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Greeting and Thanksgiving. Partisanship in the Church
St. Paul, after greeting the Church and giving thanks for its spiritual gifts, rebukes the preference for various teachers which was prevalent among them; such a spirit lost sight of Christ crucified, the one subject of all Christian teachers.
1-9. Greeting and Thanksgiving.
1. Called to be an apostle] chosen by God, not self-appointed: see Acts 22:17-21. Sosthenes] This may be the ruler of the synagogue of Acts 18:17, converted since that time.
2. Sanctified in Christ Jesus] consecrated to God through faith in Christ, having Christ living in them and His influence moulding them. Called to be saints] lit. ’called saints’; because consecrated to Christ. They bore the name and should also show the nature of saints. The holiness of the Church is continually suggested in this Epistle. With all that in every place call] The greeting is extended to include all Christians in the neighbourhood. There was a branch of the Church at Cenchrem, the eastern port of Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:1; Romans 16:1). Call upon the name] Prayer was offered to Christ by all Christians from the time of the Ascension, and this is one of the clearest proofs that He was regarded as truly divine (Acts 7:59; Acts 9:21).
3. Grace be unto you, and peace] St. Paul’s invariable greeting to the Churches. Grace is the favour of God, and peace the result of the enjoyment of that favour.
4-9. Paraphrase. ’I praise God continually because through your spiritual union with Christ you have received the gifts of His grace. (5) I am especially thankful because your knowledge of the truth and your ability to give it expression have increased (6) with the increasing response of your spirits to the gospel of Christ. (7) You are thus on an equality with other Churches in respect of spiritual gifts; and you wait and watch for the coming of the Lord, (8) who will keep you faithful, so that none shall reproach you.’
4. I thank my God] St. Paul regarded the Corinthian Church, in spite of its sins and faults, as a true and living Church.
5. Are enriched] RY ’were enriched.’ In all utterance, and in all knowledge] The fact that they abused these gifts (1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 13:1-2; 1 Corinthians 14:2-13) did not lead the Apostle to undervalue them.
6. The testimony of Christ] The Apostle’s witness to Christ’s person and power and saving work was verified by its effects upon the Corinthians.
7. The coming of our Lord] cp. 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 2 Peter 3:4, 2 Peter 3:14.
8. Confirm you] keep you steadfast.
9. The fellowship of his Son] i.e. union with Him. This is the keynote of the Epistle, and leads to the thought suggested in the next paragraph, that they who are united to Christ should be united to one another.
(a) 1 Corinthians 1:10 to 1 Corinthians 4:21. Parties and Party Spirit in the Church
10-17. Paraphrase. ’Brethren, I implore you by the Holy Name of Jesus to abstain from strife and party spirit. I have heard of your disputes and of your use of the names of Apostles and even of Christ’s Holy Name as party watchwords. (13-16) Can Christ be claimed as the property of a faction! And are you putting my name on a level with His Sacred Name? I am thankful that I baptised so very few of you that none can say I baptised in my own name. (17) Preaching was my work, not baptism—the preaching of salvation through the Cross of Christ.’
10. By the name of our Lord] The Apostle appeals to them by the Holy Name of Jesus, which itself should remind them of their oneness as His followers, since they had all been baptised into it. Speak the same thing] i.e. agree in calling Christ your only leader. Perfectly joined, etc.] lit. ’adjusted in the same mind and in the same view.’ They should be reconciled, and try to be of the same spirit.
11. Chloe] We know nothing of her but her name. ’Those of her house’ may have been sons or brothers or servants. Contentions] The ’divisions’ of 1 Corinthians 1:10 had produced disputes probably at the meetings for worship.
12. This I say] The Corinthian Christians were divided into parties (see Intro.), each professing to follow the teaching and example of a favourite teacher. These parties had not yet separated into opposing sects, but their existence deprived the Church of the power of united action arising from united feeling.
13. Is Christ divided, etc.] see paraphrase. St. Paul reminds the Corinthians indirectly but emphatically of the crucifixion of Christ for them and of their baptism into His name. By the one they had been redeemed from sin; by the other they had been dedicated to Christ’s service, and had entered into communion with Him. How then could they put others side by side with their crucified Lord?
Baptized in (RV ’into’) the name of Paul] Their baptism did not dedicate them to Paul’s service.
14. Crispus] the ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:8). Gaius] see Romans 16:23.
15. Lest any should say] This does not mean that the Apostle refrained from baptising because he had this danger in view, but only that because of the fact that a party had been formed in his name, it was well that he had not baptised, and so laid himself open to misrepresentation.
16. Stephanas] was now with St. Paul (1 Corinthians 16:17). He had been the first Corinthian convert (1 Corinthians 16:15).
17. Not to baptize] The Apostle reserved himself as far as possible for the work of preaching, and left baptism for the most part to his companions. Not with wisdom of words] i.e. paying attention, not to the manner of presenting the truth, but to the substance of the truth itself.
