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Here, he begins to reprove another fault among the Corinthians — an excessive fondness for litigation, which took its rise from avarice. Now, this reproof consists of two parts. The first is, that by bringing their disputes before the tribunals of the wicked, they by this means made the gospel contemptible, and exposed it to derision. The second is, that while Christians ought to endure injuries with patience, they inflicted injury on others, rather than allow themselves to be subjected to any inconvenience. Thus, the first part is particular: the other is general.
1. Dare any of you This is the first statement — that, if any one has a controversy with a brother, it ought to be decided before godly judges, and that it ought not to be before those that are ungodly. If the reason is asked, I have already said, that it is because disgrace is brought upon the gospel, and the name of Christ is held up as it were to the scoffings of the ungodly. For the ungodly, at the instigation of Satan, are always eagerly on the watch (316) for opportunities of finding occasion of calumny against the doctrine of godliness. Now believers, when they make them parties in their disputes, seem as though they did on set purpose furnish them with a handle for reviling. A second reason may be added — that we treat our brethren disdainfully, when we of our own accord subject them to the decisions of unbelievers.
But here it may be objected: “As it belongs to the office of the magistrate, and as it is peculiarly his province to administer justice to all, and to decide upon matters in dispute, why should not even unbelievers, who are in the office of magistrate, have this authority, and, if they have it, why are we prevented from maintaining our rights before their tribunals?” I answer, that Paul does not here condemn those who from necessity have a cause before unbelieving judges, (317) as when a person is summoned to a court; but those who, of their own accord, bring their brethren into this situation, and harass them, as it were, through means of unbelievers, while it is in their power to employ another remedy. It is wrong, therefore, to institute of one’s own accord a law-suit against brethren before unbelieving judges. If, on the other hand, you are summoned to a court, there is no harm in appearing there and maintaining your cause.
(316) “ Espient incessamment et d’vne affection ardente;” — “Watch incessantly and with eager desire.”
(317) “ Qui sont necessairement contraints de maintenir et plaider leurs causes sous iuges infideles;” — “Who are from necessity shut up to maintain and defend their law-suits before unbelieving judges.”
2. Know ye not that the saints. Here we have an argument from the less to the greater; for Paul, being desirous to show that injury is done to the Church of God when judgments on matters of dispute connected with earthly things are carried before unbelievers, as if there were no one in the society of the godly that was qualified to judge, reasons in this strain: “Since God has reckoned the saints worthy of such honor, as to have appointed them to be judges of the whole world, it is unreasonable that they should be shut out from judging as to small matters, as persons not qualified for it.” Hence it follows, that the Corinthians inflict injury upon themselves, in resigning into the hands of unbelievers the honor (318) that has been conferred upon them by God.
What is said here as to judging the world ought to be viewed as referring to that declaration of Christ:
When the Son of Man shall come, ye shall sit, etc. (Matthew 19:28.)
For all power of judgment has been committed to the Son, (John 5:22,)
in such a manner that he will receive his saints into a participation with him in this honor, as assessors. Apart from this, they will judge the world, as indeed they begin already to do, because their piety, faith, fear of the Lord, good conscience, and integrity of life, will make unbelievers altogether inexcusable, as it is said of Noah, that by his faith he condemned all the men of his age. (Hebrews 11:7.) But the former signification accords better with the Apostle’s design, for unless you take the judging here spoken of in its proper acceptation, the reasoning will not hold.
But even in this sense (319) it may seem not to have much weight, for it is as if one should say’ “The saints are endowed with heavenly wisdom, which immeasurably transcends all human doctrines: therefore they can judge better as to the stars than astrologers.” Now this no one will allow, and the ground of objection is obvious — because piety and spiritual doctrine do not confer a knowledge of human arts. My answer here is this, that between expertness in judging and other arts there is this difference, that while the latter are acquired by acuteness of intellect and by study, and are learned from masters, (320) the former depends rather on equity and conscientiousness.
But (321) “lawyers will judge better and more confidently than an illiterate Christian: otherwise the knowledge of law is of no advantage.” I answer, that their advice is not here excluded, for if the determination of any obscure question is to be sought from a knowledge of the laws, the Apostle does not hinder Christians from applying to lawyers. (322) What he finds fault with in the Corinthians is simply this, that they carry their disputes before unbelieving judges, as if they had none in the Church that were qualified to pass judgment, and farther, he shows how much superior is the judgment that God has assigned to his believing people.
The words rendered in you mean here, in my opinion, among you. For whenever believers meet in one place, under the auspices of Christ, (323) there is already in their assembly a sort of image of the future judgment, which will be perfectly brought to light on the last day. Accordingly Paul says, that the world is judged in the Church, because there Christ’s tribunal is erected, from which he exercises his authority. (324)
(318) “ L’honneur et la prerogatiue;” — “The honor and the prerogative.”
(319) “ Mais, dira quelqu’vn, encore a le prendre ainsi;” — “But, some one will say, even taking it in this way.”
(320) “ Sous precepteurs et maistres;” — “Under preceptors and masters.”
(321) “ Mais, dira quelqu’vn :” — “But, some one will say.”
(322) “ Ne defend point aux Chrestiens d’aller demander conseil aux Legistes;” — “Does not hinder Christians from going to ask the advice of lawyers.”
(323) “ Au nom de Christ;” — “In the name of Christ.”
(324) “ Auquel estant comme assis, il exerce sa iurisdiction;” — “On which being as it were seated, he exercises his authority.”
3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels ? This passage is taken in different ways. Chrysostom states that some understood it as referring to priests, (325) but this is exceedingly far-fetched. Others understand it of the angels in heaven, in this sense — that the angels are subject to the judgment of God’s word, and may be judged by us, if need be, by means of that word, as it is said in the Epistle to the Galatians —
If an angel from heaven bring any other gospel, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8.)
Nor does this exposition appear at first view unsuitable to the thread of Paul’s discourse; for if all whom God has enlightened by his word are endowed with such authority, that through means of that word they judge not only men but angels too, how much more will they be prepared to judge of small and trivial matters? As, however, Paul speaks here in the future tense, as referring to the last day, and as his words convey the idea of an actual judgment, (as the common expression is,) it were preferable, in my opinion, to understand him as speaking of apostate (326) angels. For the argument will be not less conclusive in this way: “Devils, who sprang from so illustrious an origin, and even now, when they have fallen from their high estate, are immortal creatures, and superior to this corruptible world, shall be judged by us. What then? Shall those things that are subservient to the belly be exempted from our judgment?
(325) “ Des prestres et ministres;” — “Of priests and ministers.”
(326) “ Apostats et rebelles;” — “Apostate and rebellious.”
4. If you have judgments then as to things pertaining to this life We must always keep in view what causes he is treating of; for public trials are beyond our province, and ought not to be transferred to our disposal; but as to private matters it is allowable to determine without the cognizance of the magistrate. As, then, we do not detract in any degree from the authority of the magistrate by having recourse to arbitration, it is not without good reason that the Apostle enjoins it upon Christians to refrain from resorting to profane, that is, unbelieving judges. And lest they should allege that they were deprived of a better remedy, he directs them to choose out of the Church arbiters, who may settle causes agreeably and equitably. Farther, lest they should allege that they have not a sufficient number of qualified persons, he says that the meanest is competent to discharge this office. There is, therefore, no detracting here from the dignity of the office of magistrates, when he gives orders that their office be committed to contemptible persons, for this (as I have already said) is stated by anticipation, as though he had said: “Even the lowest and meanest among you will discharge this office better than those unbelieving judges to whom you have recourse. So far are you from necessity in this way.”
Chrysostom comes near this interpretation, though he appends to it something additional; for he is of opinion, that the Apostle meant to say, that, even though the Corinthians should find no one among themselves who had sufficient wisdom for judging, they must nevertheless make choice of some, of whatever stamp they were. Ambrose touches neither heaven nor earth. (327) I think I have faithfully brought out the Apostle’s intention — that the lowest among believers was preferred by him to unbelievers, as to capacity of judging. There are some that strike out a quite different meaning, for they understand the word καθιζετε to be in the present tense — You set them to judge, and by those that are least esteemed in the Church they understand profane persons. (328) This, however, is more ingenious than solid, for that were a poor designation of unbelievers. (329) Besides, the form of expression, if you have, would not suit so well with a reproof, for the expression would have required rather to be while you have, for that condition takes away from the force of it. Hence I am the more inclined to think, that a remedy for the evil is here prescribed.
That this statement, however, was taken up wrong by the ancients, appears from a certain passage in Augustine. For in his book — “On the Work of Monks,” where he makes mention of his employments, he declares that among his numerous engagements, the most disagreeable of all was, that he was under the necessity of devoting a part of the day to secular affairs, but that he at the same time endured it patiently, because the Apostle (330) had imposed upon him this necessity. From this passage, and from a certain epistle, it appears that the bishops were accustomed to sit at certain hours to settle disputes, as if the Apostle had been referring to them here. As, however, matters always become worse, there sprang from this error, in process of time, that jurisdiction which the officials of the bishops assume to themselves in money matters. In that ancient custom there are two things that are deserving of reproof — that the bishops were involved in matters that were foreign to their office; and that they wronged God in making his authority and command a pretext for turning aside from their proper calling. The evil, however, was in some degree excusable, but as for the profane custom, which has come to prevail in the Papacy, it were the height of baseness to excuse or defend it.
(327) “ Sainct Ambrose ne touche ne ciel ne terre (cornroe on dit) en l’exposition de ces mots;” — “St. Ambrose touches neither heaven nor earth (as the expression is) in the exposition of these words.” — Our Author’s meaning seems to be that Ambrose hangs in suspense, or gives no decided opinion. — Ed.
(328) “ Les gens profanes et infideles;” — “Profane and unbelieving persons.”
(329) “ Car ce seroit vne facon de parler bien maigre et de peu de grace, d’appeler ainsi les infideles;” — “For it were a very meager and awkward way of speaking, to describe unbelievers in this manner.”
(330) “ Sainct Paul;” — “Saint Paul.”
5. I speak to your shame The meaning is — “If other considerations do not influence you, let it at least be considered by you, how disgraceful it is to you that there is not so much as one among you who is qualified to settle an affair amicably among brethren — an honor which you assign to unbelievers Now this passage is not inconsistent with the declaration which we met with above, when he stated that he did not make mention of their faults with the view of shaming them, (1 Corinthians 4:14,) for instead of this, by putting them to shame in this manner, he calls them back from disgrace, (331) and shows that he is desirous to promote their honor. He does not wish them, then, to form so unfavorable an opinion of their society, as to take away from all their brethren an honor which they allow to unbelievers
(331) “ Il les garde de tomber en reproche;” — “He guards them against falling into reproach.”
7. Now indeed there is utterly a fault. Here we have the second part of the reproof, which contains a general doctrine; for he now reproves them, not on the ground of their exposing the gospel to derision and disgrace, but on the ground of their going to law with each other. This, he says, is a fault We must, however, observe the propriety of the term which he employs. For ἥττημα in Greek signifies weakness of mind, as when one is easily broken down (332) by injuries, and cannot bear anything it comes afterward to be applied to vices of any kind, as they all arise from weakness and deficiency in fortitude. (333) What Paul, then, condemns in the Corinthians is this — that they harassed one another with law-suits. He states the reason of it — that they were not prepared to bear injuries patiently. And, assuredly, as the Lord commands us (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:21) not to be overcome by evils, but on the contrary to overcome injuries by acts of kindness, it is certain, that those who cannot control themselves so as to suffer injuries patiently, commit sin by their impatience. If contention in law-suits among believers is a token of that impatience, it follows that it is faulty
In this way, however, he seems to discard entirely judgments as to the affairs of individuals. “Those are altogether in the wrong who go to law. Hence it will not be allowable in any one to maintain his rights by having recourse to a magistrate.” There are some that answer this objection in this way — that the Apostle declares that where there are law-suits there is utterly a fault, because, of necessity, the one or the other has a bad cause. They do not, however, escape by this sophistry, because he says that they are in fault, not merely when they inflict injury, but also when they do not patiently endure it. For my own part, my answer is simply this — having a little before given permission to have recourse to arbiters, he has in this shown, with sufficient clearness, that, Christians are not prohibited from prosecuting their rights moderately, and without any breach of love. Hence we may very readily infer, that his being so severe was owing to his taking particularly into view the circumstances of the case. And, undoubtedly, wherever there is frequent recourse to law-suits, or where the parties contend with each other pertinaciously with rigor of law, (334) it is in that case abundantly plain, that their minds are immoderately inflamed with wrong dispositions, and are not prepared for equity and endurance of wrongs, according to the commandment of Christ. To speak more plainly, the reason why Paul condemns law-suits is, that we ought to suffer injuries with patience. Let us now see whether any one can carry on a law-suit without impatience; for if it is so, to go to law will not be wrong in all cases, but only ἐπὶ τὸ πολύ — for the most part. I confess, however, that as men’s manners are corrupt, impatience, or lack of patience (as they speak) is an almost inseparable attendant on lawsuits. This, however, does not hinder your distinguishing between the thing itself and the improper accompaniment. Let us therefore bear in mind, that Paul does not condemn law-suits on the ground of its being a wrong thing in itself to maintain a good cause by having recourse to a magistrate, but because it is almost invariably accompanied with corrupt dispositions; as, for example, violence, desire of revenge, enmities, obstinacy, and the like.
It is surprising that this question has not been more carefully handled by ecclesiastical writers. Augustine has bestowed more pains upon it than the others, and has come nearer the mark; (335) but even he is somewhat obscure, though there is truth in what he states. Those who aim at greater clearness in their statements tell us that we must distinguish between public and private revenge; for while the magistrate’s vengeance is appointed by God, those who have recourse to it do not rashly take vengeance at their own hand, but have recourse to God as an Avenger. (336) This, it is true, is said judiciously and appropriately; but we must go a step farther; for if it be not allowable even to desire vengeance from God, then, on the same principle, it were not allowable to have recourse to the magistrate for vengeance.
I acknowledge, then, that a Christian man is altogether prohibited from revenge, so that he must not exercise it, either by himself, or by means of the magistrate, nor even desire it. If, therefore, a Christian man wishes to prosecute his rights at law, so as not to offend God, he must, above all things, take heed that he does not bring into court any desire of revenge, any corrupt affection of the mind, or anger, or, in fine, any other poison. In this matter love will be the best regulator. (337)
If it is objected, that it very rarely happens that any one carries on a law-suit entirely free and exempt from every corrupt affection, I acknowledge that it is so, and I say farther, that it is rare to find a single instance of an upright litigant; but it is useful for many reasons to show that the thing is not evil in itself, but is rendered corrupt by abuse: First, that it may not seem as if God had to no purpose appointed courts of justice; Secondly, that the pious may know how far their liberties extend, that they may not take anything in hand against the dictates of conscience. For it is owing to this that many rush on to open contempt of God, when they have once begun to transgress those limits; (338) Thirdly, that they may be admonished, that they must always keep within bounds, so as not to pollute by their own misconduct the remedy which the Lord has permitted them to employ; Lastly, that the audacity of the wicked may be repressed by a pure and uncorrupted zeal, which could not be effected, if we were not allowed to subject them to legal punishments.
(332) “ Aiseement abbatu et irrite;” — “Easily hurt and irritated.”
(333) The Greek term ἥττημα is supposed by some to be derived originally from the Hebrew verb חתת to be broken, (which is rendered by ἡτταομαι, in various instances in the Septuagint.) Our author had probably an eye to this when stating the original meaning of the term to be “weakness of mind, as when one is easily broken down by injuries.” The term properly denotes defect It is instructive to observe, that a disposition to “ go to law with brethren,” rather than “suffer wrong,” is represented by the Apostle as indicative of a defect, that is, in Christian meekness or brotherly love; while the opposite disposition, recommended by the Apostle, would, according to the standard of the world’s morality, discover defect, in respect of want of spirit. — Ed
(334) “ Et qu’ils veulent veoir le bout du proces; (comme on dit;) “ — “And are desirous to see the issue of the case, (as the expression is.)”
(335) Our Author, when treating at some length of the same subject in the Institutes, (volume 3, p. 543,) makes a particular reference to Augustine. (Ephesians 5:0. ad Marcell.) — Ed.
(336) “ Se retirent a Dieu comme a celuy a qui appartient la vengeance ;” — “They have recourse to God, as to him to whom vengeance belongeth. ” (Psalms 94:1.)
(337) “ Pour estre bien gouuerne en ceci, il faut estre gaeni d’vne vraye charite;” — “To be properly regulated in this, we must be adorned with true love.”
(338) “ Plusieurs tombent en ceste malediction, de mepriser Dieu ouuertement;” — “Many fall into that curse of openly contemning God. ” (Psalms 10:13.)
8. But ye do injury. Hence we see for what reason he has inveighed against them with so much bitterness — because there prevailed among them such a base desire of gain, that they did not even refrain from injuring one another. He premised a little before, with the view of exposing the magnitude of the evil, that those are not Christians who know not to endure injuries. There is, then, an amplification here, founded on a comparison: for if it is wrong not to bear injuries patiently, how much worse is it to inflict them?
And that your brethren Here is another aggravation of the evil; for if those are doubly culpable who defraud strangers, it is monstrous for brother to be cheated or despoiled by brother Now all of us are brethren that call upon one Father in heaven (Matthew 23:9.) At the same time, if any one acts an unprincipled part towards strangers, Paul does not palliate the crime; but he teaches that the Corinthians were utterly blinded in making sacred brotherhood a matter of no moment.
9. Know ye not, etc. By unrighteousness here you may understand what is opposed to strict integrity. The unrighteous, then, that is, those who inflict injury on their brethren, who defraud or circumvent others, who, in short, are intent upon their own advantage at the expense of injuring others, will not inherit the kingdom of God That by the unrighteous here, as for example adulterers, and thieves and covetous, and revilers, he means those who do not repent of their sins, but obstinately persist in them, is too manifest to require that it should be stated. The Apostle himself, too, afterwards expresses this in the words employed by him, when he says that the Corinthians formerly were such The wicked, then, do inherit the kingdom of God, but it is only in the event of their having been first converted to the Lord in true repentance, and having in this way ceased to be wicked. For although conversion is not the ground of pardon, yet we know that none are reconciled to God but those who repent. The interrogation, however, is emphatic, for it intimates that he states nothing but what they themselves know, and is matter of common remark among all pious persons.
Be not deceived He takes occasion from one vice to speak of many. I am of opinion, however, that he has pointed out those vices chiefly which prevailed among the Corinthians. He makes use of three terms for reproving those lascivious passions which, as all historical accounts testify, reigned, nay raged, to an extraordinary height in that city. For it was a city that abounded in wealth, (as has been stated elsewhere.) It was a celebrated mart, which was frequented by merchants from many nations. Wealth has luxury as its attendant — the mother of unchastity and all kinds of lasciviousness. In addition to this, a nation which was of itself prone to wantonness, was prompted to it by many other corruptions.
The difference between fornicators and adulterers is sufficiently well known. By effeminate persons I understand those who, although they do not openly abandon themselves to impurity, discover, nevertheless, their unchastity by blandishments of speech, by lightness of gesture and apparel, and other allurements. The fourth description of crime is the most abominable of all — that monstrous pollution which was but too prevalent in Greece.
He employs three terms in reproving injustice and injuries. He gives the name of thieves to those who take the advantage of their brethren by any kind of fraud or secret artifice. By extortioners, he means those that violently seize on another’s wealth, or like harpies (340) drew to themselves from every quarter, and devour. With the view of giving his discourse a wider range, he afterwards adds all covetous persons too. Under the term drunkards you are to understand him as including those who go to excess in eating. He more particularly reproves revilers, because, in all probability, that city was full of gossip and slanders. In short, he makes mention chiefly of those vices to which, he saw, that city was addicted.
Farther, that his threatening may have more weight, he says, be not deceived; by which expression he admonishes them not to flatter themselves with a vain hope, as persons are accustomed, by extenuating their offenses, to inure themselves to contempt of God. No poison, therefore, is more dangerous than those allurements which encourage us in our sins. Let us, therefore, shun, not as the songs of the Sirens, (341) but as the deadly bites of Satan, the talk of profane persons, when turning the judgment of God and reproofs of sins into matter of jest. Lastly, we must also notice here the propriety of the word κληρονομειν — to inherit; which shows that the kingdom of heaven is the inheritance of sons, and therefore comes to us through the privilege of adoption.
