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Analysis and Annotations
THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD. SEPARATION AND TESTIMONY. CHAPTERS 1-10
What Grace has Done and the Assurance Grace Gives. 1:1-9.
In the opening verse of this epistle the Apostle Paul associates with himself the name of Sosthenes. There can be little doubt that he is the same Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18:17 . Like the great apostle he was once “a persecutor and injurious.” The experience through which he passed, when, as an enemy of Christ he received the deserved beating, was instrumental to bring him to Christ. When he was the chief ruler of the synagogue he was an enemy, but now through the grace of God he had become “a brother beloved.” It was to call to the remembrance of the sadly drifting Corinthians the former days, as well as the power of God in salvation. Then Paul addresses them as “the church of God which is at Corinth”; and this church of God is composed of those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called Saints. All believers are set apart to God in Christ. Grace has constituted them Saints; but with the gifts grace bestows, there also goes the responsibility of manifesting that separation from the world, from which the church is called out. To the Saints, true believers, sanctified in Christ, set apart to God, the epistle is addressed. Then follows another sentence, which goes beyond the church at Corinth. “With all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” Thus the true circle of fellowship was laid down, for every local church to observe. As we shall find later in this epistle, the party spirit, sectarianism, was manifesting itself in Corinth and these words of address may be looked upon as a protest against that unchristian spirit. All who acknowledge Christ as Lord and call upon His name belong to the church. He is their Lord as He is our Lord. Furthermore we learn from these words that the messages of this epistle are for God’s people at all times. “In every place” means every place where believers are found today. The truths unfolded, the exhortations given, have therefore a universal application; they are the commandments of the Lord to all His people (1 Corinthians 14:37 ).
Before the Apostle begins to mention the evils which the Corinthian assembly tolerated and which burdened his spirit, he speaks first of all of the grace of God given to them by Jesus Christ. They had been saved and were enriched by Him. The truth they had received, they also communicated “in all utterance and knowledge” to others. They had all the gifts in their midst, and were waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace had bestowed all these gifts, and yet they failed to manifest His grace. In possession of such grace and the gifts of grace, they should have walked in humility and should have lived soberly, righteously and godly. But they were walking in an evil way.
The Apostle knew all the evil which was among them as an assembly (and more so did the Holy Spirit know), but before he uncovers their condition, he gives a most precious assurance. He speaks of the faithfulness of God, who had called them into that wonderful fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ. God is faithful! He reckons on God’s faithfulness to do in the end all for them which He had promised, so that they would be blameless in the day of the lord Jesus Christ. God does not repent of His gifts and calling. The same assurance is found in other epistles. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 --24 ). Such a loving and gracious assurance to those who are called according to His purpose, that He is faithful and will bring it about that His people shall be blameless in that coming day of Christ, leads to self-judgment and repentance.
2. Contrasts. Chapter 1:10-4).
1. Divisions rebuked. (1 Corinthians 1:10-16 ).
2. The Cross of Christ, the Power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-31 ).
The section which begins, after the introductory words, with the tenth verse and ends with the fourth chapter, shows a number of contrasts. There is the contrast of the fact that they were called into the one fellowship. The fact of being called into the fellowship of God’s Son, as members of the one body is contrasted with their divisions. There is the contrast of the preaching of the cross, which is foolishness to them that perish, but the power of God to those who are saved. The wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world are likewise contrasted. Jews and Gentiles, what they require and seek are seen in their contrast with those who believe. Every chapter makes these contrasts and through them the blessed truth of the Gospel and the walk of the Saints of God is fully brought out.
As the introduction to the epistle reveals, all believers have one Lord to whom they belong, and God has called all into the one fellowship, the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. No other name is to be owned by His people, but all must be united in that blessed name, and obedience yielded to Him. He therefore beseeches them in that name to present a united confession and testimony “that ye all speak the same thing”; an unmarred fellowship in the Spirit “that there be no divisions among you”; and such a oneness of mind and judgment which becomes those who are one in Christ “that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” And why this exhortation? Because those of the house of Chloe had given to Paul the information that contentions had arisen among them. He mentioned the source without giving the names of the individuals. Those of the house of Chloe were no doubt deeply spiritual and much exercised over these contentions and the dishonor done to the name of the Lord Jesus. And these contentions, which threatened serious schisms in the one body were connected with teachers, the chosen instruments of the Lord. Some said, “I am of Paul”; others, “I of Apollos”; another party, “I of Cephas.” Instead of sitting at the feet of the One, who alone is worthy and is the teacher of His people, they scattered and divided themselves among the different teachers, given by the Lord to the church. It was the beginning of sectarianism, which has been such a curse to the people of God. It did not begin in the blessed assembly of Philippi, nor among the Saints in Ephesus, but among the puffed up, worldly-minded Corinthians. Partyism, sectarianism, is the fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:20 ). How it has multiplied in Christendom, the evil fruit it has borne, the apostasy which is fostered by it, we need not point out, for all spiritually minded Christians are acquainted with it.
But a fourth party said, “I of Christ.” Piously they said, we do not acknowledge Paul, Apollos or Cephas; we call ourselves after Christ. They made Him the head of a party, and put His teaching in contrast with the teachings of the chosen vessels of the Lord, through whom He made known His will. It was only a pretext to discredit the ministry of Paul and the other Apostles. That last named contention was perhaps the worst.
And so the inspired Apostle asks, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” Christ was crucified for them and in His Name they had been baptized. In their contentions they were doing wrong to the Person of Christ and to His blessed work. And water baptism is especially mentioned by him. He thanked God, that he had baptized none of them, but Crispus and Gaius, as well as the household of Stephanas. Baptism has been and is a prominent source of the division of the body of Christ. Ritualism has made of it a sacrament which saves and none can go to heaven without it. Other sects make it likewise a necessary act for salvation. Still others teach that water-baptism is the appointed means by which a believer becomes a member of the church, the body of Christ. It is not water-baptism by which a believer becomes a member of the body of Christ; the Holy Spirit alone can do this and does it with every believer (1 Corinthians 12:13 ). Others have gone into the other extreme and reject water-baptism entirely. The Apostle did not do this. “The solemn assumption, by the newly born believer, of the name of Jesus as his Lord (as it is done in baptism) was an act both too important and of too solemn and precious a significance to be regarded lightly by an inspired Apostle.” Then the Apostle states his commission. He was not sent by His Lord to baptize. His great mission was to preach the Gospel. “Baptism would surely follow a true reception of his testimony, but that, with all other resulting effects, is kept distinct from the positive and vital work of God by His own Word. We may notice a real difference between the Apostolate of Paul and that of the eleven, as defined at the close of Matthew. The latter were sent expressly to baptize. Paul was not.”--Pridham on Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 1:17-31 unfold the Gospel which he was sent to preach, the Cross of Christ and the power of God to salvation made known by that Cross. He preached that Gospel “not with wisdom of words.” All that was attractive to the natural man, such as rhetoric, beautiful language, enticing words, was avoided by the Apostle. He was “rude in speech” (2 Corinthians 11:6 ); he did not preach with enticing words (1 Corinthians 2:4 ). He feared that in any way the power of the Cross of Christ should be made void. He had a complete, a perfect confidence in the Gospel and knew it needed not human embellishment and human schemes to make it effective. All human efforts by rhetoric, sentimental claptrap methods, aim to stir up and to direct the emotions and sympathies of the natural man.
The preaching of the Cross is foolishness to those that are perishing. Unto us who are being saved it is the power of God, for it saves us from the guilt of sins, the power of sin itself and ere long from the presence of sin in our homegoing. And those who are perishing in rejecting the Cross of Christ were never so numerous as today. To the “Christian Scientist”--the Unitarian--the Destructive Critic-- the new Religionist and others, the preaching of the Cross is foolishness. And the world with all its boasted learning and wisdom did not think of the Gospel and its wonderful plan and power. The nations who boasted of culture and wisdom even in their highest form groped in the dark, and instead of discovering how man can be saved and brought back to God, were dragged down deeper and deeper into sin and despair. And thus God made foolish the wisdom of this world. Therefore the men who today turn their backs upon the Gospel and speak of philosophy, science and wisdom, turn to foolishness once more, which will lead them into the blackness and darkness forever. The preaching of Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness, because the Jews required a sign and the Greeks sought after wisdom, but the Cross puts human pride and glory into the dust. And what Jews and Greeks rejected and treated as foolishness is the power and wisdom of God. What men considered foolishness, a crucified Christ, is therefore wiser than men, for it gives to the believer what the wisdom of the world cannot supply. And the “weakness of God”, which is Christ crucified through weakness, is more powerful than men; man is saved by it. Thus the charge of Jews and Gentiles, that the cross is foolishness, that it is weakness, is repudiated and the foolishness and weakness of man is thereby demonstrated and laid bare.
And that no flesh should glory in His presence, God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the things which are mighty. He hath chosen the base things, the despised things and the things which are not to bring to naught the things that are. Therefore not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. God in His sovereignty takes up that which is foolish and weak to manifest His power. How fully this is evidenced by experience. And the believer is always in the safe place, if he is in the place of self-abasement, self-effacement and weakness. “Of Him are we in Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” It is all of God, and all in Christ, and nothing of us or in ourselves. Christ is the wisdom of God.
“Christ is made unto us wisdom from God; and thus with Christianity, for faith, every cloud is lifted. The wisdom that is from God is a casket of priceless jewels; in which the redeemed one finds, not only liberty, but marvelous enrichment. How much is contained in just those three words, ‘righteousness, sanctification and redemption!’ And they are in an order of progressive fulness, by which we enter more and more into the heart of God.”--Numerical Bible.
Righteousness in Christ is that of which Romans so fully speaks. Our guilt is gone. Righteousness is on our side, covering the believer. The believer is justified by His blood and by faith in Him and fully accepted in the Beloved. And Christ is the believer’s sanctification. The work of Christ has separated us unto God; but the believer is also sanctified by the Spirit of God, the Spirit of holiness. In Christ we are holy and walking in the Spirit, obedient to His Word, the believer manifests in his conduct the fact that he is set apart to God. Redemption looks forward to the future, when the believer shall be glorified, and be conformed to the image of the Lord. “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus.” Therefore the believer has nothing to glory in himself, but he glories in the Lord. And all this put to shame the Corinthians who made so much of the wisdom of this world and were puffed up.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11