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Vv. 1. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by call, through the will of God, and Sosthenes the brother.”
The addresses of Paul's letters are generally drawn on the type of the ancient address: N. to N., greeting! Comp. Acts 23:26. Paul does not confine himself to translating this received form into Christian language; he modifies it each time according to the interests which occupy his heart, and with a view to the state of the Church to which he writes. To his name he adds the title in virtue of which he is now addressing his readers; it is as an apostle that he writes them. The special mark of this office is the call directly received from Christ Himself. Paul puts this mark in relief by the epithet κλητός , called; a qualifying adjective, and not a participle ( κληθείς ), as if the apostle had meant, called to be an apostle. The meaning is, “an apostle in virtue of a call.” He means that he has not taken this office at his own hand, but that he has received it by a Divine act. I do not think that there is here a polemical intention against parties who might deny his apostleship: what would this assertion prove? He means rather to place the whole contents of the letter which is to follow under the warrant of Him who confided to him his mission. We must read, according to several ancient Mjj.: of Christ Jesus, that is to say, “of the Messiah who is Jesus;” and not of Jesus Christ (Jesus who is the Messiah), according to the received text. The technical form has been mechanically substituted for the less ordinary by the copyists. By this complement, Paul may designate Christ as the Author of the call, or perhaps as the Master whose property he became by that call. As the regimen following ascribes the call to God, the second meaning is to be preferred. The words, through the will of God, refer to all the providential circumstances of Paul's birth and education, whereby his apostolic mission had been prepared for; and especially the extraordinary act which completed this preparation, and triumphed over his resistance; all which Paul sums up in those expressions of the Epistle to the Galatians ( 1Co 1:15 ): “But when it pleased God who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace....” It is with a feeling of profound humiliation that he emphasizes so expressly this idea of the will of God; for he feels that it needed unfathomable mercy to snatch him from the obstinate rebellion to which he was giving himself up. But at the same time he is powerfully strengthened in relation to himself and to the Church, by the assurance that what he is, he is by the will of God. But at the same time he is powerfully strengthened, as regards himself and the Church, by the assurance that it is God who has willed that he should be what he is.
Paul joins with his name that of a Christian, the brother Sosthenes. Reuss regards this man merely as an obscure person who no doubt acted as secretary to the apostle. I believe that there are here two errors; the place in our verse ascribed to Sosthenes is wholly different from that which the apostle gives to a simple secretary, as, for example, Tertius ( Rom 16:22 ). Paul uses particular delicacy in his way of mentioning those whom he associates with him in the composition of his letters. In his two Epistles addressed to the Church of Thessalonica, of which Silas and Timothy had been the founders along with him, he mentions them absolutely as his equals, except in so far as he puts himself in the first place; and the first person plural, which he frequently uses, again and again applies, as in 1 Corinthians 1:2, to the three taken together. It is nearly the same in Philippians 1:1, where Timothy's name is closely associated in the address with that of Paul, no doubt because Timothy had laboured with him in founding that Church. There is a marked difference between this form and that of the Epistle to the Colossians, where Timothy's name is certainly associated with Paul's, but where it is more profoundly distinguished from it by an appendix added to the latter, in the first place, then by the title of apostle given to Paul and the name brother to Timothy. This difference arises from the fact that neither the one nor the other having founded the Church, Paul writes here in his character of apostle to the Gentiles, which Timothy does not share. In the letters to the Romans and Ephesians, whom Paul addresses more expressly still as the apostle of the Gentile world, he associates no name with his own. The position given to Sosthenes in our address is therefore somewhat like the place of Timothy in the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians. Paul makes this brother share to a certain extent in the composition and responsibility of the letter. Sosthenes is perhaps his secretary; but he is more than that: he must be a man enjoying high consideration among the Corinthians, a fellow-labourer with the apostle who, as well as Timothy ( 2Co 1:1 ), co-operated in the evangelization of Corinth and Achaia. If it is so, it is probable that we here find the same person who, as chief of the synagogue of Corinth, had played a part in the scene of Paul's appearance before Gallio ( Act 18:17 ). It was he who, after Paul's liberation, as the account of the Acts says, “was beaten by all ” (the words the Greeks are a gloss), consequently by Jews and Greeks, without Gallio's taking any concern. He took probably a doubtful attitude in this affair, later his position was more decided (see Hofmann). The place assigned him here is consequently, as Heinrici says, a place of honour; it reminds us of that ascribed by Paul to those mentioned in the address of the Epistle to the Galatians ( 1Co 1:2 ): “and all the brethren who are with me.” Assuredly those brethren were not all his secretaries, but all, in name of the Christian brotherhood, exhorted the Galatians to take to heart the warnings which Paul addressed to them as their spiritual father; so it is that the credit which Sosthenes has with the Church must be added to the superior authority of the apostle. Clement of Alexandria, according to the account of Eusebius ( H. E. 1.12), made Sosthenes one of the seventy disciples: the statement is without value.
From the author, Paul passes to the readers:
Vv. 2. “To the Church of God, the sanctified in Christ Jesus, which is at Corinth, saints by call, with all that in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is theirs and ours.”
The term ἐκκλησία , Church, formed of the two words, ἐκ , out of, and καλεῖν , to call, denotes in ordinary Greek language an assembly of citizens called out of their dwellings by an official summons; comp. Acts 19:41. Applied to the religious domain in the New Testament, the word preserves essentially the same meaning. Here too there is a summoner: God, who calls sinners to salvation by the preaching of the gospel ( Gal 1:6 ). There are the summoned: sinners, called to faith thenceforth to form the new society of which Christ is the head. The complement of God indicates at once Him who has summoned the assembly, and Him to whom it belongs. The term, the Church of God, thus corresponds to the ordinary Old Testament phrase: Kehal Jehova, the assembly (congregation) of the Lord; but there is this difference, that the latter was recruited by way of filiation, while in the new covenant the Church is formed and recruited by the personal adherence of faith.
According to the reading of several Mjj. ( Vatic., Clarom., etc.), the apostle immediately adds to the words: the Church of God, the apposition ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ , the sanctified in Christ Jesus. As the Church is composed of a plurality of individuals, the apostle may certainly, by a construction ad sensum, join to the singular substantive this apposition in the plural. The received reading separates this substantive from its apposition by placing between the two the words τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ , which is at Corinth. This arrangement seems at first sight more natural; but for that very reason it has the character of a correction. It seems to me probable that, thinking already of the moral disorders which stained this Church, the apostle felt himself constrained to characterize the community he is addressing rather morally than geographically. God is holy, and the Church of God ought to be holy like Him to whom it belongs. The perfect participle ἡγιασμένοις indicates not an obligation to be fulfilled, but a state which already exists in them, and that in virtue of a previously accomplished fact. That fact is faith in Christ, which implicitly contains the act of total consecration to God. To embrace Christ by faith is to accept the holiness which He realized in His person; it is to be transplanted from the soil of our natural and profane life into that of His Divine holiness. The regimen, in Christ Jesus, expresses this idea, that our holiness is only participation in His in virtue of the union of faith with Him: “For their sakes I sanctify myself,” says Jesus ( Joh 17:19 ), “that they also might be sanctified in truth.” Several Fathers have applied the expression, sanctified in Jesus Christ, to the fact of baptism; their error has been confounding the sign of faith with faith itself.
After having thus characterized the assembly of God as composed of consecrated ones, the apostle adds the local definition: which is (which really exists, οὔσῃ ) at Corinth. He had passed from the unity of the Church to the plurality of its members; he returns from this plurality to the unity which should continue. One feels that his mind is already taken up with the divisions which threatened to break this unity. When we think of the frightful corruption which reigned in this city (Introd. p. 6), we can understand with what inward satisfaction the apostle must have written the words, “the Church of God...at Corinth”! Bengel has well rendered this feeling in the short annotation: Ecclesia in Corintho, laetum et ingens paradoxon.
Immediately after the words: sanctified in Christ Jesus, it is surprising to find: saints by call, which seem after the preceding to form a pleonasm. The solution of this difficulty is involved in the explanation of the regimen which follows: with all those who call upon...This regimen has been connected with the dative τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ , as if the apostle meant: I address my letter, or I address this salutation, to the Church which is at Corinth, and not only to it, but also to the Christians of the whole world (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calvin, Osiander, Reuss). But, on the contrary, no apostolical letter has a destination so particular and local as the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Meyer limits the application of the words: with all who call upon, like the similar address of 2 Corinthians 1:1: “with all the saints who are in all Achaia,” and thinks that those referred to here are simply all the Christians scattered throughout the province of Achaia, and who are grouped round the Church of the metropolis; so, after him, Beet, Edwards, and others. But the passage quoted proves exactly the contrary of the conclusion drawn from it. For it shows how Paul would have written here also, if such had been his meaning. Holsten, feeling the impossibility of importing such a restriction, imagines another less arbitrary. He refers the words to the Christians of other Churches, who might be at present staying at Corinth, especially to the emissaries who had come from Jerusalem ( those of Christ), of whose presence Paul was well aware. But the phrase used is far too general to admit of so limited an application. Mosheim, Ewald think that Paul means by it expressly to include in his salutation all the parties which were formed. But the preposition σύν , with, would imply that one of the parties was already separated from the Church itself, while the whole letter proves that they still formed part of it. We must therefore give up the attempt to make the regimen “ with all them who...” dependent on the term: the Church of God, and connect it, as is in itself more natural, with the preceding words: “ saints by call. ” The meaning is: “saints in virtue of the Divine call, and that in communion with all them who invoke the name of the Lord in every place.” Thus the tautology disappears which is implied in the words: “saints by call,” with the preceding: “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” There is not here a new synonymous epithet needlessly added to the preceding. The sainthood of the faithful is expressed a second time to connect this new feature with it: that sainthood is the common seal of the members of the Church universal. The words κλητοῖς ἁγίοις are there solely as the point of support for the following regimen: σὺν πᾶσι , with all them who...This construction also explains quite naturally the two adjectives, πᾶσι , all, and παντί , every ( place), which follow. More than once in this letter the apostle will have to censure the Corinthians for isolating their course from that of the rest of the Church, and for acting as if they were the only Church in the world (comp. especially 1Co 14:36 ); and therefore in the very outset he associates them with a larger whole, of which they are only one of the members, and with which they ought to move in harmony. Heinrici, while explaining the σύν exactly as we do, thinks he can separate κλητοῖς from ἁγίοις by a comma, and connect the σύν with κλητοῖς alone: “saints, called with all them who...” This translation is grammatically forced, and besides it leaves the pleonasm of “saints” and “sanctified” as it was.
Holiness is the normal character of all them that call on the name of the Lord, says the apostle. This expression is evidently in his view the paraphrase of the term “believers.” A Christian is therefore, according to him, a man who calls on the name of Jesus as his Lord. The term ἐπικαλεῖσθαι is applied in the Old Testament (by the LXX.) only to the invocation of Jehovah (Isaiah 43:7; Joel 2:32; Zec 13:9 ). Immediately after Pentecost, the name for believers was, “they who call on the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:14; Acts 9:21; Rom 10:12-13 ); the name of Jesus was substituted in this formula for that of Jehovah in the Old Testament. The very word NAME, applied, as it is in these passages, to Jesus, includes the idea of a Divine Being; so when the Lord says of His angel, Exodus 23:21, “My name is in him,” that is to say, He makes this being His perfect revelation. The title Lord characterizes Jesus as the one to whom God has committed the universal sovereignty belonging to Himself; and the Church is, in the apostle's eyes, the community of those who recognise and adore Him as such. It is therefore on an act of adoration, and not on a profession of faith of an intellectual nature, that he makes the Christian character to rest. The words: ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ , in every place, designate the universality of the Christian Church in point of right (and already, in part, of fact, when St. Paul wrote); comp. 1 Timothy 2:8. This idea accords with the πᾶσι , all, which precedes, and, as we have seen, it agrees with the context. But a large number of commentators endeavour to limit the sense of this expression, by assigning to it as its complement the words following: αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν , “ of them and of us,” or “ theirs and ours. ” But what would the expression signify: “ their and our place”? De Wette, Osiander, Rückert understand thereby Corinth and Ephesus; Paul would mean: all them that call upon the Lord on your side of the sea, as well as on ours. But to what purpose is this distinction? Besides, the Church of Corinth had already been sufficiently described at the beginning of the verse. Mosheim and Ewald think that by “our place” the apostle means to denote the place of worship of his own partisans, and by “their place” the rooms where the other parties assembled. This explanation is already refuted by our foregoing remarks (p. 44). And Paul would have carefully avoided legalizing in any way the separation which he blamed so severely. Meyer's explanation, followed by Beet and Edwards, seems to me still more forced; the expression, our place, denotes the Christian communities of Achaia, in so far as morally the property of the apostles; here of Paul and Sosthenes, who preached the gospel in them; and the expression, their place, refers to those same communities, in so far as they depended on the Church of Corinth, their metropolis. Does such an exegetical monstrosity deserve refutation? Yet it is surpassed still, if that be possible, by Hofmann's explanation, according to which Paul means that Christians ( them), more especially the preachers of the gospel ( us), are found everywhere among those by whom Christ is invoked! We must, with Chrysostom, Calvin, Olshausen, etc., simply give up the attempt to make the complements of them and of us depend on the word place; and leave the phrase, in every place, in its absolute and general sense. As to the two pronouns, αὐτῶν and ἡμῶν , of them and of us, they depend on the word Lord, and are the more detailed repetition of the pronoun ἡμῶν ( our Lord), which preceded: “Our Lord, who is not only yours, our readers, but also ours, your preachers.” There is here, as it were, a protest beforehand against those who, forgetting that there is in the Church only one Lord, say: “As for me, I am of Paul; I, of Apollos; I, of Peter!” “Who is Paul, who is Apollos, other than servants by whom ye believed, by each of them according as the Lord gave to him?” ( 1Co 3:5 ; 1Co 3:22-23 ). So thoroughly is this the prevailing concern in the apostle's mind, from the very beginning of this letter, that six times, between 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:10, he repeats the expression: of our Lord Jesus Christ. The received reading, τε καί , instead of the simple καί , may certainly be maintained, though it has against it several important manuscripts; it dwells a little more strongly on the fact that believers have Jesus Christ for their only Lord, as well as preachers, and thus better justifies the repetition of the preceding ἡμῶν in these two pronouns.