(340) “ Comme bestes rauissantes;” — “Like ravenous beasts.” The harpies, it is well known, were fabulous monsters, proverbial for rapacity. It deserves to be noticed that their name ἅρπυίαι, and the term made use of by Paul to denote extortioners, ( ἅρπαγες) are both of them derived from ἅρπάζω, to seize upon, or take by violence. — Ed
(341) The Sirens were a kind of marine monsters, which were supposed to inhabit certain rocky islands on the south-west coast of Italy, and decoyed, it was alleged, by their enchanting music, mariners to their destruction. Homer in his Odyssey (8. 45) speaks of their melodious song ( λιγυρὢ ἀοιδὢ.) Our Author, it will be observed, in the connection in which he alludes to “the songs of the Sirens,” strongly expresses his belief of the reality of Satanic influence, as contrasted with what is merely fabulous. — Ed
11. And such were ye. Some add a term of speciality: Such were some of you, as in Greek the word τινὲς is added; but I am rather of opinion that the Apostle speaks in a general way. I consider that term to be redundant, in accordance with the practice of the Greeks, who frequently make use of it for the sake of ornament, not by way of restriction. We must not, however, understand him as putting all in one bundle, so as to attribute all these vices to each of them, but he simply means to intimate, that no one is altogether free from these vices, until he has been renewed by the Spirit. For we must hold this, that man’s nature universally contains the seed of all evils, but that some vices prevail and discover themselves more in some than in others, according as the Lord brings out to view the depravity of the flesh by its fruits.
Thus Paul, in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, piles up many different kinds of vices and crimes, which flow from ignorance of God, and that ingratitude, of which he had shown all unbelievers to be guilty, (Romans 1:21) — not that every unbeliever is infected with all these vices, but that all are liable to them, and no one is exempt from them all. For he who is not an adulterer, sins in some other way. So also in the third chapter he brings forward as applicable to the sons of Adam universally those declarations —
their throat is an open sepulcher: their feet are swift to shed blood: their tongue is deceitful or poisonous, (Romans 3:13)—
not that all are sanguinary and cruel, or that all are treacherous or revilers; but that, previously to our being formed anew by God, one is inclined to cruelty, another to treachery, another to impurity, another to deceit; so that there is no one in whom there does not exist some trace of the corruption common to all; and we are all of us, to a man, by an internal and secret affection of the mind, liable to all diseases, unless in so far as the Lord inwardly restrains them from breaking forth openly. (342) The simple meaning, therefore, is this, that prior to their being regenerated by grace, some of the Corinthians were covetous, others adulterers, others extortioners, others effeminate, others revilers, but now, being made free by Christ, they were such no longer.
The design of the Apostle, however, is to humble them, by calling to their remembrance their former condition; and, farther, to stir them up to acknowledge the grace of God towards them. For the greater the misery is acknowledged to be, from which we have escaped through the Lord’s kindness, so much the more does the magnitude of his grace shine forth. Now the commendation of grace is a fountain (343) of exhortations, because we ought to take diligent heed, that we may not make void the kindness of God, which ought to be so highly esteemed. It is as though he had said: “It is enough that God has drawn you out of that mire in which you were formerly sunk;” as Peter also says,“
The time past is sufficient to have fulfilled the lusts of the Gentiles.” (1 Peter 4:3.)
But ye are washed He makes use of three terms to express one and the same thing, that he may the more effectually deter them from rolling back into the condition from which they had escaped. Hence, though these three terms have the same general meaning, there is, nevertheless, great force in their very variety. For there is an implied contrast between washing and defilement — sanctification and pollution — justification and guilt. His meaning is, that having been once justified, they must not draw down upon themselves a new condemnation — that, having been sanctified, they must not pollute themselves anew — that, having been washed, they must not disgrace themselves with new defilements, but, on the contrary, aim at purity, persevere in true holiness, and abominate their former pollutions. And hence we infer what is the purpose for which God reconciles us to himself by the free pardon of our sins. While I have said that one thing is expressed by three terms, I do not mean that there is no difference whatever in their import, for, properly speaking, God justifies us when he frees us from condemnation, by not imputing to us our sins; he cleanses us, when he blots out the remembrance of our sins. Thus these two terms differ only in this respect, that the one is simple, while the other is figurative; for the term washing is metaphorical, Christ’s blood being likened to water. On the other hand, he sanctifies by renewing our depraved nature by his Spirit. Thus sanctification is connected with regeneration. In this passage, however, the Apostle had simply in view to extol, with many commendations, the grace of God, which has delivered us from the bondage of sin, that we may learn from this how much it becomes us to hold in abhorrence everything that stirs up against us God’s anger and vengeance.
In the name of the Lord Jesus, etc With propriety and elegance he distinguishes between different offices. For the blood of Christ is the procuring cause of our cleansing: righteousness and sanctification come to us through his death and resurrection. But, as the cleansing effected by Christ, and the attainment of righteousness, are of no avail except to those who have been made partakers of those blessings by the influence of the Holy Spirit, it is with propriety that he makes mention of the Spirit in connection with Christ. Christ, then, is the source of all blessings to us from him we obtain all things; but Christ himself, with all his blessings, is communicated to us by the Spirit. For it is by faith that we receive Christ, and have his graces applied to us. The Author of faith is the Spirit.
