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THE GREETING; THANKS AND HOPE IN REFERENCE TO THEIR CHRISTIAN STATE IN GENERAL
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
1Paul, called1 to be an apostle [a chosen apostle] of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our [the] brother, 2Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,2 to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be [chosen] saints, with all that in every place [om. in every place] call upon the name of Jesus Christ 3our Lord, [in every place3] both theirs and ours: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1 Corinthians 1:1-3. These opening verses, according to ancient custom, combine to present in advance the address and greeting; that is, the designation of the parties concerned in their mutual relations, and likewise the benediction.
1 Corinthians 1:1. Paul.—Concerning his person and history, his importance to the Church and his labors, consult the general introduction to these Epistles [also Herzog’s Real. Ency. art. Paul. Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, do. Kitto’s Bible Ency. do. Besser, “Paul the Apostle.” Eadie, “Paul the Preacher.” Howson, “Hulsean Lectures,” for 1862. A. Monod, “Five Discourses on St. Paul.” Ld. Lyttleton, “On the Conversion of St. Paul.” Neander, “Planting and Training,” etc.]
A chosen Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God.—The ordinary rendering, “called to be an Apostle,” does not give sufficient prominence to the leading thought here, which is shown by the order of the words to lie in ‘Apostle.’ The sense is,—an Apostle by virtue of his calling; and this calling was that given him by Christ (Acts 9:22-26), having for its deeper ground the will of God (comp. Galatians 1:15 ff.). Hence, neither of these designations is superfluous. The fact of “being called” is insisted on in contrariety to everything like arbitrary assumption of honor, or unwarrantable, intrusion into office. “Καλεἶν: to call, like קָלָא is used to denote the way in which God specially appoints men to any particular end.” Neander. And this was a matter which, in view of the parties at Corinth who refused to acknowledge Paul’s apostleship, and sought to put him below the twelve, directly called by Christ when on earth, it was in point to bring prominently forward; and no less important was it to show that this calling came through (διἀ) the Supreme Will. And there was the greater necessity for this, inasmuch as the office of which he claimed to be the bearer was highest in the divine economy. It was that of an ambassador of Jesus Christ, whose business it was to represent his Master, whose words and acts were to be regarded as Christ’s words and acts, the honoring or contemning of whom was to be looked upon as the honoring or contemning of Christ, who, as Christ’s commissioner, appointed to organize and govern the Church throughout the world, wielded an all-embracing power, and exercised a far-reaching authority, and who agreeably with such an appointment and such plenitude of authority was endowed with a “wealth of spiritual gifts, such as is ordinarily distributed among several persons in a less degree.4
And Sosthenes the brother.—Although conscious of his high and well established position, he nevertheless does not present himself before the Church alone; but he takes into company one who officially stood far below him. Him, however, he designates as an equal—as a brother both to himself and the Church, in the unity of Christian faith and hope. “The disposition on the part of Paul to send out his Epistles in the name of one or more of the brethren happening to be with him (Galatians 1:2), may be taken either to imply that the persons mentioned had aided in the upbuilding of the churches concerned, or as an expression of their perfect agreement with what he wrote. It certainly is, at any rate, a testimony to that fellowship in the Spirit, which Paul so often inculcated, and which he was ever diligent both to cultivate in himself and to inculcate upon his readers.” Burger. Whether this Sosthenes was the ruler of the synagogue mentioned in Acts 18:17,—supposing him to be then already inclined to the cause of Christ, in case it was by the Jews that he was beaten, or that he was violently opposed to this cause, in case he was beaten by Greeks, (the readings which indicate the one or the other are neither of them original),—cannot be accurately ascertained. In any case, he must have been known and esteemed in the Church, so that it was not without its influence with them that he expressed his assent to the contents of the letter, and represented them before Paul. That he must have written the letter himself under Paul’s dictation, as some suppose (Billroth, Hodge) (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:21), does not necessarily follow from this connection. Perhaps we might infer that he had been an official assistant of Paul; but even this is not expressly denoted by the term ‘brother.’