Vv. 3. “Grace and peace be unto you, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ!”
This prayer is the Christian paraphrase of two salutations, the Greek ( χαίρειν , Act 23:26 ) and the Hebrew (“Peace be to thee”).
Grace is the Divine good will, bending compassionately toward the sinner to pardon him; toward the reconciled child, to bless him. Peace is the profound tranquillity with which faith in this Divine love fills the believer's heart.
Paul does not say: “be to you from God by Jesus Christ,” but “from God and from Jesus Christ,” for Jesus is not in his eyes the impersonal channel of the Divine love; He loves with His own peculiar love as brother, as God loves with His love as Father.
By this prayer, the apostle invites the Corinthians to take their place ever anew under the influence of this double source of salvation, the love of the Father and the love of the Son.
We have said that in the address of Paul's letters there are already betrayed the concerns with which his mind is preoccupied at the time of writing; this is easy to establish in the Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, and we have seen the proof of it also in the address we have just studied. Holiness is the characteristic of the members of the Church; the relation of a common life between the particular Church and the Church universal; the dignity of Lord, as competent to Jesus only: such are the traits which distinguish this address from every other; and is it not manifest that they are dictated to the apostle by the particular circumstances of the Church of Corinth, at the time when he wrote?
Vers. 4-6. “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you in Jesus Christ; 5. That in everything ye were enriched in Him, in every kind of utterance, and in every kind of knowledge; 6. Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.”
On account of the severity of the rebukes to be found in this letter, some commentators have detected in this thanksgiving a touch of flattery or even of irony. But the whole Epistle shows that the apostle is no flatterer, and irony is excluded by the expression, “I thank my God.” Though many things were wanting in the Church of Corinth, the gratitude which the apostle expresses to his God for what He has done in its behalf is nevertheless sincere and earnest; as appears besides from the very measuredness of his commendations shown in the terms he uses.
He addresses his thanks to his God: thereby he describes God as the Being in close communion with whom he lives and labours; who, in particular, stood by him in his work at Corinth, and there gave him the most personal proofs of His help and love ( Act 18:9-10 ); if he uses the word my instead of our (Sosthenes and I), it is because the matter involves his personal relation to God, in which he can associate none of those who labour with him. It is undoubtedly by mistake that the Sinaït. and the Vatic. have omitted this pronoun μου . The first corrector of the Sinaït., who is almost contemporary with the copyist, has supplied it (Edwards).
The word always might seem exaggerated; but the apostle's constant concern was the Church in general, and that of Corinth was one of its most important members.
The general term: on your behalf, is defined by the more precise phrase, for the grace of God which..., intended to express the more special subject of the thanksgiving. This grace comprehends the whole state of salvation, with the new life which has been displayed in the Church. It is a mistake, as it seems to me, in many interpreters to limit the application of the word grace to the spiritual gifts about to be spoken of: the term is more general.
The Thanksgiving. 1:4-9.
The Epistle to the Galatians is the only one in which the apostle passes directly from the address to the handling of his subject, without interposing a thanksgiving. This is due to the tone of abrupt and severe rebuke which characterizes the beginning of the letter. In his other Epistles, before speaking to the Church of what it lacks, of what he would teach or correct in it, the apostle begins by expressing his gratitude for the work already accomplished, and the desires he cherishes for fresh progress to be made. This is what he does here in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. But, as in the addresses, there is in these thanksgivings a great variety, according to the state of each Church. If we compare that which follows with those of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, the wide difference will be immediately perceived: there, he congratulates the Thessalonians on the work of their faith, the labour of their love, the patience of their hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2Th 1:3 seq.). Here, there is nothing of the kind: the apostle blesses God for the spiritual gifts, both of knowledge and of speech, which He bestows abundantly at Corinth. We shall have no difficulty in understanding the reason of this difference.
Vv. 5. With the meaning of the word grace, which we have rejected, ὅτι would require to be translated by in that. But if we take the word grace in the most general sense, ὅτι should be translated by “ seeing that,” or “ because. ” Indeed, there is here a new fact proving the reality of the preceding. Only from the state of grace could the abundance of gifts arise which distinguishes the Church of Corinth, and which more especially gives occasion to the apostle's gratitude.
The in everything is qualified by the two following terms, knowledge and utterance. The sequel of the Epistle leaves no doubt as to the meaning of these two terms. Chaps. 12-14 will show what a wealth of gifts, both of Christian knowledge and of manifestations in utterance (tongues, prophecies, doctrine), had been bestowed on this Church. We see from 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1Co 8:10 , 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 13:8-9, that the word γνῶσις , knowledge, denotes the understanding of the facts of salvation and of their manifold applications to Christian life. Here it includes the idea of σοφία , wisdom, which is sometimes distinguished from it; comp. 1 Corinthians 12:8.
The term utterance has been applied by de Wette to the rich Christian instruction which the Corinthians had received from Paul's mouth and from which they had derived their knowledge of the gospel. But the term utterance must denote a spiritual gift bestowed on the Corinthians, and in connection with the term knowledge. What the apostle has in view, therefore, is those different forms of the new tongue which the Holy Spirit had developed in the Church. The verb ἐπλουτίσθητε denotes their abundance; the word παντί , every, their variety; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:26: “When ye come together, each of you hath a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation.” Edwards sees in this aorist an allusion to the present loss of those former riches, as if it should be translated, “Ye had been enriched.” This is certainly a mistake; the riches remained still, as is shown by chaps. 12-14. The aorist simply relates to the point of time at which the spiritual endowment of the Church took place, when its faith was sealed by the communication of the Spirit. It is not by accident that the apostle only mentions here the speculative and oratorical powers, and not the moral virtues; the gifts of the Spirit and not the fruits of the Spirit, as at Thessalonica. His intention is not doubtful; for in chap. 1Co 13:8-13 he himself contrasts the two principal gifts of utterance, tongues, and prophecy, and then knowledge, as things which pass away, with the three things which abide: faith, hope, and love. Here then, side by side with the riches for which the apostle gives thanks, we already discover the defect which afflicts him, but of which he does not speak, because it would be contrary to the object of the passage as one sacred to thanksgiving. This defect stood in relation to the character of the Greek mind, which was distinguished rather by intellectual and oratorical gifts than by seriousness of heart and conscience.
Vv. 6. This verse may be understood in two ways: some (Meyer, Edwards, etc.) regard it as indicating the cause of that abundance of gifts which has just been mentioned. They then apply the term ἐβεβαιώθη , was confirmed, or rather affirmed, to an internal fact: “in consequence of the depth and firmness of faith with which the gospel impressed (affirmed) itself in you.” To support this meaning, they rely on the βεβαιώσει of 1 Corinthians 1:8; but we shall see that this ground proves nothing, because there the idea of confirmation applies, not to the gospel, but to the persons of the Corinthians. This explanation is not in keeping with the natural meaning of καθώς , according as, which indicates rather a mode than a cause. The sense seems to me quite different: the apostle means, not that the wealth of their gifts is due to the depth and solidity of their faith, which would be contrary to the spirit of the whole passage, but that these gifts have been the mode of confirming the gospel specially granted to the Church of Corinth. Elsewhere, God could confirm the apostolic preaching otherwise; by miracles, for example, or by moral virtues, fruits of the Spirit; comp. Hebrews 2:3: “The salvation which, having at the first been spoken by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him, God Himself bearing witness with them by signs and wonders and by distribution of the powers of the Spirit;” also, 1 and 2Th 1:3 and Galatians 3:2. The conj. καθώς agrees perfectly with this meaning: “Thus, and not otherwise, did the Divine confirmation of the testimony rendered to Christ take place among you.”
The term testimony is here used to denote preaching, because this is essentially the attestation of a historical fact ( 1Co 1:23-24 ). The gen. Χριστοῦ denotes the subject of the testimony, and not its author. It would be otherwise with the gen. θεοῦ , of God, if this reading were adopted with the Vatic.
Vv. 7. “So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the explanation of the preceding verse, which we have rejected, the ὥστε , so that, is made to refer to the verb ἐβεβαιώθη of 1 Corinthians 1:6: “Your faith was confirmed in such a way, that in consequence no gift was lacking to you...” But in the sense of 1 Corinthians 1:6, which we have adopted, this verse being rather an observation thrown in by the way, it is natural to refer the ὥστε to the ἐπλουτίσθητε of 1 Corinthians 1:5, which gives a simpler and clearer meaning: “Ye were so enriched, that in point of gifts ye lacked nothing.” There is indeed an evident contrast between the two ideas of being enriched and lacking.
The word ὑστερεῖσθται , to lack, denotes a deficiency either relatively to the normal level which a Church should attain (1 Corinthians 16:17; Colossians 1:24; 1Th 3:10 ), or comparatively to other Churches more richly endowed (2 Corinthians 11:5; 2Co 12:11 ). The first of these two meanings is evidently the more suitable here. The Corinthians realize, in respect of gifts, χαρίσματα , all that can be desired for a Church on the earth. The ἐν μηδενί corresponds to the ἐν παντί of 1 Corinthians 1:5.
The word χάρισμα , gift, will play a large part in this Epistle. As the form of the Greek term indicates, it denotes in general every concrete product in which grace is embodied. Several commentators (Calvin, de Wette, Meyer) apply the word here to the blessings of salvation in general, as in Romans 1:11; but the evident relation to 1 Corinthians 1:5 (comp. the reference of ὑστερεῖσθαι to πλουτισθῆναι , and that of μηδενί to παντί ) leads us to give a more definite sense to the word χάρισμα . According to the two expressions, knowledge and utterance, it must be applied here to the new spiritual powers with which the Spirit had endowed the members of the Church at Corinth. These various powers, which so often in Paul's writings bear the name of χαρίσματα , gifts of grace, are certainly the effects of the supernatural life due to faith in Christ; but they fit in notwithstanding to pre-existing natural aptitudes in individuals and peoples. The Holy Spirit does not substitute Himself for the human soul; He sanctifies it and consecrates its innate talents to the service of the work of salvation. By this new direction, He purifies and exalts them, and enables them to reach their perfect development. This was what had taken place at Corinth, and it was thus especially that the apostolic testimony had been divinely confirmed in this Church. We see how Paul still carefully avoids (as in 1Co 1:5 ) speaking of the moral fruits of the gospel, for this was the very respect in which there was a deficiency, and a grave deficiency, at Corinth.
The following words, waiting for the revelation..., have been very variously understood. Grotius and Rückert have seen in them an indirect reproof to those of the members of the Church who, according to chap. 15, denied the resurrection. But the apostle speaks of waiting for the Lord's return, and not of faith in the resurrection. Chrysostom supposes that he wishes to alarm them by thus glancing at the approach of the judgment; but this would not be very suitable to a thanksgiving. Calvin, Hofmann, Meyer suppose, on the contrary, that he wishes to encourage them: “Ye can go to meet the Lord's advent with confidence, for ye possess all the graces that suffice for that time;” or, as Meyer says: “The blessings which ye have received fit you to see the Lord come without fear.” But would the apostle thus reassure people whom he saw filled with the most presumptuous self-satisfaction, and given over to a deceitful security? Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:6-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-22. Reuss supposes that Paul wishes to lead them to put to good account the spiritual aids which they now enjoy. But Paul would have declared this intention more clearly. Mosheim seems to me to have come nearer the true sense, when he finds irony here: “Ye lack nothing, waiting however the great revelation!” Without going the length of finding a sarcasm which would be out of place here, I think that there is really in this appendix, “waiting the revelation...,” the purpose of bringing this too self-satisfied Church to a more modest estimate. Rich as they are, they ought not to forget that as yet it is only a waiting state: they lack nothing...waiting for the moment which will give them everything. As is said, indeed ( 1Co 13:11 ), all our present gifts of utterance and knowledge have still the character of the imperfect state of childhood, in comparison with that which the perfect state will bring about. There was a tendency among the Corinthians to anticipate this latter state; they already imagined that they were swimming in the full enjoyment of the perfected kingdom of God ( 1Co 4:8 ). The apostle reminds them that real knowledge is yet to come; and this no doubt is the reason why he here uses the term, the revelation of Jesus Christ, to denote His advent. He means thereby less to characterize His visible presence ( παρουσία ), than the full revelation both of Him and of all things in Him, which will accompany that time. In that light what will become of your knowledge, your present prophesyings and ecstasies? Comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7, where the use of this term is also occasioned by the context.
The term ἀπεκδέχεσθαι , compounded of the three words, ἀπό , far from (here, from far), ἐκ , from the hands of, and δέχεσθαι , to receive, admirably depicts the attitude of waiting.
After expressing his gratitude for what God has already done for his readers, the apostle, as in Eph 1:17 seq., and Php 1:6 seq., adds the hope that God will yet accomplish in them all that is lacking, that they may be able to stand in that great day; such is the idea of the two following verses.
Vv. 8. “Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” The pron. ὅς , who, refers of course to the person of Jesus Christ ( 1Co 1:7 ). But this name being expressly repeated at the end of the verse, many commentators have been led to refer the pronoun ὅς to θεός , God ( 1Co 1:4 ). But this reference would reduce the whole passage, 1 Corinthians 1:5-7, to a simple parenthesis; it has besides against it the repetition of the word θεός in 1 Corinthians 1:9. If the expression our Lord Jesus Christ appears again at the end of the verse, instead of the pronoun, this arises from the fact that the term “the day of Christ” is a sort of technical phrase in the New Testament; it corresponds to the “day of the Lord” in the Old Testament.
The καί , also, implies that the work to be yet accomplished will only be the legitimate continuation of that which is already wrought in them. There is undoubtedly an intentional correlation between the βεβαιώσει , will confirm, of 1 Corinthians 1:8, and the ἐβεβαιώθη , was confirmed, of 1 Corinthians 1:6. Since God confirmed Paul's preaching at Corinth by the gifts which His Spirit produced there, He will certainly confirm believers in their faith in the gospel to the end.