18-25. The gospel of the crucified Christ is no foolishness to those who know its power. The wisdom of the world has been shown to be mere folly by the wisdom of God in Christ. Men in their wisdom wandered away from God, and it is by this so-called folly of preaching that those who believe, both Jews and Greeks, have been saved.
18. Foolishness] Christ’s self-sacrificing death produces no response in some hearts: cp. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. Perish.. are saved] RV ’are perishing.. are being saved.’ Salvation is here spoken of as present and progressive. The Apostle is thinking of the work of Christ in sanctifying those who believe. The power of God] Because the lives of those who receive it are transformed by the influence of Christ dwelling in them by His Spirit and moulding them to His will.
19, 20. Paraphrase. ’For God still works in the same way as when overruling the course of history He confounded those who in their boasted wisdom doubted His protection, and sought alliance with Egypt against Assyria. (20) Has He not confounded the wise, both learned Jew and keen-witted Greek, by revealing how little their learning and eloquence have done to save men from sin?’
19. It is written] Quoted from the LXX version of Isaiah 29:14; Isaiah 21. By wisdom] The Greeks learned nothing of His character from nature or speculation, and the Jews failed to recognise the truth taught in their history and in their law (cp. Romans 1, 2). The foolishness of preaching] St. Paul, of course, is writing sarcastically. Yes! you call it folly; but it is wiser than all your wisdom!
22-24. Paraphrase. ’And this is true, as the facts declare. The Jews will not believe unless a miracle is wrought before their eyes; the Greeks will accept no truth that is not commended by philosophical speculation; (23) but the subject of our preaching is salvation through the crucified Christ—who has by His death set us free from the bondage and from the power of sin—a doctrine which moves the Jews to anger and the Greeks to mirth, (24) but which is true wisdom to us, because we have been delivered from sin and brought to God by the transforming power of Christ.’
23. A stumblingblock] The idea of a crucified Messiah was repugnant to the Jews. Foolishness] The Greeks made a jest of such a religion. As an illustration the raillery of Lucian in a later age may be cited.
24. Them which are called] those whom the message has found responsive. Christ the power.. and the wisdom of God] He is the power of God because He enables the sinner to overcome his sin; and the wisdom of God because He reveals the mind of God and the practicable way of salvation.
25. The foolishness of God] This method of salvation by the Cross of Christ in point of fact saved men from their sins. And thus the so-called foolishness of God was proved in practice to be wiser than the wise methods of men.
26-31. Paraphrase. ’Look at the state of matters in your own Church. There are few among you eminent in the eyes of the world. (27-29) But it is just what is weak and lowly and of no account according to worldly standards that God has chosen to shame what is strong and lofty and worldly-wise; that no man may boast or compare his work with God’s. (30) And you Corinthians are the evidences of the work of God in Christ who has saved you from your sins; (31) and so the word of prophecy has been fulfilled that if any one wishes to boast let him boast of what God has wrought for him.’
26. Ye see your calling] RV ’Behold your calling.’ Calling] Not ’worldly station,’ but God’s invitation given through Christ. Not many wise, etc.] The Corinthian Church was composed chiefly of people who from the worldly standpoint were of little account. There were probably many freedmen and slaves in the Church, the former being chiefly engaged in trade. Prof. Ramsay says that the names Fortunatus, Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17), Gaius (1 Corinthians 1:14; Romans 16:23), Tertius (Romans 16:22), and Quartus (Romans 16:23), were those of freedmen, i.e. former slaves, who had been set free or redeemed. ’Gaius was probably a rich freedman to whom the honourable duty of entertaining the guests of the Church was assigned.’ Noble] i.e. of noble birth.
28. Base] i.e. of low birth. Things which are not] i.e. mere nonentities: cp. Matthew 11:5, Matthew 11:25.
Hath God chosen] Thrice emphatically repeated, to mark the fact that all is due to God.
29. That no flesh should glory] because God’s call is not given on account of any earthly position or advantage.
30. Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, etc.] RM ’Who was made unto us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption,’ etc. There are only three co-ordinate terms in the sentence. Righteousness, sanctification and redemption are subordinate to wisdom and descriptive or explanatory of it. Christ is the true wisdom of God, the expression of His desire for our salvation and of His power in accomplishing it. That wisdom is shown in Christ as He first forgives our sins and accepts us as righteous, then goes on to make us pure and holy by His indwelling influence, and finally promises to give us ultimate victory over sin and death, and to raise us to life eternal.
31. He that glorieth] There was nothing of which human wisdom could boast. Philosophy had helped a few intellectual minds, but had never touched the ordinary man. But the Cross made its appeal to the lowly as well as to the noble, and ’the foolishness of God’ transformed human lives, delivering them from the bondage of sin and making them ’new creatures’ in Christ. Therefore let them glory in God alone.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter