and the sacrifices of the one, and the injunctions and rewards of devotion on the part of the other. — Ed
(588) Calvin has very probably in his eye here the sentiment of Plato already quoted — that “every demon holds a middle place between God and mortal man.” — Ed.
(589) “ Quand auant que nous y presenter, nous auons renonce a tous sacrileges, c’est a dire a toute impiete et idolatrie;” — “When, before approaching it, we have renounced everything sacrilegious, that is to say, all impiety and idolatry.”
(590) “ O plus que miserable la condition de ceux;” — “O more than miserable the condition of those.”
22. Do we provoke the Lord ? Having laid down the doctrine, he assumes a more vehement tone, from observing, that what was a most atrocious offense against God was regarded as nothing, or, at least, was looked upon as a very trivial error. The Corinthians wished the liberty that they took to be reckoned excusable, as there is not one of us that willingly allows himself to be found fault with, but, on the contrary, we seek one subterfuge after another, under which to shelter ourselves. Now Paul says, and not without reason, that in this way we wage war against God; for nothing does God more require from us than this — that we adhere strictly to everything that he declares in his word. Do not those, then, who use subterfuges, (591) in order that they may be at liberty to transgress the commandment of God, arm themselves openly against God? Hence that curse which the Prophet denounces against all those who call evil, good, and darkness, light (Isaiah 5:20.)
Are we stronger ? He warns them how dangerous a thing it is to provoke God — because no one can do this but to his own ruin. (592) Among men the chance of war, as they speak, is doubtful, but to contend with God is nothing short of voluntarily courting destruction. Accordingly, if we fear to have God as an enemy, let us shudder at the thought of framing excuses for manifest sins, that is, whatever stand opposed to his word. Let us, also, shudder at the thought of calling in question those things that he has himself pronounced upon — for this is nothing less than to rise up against heaven after the manner of the giants. (593) (Genesis 11:4.)
(591) “ Qui ne veulent point venir au poinet;” — “Who are not willing to come to the point.”
(592) “ Ruine et condemnation;” — “Ruin and condemnation.”
(593) The reader will find the same incident in Sacred History referred to by our Author, and dwelt upon at considerable length, in the Harmony, vol. 1, p. 58. See also Calvin on Genesis, vol. 1, p. 328. — Ed.
23. All things are lawful for me Again he returns to the right of Christian liberty, by which the Corinthians defended themselves, and sets aside their objection by giving the same explanation as before. “To eat of meats that were sacrificed, and be present at the banquet, was an outward thing, and therefore was in itself lawful.” Paul declares that he does not by any means call this in question, but he replies, that we must have a regard to edification. All things are lawful for me, says he, but all things are not profitable, that is, for our neighbors, for no one, as he immediately adds, ought to seek his own advantage exclusively, and if anything is not profitable to the brethren, it must be abstained from. He, in the next place, expresses the kind of advantage — when it edifies, for we must not have respect merely to the advantage of the flesh. “What then? (594) Does a thing that is in other respects permitted by God, come on this account to be unlawful — if it is not expedient for our neighbor. Then in that case our liberty would be placed under subjection to men.” Consider attentively Paul’s words, and you will perceive that liberty, nevertheless, remains unimpaired, when you accommodate yourself to your neighbors, and that it is only the use of it that is restricted, for he acknowledges that it is lawful, but says that it ought not to be made use of, if it does not edify
(594) “ Dira quelqu’ vn;” — “Some one will say.”
24. Let no one seek his own. He handles the same subject in the 14 Chapter of the Romans. Let no one please himself, but endeavor to please his brethren for their edification This is a precept that is very necessary, for we are so corrupted by nature, that every one consults his own interests, regardless of those of his brethren. Now, as the law of love calls upon us to love our neighbors as ourselves, (Matthew 22:39,) so it requires us to consult their welfare. The Apostle, however, does not expressly forbid individuals to consult their own advantage, but he requires that they should not be so devoted to their own interests, as not to be prepared to forego part of their right, as often as the welfare of their brethren requires this.
25. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles He has spoken above of dissembling in connection with idolatry, or, at least, as to those actions which the Corinthians could not engage in, without professing themselves to be the associates of the wicked in their superstitions. He now requires them, not merely to abstain from all professions of idolatry, but also to avoid carefully all occasions of offense, which are wont to arise from the indiscriminate use of things indifferent. For, although there was but one kind of offense on the part of the Corinthians, (595) there were, at the same time different degrees of it. Now, as to the eating of food, he makes, in the first place, this general statement — that it is lawful to eat, with a safe conscience, any kind of food, because the Lord permits it. In the second place, he restricts this liberty as to the use of it — lest weak consciences should be injured. Thus this conclusion is divided into two parts the first relates to liberty and power as to things indifferent: the second to a limitation of it — that the use of it may be regulated in accordance with the rule of love.
Debating nothing (596) ᾿Ανακρίνεσθαι, the word that Paul makes use of, means to reason on both sides, (597) in such a way, that the person’s mind vacillates, inclining now to this side, and then to that. (598) Accordingly, in so far as concerns a distinction of meats, he frees our consciences from all scruple and hesitation; because it is proper that, when we are certain from the word of the Lord that he approves of what we do, we should have ease and tranquillity in our minds.