This end is the Lord's coming again, for which the Church should constantly watch, for the very reason that it knows not the time of it; comp. Luke 12:35-36; Mark 13:32. If this event does not happen during the life of this or that generation, death takes its place for each, till that generation for which it will be realized externally. The phrase, in the day of Christ, does not depend on the verb will confirm, but on the epithet ἀνεγκλήτους , unblameable. We must understand between the verb and the adjective the words εἰς τὸ εἶναι , as in Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Philippians 3:21 (where the words εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι are a gloss): the end is directly connected with the means. ᾿Ανέγκλητος signifies exempt from accusation, and many apply the word to the act of justification which will cover the infirmities and stains of believers in that supreme hour, so that, as Meyer says, the epithet is not equivalent to ἀναμάρτητος , exempt from sin. It does not seem to me that this meaning suits the parallels 2 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:23; for these passages represent believers as completely sanctified at that time. If then they are no longer subject to any accusation, it will not be only, as during their earthly career, in virtue of their justification by faith, it will be in virtue of their thenceforth perfected sanctification. The Greek - Latin reading παρουσία , advent, instead of ἡμέρα , day, has no probability.
Vv. 9. The asyndeton between the preceding verse and this arises from the fact that the latter is only the emphasized reaffirmation, in another form, of the same idea: the faithfulness of God, as the pledge of the confirmation of believers in their attachment to the gospel. The assurance here expressed by the apostle is doubtless not a certainty of a mathematical order; for the entire close of chap. 9 and the first half of chap. 10 are intended to show the Corinthians that they may, through lack of watchfulness and obedience, make shipwreck of the Divine work in them; the certainty in question is of a moral nature, implying the acquiescence of the human will. As the ye were called assumes the free acceptance of faith, so continuance in the state of salvation supposes perseverance in that acceptance. But the apostle sets forth here only the Divine factor, because it is that which contains the solid assurance of this hope.
The words, by whom ye were called, sum up the work already accomplished at Corinth by Paul's ministry; comp. Philippians 1:6. We need not with Meyer apply the phrase, the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ, to the state of glory in the heavenly kingdom. The term κοινωνία , fellowship, implies something inward and present. Paul means to speak of the participation of believers in the life of Christ, of their close union to His person even here below. The form, Jesus Christ our Lord, recurs so to speak in every phrase of this preface; it reappears again in the following verse. It is obvious that it is the thought which is filling the apostle's mind; for he is about to enumerate the human names which they dare at Corinth to put side by side with that of this one Lord.
This thanksgiving has therefore, like the foregoing address, a character very peculiarly appropriate to the state of the Church. While frankly commending the graces which had been bestowed on them, the apostle gives them clearly to understand what they lack and what they must yet seek, to be ready to receive their Lord. He now passes to the treatment of the various subjects of which he has to speak with them.
Vv. 10. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” The δέ is not adversative: it is the transition particle by which Paul passes from thanksgiving to rebuke. By the address ἀδελφοί , brethren, he puts himself by the side of his readers, and appeals to their affection in view of the serious censure which he has to pass on them. He rests his exhortation on the revelation made to him and the knowledge which they have of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ; such is the meaning of the term ὄνομα , the name. The word Lord implies His authority; the name Jesus Christ calls up the memory of all the tender proofs of Divine love displayed in Him who bore the name. It is the eleventh time that the name Jesus Christ appears, and we are at the tenth verse!
The following exhortation bears on three points. The first, τὸ αὐτὸ λέγειν , to speak the same thing, is the most external. The phrase includes an allusion to the different formulas enumerated 1 Corinthians 1:12.
The two other points relate to the inward conditions of community of language; the first is negative: that there be no schisms, divisions into different camps, bringing with them opposing watchwords. What a view is here of a Church divided into distinct parties! The other condition is of a positive nature: it is the perfect incorporation of all the members of the Church in a single spiritual organism. The term καταρτίζειν denotes, in the first place, the act of adjusting the pieces of a machine with a view to its normal action; hence the equipment of a workman for his work ( Eph 4:12 ); then, in the second place, the rectification of a disorganized state of things, such as the reestablishment of social order after a revolution, or the repairing of an instrument (Mark 1:19: fishing-nets). Order being disturbed at Corinth, we might here apply the latter meaning. But in this case Paul would rather have used the aor. κατηρτίσθητε δέ than the perfect which denotes the stable condition. The first signification is also somewhat more delicate. Paul does not mean, “that ye be reconstituted,” as if he thought them already disorganized, but, “that ye may be in the state of a well-ordered assembly.” How so? He indicates this in the two following terms: by the agreement of the νοῦς and that of the γνώμη . These two words are often distinguished by making the first apply to knowledge, the second to practical life. This distinction, without being false, is not however sufficiently precise; the νοῦς , as is shown in 1 Corinthians 2:16, denotes the Christian way of thinking in general, the conception of the gospel in its entirety; the γνώμη , according to 1 Corinthians 7:25, refers rather to the manner of deciding a particular point, what we call opinion, judgment. The apostle therefore desires that there should be among them, in the first place, full harmony of view in regard to Christian truth, and then perfect agreement in the way of resolving particular questions. The conjunction ἵνα shows that in his mind the matter in question is rather an object to be attained than a duty which he expects to be immediately realized; it is the state to be aspired after, for the honour of the name of Jesus Christ, whatever may be the sacrifices of self-love and of interest which such an aim may demand of each. After this introduction the apostle comes to the fact which gives rise to this exhortation.
BODY OF THE Epistle. 1:10-15:58.
I. The Parties in the Church of corinth. 1:10-4:21.
EWALD has well stated the reason why the apostle puts this subject first, of all those he has to treat in his Epistle. He must assert his apostolical position in view of the whole Church, before giving them the necessary explanations on the subjects which are to follow.
Vv. 11, 12. “For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them which are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”
At the moment of enumerating these different parties, the apostle once again unites all the members of the Church under the one common and affectionate address, my brethren.
Perhaps the markedly express indication of the source to which he owes this news is intended to exclude in this matter the delegates of the Church who are at this time with Paul. Those of Chloe's household may be the children or slaves of that Ephesian or Corinthian lady (see Introd. p. 21).
The word ἔριδες , contentions, denotes bitter discussions which would easily degenerate into schisms, σχίσματα ( 1Co 1:10 ).
Vv. 12. Calvin has translated, “I say this because...;” but it is more natural to make the τοῦτο , this, refer to the following ὅτι : “When I speak of contentions, I mean this that...” The phrase, Every one of you saith, is of course inexact; for every member of the Church did not pronounce the four watchwords. Paul thus expresses himself to indicate that the sin is general, that there is not one among them, so to speak, who has not in his mouth one of these formulas. The four are presented dramatically and in the form of direct speech; we hear them, as it were, bandied from one to another in the congregation. Their painful character appears first from the ἐγώ , I, put foremost, there is a preponderance of personal feeling, then from the δέ , which is evidently adversative: but, there is the spirit of opposition, finally and chiefly, from the names of the party leaders. Some ancient commentators supposed that the apostle had here substituted the names of eminent men for the obscure names of the real party leaders, to show so much the better how unjustifiable such rivalries are. The passage 1Co 4:6 is that which induced Chrysostom, and others after him, to make so unnatural a supposition. But we shall see that this verse gives it no countenance.
The apostle puts in the forefront the party which takes name from himself; he thereby gives proof of great tact, for by first of all disapproving of his own partisans, he puts his impartiality beyond attack. It has been supposed that in the enumeration of the four parties he followed the historical order in which they were formed; but from the fact that Paul was the founder of the Church, and that Apollos came after him, it does not follow that Paul's party was formed first and that of Apollos second; we must rather suppose the contrary. Paul's partisans had only had occasion to pronounce themselves as such, by way of reaction, against the exclusive partiality inspired by the other preachers who came after him. We have indicated in the Introduction, p. 22 seq., how we understand these opposite groups to have been formed. We cannot concede the least probability to the suppositions of Heinrici, who ascribes to Apollos a Gnostic and mystic tendency, and particularly views on baptism of the strangest kind. From the fact that he arrived at Ephesus as a disciple of John the Baptist, we have no right to conclude, with this theologian, that Apollos established a special bond of solidarity between the baptized and their baptizer like that which, in the Greek mysteries, united initiated and initiator! Heinrici goes the length of supposing that to Apollos and his party is to be ascribed the practice alluded to 1 Corinthians 15:29, of baptizing a living Christian in place of a believer who died without baptism! Is it possible to push arbitrariness further? This has been well shown by Hilgenfeld ( Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1880, p. 362 seq.). What distinguished Paul from Apollos, according to 1Co 3:5 seq. and 1 Corinthians 4:6, could not be an essential difference, bearing on the substance of the gospel; it could only be a difference of form such as that indicated by the words, “I have planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase.” By his exegetical and literary culture, acquired at Alexandria, Apollos had gained for Christ many who had resisted Paul's influence; perhaps Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue during Paul's stay, was of the number. If it is so, we can better understand how the apostle was induced to associate this person's name with his own in the address of the letter.
We have already said that the existence of a Cephas-party does not necessarily imply a visit of Peter to Corinth. Personal disciples of this apostle might have arrived in the city, or Jewish Christians from Corinth might have met Peter at Jerusalem, and on their return to Achaia they might have reported that this apostle differed from Paul in continuing personally to keep the law, though without wishing to impose it on Gentile converts. The Aramaic name Cephas is perhaps a proof of the Palestinian origin of the party.
As to the last watchword, the Greek Fathers, and Calvin, Mosheim, Eichhorn, Bleek among the moderns, think that it, according to the apostle, gives the true formula by which Paul would designate those whom he approves. Mayerhoff and Ebrard go even the length of thinking that by the word I, Paul means to designate himself: “But as for me, Paul, this is my watchword: I am of Christ, and of Christ only!” The symmetry of the four formulas evidently excludes these interpretations. The fourth comes under the censure which falls on the three preceding, “Every one of you saith...,” and it is this one above all which gives rise to the following question, “Is Christ divided?” There was really then a fourth party which claimed to spring directly from Christ, and Christ alone, without having need of any human intermediary. As Paul adds not a single detail regarding this party, either in this passage or in the rest of the Epistle, the field of hypothesis is open, and we shall consecrate to the much discussed question the appendix to be immediately subjoined.
Some commentators seem to us to have exaggerated the character of the division, by supposing that the different parties no longer met in common assemblies, and that the rending of the Church into four distinct communities was an accomplished fact. The contrary appears from the passage 1 Corinthians 14:23, where Paul speaks of the assembling together of the whole Church in one and the same place, and even from the term ἔριδες , contentions, which would be too weak in that case. On the other hand, Hofmann has far too much attenuated the importance of the fact mentioned when he reduces it to hostile pleadings in the meetings of the Church, arising from the personal preference of each group for that servant of Christ who had contributed most to its edification. Undoubtedly the external unity of the Church was not broken, but its moral unity was at an end, and we shall see that the disagreement went much deeper into the way of understanding the gospel than this commentator thinks.
Otherwise, would the apostle have spent on it four whole chapters? It has often been attempted to distribute the numerous subjects treated by the apostle in our Epistle among these different parties, as if they had been furnished to him, one by one party, another by another. These attempts have not issued in any solid result. And we must say the same of the most recent attempt, that of Farrar. This critic sees in the Apollos-party the precursors of Marcion and of the Antinomian Gnosticism of the second century; in the Peter-party, the beginning of the anti-Pauline Ebionism of the Clementine Homilies. Finally, in the Christ-party, an invasion of Essenism into Christianity, which continued later. The division which Farrar makes of the questions treated by Paul among those different tendencies is ingenious, but lacks foundation in the text of the Epistle.
The party called “those of Christ.”
We have already set aside the opinions of those who take the fourth formula to be the true Christian profession approved by the apostle, or the legitimate declaration of a group of believers, offended by the absorbing partiality of the other groups for this or that teacher.
The opinion which comes nearest this second shade is that developed by Rückert, Hofmann, Meyer, Heinrici, and to a certain extent by Renan, according to whom the fourth party, pushed by the exclusive preferences of the others, was carried to the opposite extreme, and declared itself independent of the apostolate in general, putting itself relatively to Christ in a position absolutely equal to that of Paul or Peter. “Some,” says Renan, “wishing to pose as spirits superior to those contentions, created a watchword sufficiently spiritual. To designate themselves they invented the name ‘Christ's party.’ When discussion grew hot..., they intervened with the name of Him who was being forgotten: I am for Christ, said they” ( Saint Paul, p. 378). It is for them, it is held, that Paul calls to mind, 1 Corinthians 3:22, that if the Church does not belong to the teachers who instruct it, the latter are nevertheless precious gifts bestowed on it by the Lord. Nothing simpler in appearance than this view. An extreme had led to the contrary extreme; partiality had produced disparagement. It was the rejection of apostolical authority as the answer to false human dependence. We should not hesitate to adopt this explanation, if certain passages of Second Corinthians, which we shall afterwards examine, did not force us to assign graver causes and a much graver importance to the formation of this party; comp. especially 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 11:22-23.
Have we to do, as Neander once thought, with Corinthians of a more or less rationalistic character, with cultivated Greeks who, carried away by enthusiasm for the admirable teachings of Christ, and especially for His sublime moral instructions, conceived the idea of freeing this pure gospel from the Jewish wrapping which still veiled it in the apostolic preaching? In order to make faith easy for their countrymen, they tried to make Jesus a Socrates of the highest power, which raised Him far above the Jesus taught by the Twelve, and by Paul himself. It is against this attempt to transform the gospel into a pure moral philosophy, that it is said the apostle conducts the polemic 1 Corinthians 1:18-24, and 1 Corinthians 3:18-20. This hypothesis is seductive, but the passages quoted can be explained without it, and the Second Epistle proves that the party those of Christ had not its partisans at Corinth among converted Gentiles, but in Palestine, among Christians of Jewish origin and tendency.
This is recognised by some commentators, such as Dähne and Goldhorn; these seek the distinctive character of this fourth party in the elements of Alexandrine wisdom, which certain Jewish doctors mingled with the apostolic teaching. We shall no doubt discover the great corruptions introduced by the Judaizing heads of the Christ-party into the evangelical doctrine. But it is impossible to establish, by any solid proof whatever, the Alexandrine origin of these new elements.