(342) “ Suiets a toutes sortes de vices, sinon entant que le Seigneur les reprime au dedans, afin qu’ils ne sortent dehors, et vienent “a estre mis en effet;” — “Liable to all kinds of vices, unless in so far as the Lord inwardly restrains them, that they may not break forth outwardly, and come to be put in practice.”
(343) “ Vne fontnine abondante;” — “An abundant fountain.”
12. All things are lawful for me. Interpreters labor hard to make out the connection of these things, (345) as they appear to be somewhat foreign to the Apostle’s design. For my own part, without mentioning the different interpretations, I shall state what, in my opinion, is the most satisfactory. It is probable, that the Corinthians even up to that time retained much of their former licentiousness, and had still a savor of the morals of their city. Now when vices stalk abroad with impunity, (346) custom is regarded as law, and then afterwards vain pretexts are sought for by way of excuse; an instance of which we have in their resorting to the pretext of Christian liberty, so as to make almost everything allowable for themselves to do. They reveled in excess of luxury. With this there was, as usual, much pride mixed up. As it was an outward thing, they did not think that there was any sin involved in it: nay more, it appears from Paul’s words that they abused liberty so much as to extend it even to fornication. Now therefore, most appropriately, after having spoken of their vices, he discusses those base pretexts by which they flattered themselves in outward sins.
It is, indeed, certain, that he treats here of outward things, which God has left to the free choice of believers, but by making use of a term expressive of universality, he either indirectly reproves their unbridled licentiousness, or extols God’s boundless liberality, which is the best directress to us of moderation. For it is a token of excessive licentiousness, when persons do not, of their own accord, restrict themselves, and set bounds to themselves, amidst such manifold abundance. And in the first place, he limits liberty (347) by two exceptions; and secondly, he warns them, that it does not by any means extend to fornication. These words, All things are lawful for me, must be understood as spoken in name of the Corinthians, κατ ᾿ ἀνθυποφορὰν, (by anticipation,) as though he had said, I am aware of the reply which you are accustomed to make, when desirous to avoid reproof for outward vices. You pretend that all things are lawful for you, without any reserve or limitation.
But all things are not expedient Here we have the first exception, by which he restricts the use of liberty — that they must not abandon themselves to licentiousness, because respect must be had to edification. (348) The meaning is, “It is not enough that this or that is allowed us, to be made use of indiscriminately; for we must consider what is profitable to our brethren, whose edification it becomes us to study. For as he will afterwards point out at greater length, (1 Corinthians 10:23,) and as he has already shown in Romans 14:13, etc., every one has liberty inwardly (349) in the sight of God on this condition, that all must restrict the use of their liberty with a view to mutual edification.
I will not be brought under the power of anything Here we have a second restriction — that we are constituted lords of all things, in such a way, that we ought not to bring ourselves under bondage to anything; as those do who cannot control their appetites. For I understand the word τινος (any) to be in the neuter gender, and I take it as referring, not to persons, but to things, so that the meaning is this: “We are lords of all things; only we must not abuse that lordship in such a way as to drag out a most miserable bondage, being, through intemperance and inordinate lusts, under subjection to outward things, which ought to be under subjection to us.” And certainly, the excessive moroseness of those who grudge to yield up anything for the sake of their brethren, has this effect, that they unadvisedly put halters of necessity around their own necks.
(345) “ A le conioindre avec ce qui a este dit auparauant;” — “To connect it with what has been said before.”
(346) “ Or ou on peche a bride auallee, et la ou les vices ne sont point corrigez;” — “Where persons sin with a loose bridle, and where vices are not punished.”
(347) “ La liberte Chrestienne;” — “Christian liberty.”
(348) “ L’edification du prochain;” — “The edification of their neighbor.”
(349) “ En sa conscience;” — “In his conscience.”
13. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats Here he shows what use ought to be made of outward things — for the necessity of the present life, which passes away quickly as a shadow, agreeably to what, he says afterwards. (1 Corinthians 7:29.) We must use this world so as not to abuse it And hence, too, we infer, how improper it is for a Christian man to contend for outward things. (350) When a dispute, therefore, arises respecting corruptible things, a pious mind will not anxiously dwell upon these things; for liberty is one thing — the use of it is another. This statement accords with another — that
The kingdom of God is not meat and drink. (Romans 14:17.)
Now the body is not for fornication Having mentioned the exceptions, he now states still farther, that our liberty ought not by any means to be extended to fornication For it was an evil that was so prevalent at that time, that it seemed in a manner as though it had been permitted; as we may see also from the decree of the Apostles, (Acts 15:20,) where, in prohibiting the Gentiles from fornication, they place it among things indifferent; for there can be no doubt that this was done, because it was very generally looked upon as a lawful thing. Hence Paul says now, There is a difference between fornication and meats, for the Lord has not ordained the body for fornication, as he has the belly for meats And this he confirms from things contrary or opposite, inasmuch as it is consecrated to Christ, and it is impossible that Christ should be conjoined with fornication. What he adds — and the Lord for the body, is not without weight, for while God the Father has united us to his Son, what wickedness there would be in tearing away our body from that sacred connection, and giving it over to things unworthy of Christ. (351)
(350) “ Il s’en fant que l’homme Chrestien se doyue soncier ne debatre pour les choses externes;” — “ A Christian man ought not to be solicitous, or to contend for outward things.”
(351) “ Choses du tout indignes de Christ;” — “Things altogether unworthy of Christ.”
14. And God hath also raised up the Lord He shows from Christ’s condition how unseemly fornication is for a Christian man; for Christ having been received into the heavenly glory, what has he in common with the pollutions of this world? Two things, however, are contained in these words. The first is, that it is unseemly and unlawful, that our body, which is consecrated to Christ, should be profaned by fornication, inasmuch as Christ himself has been raised up from the dead, that he might enter on the possession of the heavenly glory. The second is, that it is a base thing to prostitute our body (352) to earthly pollutions, while it is destined to be a partaker (353) along with Christ of a blessed immortality and of the heavenly glory. There is a similar statement in Colossians 3:1, If we have risen with Christ, etc., with this difference, that he speaks here of the last resurrection only, while in that passage he speaks of the first also, or in other words, of the grace of the Holy Spirit, by which we are fashioned again to a new life. As, however, the resurrection is a thing almost incredible (Acts 26:8) to the human mind, when the Scripture makes mention of it, it reminds us of the power of God, with the view of confirming our faith in it. (Matthew 22:29.)
(352) “ C’est vne meschancete d’abandonner nostre corps, et le prostituer;” — “It is wickedness to surrender our body, and prostitute it.”
(353) “ Estre vn tour participant;” — “To be one day a participant.”
15. Know ye not that our bodies are the members, etc. Here we have an explanation, or, if you prefer it, an amplification of the foregoing statement. For that expression, the body is for the Lord, might, owing to its brevity, be somewhat obscure. Hence he says, as if with the view of explaining it, that Christ is joined with us and we with him in such a way, that we become one body with him. Accordingly, if I have connection with an harlot, I tear Christ in pieces, so far as it is in my power to do so; for it is impossible for me to draw Him into fellowship with such pollution. (354) Now as that must be held in abhorrence, (355) he makes use of the expression which he is accustomed to employ in reference to things that are absurd — God forbid (356) Observe, that the spiritual connection which we have with Christ belongs not merely to the soul, but also to the body, so that we are flesh of his flesh, etc (Ephesians 5:30.) Otherwise the hope of a resurrection were weak, if our connection were not of that nature — full and complete.
(354) “ Vne pollution si fade et infame;” — “A pollution so filthy and infamous.”
(355) “ Pour ce que ceci est vne chose abominable, et que nous deuons auoir en horreur;” — “As that is an abominable thing, and we must hold it in abhorrence.”
(356) The original expression, Μή γέοιτο ! Away with it ! corresponds to the Hebrew term חללה, far be it ! Thus in Genesis 18:25, חללה לך משת כדברהזה, Far be it from thee to act in this manner ! Homer makes use of a similar expression — μὴ τοῦτο θεος τελεσειεν, forbid that heaven should accomplish that ! (Od. 20. 234.) — Ed
16. Know ye not that he that is joined to an harlot He brings out more fully the greatness of the injury that is done to Christ by the man that has intercourse with an harlot; for he becomes one body, and hence he tears away a member from Christ’s body. It is not certain in what sense he accommodates to his design the quotation which he subjoins from Genesis 2:24. For if he quotes it to prove that two persons who commit fornication together become one flesh, he turns it aside from its true meaning to what is quite foreign to it. For Moses speaks there not of a base and prohibited cohabitation of a man and a woman, but of the marriage connection which God blesses. For he shows that that bond is so close and indissoluble, that it surpasses the relationship which subsists between a father and a son, which, assuredly, can have no reference to fornication. This consideration has led me sometimes to think, that this quotation is not brought forward to confirm the immediately preceding statement, but one that is more remote, in this way — “Moses says, that by the marriage connection husband and wife become one flesh, but he that is jointed to the Lord becomes not merely one flesh, but one spirit with him.” (357) And in this way the whole of this passage would tend to magnify the efficacy and dignity of the spiritual marriage which subsists between us and Christ.
If, however, any one does not altogether approve of this exposition, as being rather forced, I shall bring forward another. For as fornication is the corruption of a divine institution, it has some resemblance to it; and what is affirmed respecting the former, may to some extent be applied to the latter; not that it may be honored with the praises due to the former, (358) but for the purpose of expressing the more fully the heinousness of the sin. The expression, therefore, that they two become one flesh, is applicable in the true and proper sense to married persons only; but it is applied to fornicators, who are joined in a polluted and impure fellowship, meaning that contagion passes from the one to the other. (359) For there is no absurdity in saying that fornication bears some resemblance to the sacred connection of marriage, as being a corruption of it, as I have said; but the former has a curse upon it, and the other a blessing. Such is the correspondence between things that are contrasted in an antithesis. At the same time, I would prefer to understand it, in the first instance, of marriage, and then, in an improper sense, (360) of fornication, in this way — “God pronounces husband and wife to be one flesh, in order that neither of them may have connection with another flesh; so that the adulterer and adulteress do, also, become one flesh, and involve themselves in an accursed connection. And certainly this is more simple, and agrees better with the context.
(357) “ Mais nous sommes faits non seulement vne mesme chair auec le Seigneur, auquel nous adherons, mais aussi vn mesme esprit;” — “But we have become not merely one flesh with the Lord, to whom we are joined, but also one spirit.”
(358) “ Non que la paillardise soit digne de estre ornee des louanges qui appartienent a l’ordonnance du marriage;” — “Not that fornication is worthy to be honored with the praises that belong to the ordinance of marriage.
(359) “ Pour monstrer que la contagion et vilenie passe de l’vn a l’autre;” — “To show that contagion and pollution pass from the one to the other.”
(360) Our Author makes use of the adverb — abusive, (improperly,) referring, it is probable, to the figure of speech called by Quinctilian (8. 6) abusio — the same as catachresis (perversion.) — Ed.
17. He that is joined to the Lord. He has added this to show that our connection with Christ is closer than that of a husband and wife, and that the former, accordingly, must be greatly preferred before the latter, so that it must be maintained with the utmost chastity and fidelity. For if he who is joined to a woman in marriage ought not to have illicit connection with an harlot, much more heinous were this crime in believers, who are not merely one flesh with Christ, but also one spirit Thus there is a comparison between greater and less.
18. Flee fornication Every sin, etc. Having set before us honorable conduct, he now shows how much we ought to abhor fornication, setting before us the enormity of its wickedness and baseness. Now he shows its greatness by comparison — that this sin alone, of all sins, puts a brand of disgrace upon the body. The body, it is true, is defiled also by theft, and murder, and drunkenness, in accordance with those statements —
Your hands are defiled with blood. (Isaiah 1:15.)
You have yielded your members instruments of iniquity unto sin, (Romans 6:19,)
and the like. Hence some, in order to avoid this inconsistency, understand the words rendered against his own body, as meaning against us, as being connected with Christ; but this appears to me to be more ingenious than solid. Besides, they do not escape even in this way, because that same thing, too, might be affirmed of idolatry equally with fornication. For he who prostrates himself before an idol, sins against connection with Christ. Hence I explain it in this way, that he does not altogether deny that there are other vices, in like manner, by which our body is dishonored and disgraced, but that his meaning is simply this — that defilement does not attach itself to our body from other vices in the same way (361) as it does from fornication My hand, it is true, is defiled by theft or murder, my tongue by evil speaking, or perjury, (362) and the whole body by drunkenness; but fornication leaves a stain impressed upon the body, such as is not impressed upon it from other sins. According to this comparison, or, in other words, in the sense of less and more, other sins are said to be without the body — not, however, as though they do not at all affect the body, viewing each one by itself.
(361) “ N’en demeure point tellement imprimee en nostre corps;” — “Does not remain impressed upon our body in the same way.”
(362) “ Par mesdisance, detraction, et periure;” — “By evil-speaking, detraction, and perjury.”
19. Know ye not that your body He makes use of two additional arguments, in order to deter us from this filthiness. First, That our bodies are temples of the Spirit; and, secondly, that the Lord has bought us to himself as his property. There is an emphasis implied in the term temple; for as the Spirit of God cannot take up his abode in a place that is profane, we do not give him a habitation otherwise than by consecrating ourselves to him as temples It is a great honor that God confers upon us when he desires to dwell in us. (Psalms 132:14.) Hence we ought so much the more to fear, lest he should depart from us, offended by our sacrilegious actings. (363)
And ye are not your own. Here we have a second argument — that we are not at our own disposal, that we should live according to our own pleasure. He proves this from the fact that the Lord has purchased us for himself, by paying the price of our redemption. There is a similar statement in Romans 14:9
To this end Christ died and rose again, that he might be Lord of the living and the dead.
Now the word rendered price may be taken in two ways; either simply, as we commonly say of anything that it has cost a price, (364) when we mean that it has not been got for nothing; or, as used instead of the adverb τιμίως at a dear rate, as we are accustomed to say of things that have cost us much. This latter view pleases me better. In the same way Peter says,
Ye are redeemed, not with gold and silver, but with the precious (365) blood of the Lamb, without spot. (1 Peter 1:18.)
The sum is this, (366) that redemption must hold us bound, and with a bridle of obedience restrain the lasciviousness of our flesh.
(363) “ Par nos vilenies plenes de sacrilege;” — “By our defilements, full of sacrilege.”
(364) Thus, ἐξευρίσκειν, is employed by classical writers to mean — getting a thing at a price, that is, at a high price. See Herod. 7. 119. — Ed
(365) Our Author has very manifestly in his eye the epithet τιμίος, (precious,) as made use of by the Apostle Peter, in reference to the blood of Christ — τιμίῳ αἱματι, ὡς ἀμνου ἀμώμου κ. τ. λ. — “precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish,” etc. — Ed
(366) “ Le sommaire et la substance du propos revient la;” — “The sum and substance of the discourse amount to this.”
20. Glorify God From this conclusion, it appears that the Corinthians took a liberty to themselves in outward things, that it was necessary to restrain and bridle. The reproof therefore is this he allows that the body is subject to God no less than the soul, and that accordingly it is reasonable that both be devoted to his glory. “As it is befitting that the mind of a believer should be pure, so there must be a corresponding outward profession also before men, inasmuch as the power of both is in the hands of God, who has redeemed both.” With the same view he declared a little ago, that not only our souls but our bodies also are temples of the Holy Spirit, that we may not think that we discharge our duty to him aright, if we do not devote ourselves wholly and entirely to his service, that he may by his word regulate even the outward actions of our life.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25