For conscience sake — that is to say, Before the judgment-seat of God — “In so far as you have to do with God, there is no occasion for your disputing with yourself, whether it be lawful or not. For I allow you to eat freely of all kinds of meat, because the Lord allows you everything without exception.”
(595) “ Car combien que les Corinthiens faissent en cela plusieurs fautes qui estoyent toutes comprises sous vne generalite;” — “For although the Corinthians in this case committed many faults which were all comprehended under one general description.”
(596) “ Sans en enquerir rien;” — “Without asking any question as to it.”
(597) “ Debatre en son entendement pour et contre, comme on dit;” — “To debate in one’s mind for and against, as they say.
(598) ᾿Ανακρίνω, properly means to examine narrowly It is stated by Bloomfield, that “the best recent Commentators consider the expression μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες, as put for μηδὲν κρέας (that is, κρέατος γένος) ἀνακρίνοντες, examining no kind of meat, to see whether it be idol-meat or not.” This interpretation is natural, and agrees particularly well with the expression, as repeated in the 27 th verse. — Ed
26. The earth is the Lord’s He establishes, from the testimony of David, the liberty which he had allowed. (Psalms 24:1, and Psalms 50:12.) But it will be asked by some one, “What has this to do with the point?” I answer, If the fullness of the earth (599) is the Lord’s, there is nothing in the world that is not sacred and pure. We must always keep in view, what the question is of which the Apostle treats. It might be doubted, whether the creatures of God were polluted by the sacrifices of the wicked. Paul says they are not, inasmuch as the rule and possession of the whole earth remain always in the hands of God. Now, what things the Lord has in his hands, he preserves by his power, and consequently sanctifies them. The sons of God, therefore, have the pure use of everything, because they receive them no otherwise than from the hand of God.
The fullness of the earth, (600) is an expression which is made use of by the Prophet to denote the abundance of blessings, with which the earth is furnished and adorned by the Lord. For if the earth were stripped of trees, herbs, animals, and other things, it would be like a house devoid of furniture and every kind of utensil: nay more, it would be mutilated and disfigured. Should any one object, that the earth is cursed on account of sin, the answer is easy — that he has an eye to its pure and perfect nature, because Paul is speaking of believers, to whom all things are sanctified through Christ.
(599) “ C’est ‘a dire, le contenu d’icelle;” — “That is to say, what it contains.”
(600) “ Lequel mot nous auons traduit, Le contenu de la terre;” — “Which expression we have rendered — What the earth contains.”
27. If any one of them that believe not invites you. Here follows an exception, to this effect, that if a believer has been warned, that what is set before him has been offered to an idol, and sees that there is a danger of offense being given, he sins against the brethren if he does not abstain. He shows then, in short, that care must be taken not to hurt weak consciences.
When he says — and you are willing to go, he intimates indirectly, that he does not altogether approve of it, and that it would be better if they declined, but as it is a thing indifferent, he does not choose to forbid it absolutely. And, certainly, there could be nothing better than to keep at a distance from such snares — not that those are expressly to be condemned, who accommodate themselves to men only in so far as conscience permits, (601) but because it becomes us to proceed with caution, (602) where we see that we are in danger of falling.
(601) “ Seulement autant que faire se pent sans offenser Dieu;” — “Only so far as they can do so without offending God.”
(602) “ Auec grand auis et prudence;” — “With great care and prudence.”
29. Conscience, I say, not thine own He always carefully takes heed not to diminish liberty, or to appear to take from it in any degree. “Thou oughtest to bear with the weak conscience of thy brother, that thou mayest not abuse thy right, so as to give occasion of offense to him; but in the meantime thy conscience remains, nevertheless, free, because it is exempted from that subjection. Let not, therefore, the restraint which I impose upon thee as to outward use, become by any means a snare to entangle thy conscience.”
It must be observed here, that the term conscience is taken here in its strict acceptation; for in Romans 13:5, and Titus 1:5, it is taken in a larger sense. “We ought, says Paul, to obey princes, not merely for the sake of wrath, but also for that of conscience ” — that is, not merely from fear of punishment, but because the Lord orders it so, and it is our duty. Is it not reasonable, too, that we should for the same reason accommodate ourselves to weak brethren — that is, because we are to this extent subject to them in the sight of God? Farther, the end of the commandment is love out of a good conscience Is not the affection of love included in a good conscience? Hence its meaning here is, as I have already stated, more restricted, inasmuch as the soul of a pious man looks exclusively to the tribunal of God, has no regard to men, is satisfied with the blessing of liberty procured for it by Christ, and is bound to no individuals, and to no circumstances of time or place.
Some manuscripts repeat the statement — The earth is the Lord’s. But the probability is, that some reader having put it on the margin, it had crept into the text. (603) It is not, however, a matter of great importance.
For why is my liberty It is doubtful, whether Paul speaks in this way of himself, or whether he makes this objection in the name of the Corinthians. If we take it as spoken in his own name, it will be a confirmation of the preceding statement. “In restricting yourself, for the sake of another man’s conscience, your liberty is not thereby made subject to him.” If in the name of the Corinthians, the meaning will be this: “You impose upon us an unjust law, in requiring that our liberty should stand or fall at the caprice of others.” I am of opinion, that Paul says this of himself, but explains it in another way, for hitherto I have been stating the views of others. To be judged, then, I explain here as meaning — to be condemned, agreeably to the common acceptation of the word in Scripture. Paul warns us of the danger that must ensue, if we make use of our liberty unreservedly, so as to give occasion of offense to our neighbors — that they will condemn it. Thus, through our fault, and our unreasonableness, the consequence will be, that this special benefit from God will be condemned If we do not guard against this danger, we corrupt our liberty by our abuse of it. This consideration, then, tends very much to confirm Paul’s exhortation.
(603) It is omitted in the Alex., Clermont, and in all of the more ancient MSS.; and in the Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate versions. — Ed.
30. If therefore by grace. This argument is similar to the preceding one, or nearly so. “As it is owing to the kindness of God that all things are lawful for me, why should I act in such a manner, that it should be reckoned to my account as a vice?” We cannot, it is true, prevent the wicked from reviling us, nor even the weak from being sometimes displeased with us; but Paul here reproves the forwardness of those, who of their own accord give occasion of offense, and hurt weak consciences, when neither necessity or expediency calls for it. He would have us, then, make a good use of our benefits, (604) that the weak may not have occasion of reviling from our inconsiderate use of liberty.
(604) “ C’est a dire, de nestre liberte;” — “That is to say, of our liberty.”
31. Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink Lest they should think, that in so small a matter they should not be so careful to avoid blame, he teaches that there is no part of our life, and no action so minute, (605) that it ought not to be directed to the glory of God, and that we must take care that, even in eating and drinking, we may aim at the advancement of it. This statement is connected with what goes before; for if we are eagerly desirous of the glory of God, as it becomes us to be, we will never allow, so far as we can prevent it, his benefits to lie under reproach. It was well expressed anciently in a common proverb, that we must not live to eat; but eat to live (606) Provided the end of living be at the same time kept in view, the consequence will thus be, that our food will be in a manner sacred to God, inasmuch as it will be set apart for his service.
(605) “ Qu’il n’y a rien en toute nostre vie, tant petit soit-il;” — “That there is nothing in our whole life, be it ever so small.”
(606) The proverbial expression referred to occurs in Auctor. ad Herenn. 4. 28: — “ Esse oportet ut vivas, non vivere ut edas ;” — “You should eat to live — not live to eat. ” — Ed.
32. Be not occasions of stumbling to any This is the second point, which it becomes us to have an eye to — the rule of love. A desire, then, for the glory of God, holds the first place; a regard to our neighbor holds the second He makes mention of Jews and Gentiles, not merely because the Church of God consisted of those two classes, but to teach us that we are debtors to all, even to strangers, that we may, if possible, gain them. (1 Corinthians 9:20.)
33. Even as I please all men in all this As he speaks in a general way, and without exception, some extend it by mistake to things that are unlawful, and at variance with the word of the Lord — as if it were allowable, for the sake of our neighbor, to venture farther than the Lord permits us. It is, however, more than certain, that Paul accommodated himself to men only in things indifferent, and in things lawful in themselves. Farther, the end must be carefully observed — that they may be saved Hence what is opposed to their salvation ought not to be conceded to them, (607) but we must use prudence, and that of a spiritual kind. (608)
(607) “ I1 ne leur faut pas accorder, et s’accommoder a eux en cela;” — “It is not proper to concede to them, and to accommodate ourselves to them in that.”
(608) The view here given by Calvin of the spirit by which Paul was actuated in this part of his conduct, is most successfully brought out, at greater length, by the Reverend Andrew Fuller, when comparing 1 Corinthians 10:33, with Galatians 1:10. — “Though both these kinds of action are expressed by one term — to please — yet they are exceedingly diverse; no less so than a conduct which has the glory of God and the good of mankind for its object, and one that originates and terminates in self. The former of these passages should be read in connection with what precedes and follows it, (1 Corinthians 10:31.) Hence it appears plain, that the things in which the Apostle pleased all, men, require to be restricted to such things as tend to their ‘profit, that they may be sav ed. ’ Whereas the things in which, according to the latter passage, he could not please men, and yet be the servant of Christ, were of a contrary tendency. Such were the objects pursued by the false teachers whom he opposed, and who desired to ‘make a fair show in the flesh, lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 6:12.) The former is that sweet inoffensiveness of spirit which teaches us to lay aside all selfwill and self-importance, that charity which ‘seeketh not her own,’ and ‘is not easily provoked;’ it is that spirit, in short, which the same writer elsewhere recommends from the example of Christ himself: ‘We, then, who are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor, for his good to edification: for even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.’ But the l a tter spirit referred to is that sordid compliance with the corruptions of human nature, of which flatterers and deceivers have always availed themselves, not for the glory of God or the good of men, but for the promotion of their own selfish designs.” — Fullers Works, volume 3. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11