So Schenkel, de Wette, Grimm have pronounced for a more natural notion. According to them, the heads of this party founded their rejection of the apostolic teaching and the authority of their own on supernatural communications which they received from the glorified Christ, by means of direct visions and revelations. Similar claims were put forth a little later, as we know, among the Judaizing teachers of Colosse; why should they not have existed previously in Asia Minor, and thence invaded the Churches of Greece? To support this opinion, there has been alleged chiefly the way in which Paul dwells on that transport even to the third heaven, which had been granted to himself ( 2Co 12:1 seq.); and it is thought that he meant thereby to say: “If these men pretend to have had revelations, I have also had them, and still more astonishing.” But this would be a mode of argument far from conclusive and far from worthy of the apostle; and we shall see that those teachers probably did not come from the land of mysticism, Asia Minor, but from that of legal Pharisaism, Palestine.
This is now recognised by most critics. No doubt we do not see the Judaizing teachers who are concerned here presenting themselves at Corinth, exactly as they did formerly at Antioch and in Galatia. They understood that to gain such men as the Greeks of Corinth, they must avoid putting forward circumcision and gross material rites. But they are nevertheless servants of the legal party as formed at Jerusalem. To be convinced of this, it is enough to compare the two following passages of 2 Corinthians 10:7: “If any one trust to himself that he belongs to Christ ( Χριστοῦ εἶναι , lit. ‘to be Christ's’), let him of himself think this again, that as he is Christ's, so are we Christ's.” To whom is this challenge addressed? Evidently to persons who claim to be Christ's by a juster title than the apostle and his partisans, precisely like the men who specially call themselves those of Christ in the First Epistle. And who are they? The second passage, 1 Corinthians 11:22-23, informs us: “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool); I am more.” They were then Jewish believers who boasted of their theocratic origin, and who sought to impose, by means of their relations to the mother Church, on the young Churches founded by Paul in the Gentile world, no doubt with the intention of bringing them gradually under the yoke of the Mosaic law.
But in what sense did such men designate themselves as those of Christ?
1. Storr, Hug, Bertholdt, Weizsäcker suppose that they took this title as coming from James, the head of the flock at Jerusalem, known under the name “the Lord's brother;” and that it was because of this relationship between James and Jesus, that they boasted of being in a particular sense men of Christ. But this substitution of Christ's name for that of James is rather improbable, and this explanation could in any case only apply to the few foreign emissaries who came from Palestine, and not to the mass of the Corinthian party which was grouped around them.
2. According to Billroth, Baur, Renan, these people were the same as “those of Cephas.” They designated themselves as those of Peter when they wished to denote their human head; as those of Christ when they wished to declare the conformity of their conduct with that of the Lord, who had constantly observed the law, and had never authorized the abolition of it, which Paul preached. In reality, the third and fourth party were thus only one; its double name signified, “disciples of Peter, and, as such, true disciples of Christ.”
In favour of this identification, it is alleged that in a dogmatic point of view the two first parties, that of Paul and that of Apollos, also formed only one. But we have proved without difficulty the shade which distinguished the partisans of Apollos from those of Paul, and though it did not bear on dogmatic questions, we cannot confound these two parties in one, nor consequently can we identify the last two parties so clearly distinguished by the apostle. Besides, nothing authorizes us to ascribe to Peter a conception of the gospel opposed to that of Paul. We know, from Galatians 2:0, that they were agreed at Jerusalem on these two points: that believers from among the Gentiles should not be subjected to the Mosaic rites, and that believers from among the Jews might continue to observe them. But we know also from the same passage, that there was a whole party at Jerusalem which did not approve of this concession made to Paul by the apostles. Paul distinguishes them thoroughly from the apostles and from James himself, for he declares that if he had had to do only with the latter, he might have yielded in the matter of the circumcision of Titus; but it was because of the former, to whom he gives the name of “false brethren, brought in,” that he was obliged to show himelf inflexible in his refusal. There was therefore a profound difference in the way in which the circumcision of Titus was asked of him by the apostles on the one hand, and by the false brethren on the other. The former asked it of him as a voluntary concession, and in this sense he could have granted it; but the latter demanded it as a thing obligatory; in this sense the apostle could not yield without compromising for ever the liberty of the Gentiles. Consequently, beside Peter's followers, who, while observing the law themselves, conceded liberty to the Gentiles, there was room for another party, which, along with the maintenance of the law for the Jews, demanded the subjection of the Gentiles to the Mosaic system. What more natural than to find here, in those of Christ, the representatives of this extreme party? We can understand in this case why Paul places those of Christ after those of Peter, and thus makes them the antipodes of his own party.
Far, then, from finding in our passage, as Baur and Renan will have it, a proof of Peter's narrow Judaism, we must see in it the proof of the opposite, and conclude for the existence of two classes of Jew-Christians, represented at Corinth, the one by Peter's party, the other by Christ's.
3. Schmidt has thought that the Judaizers, who called themselves those of Christ, were those who allowed the dignity of being members of the kingdom of Christ, the Messiah-King, only to the Jews and to those of the Gentiles who became Jews by accepting circumcision. In this explanation the strict meaning of the term Χριστός , Messiah, must be emphasized. But it seems evident from our two Epistles that the Judaizing emissaries at Corinth were wise enough not to demand circumcision and the Mosaic ritual from the believers there, as from the ignorant Galatians.
4. Reuss, Osiander, Klöpper think those emissaries took the name of those of Christ, because they relied on the personal example of Jesus, who had always observed the law, and on certain declarations given forth by Him, such as these, “I am not come to destroy the law,...but to fulfil it;” and “Ye have one Master, Christ.” Starting from this, they not only protested against Paul's work, but also against the concessions made to Paul by the Twelve. They declared themselves to be the only Christians who were faithful to the mind of the Church's Supreme Head, and on that account they took the exclusive title, those of Christ. This explanation is very plausible; but, as we shall see, certain passages of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians lead us to ascribe a quite special dogmatic character to the teaching of those of Christ; and it would be difficult to understand how, while wishing to impose on the Corinthians Christ's mode of acting during His earthly life, they could have freed them, even provisionally, from circumcision and the other Mosaic rites.
5. Holsten and Hilgenfeld suppose that the title, those of Christ, originated in the fact that these emissaries had been in personal connection with Jesus during His earthly life. They were old disciples, perhaps of the number of the Seventy formerly sent out by Christ, or even His own brothers; for we know from 1Co 9:5 that these filled the office of evangelist-preachers. Persons who had thus lived within the Lord's immediate circle might disparage Paul as a man who had never been in personal connection with Him, and had never seen Him, except in a vision of a somewhat suspicious kind. There is mention, 2 Corinthians 3:1, of letters of recommendation with which those strangers had arrived at Corinth. By whom had those letters been given them, if not by James, at once the Lord's brother and head of the Church of Jerusalem?
In answer to this view, we have to say that if James acted thus, he would have openly broken the solemn contract of which Paul speaks ( Gal 2:5-10 ), and taken back in fact the hand of fellowship which he had given to this apostle. Holsten answers, indeed, that it was Paul who had broken the contract in his conflict with Peter at Antioch; and that after that scene James felt himself free to act openly against him. But supposing what we do not believe that Paul went too far in upbraiding Peter for his return to the observance of the law in the Church of Antioch, there would have been no good reason in that why James should retract the principle recognised and proclaimed by himself, that of the liberty of the Gentiles in regard to the law. What has been recognised as true does not become false through the faults of a third.
6. As none of these explanations fully satisfy us, we proceed to expound the view to which we have been led. We shall find ourselves at one partly, but only partly, with the result of Beyschlag's studies, published by him in the Studien und Kritiken, 1865, ii., and 1871, iv. We have seen, while refuting Baur's opinion, that there existed even at Jerusalem a party opposed to the Twelve, that of the “false brethren, brought in,” whom Paul clearly distinguishes from the apostles (Galatians 2:4; Gal 2:6 ). They claimed to impose the Mosaic law on Gentile converts, while the Twelve maintained it only for Christians of Jewish origin, and the further question, whether these might not be released from this obligation in Churches of Gentile origin, remained open. We think that this ultra-party was guided by former members of the priesthood and of Jewish Pharisaism (Acts 6:7; Act 15:5 ), who, in virtue of their learning and high social position, regarded themselves as infinitely superior to the apostles. It is not therefore surprising that once become Christians, they should claim to take out of the hands of the Twelve, of whom they made small account, the direction of the (Christian) Messianic work, with the view of making this subservient to the extension of the legal dispensation in the Gentile world. Such were the secret heads of the counter mission organized against Paul which we meet with everywhere at this period. It had now pushed its work as far as Corinth, and it is easy to understand why the portion of the Church which was given up to its agents, distinguished itself not only from the parties of Paul and Apollos, but also from that of Peter. They designated themselves as those of Christ, not because their leaders had personally known Jesus, and could better than others instruct the Churches in His life and teaching, who in these two respects would have dared to compare himself to Peter or put himself above him? but as being the only ones who had well understood His mind and who preserved more firmly than the apostles the true tradition from Him in regard to the questions raised by Paul. They were too prudent to speak at once of circumcision and Mosaic rites. They rather took the position in regard to converted Gentiles which the Jews had long adopted in regard to the so-called proselytes of the gate. And moreover and here is where I differ from Beyschlag when they arrived on Greek soil, they certainly added theosophic elements to the gospel preached by the apostles, whereby they sought to recommend their teaching to the speculative mind of the cultivated Christians of Greece. It is not without cause, that in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul speaks, 1 Corinthians 10:5, of “reasonings exalted like strongholds against the knowledge of God,” and of “thoughts to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” and that, 1 Corinthians 11:3, he expresses the fear that the Corinthians are allowing themselves to be turned away from the simplicity which is in Christ, as Eve let herself be seduced by the cunning of the serpent. Paul even goes the length of rebuking the Corinthians, in the following verse, for the facility with which they receive strange teachers who bring to them another Jesus than the one he has proclaimed to them, a Spirit and a gospel different from those they have already received. Such expressions forbid us to suppose that the doctrine of those emissaries was not greatly different from his own and that of the Twelve, especially from the Christological standpoint ( another Jesus). There is certainly here something more than the simple legal teaching previously imported into Galatia. It was sought to allure the Corinthians by unsound speculations, and Paul's teaching was disparaged as poor and elementary. Hence his justification of himself, even in the First Epistle, for having given them only “milk and not meat” ( 1Co 3:1-2 ). Hence also his lively polemic against the mixing of human wisdom with the gospel ( 1Co 3:17-20 ). All this applied to the preaching of those of Christ, and not in the least to that of Apollos. We do not know what exactly was the nature of their particular doctrines. It did violence to the person and work of Jesus. Thus is explained perhaps Paul's strange saying, 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No man speaking by the Spirit of God saith: Jesus is accursed!” The apostle is speaking of spiritual manifestations which made themselves heard even in the Church. There were different kinds of them, and their origin required to be carefully distinguished. The truly Divine addresses might be summed up in the invocation, “Jesus, Lord!” While the inspirations that were not Divine terminated though one can hardly believe it in declaring Jesus accursed! Such a fact may however be explained when we call to mind a doctrine like that professed by the Judaizing Christian Cerinthus, according to which the true Christ was a celestial virtue which had united itself to a pious Jew called Jesus, on the occasion of His baptism by John the Baptist, which had communicated to Him the power of working miracles, the light from which His doctrines emanated, but which had abandoned Him to return to heaven, before the time of the Passion; so that Jesus had suffered alone and abandoned by the Divine Being. From this point of view what was to prevent one pretending to inspiration from exclaiming: “What matters to us this crucified One? This Jesus, accursed on the cross, is not our Christ: He is in heaven!” It is known that Cerinthus was the adversary of the Apostle John at Ephesus; Epiphanius on what authority we know not asserts that the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written to combat his heresy. It is remarkable that this false teacher was Judaizing in practice, like our false teachers at Corinth. But it is by no means necessary to suppose that it was exactly this system which Paul had in view. At this epoch many other similar Christological theories might be in circulation fitted to justify those striking expressions of Paul: “another Jesus, another Spirit.” Thus the name of Christ, in the title which these persons took, those of Christ, would be formulated, not only in opposition to the name of the apostles, but even to that of Jesus. Let us mention, by way of completing this file concerning those of Christ, the apostle's last word, 1 Corinthians 16:22, a word certainly written with his own hand after the personal salutation which precedes: “If any man love not the Lord, let him be anathema!” It is the answer to the “Jesus anathema!” of 1 Corinthians 12:3.
We adopt fully, therefore, the words of Kniewel ( Eccl. Cor. vetustiss. dissentiones, 1842), who has designated those of Christ as “the Gnostics before Gnosticism.”
There remains only one question to be examined in regard to those of Christ. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians Paul twice speaks of persons whom he designates as οἱ ὑπερλίαν ἀπόστολοι , that is to say, “the apostles transcendentally” or “archapostles” ( 1Co 11:5 and 1Co 12:11 ), and whom he puts in close connection with the Christ-party. Baur alleges that he meant thereby to designate the Twelve ironically as authors of the mission carried out against his work by their emissaries arrived at Corinth. We have here, according to him, the most striking testimony of the directly hostile relation between Paul and the original apostles; it was they, and James in particular, who furnished those disturbers with letters of recommendation. On this interpretation rests Baur's whole theory regarding the history of primitive Christianity. But this application is inadmissible for the following reasons:
1. The Twelve had recognised in principle Paul's preaching of the gospel among the Gentiles, and had found nothing to add to it; they had moreover declared his apostleship to have the same Divine origin as Peter's; this is narrated by Paul, Galatians 2:1-10. How should they have sent persons to combat such a work?
2. If the expression “archapostles,” which Paul evidently borrows from the emphatic language of the party recruited by those persons at Corinth, referred to the Twelve, who in that case must have been considered as being an apostle in the simple sense of the word? Obviously it could only be Paul himself. His adversaries would thus unskilfully have declared an apostle the very man whose apostleship they were contesting!
3. In the passage, 2 Corinthians 11:5, Paul says, “he supposes he is not a whit behind the archapostles, for though he be rude in speech ( ἰδιώτης ), he is not so in knowledge.” Now it cannot be held that the Twelve were ever regarded at Corinth as superior to Paul in the gift of speech, first because they had never been heard there, and next because they were themselves expressly characterized as ἀγράμματοι and ἰδιῶται ( Act 4:13 ).
4. The apostle gives it to be understood ironically ( 1Co 12:11 seq.) that there is a point undoubtedly in which he acknowledges his inferiority as compared with the archapostles, to wit, that he has not, like them, been supported by the Church. Now it is certainly of the Church of Corinth that he is speaking when he thus expresses himself; this appears from 1 Corinthians 11:20, where he describes the shameless conduct of those intruders toward his readers. As yet the Twelve had not been at Corinth; it is not they, but the newcomers whom Paul designates by this ironical name.
5. How could St. Paul, justly asks Beyschlag, in this same letter in which he recommends a collection for the Church of the saints (that of Jerusalem), designate men sent by that Church and by the apostles, as “servants of Satan whose end will be worthy of their works” ( 1Co 11:14-15 )?
Hilgenfeld and Holsten have themselves given up applying the expression archapostles to the Twelve. Agreeably to their explanation of the term, those of Christ, they apply it to those immediate disciples of Christ, such as the Seventy or the brothers of Jesus, from whom the party had taken its name, and whom the apostles had recommended to the Corinthians. But this comes nearly to the same, for the brothers of Jesus were at one with the apostles ( 1Co 9:5 ). And besides, how would those of Christ have contrasted their leaders as archapostles with Peter himself?
There remains only one explanation. These archapostles are no other than the emissaries of the ultra-Judaizing party, of whom we have spoken. Their partisans at Corinth honoured them with this title, to exalt them not only above Paul, but above the Twelve. We have already explained how this was possible: their object was to break the agreement which was established between the Twelve and Paul; and the letters of recommendation which they had brought were the work of some one of those high personages at Jerusalem who sought to possess themselves of the direction of the Church.
In the following verses, the apostle summarily condemns the state of things he has just described, and defends himself from having given occasion to it in any way. Edwards thinks he can divide the discussion which follows, thus: condemnation of the parties by the relation of Christianity: 1, to Christ, 1Co 1:13 to 1 Corinthians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 2:0, to the Holy Spirit, 1Co 2:6 to 1 Corinthians 3:4; 1 Corinthians 3:0, to God, 1 Corinthians 3:5-20; 1 Corinthians 4:0, to believers, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. But such tabulation is foreign to the apostle's mind. His discussion has nothing scholastic in it. The real course of the discussion will unfold of itself gradually.
Vv. 13. “Is the Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” Several editors (Lachmann, Westcott, and Hort) and commentators (Meyer, Beet) make the first proposition an indignant affirmation: “Christ then among you is rent, lacerated!” But the transition to the following questions does not in that case seem very natural. It is more simple to see here a question parallel to the two following, these being intended to show the impossibility of the supposition expressed by the first. The term the Christ denotes the Messiah in the abstract sense, that is to say, the Messianic function, rather than the person who filled the office. The latter would certainly be designated by the name of Jesus or by the word Christ without article. How, besides, could we suppose the person of Christ divided into four? Paul means, is the function of Christ, of Saviour, and founder of the kingdom of God divided between several individuals, so that one possesses one piece of it, another, another? Taken in this sense, the question does not refer only to the fourth party, but to the other three. “Are things then such that the work of salvation is distributed among several agents, of whom Jesus is one, I another?” and so on. Edwards explains thus: “Is not that which is manifested of the Christ in Paul at one with that which is manifested of Him in Apollos, etc....? Do not these elements form all one and the same Christ?” The meaning is good, but one does not see how in this case the censure applies to the fourth party, which the question, thus understood, seems on the contrary to justify. It is evident the word, Christ, cannot be applied with Olshausen to the Church, nor with Grotius to the doctrine of Christ.
The form of the first question admitted of a reply in the affirmative or negative; that of the two following (with μή ) anticipates a negative answer, serving as a proof to the understood negative answer which is evidently given to the first: “Paul was not, however, crucified for you, was he, as would be the case if a part belonged to him in the work of salvation?” He might have put the same question in regard to Apollos and Cephas; but by thus designating himself he naturally disarms the other parties.
The first question relates to the function of Saviour, the second to that of Lord, which flows from it. Edwards well indicates the relation between the two. The cross has made Christ the head of the body. By baptism every believer becomes a member of that body. The reading of the Vatic., περὶ ὑμῶν , cannot be preferred to that of all the other documents: ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν . This ὑπέρ signifies in behalf of. The idea, in the place of, which would be expressed by ἄντι , is included in it only indirectly. It is by substitution that the benefit expressed by ὑπέρ has been realized. To be baptized in the name of...signifies: to be plunged in water while engaging henceforth to belong to Him in whose name the external rite is performed. In the name there is summed up all that is revealed regarding him who bears it, consequently all the titles of his legitimate authority. Baptism is therefore a taking possession of the baptized on the part of the person whose name is invoked over him. Never did Paul dream for an instant of arrogating to himself such a position in relation to those who were converted by his preaching. Yet this would be implied by such a saying as, I am of Paul.
And not only could it not be so in fact, but the apostle is conscious of not having done anything which could have given rise to such a supposition.
Vv. 14-16. “I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius, 15. lest any should say that ye were baptized in my name. 16. I baptized also the household of Stephanas; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.”
Paul's thanksgiving proves that there had been no calculation on his part, when, as a rule, he had abstained from baptizing. The real motive for the course he followed will be given in 1 Corinthians 1:17. This is why he is thankful for the way in which God has ordered things. Rückert objects to this reasoning, that if Paul had wished to form a party of his own, he might have done so by getting one of his friends to baptize in his name, as well as by baptizing himself. True; but would he easily have found any one to lend himself to such a procedure? What seems to me more difficult to explain is the supposition itself, on which this passage rests, of a baptism administered in another name than that of Jesus. This idea, which now seems to us absurd, might seem more admissible in the first times of the Church, especially in Greece. In the midst of the religious ferment which characterized that epoch, new systems and new worships were springing up everywhere; and in these circumstances the distance was not great between an eminent preacher like Paul, and the head of a school, teaching and labouring on his own account. The apostle of the Gentiles, no doubt, passed in the eyes of many as the true founder of the religion which he propagated; and the supposition which he here combats might thus have a certain degree of likelihood. There is no need, therefore, in accounting for this passage, either of Hofmann's hypothesis, according to which there were people at Corinth who boasted of having received baptism at Jerusalem from Peter's own hand,
Paul would thus congratulate himself on not having given occasion to such a superstition, or for that of Keim and Heinrici, who ascribe a similar superstition to the Apollos-party (see above, p. 65).
The regimen τῷ θεῷ , to God, omitted by the Sinaït. and Vatic., is unnecessary; it has rather been interpolated than omitted.
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue at the time of Paul's arrival, had been one of his first converts ( Act 18:8 ); Gaius, his host during one of the stays which followed ( Rom 16:23 ), was also probably one of the first believers. Thus, probably, is explained why Paul had baptized them himself; his two assistants, Silas and Timothy, had not yet arrived from Macedonia, when they were received into the Church. It cannot be held with Beet that Paul deliberately made an exception in these two cases because of their importance: this idea would contradict the very drift of the whole passage. It matters little that in the account given in the Acts the order of events does not agree with what we say here.
Vv. 15. The ἵνα , that, refers to the intention of God, who has so ordered the course of things.
It is possible to defend both readings, that of the Alexandrine and that of T. R. The first, ye were baptized, might be taken from 1 Corinthians 1:15, or be intended to avoid the monotonous repetition of the word ἐβάπτισα , I baptized. On the other hand, as Edwards observes, Paul was less afraid of their ascribing a bad motive to him personally, than of their misunderstanding the real meaning of baptism itself; in this sense, the Alexandrine reading suits better.
Vv. 16. The apostle all of a sudden recollects a third exception. Stephanas was one of the three deputies from Corinth who were with Paul precisely at that time.
By the words, besides I know not..., Paul guards against any omission arising from a new slip of memory. Those who make the inspiration of the Holy Spirit go directly to the pen of the sacred writer, without making it pass through the medium of his heart and brain, should reflect on these words.
Vv. 17. “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
Between 1Co 1:16-17 the logical connection is this, “If I baptized, it was only exceptionally; for this function was not the object of my commission.” The essential difference between the act of baptizing and that of preaching the gospel, is that the latter of these acts is a wholly spiritual work, belonging to the higher field of producing faith and giving new birth to souls; while the former rests in the lower domain of the earthly organization of the Church. To preach the gospel is to cast the net; it is apostolic work. To baptize is to gather the fish now taken and put them into vessels. The preacher gains souls from the world; the baptizer, putting his hand on them, acts as the simple assistant of the former, who is the true head of the mission. So Jesus Himself used the apostles to baptize ( Joh 4:1-2 ); Peter acted in the same way with his assistants; comp. Acts 10:48. Paul certainly does not mean that he was forbidden to baptize; but the terms of his apostolic commission had not even mentioned this secondary function (Acts 9:15; Act 22:14-15 ). Though he might occasionally discharge it, the object of his mission was different. To the aorist εὐαγγελίσασθαι , the reading of the Vatic., the present εὐαγγελίζεσθαι is to be preferred, which better suits the habitual function.
The connection of the last proposition of 1Co 1:17 with what precedes is not obvious at the first glance. But the study of the following passage shows that we have here the transition to the new development which is about to begin. This transition is made very skilfully: it resembles that of Romans 1:16, by which the apostle passes from the preface to the exposition of his subject. There might be a more subtle way of appropriating souls to himself than that of baptizing them in his name, even that of preaching in such a way as to attract their admiration to himself by diverting their attention from the very object of preaching: Christ and His cross; now this is excluded by the term evangelizing (preaching the gospel), taken in its true sense. Paul means, “I remained faithful to my commission, not only by evangelizing without baptizing, but also by confining myself to evangelizing in the strict sense of the word, that is to say, by delivering my message without adding to it anything of my own.” The term evangelizing signifies, in fact, to announce good news; it denotes therefore the simplest mode of preaching. It is the enunciation of the fact, to the exclusion of all elaboration of reason or oratorical amplification, so that the negative characteristic, without wisdom of words, far from being a strange and accidental characteristic added to the term evangelize, is taken from the very nature of the act indicated by the verb. Thus Paul has not only continued steadily in his function as an evangelist; he has at the same time remained faithful to the spirit of his function. He has therefore done absolutely nothing which could have given rise to the formation of a Paul-party at Corinth.
The objective negative οὐ is used because the regimen refers, not to ἀπέστειλε , sent me, in that case the negative would depend on the Divine intention in the sending, and the subjective negative, μή , would be required, but to εὐαγγελίζεσθαι , which denotes the fact of preaching itself.
This second part of the verse contains the theme of the whole development which now follows. The formation of parties at Corinth evidently rested on a false conception of the gospel, which converted it into the wisdom of a school. Paul restores the true notion of Christianity, according to which this religion is above all a fact, and its preaching the simple testimony rendered to the fact: the announcement of the blessed news of salvation ( εὐαγγελίζεσθαι ). It is thus clear how the second part of the verse is logically connected with the first, the idea of wisdom of words being excluded by the very meaning of the term evangelize.
The phrase σοφία λόγου , wisdom of words, is not synonymous with σοφία τοῦ λέγειν , the art of speaking well. The emphasis is rather on the word wisdom than on words. The former term applies to the matter of discourse; it denotes a well-conceived system, a religious philosophy in which the new religion is set forth as furnishing a satisfactory explanation of God, man, and the universe. The latter bears on the form, and denotes the logical or brilliant exposition of such a system. Most critics think that by this phrase Paul means to allude “to the teaching of Apollos, at once profound and highly flavoured.” “The orator preferred to Paul,” says Reuss, “was no other than his friend and successor Apollos.” We know few commentators who have been able, like Hilgenfeld, to rise above this prejudice, which has become in a manner conventional. As for me, this application seems to be directly contrary to all that Paul himself will afterwards say of Apollos, and to the way in which his teaching is described in the Acts. Paul, in this very Epistle, 1 Corinthians 4:4-8, testifies to the closest relation between his own work and that of Apollos. Far from there having been conflict between the two works, that of Paul is represented, 1 Corinthians 3:6, under the figure of planting, and that of Apollos under that of watering. Paul adds, 1 Corinthians 1:8: “He that planteth and he that watereth are one. ” The apostle, on the contrary, characterizes in the following verses the mode of teaching which he would here combat, as belonging to that wisdom of the world ( 1Co 1:20 ) which the gospel comes to destroy; he applies to it ( 1Co 3:20 ) these words of a Psalm: “The thoughts of the wise are only vanity;” he accuses it of “destroying the temple of God,” and threatens its propagators “with being destroyed” in their turn “by God” Himself ( 1Co 3:17-18 ); and it is of the teaching of his friend and disciple Apollos that he meant to speak! According to Acts 18:27-28, the whole preaching of Apollos was founded on the Scriptures, and not at all on a human speculation which he had brought from Alexandria, as is alleged by those who make him a disciple of Philo. It is even said that “ by the grace of God he was very profitable to those who had believed.” The person of Apollos must therefore be put out of the question here: it is impossible even to suppose that all which follows applies to his partisans. We have much more reason to think that those referred to here are the teachers who, under the name those of Christ, were propagating strange doctrines at Corinth regarding the person of Christ, and whom Paul accuses, 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, “of corrupting minds from the simplicity which is in Christ,” and of beguiling them “as the serpent beguiled Eve.”
The systematic and brilliant exposition of the fact of the cross would have the effect, according to Paul's phrase, of κενοῦν , literally emptying it. Those who, like Meyer and so many others, apply the foregoing expressions to Apollos, attenuate the meaning of this term as much as possible; according to them, it merely signifies that in consequence of this mode of preaching, the salutary effects of preaching will be ascribed rather to the brilliant qualities of the orator than to the matter of the doctrine, the cross. But this meaning is obviously far from coming up to the idea expressed by the word κενοῦν , to make void. Kling comes nearer to the energy of the expression when he refers to the fact that a dialectic and oratorical mode of preaching may indeed produce an intellectual or aesthetical effect, but not transform the egoistical self. But if Paul had meant nothing more than this, he would rather have used the word which is familiar to him, καταργεῖν , to deprive of efficacy. The term κενοῦν denotes an act which does violence to the object itself, and deprives it of its essence and virtue. Salvation by the cross is a Divine act which the conscience must appropriate as such. If one begins with presenting it to the understanding in the form of a series of well-linked ideas, as the result of a theory concerning man and God, it may happen that the mind will be nourished by it, but as by a system of wisdom, and not a way of salvation. It is as if we should substitute a theory of gravitation for gravitation itself (Edwards). The fact evaporates in ideas, and no longer acts on the conscience with the powerful reality which determines conversion. The sequel will be precisely the development of this thought.
Vv. 18. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
The for announces the proof of the assertion ( 1Co 1:17 ): that to preach the gospel as a word of wisdom would be to destroy its very essence.
The antithesis of the words foolishness and power is regarded by Rückert and Meyer as inexact, because the opposite of foolishness is wisdom, not force. But these commentators have failed to see that the term wisdom would here have expressed too much or too little: too much for those who reject the gospel, and in whose eyes it can be nothing else than folly; too little for those who are disposed to receive it, and who need to find in it something better than a wisdom enlightening them. As sin is a fact, salvation must be laid hold of above all as a fact, not as a system. It is an act wrought by the arm of God, telling with power on the conscience and on the heart of the sinner: this alone can rescue from ruin a world which is perishing under the curse and in the corruption of sin. The two datives: τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις , to them that perish, and τοῖς σωζομένοις , for those who are saved, have not an exactly similar meaning; the former indicating a simple subjective appreciation, the latter including besides an effective relation, the idea of an effect produced. The participles are in the present, not as anticipating a final, eternal result (Meyer), or as containing the idea of a Divine predestination (Rückert), but as expressing two acts which are passing into fulfilment at the very time when Paul mentions them. In fact, perdition and salvation gradually come to their consummation in man simultaneously with the knowledge which he receives of the gospel.
The addition of the pronoun ἡμῖν , to us, is due to the fact that the letter is intended to be read to the believers in full assembly.
This way of treating human wisdom taken by God in the gospel is the fulfilment of threatenings already pronounced against it in the prophetic writings:
2. The nature of the gospel. 1:18-3:4.
The gospel in its essence is not a wisdom, a philosophical system; it is a salvation. It is this thesis, summarily formulated in the second part of 1 Corinthians 1:17, which the apostle proceeds to develop in the following passage. We have already pointed out, p. 86, the close relation in which it stands to the question that is the subject of this part of the Epistle, that of the parties formed in the Church.
The thesis itself is treated from two points of view which complete one another: in a first passage, 1Co 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:5, the apostle demonstrates it directly; in the second, 1Co 2:6 to 1 Corinthians 3:4, he prudently limits its application. Undoubtedly the gospel is not essentially wisdom; but it nevertheless contains a wisdom which is unveiled to the believer in proportion as the new life is developed in him, and which is really the only true wisdom.
Vv. 19. “For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will set aside the understanding of the prudent.”
Isaiah, Isaiah 29:14, had declared at the time when Sennacherib was threatening Judah, that the deliverance granted by Jehovah to His people would be His work, not that of the able politicians who directed the affairs of the kingdom. Was it not they on the contrary who, by counselling alliance with Egypt, had provoked the Assyrian intervention and thus paved the way for the destruction of Judah? It is on the same principle, says the apostle, that God now proceeds in saving the world. He snatches it from perdition by an act of His own love, and without deigning in the least to conjoin with Him human wisdom, which on the contrary He sweeps away as folly.
The verbs in the future, I will destroy...I will set aside, express a general maxim of the Divine government, which applies to every particular case and finds its full accomplishment in salvation by the cross. Paul quotes according to the LXX., who directly ascribe to God (“I will destroy...” etc.) what Isaiah had represented as the result of the Divine act: “Wisdom will perish,” etc. ᾿Αθετεῖν , to set aside, as useless or worth nothing. Not only has God in His plan not asked counsel of human wisdom, and not only in the execution of it does He deliberately dispense with its aid, but He even deals its demands a direct contradiction. The following verse forcibly brings out this treatment to which it is subjected in the gospel.
Vv. 20. “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” This exclamatory form has the same triumphant tone as in the words of Isaiah of which our passage seems to be an imitation (Isaiah 19:12; Isa 33:18 ); comp. in Paul himself 1 Corinthians 15:55, and Romans 3:27. At the Divine breath the enemy has disappeared from the scene; he is sought for in vain.
Rückert thinks that we should not seek rigorously to distinguish the meaning of the three substantives, that there is here rather a simple rhetorical accumulation. He refers all three to Greek wisdom, with a slight shade of difference in meaning. The emotional tone of the passage might justify this view in any other writer than Paul. But in this apostle every word is always the presentation of a precise idea. The ancient Greek commentators apply the first term, σοφός , wise, to Gentile philosophers; the second, γραμματεύς , scribe, to Jewish doctors; the third, συνζητητής , disputer, to Greek sophists; but, in this sense, the last would be already embraced in the first term. It would therefore be better, with Meyer, to give to the word σοφός a general meaning: the representatives of human wisdom, and to the two last, the more particular sense of Jewish scribe and Greek philosopher. But the term wisdom, applying throughout this whole passage to human wisdom represented by the Greeks ( 1Co 1:22 ), I think it more in keeping with the apostle's thought to apply the first term to Greek philosophers, the second to Jewish scribes, its ordinary meaning in the New Testament; for that of secretary, Acts 19:35, belongs to an altogether special case, then to unite these two classes in the third term: “those in general who love to dispute,” who seek truth in the way of intellectual discussion, by means either of Greek dialectic or Scripture erudition. The complement, of this world, refers undoubtedly to the three substantives, and not only to the last.
The word αἰών , age, derived either from ἄω , to breathe, or from ἄει , always, denotes a period. The Jews divided history into a period anterior to the Messiah this was what they called ὁ αἰὼν οὗτος , this present age and the period of the Messianic kingdom, which they named ὁ αἰὼν μέλλων , the age to come. But, from the Christian point of view, these two periods are not merely successive; they are partly simultaneous. For the present age still lasts even when the Messiah has appeared, His coming only transforming the actual state of things slowly and gradually. Hence it follows that for believers the two periods are superimposed, as it were, the one above the other, till at length, in consequence of the second and glorious advent of the Messiah, the old gives place entirely to the new.
The second question explains the first. How have the wise of the world thus disappeared? By the way of salvation which God gives to be preached and which has the effect of bringing human wisdom to despair.
The verb ἐμώρανεν is usually taken in a declarative sense: “By putting wisdom aside in the most important affair of human life, God has ipso facto declared it foolish.” But this verb has a more active sense, Romans 1:22; it would require, therefore, at the least to be explained thus: “He has treated it as foolish, by taking no account of its demands.” But should there not be given to it a more effective meaning still? “He has, as it were, befooled wisdom. By presenting to it a wholly irrational salvation, He has put it into the condition of revolting against the means chosen by Him, and by declaring them absurd, becoming itself foolish.” The complement, of the world, is not absolutely synonymous with the preceding term, of this age: the latter referred rather to the time, the wisdom of the epoch anterior to the Messiah; the term world bears rather on the nature of this wisdom, that which proceeds from humanity apart from God.
But it is asked why God chose to treat human wisdom so rudely. Did He wish to extinguish the torch of reason which He had Himself lighted? 1Co 1:21 answers this question; it explains the ground of the judgment which God visits on human reason, by the irrational nature of the gospel; to wit, that in the period anterior to the coming of Christ, reason had been unfaithful to its mission.
Vv. 21. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
The γάρ , for, does not signify, as Edwards thinks, that the apostle is proceeding to expound the manner in which God has punished wisdom; it introduces the indication of the ground why He thought good to deal so severely with it. ᾿Επειδή , after that ( ἐπεί ), as any one can attest ( δή ). The δή is added to show that Paul is speaking of a patent fact, on which one may in a manner put his finger. This fact is that of the aberrations to which human reason gave itself up during the times of heathenism, during those ages which the apostle calls, Acts 17:30, the times of ignorance.
The first proposition describes the sin of reason, and the second the principal its chastisement. These two ideas are so developed that the exact correspondence between the sin and the punishment appears from each of the terms of the two propositions. The phrase, in the wisdom of God, is not synonymous with the following, by (means of) wisdom. The absence of the complement, of God, in the second, of itself shows that the idea of wisdom is taken in the second instance more generally and indefinitely. The matter in question is not a manifestation of the Divine wisdom, but the mode of action followed by human reason, what we should call the exercise of the understanding, the way of reasoning. Hence, also, in this second expression the apostle uses the prep. διά , by means of, while in the former, where he is speaking of the wisdom of God, he makes use of the prep. ἐν , in, which indicates a domain in which Divine wisdom has been manifested. It is not difficult to understand what the theatre is of which Paul means to speak, on which God had displayed His wisdom in the eyes of men before the coming of Christ. In the passage Romans 1:20, the apostle speaks of God's works “in which are visible, as it were, to the eye, from the creation of the world, His invisible perfections, His eternal power and Godhead.” In his discourse at Lystra ( Act 14:17 ), he declares that God “has not left Himself without witness before the eyes of men, sending rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling the hearts of men with abundance and joy.” In the midst of the Areopagus ( Act 17:27 ), he declares that the end God had in view in distributing men over the face of the earth, was to make them “seek the Lord that they might touch Him as with the hand, and find Him.” This universe is indeed, as Calvin says, “a brilliant specimen of the Divine wisdom.” In the immense organism of nature, every detail is related to the whole, and the whole to every detail. There we find a perceptible, though unfathomable, system of hidden causes and sensible effects, of efficacious means and beneficent ends, of laws that are constant and yet pliant and capable of modification, which fills the observer with admiration and reveals to his understanding the intelligent thought which has presided over the constitution of this great whole. Man, therefore, only needed to apply to such a work the rational processes, the principles of substance, of causality, and finality, with which his mind is equipped, to rise to the view of the wise, good, and powerful Author from whom the universe proceeds. There was in the work a revelation of the Worker, a revelation constituting what the apostle calls, Romans 1:19, τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ , “that which is naturally knowable of the Divine person.” To welcome the rays of this revelation, and to reconstruct the image of Him from whom it proceeded, such was the noble mission of the reason with which God had endowed man: it should have come by this normal exercise of His gift ( by means of wisdom) to know God in His wisdom. But as Paul expounds, Romans 1:21, human reason was unfaithful to this mission; man's heart would neither glorify God as such, nor even give thanks to Him, and reason, thus interrupted in its exercise, instead of rising to the knowledge of the Worker by contemplating the work, deified the work itself. Unable to overlook altogether the traces of the Divine in the universe, and yet unwilling to assert God frankly as God, it resorted to an evasion; it gave birth to heathenism and its chimeras. Some sages, indeed, conceived the idea of a God one and good, but they did not succeed in carrying this vague and abstract notion beyond their schools; the popular deities continued to stand, dominating and falsifying the human conscience. In Israel alone there shone the knowledge of a God, one, living, and holy; but this light was due to a special revelation. We must therefore take care not to include the Jewish revelation, as Meyer and Holsten do, in the meaning of the expression: ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ , in the wisdom of God. Not till afterwards, 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, will the apostle deal with the Jews, and that in a way absolutely subsidiary, and applying to them a quite different term to that of wisdom. As little must we give to the words, in the wisdom of God, as is done by Rückert and Reuss, the meaning of our modern phrase, “ In His unfathomable design, it pleased God....” This interpretation would make the wandering of human wisdom the effect of a Divine decree. Men thus find the doctrine of absolute predestination which they ascribe to the apostle. But how can we fail to see that this would be to exculpate reason at the very moment when the apostle is engaged in condemning it? Finally, it is not in accordance with the thought of the apostle to see in the expression διὰ τῆς σοφίας , by means of wisdom, with Billroth and Holsten, the indication of the obstacle which hindered man from arriving at the knowledge of God: “After that, through an effect of its wisdom, the world knew not God in...” Very far from condemning the exercise of the natural understanding, the apostle on the contrary charges this faculty with turning aside from its legitimate use.
After the ground of the punishment, the punishment itself. The term εὐδόκησεν indicates an act, not of arbitrariness, but of freewill: “He judged good,” evidently because it was good in fact. Reason had used its light so ill that the time was come for God to appeal to a quite different faculty.
He therefore presents Himself to man with a means of salvation which has no longer, like creation, the character of wisdom, and which is no more to be apprehended by the understanding, but which seems to it, on the contrary, stamped with folly: a Crucified One! The gen. τοῦ κηρύγματος , of the preaching, designates the apostolic testimony as a known fact (art. τοῦ , the).
This term includes the notion of authority: God lays down His salvation; He offers it such as it has pleased Him to realize it. There is nothing in it to be modified. It is to be accepted or rejected as it is. It need not be thought with Hofmann and others, because of the prep. διά , by means of, that this regimen is the counterpart of διὰ τῆς σοφίας , by means of wisdom, in the preceding proposition. It corresponds rather to the regimen ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ , in the wisdom of God, in His original revelation which had the character of wisdom. Man not having recognised God in this form by the healthy use of his understanding, God manifests Himself to him in another revelation which has the appearance of folly. The reason why Paul here uses the prep. by, to correspond to the in of the first proposition, is easily understood. In His revelation in the heart of nature, God waits for man; He would see if man, by the exercise of his understanding, will be able to discover Him: “to see whether they will put their hand on Him,” as it runs, Acts 17:27. It is this expectant attitude which is expressed by the ἐν , in. Not having been found thus, God now takes the initiative; He Himself seeks man by the proclamation of salvation. Hence Paul in this case employs the διά , by means of, which denotes the prevenient activity.
The term which in the second proposition is the true counterpart of the phrase διὰ τῆς σοφίας , by means of wisdom (in the first), is found at the end of the sentence; it is the word τοὺς πιστεύοντας , them that believe. The faculty to which God appeals in this new revelation is no longer reason, which had so badly performed its task in reference to the former; it is faith. To an advance of love like that which forms the essence of this supreme manifestation, the answer is to be given, no longer by an act of intelligence, but by a movement of confidence. What God asks is no longer that man should investigate, but that he should give himself up with a broken conscience and a believing heart.
Finally, to the two contrasts: in the wisdom of God and by the foolishness of preaching; by wisdom, and, them that believe, the apostle adds a third: that of the two verbs know and save. Man ought originally to have known God, and by this knowledge have been united to Him; it was for this end that God revealed Himself to his understanding in an intelligible way. Man not having done so, God now comes to save him, and that by means absolutely irrational. Man, first of all, will have to let himself be snatched from perdition and reconciled to God by a fact which passes beyond his understanding. Thereafter he will be able to think of knowing. It would seem to follow from these words of the apostle, that if reason had performed its task of knowing God, it would not have been necessary for God to save man; a sound philosophy would have raised him up to God. The apostle gives no explanation on this head; but his thought was probably this: if man had risen by his wisdom to the true knowledge and worship of God, this legitimate use of his reason would have been crowned by a mode of salvation appropriate to the laws of this faculty. In the second revelation the Divine wisdom would have rayed forth with more brilliance still than in the first. Thus the character, so offensive to reason, under which the salvation offered to man presents itself in the preaching of the cross, is the consequence of the abuse which reason made of its faculty of knowing. If it had developed itself as an organ of light, the mode and revelation of salvation would have been adapted to its wants. Obviously we cannot know what salvation and the preaching of salvation would have been in such different conditions.
The verse which we have just explained contains in three lines a whole philosophy of history, the substance of entire volumes. As from the standpoint of Judaism the apostle divides history into two principal periods, that of law and that of grace, so from the standpoint of Hellenism he also distinguishes two great phases, that of the revelation of God in wisdom, and that of His revelation in the form of foolishness. In the first, God lets Himself be sought by man; in the second, He seeks man Himself. Such is the masterly survey which the apostle casts over the course of universal history. There was singular adroitness on his part in throwing such a morsel as this development to those Corinthians, connoisseurs in wisdom as they affected to be, and apt to overlook the apostle's superiority. Paul says to them, as it were, “You will have speculation, and you think me incapable of it; here is a specimen, and true also! It is the judgment of God on your past.” But at the same time, with what marvellous subtlety of style does he succeed in putting and cramming, as it were, into the two propositions of this verse, all that wealth of antitheses which presented themselves at once to his mind! To construct such a period there needed to be joined to the thought of Paul the language of Plato.
Vers. 22-25 state the historical fact which demonstrates the judgment enunciated in 1 Corinthians 1:21: The salvation of all, Gentiles and Jews, has really been accomplished by that which is folly in the eyes of the one, and which scandalizes the other.
Vers. 22 and 23. “ For indeed the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; 23. but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness.”
This second ἐπειδή , for indeed, should, according to Meyer and Kling, begin a new sentence, the main proposition of which is found in 1 Corinthians 1:23: But as for us, we preach. The δέ , but, would not be irreconcilable with this construction. The δέ is often found in the classics as the sign of the apodosis when this expresses a strong contrast to the preceding proposition (see Meyer); comp. in the New Testament, Colossians 1:22. But two reasons are opposed to this construction: first, the absence of a proper particle to connect this new sentence with the preceding; then the simple logic; for the idea of 1 Corinthians 1:22, that Greeks and Jews ask for wisdom and miracles, cannot form a ground for that of 1 Corinthians 1:23: that preaching presents a Christ who is to them an offence and folly. The object of God, in this mode of preaching, could not have been to scandalize the hearers; in 1Co 1:24 the apostle even expressly adds the opposite thought: to wit, that Christ is to the believers of both peoples power and wisdom. The ἐπειδή of 1Co 1:22 does not therefore begin a new sentence, like that which began 1 Corinthians 1:21, and which related to εὐδόκησεν , it pleased God. Yet it is not on this account a repetition and amplification of that sentence. The first ἐπειδή ( 1Co 1:21 ) served to explain the rejection visited by God on human wisdom; the second ( 1Co 1:22 ) simply affirms the reality of this judgment: “for in reality, as experience may convince you, while men demand wisdom and miracles, we preach to them a Saviour who is quite the contrary, but who nevertheless is to them who receive Him miracle and wisdom.” We have not to see, then, in these three verses the development of the words, them that believe...(Hofmann), nor that of the term, “ foolishness of preaching” (Rückert, de Wette); they give the proof of the fact of the decree expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:21: “It pleased God to save...” (Billroth, Osiander, Beet, Edwards). What a strange dispensation! The world presents itself with its various demands: prodigies, wisdom! The cross answers, and the apparent meaning of the answer is: weakness, foolishness! But to faith its real meaning is: power, wisdom! Thus in the gospel God rejects the demands of the world so far as they are false, but only to satisfy them fully so far as they are legitimate.
The apostle divides the ancient world into two classes of men; those whom God has taken under His direction and enlightened by a special revelation, the Jews; the others whom He “has left to walk in their own ways” ( Act 14:16 ), the Gentiles, designated here by the name of their most distinguished representatives, the Greeks. The two subjects are named without an article: Jews, Greeks; it is the category which the apostle would designate.
The particle καί ... καί , both...and, indicates that each of those groups has its demand, but that the demands are different. For the Jew it is miracles, the Divine materialized in external prodigies, in sensible manifestations of omnipotence. The plural σημεῖα , miracles, ought certainly to be read with almost all the Mjj.; the received text reads the singular σημεῖον , a sign, with L only. This last reading is undoubtedly a correction occasioned by Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1, where the Jews ask from Jesus a sign in heaven. Paul's object is not to refer to a particular fact, but to characterize a tendency; this is indicated by the plural, signs, and yet more signs! For it is of the nature of this desire to rise higher and higher in proportion as it is satisfied. “On the morrow after the multiplication of the loaves,” says Riggenbach, “the multitudes ask: What signs doest thou then?” Every stroke of power must be surpassed by a following one yet more marvellous.
The Greek ideal is quite different; it is a masterpiece of wisdom: the Divine intellectualized in a system eloquently giving account of the nature of the gods, the origin, course, and end of the universe. This people, with their inquisitive and subtle mind, would get at the essence of things. The man who will satisfy Greek expectation will be, not a thaumaturge, making the Divine appear grossly in matter, but a Pythagoras or a Socrates of double power.
Thus we have the two great figures of the ancient world ineffaceably engraved. Let us remark, finally, with what delicacy the apostle chooses the two verbs used to characterize the two tendencies: for the Jew, αἰτεῖν , ask; the miracle comes from God it is received; for the Greek, ζητεῖν , seek; system is the result of labour it is discovered. It is obvious that in this description of the ancient world, from the religious standpoint, the figure of the Jew is placed only for the sake of contrast; the Greeks are and remain, according to the context, the principal figure. It is always wisdom contrasted with the fact of salvation.
Vv. 23. As 1Co 1:22 went back on the first proposition of 1 Corinthians 1:21, “The world by wisdom knew not God in His wisdom,” so 1 Corinthians 1:23 (with 1Co 1:24 ) goes back on the second, “It pleased God to save by...” The δέ is strongly adversative. By the ἡμεῖς , we, the subject of these verses is also contrasted with that of the previous verse. I mean the preachers of the crucified Christ with the unbelieving Jews and Greeks. Instead of a series of acts of omnipotence transforming the world, or of a perfect light cast on the universe of being, what does the apostolic preaching offer to the world? A Crucified One, a compact mass of weakness, suffering, ignominy, and incomprehensible absurdity! There is enough there absolutely to bewilder Jewish expectation; in the first place, it is a stone against which it is broken. Σκάνδαλον : what arrests the foot suddenly in walking and causes a fall. And the Greek? The term Christ seems at first sight not to apply to the expectation of this people. But all humanity, as is seen in Greek mythology, aspired after a celestial appearance similar to that which the Jew designated by the name of Christ, after a communication from above capable of binding man to God. So Schelling did not hesitate to say, when paraphrasing 1Co 1:5 of the prologue of John: “Christ was the light, Christ was the consolation of the Gentiles.” The apostle can therefore speak also of the Christ in relation to the Greeks. But here again, what a contrast between the desired manifestation and the reality! Must not salvation by the Crucified One be to the Greek, instead of the solution of all enigmas, the most sombre of mysteries?
The participle ἐσταυρωμένον is an attribute, as crucified, otherwise it would be preceded by the article; the two substantives, σκάνδαλον and μωρίαν , are appositions.
It might be asked, no doubt, in connection with this verse, whether Jesus, by His numerous miracles, did not satisfy the Jewish demand? But His acts of miraculous power had been annulled, so to speak, in the eyes of the Jews by the final catastrophe of the cross, which seemed to have fully justified His adversaries, and did not suffer them to see in Him any other than an impostor or an agent of diabolical power.
And yet as to this preaching which so deeply shocks the aspirations of men, Jews and Gentiles, so far as these are false, it turns out and daily experience demonstrates the fact that received with faith, it contains both for the one and the other the full satisfaction of those same aspirations so far as they are true:
Vv. 24. “But unto those [ of them ] which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
The αὐτοῖς δέ forcibly separates the called, Jews and Gentiles, from the mass of their fellow-countrymen, while identifying them with it so far as their past life was concerned: “But unto them, those same Jews and Gentiles, once become believers...” Those Jews and Greeks themselves who saw in the preaching of the cross only the contrary of what they sought, weakness, foolishness, no sooner become believers than they find in it what they asked: power and wisdom.
The term κλητοί , called, here includes the notion of believers. Sometimes calling is put in contrast to the acceptance of faith; thus in the maxim, Matthew 22:14: “Many called, few chosen.” But often also the designation called implies that of accepter; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, and Romans 8:30; and it is certainly the case here, where the term τοῖς κλητοῖς , the called, stands for τοὺς πιστεύοντας , them that believe ( 1Co 1:21 ). The apostle exalts the Divine act in salvation; he sees God's arm laying hold of certain individuals, drawing them from the midst of those nationalities, Jewish and Gentile, by the call of preaching; then, when they have believed, he sees the Christ preached and received, unveiling Himself to them as containing exactly all that their countrymen are seeking, but the opposite of which they think they see in Him.
The accusative Χριστόν might be regarded as in apposition to the Χριστόν of 1 Corinthians 1:23 (Hofmann); but the phrase, “to preach Christ as Christ,” is unnatural; Χριστόν should therefore be regarded as the direct object of κηρύσσομεν , we preach ( 1Co 1:23 ), and the two substantives, power and wisdom, are not attributes ( as power, as wisdom), but cases of simple apposition, in the same category as σκάνδαλον and μωρίαν . The apostle here omits the ἐσταυρωμένον not without purpose. For the two terms, power of God and wisdom of God, embrace not only the Christ of the cross, but also the glorified Christ.
The complement, of God, contrasts with the power and wisdom of the world, that wisdom and power of a wholly different nature, which on that account the world does not recognise. The power of God is the force from above, manifested in those spiritual wonders which transform the heart of the believer; expiation which restores God to him, the renewal of will which restores him to God, and in perspective the final renovation, which is to crown these two miracles of reconciliation and sanctification ( 1Co 1:30 ). The wisdom of God is the light which breaks on the believer's inward eye, when in the person of Christ he beholds the Divine plan which unites as in a single work of love, creation, incarnation, redemption, the gathering together of all things under one head, the final glorification of the universe. The believer thus finds himself, as Edwards says, in possession of “a salvation which is at once the mightiest miracle in the guise of weakness [this for the Jew], and the highest wisdom in the guise of folly [this for the Greek].”
But how can that which is apparently most feeble and foolish thus contain all that man can legitimately desire of power and light in point of fact? The apostle answers this question by the axiom stated in 1 Corinthians 1:25.
Vv. 25. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The neuter adjectives, τὸ μωρόν , τὸ ἀσθενές , do not denote qualities belonging to the being of God Himself, but certain categories of Divine manifestations having the two characters mentioned. If one dared translate thus, the weak, foolish product of Divine action. And God's masterpiece in these two respects is the cross. The gen. τοῦ θεοῦ , of God, is at once that of origin and property. The second member of comparison is sometimes completed by paraphrasing, “wiser than the wisdom of men; stronger than the strength of men;” but this supposed ellipsis weakens the thought. The apostle means: wiser than men with all their wisdom; stronger than men with all their strength. When God has the appearance of acting irrationally or weakly, that is the time when He triumphs most certainly over human wisdom and power.
What God makes of human wisdom has been clearly manifested by the character of folly which He has stamped on the salvation offered by Christ; it is equally so in the choice God makes of those in whom this salvation is realized by faith in the preaching of it. Such is the idea of 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, a passage in which the apostle shows us the most honoured classes of society remaining outside the Church, while God raises up from the very depths of Gentile society a new people of saved and glorified ones who hold everything from Him.
Vv. 26. “For see your calling, brethren, there are among you not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.”
This mode of recruiting the Church confirms the conclusion drawn above from the nature of the gospel. Hence the γάρ , in fact, which is certainly the true reading. It was not the leading classes of Corinthian society which had furnished the largest number of the members of the Church. The majority were poor, ignorant, slaves. God shows thereby that He has no need of human wisdom and power to support His work.
The verb βλέπετε should be taken as imperative and not as indicative: “Open your eyes, and see that...” This meaning is not incompatible with the γάρ . Meyer rightly quotes Sophocles, Phil. 5.1043: ἄφετε γὰρ αὐτόν .
Paul has come near to his readers in reminding them of this fact which touches them so closely; hence the address, brethren! The word κλῆσις , calling, has sometimes been taken in the sense wrongly given to the word vocation, as denoting social position. But this meaning is foreign to the New Testament. Paul would describe by it the manner in which God has proceeded in drawing this Church by the preaching of the gospel from the midst of the Corinthian population. Jesus had already indicated a similar dispensation in Israel, and had rendered homage to it: “Father, I thank Thee because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight” ( Mat 11:25-26 ). The fact was not therefore accidental; it belonged to the Divine plan. God did not wish that human wisdom should mix its alloy with His: the latter was to carry off victory alone. Meyer makes πολλοί , many, the subject, and σοφοί , wise, the attribute: “There are not many who are wise...mighty...” But in this sense the πολλοί must have been completed by the genitive ὑμῶν , of you. It is better simply to understand the verb ἔστε , “ Ye are not many wise.”
In the adjunct κατὰ σάρκα , according to the flesh, the word flesh denotes, as it often does, human nature considered in itself, and apart from its relation to God. This adjunct has not been added to the two following terms, mighty...noble, because, as de Wette says, these latter obviously denote advantages of an earthly nature.
Οἱ δυνατοί , mighty, denotes persons in office; εὐγενεῖς , the noble, persons of high birth, descendants of ancient families.
Vv. 27-29. “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28. and base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; 29. that no flesh should glory before God.”
The emotion with which the apostle signalizes this providential fact is betrayed by the threefold repetition of the words God has chosen, by the thrice expressed contrast between the two opposite terms, God and the world, and by the emphatic position of the object (thrice repeated) at the beginning of the proposition. The neuter form of the three adjectives, foolish, weak, and vile, contrasted as it is with the masculines preceding, the wise, the mighty, the noble, is not used accidentally; these neuters indicate a mass in which the individuals have so little value that they are not counted as distinct personalities. So the word τὸ ἀνδράποδον , the domestic [thing], is used for slaves. The term ἐκλέγεσθαι does not here denote a decree of eternal predestination, but the energetic action whereby God has taken to Him (the Middle λέγεσθαι ) from the midst of the world ( ἐκ ) those individuals whom no one judged worthy of attention, and made them the bearers of His kingdom. The strong, the wise, etc., are thus covered with shame, because the weak, etc., are not only equal to them, but preferred. In the phrase, things which are despised, is concentrated all that disdain with which the ignorant and weak and poor were overwhelmed in the society of heathendom; and the final term, things which are not, expresses the last step of that scale of abasement on which those beings vegetated. The subjective negative μή before ὄντα does not deny real existence, as would be done by οὐ , but the recognition of any value whatever in public opinion; all those beings were to it as non-existent. The καί , which in the received text precedes the last participle, is omitted by most of the Mjj. The meaning even would be the only suitable. But how could we explain this καί , if it were authentic, otherwise than the previous ones? It is better therefore to reject it. The asyndeton is perfectly in place; it makes this last word the summary, and, so to speak, the accumulation of all the preceding. There is a corresponding gradation in the verb καταργεῖν , to annul (bring to nought), to reduce to absolute powerlessness, which takes the place of the preceding and less strong term καταισχύνειν , to cover with confusion. Already the wise and mighty were humiliated by the call addressed to their social inferiors; now they disappear from the scene. And for what end does God act thus? The apostle answers in the following sentence:
Vv. 29. ῞Οπως , that thus. This conjunction denotes the final end with a view to which all the preceding ἵνα , that, indicated only means. The negative μή , according to a well-known Hebraism, applies to the verb only, and not at the same time to the subject all flesh; for Paul does not mean to say that some flesh at least should be able to glory. The word flesh is taken in the sense pointed out, 1 Corinthians 1:26. No man, considered in himself and in what he is by his own nature, can glory before God, who knows so well the nothingness of His creature. The words, all flesh, seem to go beyond the idea of the preceding propositions, where the question was merely of the humiliation of the wise and mighty. But is it not enough that these last be stripped of the right of glorying that the whole world may be so along with them, the weak and ignorant being already abased by their natural condition? As Hofmann says: The one party are humiliated because with all their wisdom and might, they have not obtained what it concerned them to reach, salvation; the other, because if they have obtained it, it is impossible for them to imagine that it is by their own natural resources that they have come to it.
The mode of the Divine calling, to which the apostle pointed the attention of his readers, 1 Corinthians 1:26, had two aspects: the first, the rejection of things wise and mighty; the second, the choice which had been made of things foolish and weak. The first of these two sides has been expounded, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; the apostle now presents the second.
Vv. 30, 31. “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who, on the part of God, has been made unto us wisdom, as also righteousness and sanctification and redemption; 31. that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Rückert, with his usual precision, asks whether the thought expressed in these two verses is logically connected with the passage as a whole; he answers in the negative, and sees in those two verses only an appendix. We think, as we have just pointed out, that they are on the contrary the indispensable complement of the passage. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29: “See what your calling is not, and understand why!” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31: “See what it is, and again understand why!” The δέ is therefore adversative to the vain boasting of the things that are wise, etc., henceforth reduced to silence; there is opposed the cry of triumph and praise on the side of the things foolish and weak; for 1Co 1:31 evidently forms the counterpart of 1 Corinthians 1:29. ᾿Εξ αὐτοῦ , of Him ( God), expresses the essential idea of this conclusion: If things that were not have now become something, it is due to God alone; ἐκ therefore indicates the origin of this spiritual creation; comp. Ephesians 2:9. ῾Υμεῖς , ye: the things formerly weak, powerless, despised. This pronoun resumes the address of 1 Corinthians 1:26. Calvin, Rückert, Hofmann see in the word ἐστέ , ye are, a contrast to the preceding expression: things which are not. “It is of God that your transition from nothingness to being proceeds.” The words, in Christ, would thus express, secondarily, the means whereby God has accomplished this miracle. Others strictly connect ἐξ αὐτοῦ with ἐστέ in the sense of the Johannine phrase: to be of God, to be born of God. But these two explanations have the awkwardness of separating the words ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ from ἐστέ ; whereas we know well how frequently Paul uses the form εἶναι ἐν Χριστῷ . It is better therefore, as it seems to me, to translate thus: “It is of Him that ye are in Christ; ” that is to say: “It is to God alone that you owe the privilege of having been called to the communion of Christ, and of having thereby become the wise and mighty and noble of the new era which is now opening on the world.” The following proposition will explain, by what Christ Himself was, these glorious effects of communion with Him. The phrase εἶναι ἐν , to be in, denotes two moral facts: first, the act of faith whereby man lays hold of Christ; second, the community of life with Him contracted by means of this act of faith. In this relation the believer can appropriate all that Christ was, and thus become what he was not and what he could not become of himself.
In the proposition which follows, the apostle substitutes for ὑμεῖς , ye, the pronoun ἡμῖν , to us; and this because the matter in question now is, what Christ is objectively to men, and not the subjective appropriation of Him by believers.
The aor. Passive, ἐγενήθη , is generally regarded (Meyer, Edwards) as equivalent in meaning to the aor. Middle, ἐγένετο , was, became. It is, indeed, a form springing up from the dialects, and which was only introduced latterly into Attic Greek. But that does not, we think, prevent there being a difference in the use of the two forms. The passive form occurs in the New Testament only some fifty times, compared with about 550 times that the aor. Middle is used; and it is easy in each of those instances to see the meaning of being made, which is naturally that of the Passive. I think, therefore, that we must translate, not, “has been” or “has become,” but, has been made. This is confirmed by the adjunct ἀπὸ θεοῦ , on the part of God. Yet it should be remarked that the apostle has not written ὑπὸ θεοῦ , “ by God.” The ἀπό , on the part of, weakens the passivity contained in the ἐγενήθη , and leaves space for the free action of Christ. In using the words ὃς ἐγενήθη , who has been made (historically), the apostle seems to have in mind the principal phases of Christ's being: wisdom, by His life and teaching; righteousness, by His death and resurrection; sanctification, by His elevation to glory; redemption, by His future return.
The received text places the pronoun ἡμῖν , to us, before σοφία , wisdom. This reading would have the effect of bringing this substantive into proximity with the three following, from which it would only be separated by the adjunct ἀπὸ θεοῦ ; and this adjunct again can be made to depend, not on the verb ἐγενήθη , but on the substantive σοφία itself: “wisdom coming from God.” In this case there would be nothing to separate it from the three following substantives. But the authority of the mss. speaks strongly in favour of the position of ἡμῖν after σοφία ; and the adjunct ἀπὸ θεοῦ depends more naturally on the verb ἐγενήθη ; it serves to bring out the idea of the ἐξ αὐτοῦ at the beginning of the verse. It must thus be held that the apostle's intention was clearly to separate the first substantive from the other three, and this has led him to interpose between σοφία and the other substantives the two adjuncts: ἡμῖν and ἀπὸ θεοῦ .
If it is so, it is impossible to maintain the relation which Meyer establishes between the four substantives, according to which they express three co-ordinate notions: 1, that of knowledge of the Divine plan revealed in Christ ( wisdom); 2, that of salvation, regarded on the positive side, of the blessings which it brings ( righteousness and holiness); 3, that of salvation from the negative view-point, deliverance from condemnation and sin ( redemption). Meyer rests his view on the fact that the particle τε καί binds the second and third terms closely together, isolating them at the same time from the first and fourth. But regard to philological exactness may have misled this excellent critic here, as in so many instances. Why, in that case, interpose the two adjuncts between the first term and the second? And is it not obvious at a glance that the three last terms are in the closest relation to one another, so that it is impossible to separate them into two distinct groups, co-ordinate with the first? This is what has led a large number of commentators (Rückert, Neander, Heinrici, Edwards, etc.) to see in the three last terms the explanation and development of the first: Christ has become our wisdom, and that inasmuch as He has brought us the most necessary of blessings, salvation, consisting of righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It is easy in this case to understand why the first term, which states the general notion, has been separated from the other three which are subordinate to it. Only this explanation is not in harmony with the special sense of religious knowledge, in which the word wisdom is taken in the passage. Wisdom, as a plan of salvation, is contrasted, 1 Corinthians 1:24, with salvation itself as a Divine act ( δύναμις , power). How does it come to be identified here with salvation itself? The word, therefore, cannot denote anything else here than the understanding of the Divine plan communicated to man by Jesus Christ. The parallel 1Co 1:24 leads us, I think, to the true explanation which Osiander has developed. According to him, the last three terms are the unfolding of the notion of δύναμις , power, as the counterpart to that of wisdom. In Christ there has been given first the knowledge of the Divine plan, whereby the believer is rendered wise; then to the revelation there has been added the carrying out of this salvation, by the acquisition of which we become strong. This effective salvation includes the three gifts: righteousness, holiness, redemption. The only objection to this view is that the τε καί would require to be placed so as to connect together σοφία on the one hand, and the following three terms on the other, whereas by its position this copula rather connects δικαιοσύνη and ἁγιασμός ( righteousness and holiness), as the second καί connects the third substantive with the fourth. But the omission of a copula fitted to connect the first substantive with the other three may have been occasioned by two circumstances: 1, the two adjuncts which separate the word wisdom from the following three; 2, the difficulty of adding to the copula τε καί , which joins the word righteousness with the following, a new copula intended to connect it with the preceding (see Osiander). Then, if it is remembered that the salvation described in the last three substantives is only the realization of the Divine plan designated by the first ( wisdom), it will be seen that these may be placed there as a sort of grammatical apposition to the first.
The idea of δικαιοσύνη , righteousness, is that developed by Paul in the first part of the Epistle to the Romans, chaps. 1-5. It is the act of grace whereby God removes the condemnation pronounced on the sinner, and places him relatively to Himself, as a believer, in the position of a righteous man. The possibility of such a Divine act is due to the death and resurrection of Christ.
The term ἁγιασμός , holiness or sanctification, is the Divine act which succeeds the preceding, and whereby there is created in the believer a state in harmony with his position as righteous. It is the destruction of sin by the gift of a will which the Holy Spirit has consecrated to God. This act is that described by the apostle in the succeeding passage of the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 6:1 to Romans 8:17. I have sought to show in my Commentary on that Epistle, at Romans 6:19, that the term ἁγιασμός denotes sanctification, not in the sense in which we usually take the word, as a progressive human work, but as the state of holiness divinely wrought in believers. Justification is generally regarded as a gift of God; but sanctification as the work by which man ought to respond to the gift of righteousness. St. Paul, on the contrary, sees in holiness a Divine work no less than in righteousness: Christ Himself is the holiness of the believer as well as his righteousness. This new work is due to His exaltation to glory, whence He sends the Holy Spirit; and by Him He communicates His own life to the justified believer (John 7:39; Joh 16:14 ). If, then, our righteousness is Christ for us, our sanctification is Christ in us, Christ is our holiness as well as our righteousness. He is finally our redemption, our complete and final deliverance. Such is the meaning of the word ἀπολύτρωσις . The development of this third idea is found, Romans 8:18-30. This deliverance, which consists of entrance into glory, is the consummation of the two preceding acts of grace. It is by His glorious advent that Jesus will thus emancipate justified and sanctified believers from all the miseries of their present state, and give them an external condition corresponding to their spiritual state. Meyer asserts that this meaning of ἀπολύτρωσις would demand the complement τοῦ σώματος , of the body, as in Romans 8:23. But the term redemption embraces much more than the simple fact of the resurrection of the body. It has the wide sense in which we find it, Luke 21:28; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 11:35. As to the view of Meyer, who sees in this word only the negative side of moral redemption, deliverance from guilt and sin, it is certainly too weak, and besides this blessing was already implied in the two foregoing terms.
If we so obviously find in the Epistle to the Romans the development of the three last terms, in which the notion of salvation is summed up, we cannot forget that the development of the first, σοφία , occurs immediately afterwards in the same Epistle, in chaps. 9-11, which so admirably expound the whole plan of God.
Calvin rightly observes that it would be hard to find in the whole of Scripture a saying which more clearly expresses the different phases of Christ's work.
Vv. 31. In 1Co 1:29 all human glorying has been declared to be excluded; in this, the apostle invites the new people, the wise and mighty whom God has raised up by preaching, to strike up a song of praise, but of praise relating to God alone.
The term κύριος , Lord, in the passage of Jeremiah 9:23-24, quoted by the apostle, denotes Jehovah; but it could hardly fail in the mind of Paul to be applied at the same time to Christ, by whom the Lord has done this work, and who has so often received the title in this chapter.
Here is no commonplace exhortation to glorify the Lord. What we have to see in these words is a hidden antithesis, which is sufficiently explained by the passage, 1 Corinthians 3:21-22: “Therefore let no man glory in men; for all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.” What they have become by the gospel, they owe to the Lord alone, and not to His instruments. For as to what they have been able to do, it is He who has done it by them; therefore it is He only who is to be glorified. The imperative καυχάσθω does not correspond grammatically to the conjunction ἵνα , in order that. But the apostle directly transforms the logical conclusion into the moral exhortation contained in the prophetic saying.
This last word sums up the dominant idea of the whole passage from 1 Corinthians 1:13: viz. Christ's unique place in relation to the Church. Let others be teachers, He alone is κύριος ; for He alone has paid the ransom. To Him alone be the praise!
As God in the salvation of humanity has set aside human wisdom, first of all by the mode of salvation which He has chosen, then by the mode of propagation which He has adopted for the Church, the apostle has also set it aside in his mode of preaching; such is the idea which he develops in closing this passage, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Thus all is harmonious in the Divine work: the gospel, the work, the preacher.
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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12