1 Corinthians 1:2. Names and characterizes the party written to.—Unto the Church of God.—‘The congregation,’ or, ‘the Church of God’ is the Old Testament designation of Israel as a divinely gathered people. It means a people assembled before God and for God. The derivation of the word ecclesia points out the mode of its gathering. It was by means of a ‘calling,’—a spiritual instrumentality. Hence its members are designated as “the called.” In this a personal independence is presupposed. Salvation is offered, not enforced, and it is shared only by those who voluntarily accept and enter into it. Τοῦ θεοῦ: of God—Gen. of possession. The Corinthian Church is hereby emphatically declared to belong not to any human leader, but to God alone. The Church is His.—Which is at Corinth [The local designation of the Church. Geographical divisions are in the Church the only ones recognized in the New Testament, and the Church in one place or city is always spoken of as a unit. Though consisting of one or more distinct congregations, it was regarded as an organic whole under one general superintendency. It was otherwise when a province was in view, e. g., the churches of Asia.—“Church at Corinth! that wicked city! what a joyful and striking paradox.” Bengel.]—to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus.—By this the Church of God is distinctly characterized in its members as Christian. It is composed of persons who are sanctified, i. e., separated from the mass of sinful humanity, the world, and devoted to the exclusive service of the true God [and whose guilt has been expiated by an atonement. Both ideas, those of consecration and expiation, are included in the word ἁγιάζειν: to sanctify]. This is not to be understood in a simply legal or theocratic sense (as in the case of the Jews, who were termed a holy nation because of their descent from Abraham and their divine government); nor yet in a purely objective sense, as implying the mere imputation of holiness; but in a real sense, as being the result of the operation of the Holy Ghost (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 1:2). Yet this inward appropriation of salvation is not on this account to be considered as complete, but only as begun in its informing principle, and as existing in a germ which may be developed in various degrees.
In Christ Jesus.—These words denote the ground or soil whereon those who are sanctified stand, and from which they derive the power of sanctification. It is Jesus Christ, into whose fellowship they have entered by faith and baptism (comp. Galatians 3:26 ff.; Romans 6:3), [and who is the only centre and bond of union for the Church]—called or chosen saints. This implies that they are consecrated to God and numbered among His peculiar people by virtue of a divine call, [“effectual call as distinguished from a merely external invitation.” Hodge] (comp. Romans 10:14; Romans 9:24, etc.); hence, that they, as well as the Apostle on his part (1 Corinthians 1:1), were also indebted for their high position to the Divine Will, which was made known to them in their call through the Gospel (Romans 10:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). “Paul here may have reminded them of their ‘calling’ as something which was alike for all, having in view already the parties whom he was soon to rebuke for giving undue prominence to the human instrumentality, and for insisting upon subjective diversities in a schismatic way.” Neander. [“It is not to be inferred from this that the Corinthian professors were all true believers, or that these terms express nothing more than external consecration. Men are uniformly addressed in Scripture according to their profession.” Hodge].
With all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place.—There is a difference of opinion as to the connection of these words. They might be joined to those just preceding, e.g., ‘who are called holy, as are all who, etc.’ So taken, they would serve to remind the Corinthian converts of their fellowship with Christians in all places. So Bengel. Or they may be construed as enlarging the circle of those whom Paul intends to address. The former construction would not be unsuitable, since it would furnish a fit antidote to the narrow-minded tendency to division which showed itself in the church. But the latter is favored by the similar passage in 2 Corinthians 1:1, which at the same time more exactly defines and explains the general statement we have here: ‘in every place.’ Then we should have immediately joined to this, as belonging to it, the closing words—both theirs and ours.—To connect these [as the E. V. does] with “our Lord,” q. d. “their Lord and ours,” is hardly admissible from the order of the Greek text, and is also unsuitable, because in that case the word “our” as connected with “Lord” would be understood not simply of Paul or Sosthenes, but also of the recipients of the letter included with them as well. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 13:13).—Referred to the daughter churches of Corinth in Achaia, as suggested by 2 Corinthians 1:1, these words yield the sense: “in every place which belongs as well to them—the Corinthians as the mother church—as also to us, the Apostle and his companions.” So construed, the Apostle will here be understood as, on the one hand, conceding to them the right of the mother church, and impressing upon them the duty of taking a deeper interest in the daughter churches, and, on the other hand, as indicating his interest in these, and so winning them also to the reception of his doctrine and exhortation. [But is it not more natural to refer “theirs” to “those who call upon, etc.,” and to include under “ours” both the parties writing and the parties written to? So Alford. Another interpretation has been proposed. “The Epistle is addressed to all Christians in Corinth and Achaia, wherever they might be. Every place is at once theirs and ours—their place of abode and my place of labor.” See Hodge. “These words form a weighty and precious addition—made here doubtless to show the Corinthians that membership of God’s Holy Catholic Church consisted not in being planted or presided over by Paul or Apollos or Cephas (or their successors), but in calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Alf.].
Who call upon the name, etc.—ἐπικαλεῖσθαι τὸ ὄνομα. By this is denoted, not the being called by the name of the Lord, as if the Greek verb were in the Passive, but, as every where in the Old and New Testament, the calling upon the name of the Lord, especially the invocation of His help as Lord. It is, accordingly, an act of divine worship, [and in a more extended sense, denotes a life of reverence towards God, and of habitual religious faith]. The term Lord, answering to the Hebrew יְהוָֹה or אֲדוֹנָי: Jehovah or Adonai, here applied to Christ, indicates His plenipotence and truth, which is more fully set forth in Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18; John 18:2; and which rests partly upon His original sonship and His mediatorial agency in the creation (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16 ff.; Hebrews 1:2 ff.), and partly upon His redemptive office (1 Corinthians 7:22 ff.; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:14).—The name indicates the being as revealed and known; hence the invocation presupposes faith—faith, preaching—and preaching, the word of God (Romans 10:14 ff.). Those who called upon the name of Christ formed a contrast with those who blasphemed this name among the Jews. (Luk 23:39; 1 Timothy 1:13; Acts 26:9; comp. Acts 22:16). This same thought lies at the foundation even in places where instead of a name we have a mere description. The name of Jesus Christ expresses what He is, His entire personality together with His office and work. [On the import of names, especially as belonging to Deity: see Bush, Com. Exodus 3:13.; Hengst. Com. Psalms 8:2; Psalms 9:12; Whately, Serm. Matthew 1:23].
1 Corinthians 1:3. The benediction, which elsewhere among the Greeks, and twice also in the New Testament (James 1:1; Acts 15:23) is woven with the address into one sentence, is here peculiarly extended.—Grace and peace constitute the sum total of Gospel blessings, the former being the ground and source of the latter. Χάρις properly denotes that which begets joy, viz. favor, grace, kindly feeling. It may be regarded either as a quiescent trait, the mere outshining of an inward goodness or amiability; or as an energy put in active exercise for the welfare of others. Among the Greeks the word was used also in connections which we should deem immoral. But in the language of revelation it denotes that supreme love and self-devotion which was manifested in its most perfect form by the Son of God. It is what we, in respect of the unworthiness of the object, denominate grace, by which is meant sometimes the mere feeling of kindness in the heart, and sometimes the beneficent act which is its result. Here, indeed, it means the peace of forgiveness and reconciliation, corresponding to the Hebrew שָלוֹם which includes the entire welfare of the individual both spiritual and physical, and the root of which is inward peace, the repose of the spirit in the sweet consciousness of being reconciled to God, and in the blessed assurance that we have God for our friend and have to expect from Him good alone. (Comp. Romans 8:1; Romans 8:31-39). [“The wish of peace has a peculiar bearing here in view of the (dissensions at Corinth.” Ols.].
From God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.—That this clause is not to be translated “from God the Father of us, and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” is clear from Galatians 1:3; not to say any thing of the impropriety of thus putting Jesus Christ in a subordinate position.—The co-ordination of Jesus with the Father is to be explained on the ground that the office of mediating grace and peace rests upon His divine sonship, and so upon His equality with God.—This is a truth already indicated in the appellation “Lord,” and which is inferred from 1 Corinthians 8:6, and from the whole Pauline system of doctrine. [“Here it is to be remarked, that God is called our Father and Christ our Lord. God, as God, has not only created us, but renewed and adopted us. God in Christ has redeemed us. He is our owner and sovereign, to whom our allegiance is immediately due; who reigns in us, and rules over us, defending us from all our enemies. This is the peculiar form which piety assumes under the Gospel. All Christians regard God as their Father and Christ as their Lord.” Hodge].
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. From the fact that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are exhibited to us as the common source or sum total of all the blessings of salvation, it is to be seen that the Apostle, even while subordinating Christ to God (1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 15:28), yet maintains such a mediation through Christ of the Divine grace, and of the blessings flowing from it, as presupposes in Christ the Mediator a divine nature. How the two things, subordination and equality of substance, agree, is a problem for the science of Christology. This is the mystery of love, which in the Father flows out in the fulness of the divine perfections; which in the Son keeps itself evermore as consciously dependent and recipient, and, accordingly, both thinks, purposes and does every thing with sole reference to the Father.
2. The equality of Christ with God is also indicated by the calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both this invocation and that derivation of all the blessings of salvation from the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ conjointly, can be made consistent with the Old Testament teaching respecting God, only on the supposition of the essential divinity of Jesus Christ and His true equality with the Father.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. The consciousness of being called to the ministry through the will of God (1 Corinthians 1:1) is: 1. the ground of our confidence in appearing before a Christian congregation to instruct, exhort, reprove and comfort (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:4 ff.); 2. the spring of humble devotion to the service of the Lord, a. devoid of all arbitrary and self-willed activity, b. and in every thing observant of the Master’s eye, and subject to His word; [3. an example for all engaged in any lawful vocation. The consciousness of being called to our work in the providence of God is necessary for the sanctification of our labors, by imparting to them a noble aim, a right impulse, and a true courage to do and endure valiantly for God, our true Master, in all things appointed unto us. After Robertson].
2. The main features of a true church (1 Corinthians 1:2) are, 1. that it is an assemblage before and for God; 2. that it consists of such as are consecrated to God in Jesus Christ; 3. that it is thus consecrated through the mighty creative will of God; 4. that its members are such as call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; [5. that these things may exist in connection with many glaring faults in true professing believers, and with many false professions of faith, which yet do not necessarily vitiate the claim to be called a true church].
3. The proper fellowship between the office and the church rests, 1. in that the former works out for the latter the benefits of salvation which come from God and Jesus Christ in the way of blessing; 2. in that the latter receives these benefits from the ministration of blessing with earnest and hearty desires.
4. 1 Corinthians 1:2-3 : Besser:—How must the Apostolic greeting shame many congregations who assemble to hear this Epistle read, and yet come there with discordant sentiments and divided tongues! “The name ἐκκλησία: church,” says Chrysostom, “is a name not of separation, but of union and harmony.”
[5. 1 Corinthians 1:2 : Bengel:—The consideration of the church universal frees the mind from party bias, and sways it to obedience.]
1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1.—Κλητός: called or chosen is wanting in many good authorities (A. D. E. etc.) These, however, are not sufficient to warrant its omission, since it is more likely that the word was omitted as superfluous, in consequence of διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ (as it is not found in like connection in 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1), than that it should have been inserted from Romans 1:1. [Cod. Sin. has it. In the text we follow the version of our author and translate κλητος as a verbal adjective “chosen.” This is the nearest equivalent in English. “Called” would be more correct; but this word is appropriated to another meaning, and would therefore be ambiguous.]
1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 1:2.—[Our author inserts the clause “which is at Corinth” after “Christ Jesus,” an unnatural order, authorized by B. D. E. F. G. It. and which he vindicates on the ground that it were more natural to suppose that the order of the Received Text was a supposed improvement by transcribers, than that the clause in question should have been placed by design or error in those manuscripts after “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” The valuable Cod. Sin., however, agrees with the Received Text, and we adhere to this against the decision of Alford, Stanley or others.]
[We here conform to the unquestioned order of the Greek text, which alone yields the true meaning.—See below.]
[On the nature and extent of the apostolic office, consult articles under the word “Apostle,” in Kitto’s Enc., 2d ed.; Smith’s Bib. Diet.; Herzog’s Real. Enc.; also, Owen’s Works, vol. iv. p. 433–445; Schaff, Hist. of Ap. Ch., Book iii. chap. 2; Conybeare and Howson, Life of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:0; Litton, The Church of Christ, Book ii., Part ii. 1 Corinthians 1:0.]
II. Gratitude and hope in respect to their Christian state in general
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
4I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is [was5] given you by [in: ἐν] Jesus Christ; 5That in everything ye are [were] enriched by [in] him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day 9of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by [through] whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
This opening, in which the Apostle expresses his thanks to God for the abundance of spiritual gifts possessed by the Corinthian Church, and his hope in their steadfastness and further prosperity in all good, should by no means be regarded as a simple rhetorical captatio benevolentiæ, as a mere bit of flattery designed to win his readers, so that they might the better accept his subsequent exhortations and rebukes, and keep themselves well disposed in spite of the unpleasant things he had to say, and submit to be the more readily guided to the ends he had in view. What Paul here says is preëminently the truth. It comes from his heart. He does feel a sincere joy that so much good exists in the church and that it affords such ground of hope for the future. It is a conviction which proceeds from his fatherly disposition (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:15). Nor are we to regard it as any self-deception or fond fancy of his. For however great may have been the faults of individuals, the work of Divine grace had nevertheless been begun in all the plenitude of spiritual gifts, and his confidence in the continued operation of the Lord confirming their hearts, and in the faithfulness of God towards them, was verily well grounded. Both these things are presupposed in his exhortation and rebuke. First, objectively: in so far as the expectation of any good results from his efforts rested only upon the existence of some good already in the church and upon God’s faithfulness and coöperation. Again, subjectively: in so far as the acknowledgment of previous successes and the hope of yet greater ones, generally inspire confidence and render persons favorably disposed to receive exhortation and rebuke as given kindly and intelligently, and infuse into them courage to undertake the work of reform; and this courage is of the right kind since it refers all good back to God as the source. And in this style of address there is something more than cool human calculation. It is acting in perfect conformity with the true laws of the mind, and above all with the law of that love “which believeth all things and hopeth all things,” but which nevertheless secures the same results that worldly prudence is wont to calculate for in a selfish way. “The Corinthian Church was well trained and instructed and established in the faith; but it was not yet entirely simple-minded and pure in heart; there was much worldly vanity and party spirit still among them. So in every church there is to be found a mixture of what is praiseworthy and blameworthy. The praise of the better class piques even the worse, and is a means of inciting them to merit that praise, too. And the reproof of the bad ought to affect the better class likewise, awakening in them regrets that there are such persons by their side and in their communion as deserve reproof, and it should prompt them to remove the evil. Every church is one organic whole, by reason of which the several members exert an influence upon each other and share in that which others have and are.” Heubner, p. 213. “This introduction, breathing blessing and praise, gratitude and confidence, exhibits the spiritual shepherd in apostolic simplicity and truth. All goodness in the church he denominates a work of grace, and he sets in prospect the consummation of the salvation begun as only grace likewise, and he does it in a manner at once humbling and animating. He looks at the church in its germ, in the strength of its better elements which may be rendered a source of blessing to others, and so, wisely preparing the way, he passes over from the bright to the darker side.” Osiander.
1 Corinthians 1:4. I thank.—An expression of acknowledgment and joy towards God as the Author of all good.—My God.—As in Romans 1:8 and elsewhere,—of course not in an exclusive sense, but as an avowal of his own personal communion with God and direct interest in Him; a personal attestation of his religious position, without any sinister design, but yet in a manner calculated to elicit respect and confidence in what he is about to say.—Always.—This cannot mean that he was always engaged in audible thanksgiving, or that this feeling of gratitude was also definitely present in his consciousness; but only that he bore this church perpetually upon his heart with grateful emotions to God—a meaning which the word in the Greek also carries.—On your behalf for the grace of God.—The personal object for whom and the reason on account of which the thanks were given. [χάρις: grace, the disposition in God, for χαρίσματα: the blessings flowing from it—“a metonymy which has passed so completely into our common parlance, as to be almost lost sight of as such.”—Alf. Wordsworth, however, distinguishes here, χάρισμα is a special gift to be used for general edification. χάρις is grace generally for personal sanctification. Tongues, miracles, healing are χαρίσματα. χάρις is given in order that χαρίσματα may be rightly used.”].—Which was given you in Jesus Christ.—Comp. also 1 Corinthians 1:2.—Christ is here regarded, in a sort, as the place, where the grace of God is manifested (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:19) so that he who enters there becomes partaker of it. But this entrance is faith, by which the believer is in Christ and comes into vital communion with Him.
1 Corinthians 1:5. Extends the thought and shows wherein the manifested grace consists.—That ye were enriched in him—i. e., as being in Christ and having constant communion with Him; and this enriching is the work of God’s grace.—In every thing.—A general statement, which is at once more particularly defined and limited.—In all doctrine.—Thus ought λόγος to be translated with Luther [in which Calvin, Alf., de Wette, Billroth, Meyer concur, understanding by it: doctrine preached to the Corinthians], and not: “utterance,” as though the reference were to powers of eloquence or the gift of tongues [so Bengel, Stanley and Wordsworth; “and which interpretation,” Hodge says, “gives good sense and is the one generally adopted.” Meyer: “All manner of external endowments for speaking;” excluding however any allusion to gift of tongues, as inconsistent with the subordinate value attached to this in chap. 14. This view is sustained by 1 Corinthians 12:8; 2Co 8:7; 2 Corinthians 11:6, In this case γνώσις; knowledge, would denote the inward endowment. The order of the words appears to support Kling’s view. “Truth preached, (i.e.) ‘doctrine,’ must precede ‘truth apprehended,’ i. e. ‘knowledge.’ ” But the analogous passages in the two Epistles go to prove Meyer’s view and the correctness of the English version also].—In all knowledge.—By this he means: the general acceptance of the doctrines that had been communicated to them on every side, and a comprehensive insight into their truth. This statement does not conflict with the fact of peculiar defects in individuals.
1 Corinthians 1:6. Further confirms and illustrates the foregoing. Inasmuch as—καθώς: [not correlation: “according as,” but as in appended clauses denoting explanation, quoniam, si quidem, since. Winer’s Gr. LIII. 8].—The testimony of Christ.—Christ may here be taken either as the subject, the one testifying, or as the object, the one testified of. The one does not exclude the other. In the former case the phrase would mean, the proclamation of the Divine plan of salvation in all its parts (its grounds, aims and relations; its beginning, mediation, execution and consummation), obtained by a direct insight into the heart of God, into His inmost thought and purpose (comp. John 1:18; John 6:46). But in this testimony of Christ, which sounded forth from the Apostles also, and so included their preaching, there is involved also the other idea, Christ’s own personal testimony, and the testimony of His Apostles likewise, to His divine Sonship and His mediatoral office. It makes little difference whether we construe it in the one way or the other. [“The former is the higher and therefore the better sense. It is good to contemplate the Gospel as that system of truth which the Eternal Logos or Revealer has made known.” Hodge. Yet, it must be said, usage favors the latter acceptation. “The testimony of Christ” is the witness borne concerning Christ by His Apostles of which the New Testament is the record, and in this instance by Paul. So Calv., Alf., Stan., Meyer]. “That the word μαρτύριον, testimony, and not διδασκαλία, instruction, is here chosen, does not rest upon a simple Hebraism, but is well explained on the ground that the gospel has not to do first and primarily with a system of ideas, but with an announcement of facts, the power of which a person must experience in himself.” Neander. The same expression occurs in 2 Timothy 1:18.—was confirmed in you.—Others render: ‘was established among you’ (Mark 16:20; Romans 15:8; Hebrews 2:4), whether it be by signs and miracles or by extraordinary operations of the Gospel.—Rückert: ‘by its effects on you.’ But this neither suits the connection with what precedes, nor what is afterwards (1 Corinthians 1:7) mentioned as the result of it. The former indicates that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in their hearts, inwardly rooted there. And this happens partly through a comprehensive knowledge, so that thus the words “in all knowledge” would be further illustrated, and partly as its presupposed condition, inasmuch as it is effected by faith, which is the root of all knowledge, and is to be regarded as a becoming fixed and remaining steadfast in the truth. Respecting their steadfastness in this respect see 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 1:24.
1 Corinthians 1:7. The consequence.—So that ye come behind in no gift.—The deep and fixed rooting of the gospel in the soul results in a rich unfolding of spiritual life, of which he now proceeds to speak. By “gift” we are to understand a result of the operation of divine grace. Romans 5:16 expresses by it the work of grace as a whole. Here we are to understand it of the particular operations by which the members of the Church were variously qualified to labor for the edification of the body of Christ, either by instruction, or exhortation, or rule, or service, inasmuch as the native talents of individuals requisite for such labors are awakened and sanctified by divine grace (comp. 12). When such talents fall within the sphere of moral effort, and are exercised in furthering the welfare of the Church and in glorifying God, they acquire an ethical character, and the gifts appear as Christian virtues. That such were the gifts alluded to seems to be intimated in what follows—Waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.—This constant expectation of our Lord’s second coming (Romans 8:19 etc.), when He shall be revealed in his glory unto all (Colossians 3:4), is one of the characteristic features of primitive Christianity (comp. Php 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 : Titus 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:8). Hence the clause has been taken as a simple paraphrase of the word: Christians. But this is by no means allowable here.—The connection of this participial clause with the preceding one has been variously interpreted. Luther somewhat loosely: “And are waiting,” “only waiting” in the sense, that they were all ready; in which sense we might translate it: “And can wait” or: “can comfortably wait;” But this would conflict with the entire contents of the Epistle. To take it as ironical, (Mosheim) in the way of a slant at their self-sufficiency, would be inconsistent with the friendly winning style of the introduction. And no less so, to suppose that he intended to alarm, by the suggestion of a coming judgment (Chrysostom), or to rebuke the sceptics of whom mention is made in chap. 15. More correct it would be, undoubtedly, to adopt the closer connection and translate: “while ye are waiting,” or, “ye who are expecting,” etc. The train of thought is this, that they, in this state of waiting, did not cease to make advances in every Christian qualification. So considered, the fact of “not coming behind” obtains the sense of: not falling short from any lack of earnest moral endeavor. There was a self-cultivation on the part of the spiritually quickened in consequence of their establishment in the faith (1 Corinthians 1:6). [But it must be added also that in the very mention of their waiting attitude, a commendation is intended. For this very “waiting,” as Alford well says, was “the greatest proof of maturity and richness of the spiritual life; implying the coëxistence and coöperation of faith, whereby they believed the promise of Christ—hope, whereby they looked on to its fulfilment, and love, whereby that anticipation was lit up with earnest desire.” But it may be asked, Were the Corinthians looking for Christ’s second advent as an event likely to occur in their day, and which some of them might expect to witness? This question must be answered in the affirmative. As Trench has well remarked, “It is a necessary element of the doctrine concerning the second coming of Christ, that it should be possible at any time.” And all the hints given us throughout the Epistles (comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:10; Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:8) show that the hope of seeing Christ appear, while yet in the flesh, was an influential and inspiring sentiment, pervading the whole early Church. It was a powerful motive to watchfulness and patient endurance. And that it should so operate was one design of the secrecy which veiled it. “Latet ultimus dies, ut observetur omnes dies” (Aug.). That such was the case with the Corinthians seems to be intimated in the use of the word expressive of their mental attitude, ἀπεκδεχο μένους: waiting it out, as persons expecting to see what they are waiting for].6
The earnest endeavor of the Church (or at least its better portion, its kernel) just recognized, leads the Apostle, in spite of all existing defects in individuals, to cherish the hope which he expresses in.
1 Corinthians 1:8. Who shall also confirm you.—To whom does the relative “who” refer? Most naturally to Christ, mentioned just before in 1 Corinthians 1:7. But in this case it is remarkable that in the next clause instead of saying “in His day,” he uses again the whole name and title of Christ. Hence the “who” might be referred back to “God” (1 Corinthians 1:9), whose gracious doings are spoken of in 1 Corinthians 1:5-6, and to whom the confirmation in the faith is ascribed (2 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 16:25). The effect then of the Divine confirmation of the testimony of Christ in them would be regarded as awakening the hope also that God would establish them still further.7 The reference however to Christ must still be maintained. The use of the full phrase “in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” must be regarded only as the adoption of a solemn formula, elsewhere also employed, to designate the time of the second advent (comp. 2 Timothy 1:8). In 2 Thessalonians 3:3 we have likewise the work of confirming believers ascribed to Christ. And this is mentioned here in correspondence with what is said of their not coming behind in any gift and of their patient waiting. It involves also what follows.—Unto the end.—i. e., as the connection requires, not the end of the present life of individuals, but the end of the present dispensation, which terminates at the second advent, when the new era (αἰὼυ μέλλων) will come in.—“Blameless.”—A short constructio prægnans—εἰς τὸ εἶναι ὑμᾶς: that ye may be, [which is supplied in the E. V. “Compare the expressions διδάσκειν σοφὸν, αὐξάνειν μέγαν, to teach a man so as to become wise, to increase him so as to be great; Kühner, § 417, 3. This is called by grammarians a proleptic use of the adjective.” Words. See Winer, Gram. Part iii. § lxvi. 3. g.]. By the term ‘blameless’ we understand such as are liable to no accusation; and this not simply putatively, but, since he is speaking of their condition at the appearing of Christ, in the sense of an actual or perfected holiness, so that the All-seeing Judge Himself will have nothing to lay to their charge (comp. Ephesians 5:27). Meyer. “This blamelessness is conditioned upon perseverance in the faith by which our justification is appropriated, and therefore is imputed; nevertheless by virtue of the moral nature and power of faith, as well as by virtue of the sanctification through the Holy Ghost, it is entirely of a moral nature (Romans 6:1 ff; Romans 8:1 ff.). Hence the person who is ἀνέγκλητος: blameless, appears at the revelation of Christ not indeed as ἀναμάρτητος: sinless, but as a “new creature in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) who having been Divinely restored (Ephesians 2:10) and progressively sanctified (1 Thessalonians 5:23) has worked out his own salvation in the moral power of a new life (Philippians 2:12). [But here a question arises. Is this promise absolute or conditional? Conybeare and Howson add the gloss, “He will do His part to confirm you.” Hammond puts in the qualification, “God will make good His promise if you do not fail yourselves.” A. Clark inquires “But can it be said that God will keep what is either not intrusted to Him? or, after being intrusted, is taken away?” But such limitations seem to take from the promise its blessedness and comfort, for if this promise be of any value, it is the fact that it furnishes a guarantee against that greatest of dangers, the fickleness of the human will. It is in view of this danger, so manifest in the Corinthians, that Paul expresses his assurance of their steadfastness as grounded in the confirming grace of God. It were better therefore to take the promise absolutely. “Those to whom God gives the renewing influence of the Spirit, He thereby pledges himself to save; for the ‘first fruits of the spirit’ are of the nature of a pledge.” Hodge.]
1 Corinthians 1:9. Refers the hope expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:8 to its deepest ground.—God is faithful.—He will not drop the work He has begun after the fashion of weak inconstant men; but persevering in love He will carry out that which was commenced in love, even unto its goal. (Comp. Philippians 1:6; 1Th 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Romans 11:29)—[“Here, on this fidelity of God, and not on the strength of the believers’ purpose to persevere, nor on any assumption that the principle of religion in their hearts was indestructible, was the confidence of the Apostle in their steadfastness grounded.” Hodge. This faithfulness of God is pledged in three directions: 1. to Himself in the purpose formed; 2. to Christ in the covenant made with Him, Isaiah 53:0; Isaiah , 3. to believers].—Through whom.—δἰ οὗ: a popular expression. We can speak of God as a mediating as well as a principal cause. (Romans 11:36). His Providence it is that through a great variety of arrangements and coöperating circumstances mediates the call, viz., the presentation of the Gospel to them, and also its effect in their hearts.—Ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, &c.—This calling of God is the commencement of His work. Its goal is a participation as a son in the glory of his Lord (Comp. Romans 8:21; Romans 8:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). The fellowship with Jesus Christ embraces our entire condition, into which we are transferred through the power of the word when heard and received, and through the sacraments, extending from childhood on until we come into the inheritance of the glory which is to be revealed in Him and in us also.” Burger.
But does not 1 Corinthians 1:9 compel us to take God as the subject in 1 Corinthians 1:8? [Certainly; one would suppose so]. By no means [!]. The truth of God is a pledge that Christ will confirm us. For it is precisely because we have been called through the unchangeable loving will of the Father to have part in Him, the glorified Son of God, and therefore to be made conformable unto Him that He whose will is ever one with the Father can do no other than confirm us. [Rather far fetched].
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. That Jesus Christ is the living sanctuary, whence all the manifestations of Divine grace are made, and all gifts are imparted, rests upon the character of His person. In Him it pleased God that all fulness should dwell—yea, that the fulness of the Godhead should dwell in Him bodily (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). From this it follows that believers are complete in Him. (Colossians 2:10).
2. The actual participation in this fulness is conditioned on the confirmation of this “testimony of Christ” in the heart through a lively faith, which involves a union with Christ and results in energetic endeavors, awakened in prospect of Christ’s glorious advent, to be behind in no gift, in order that the Church of Christ may become a well-equipped organic whole, and so ripen on to perfection.
3. To this actual confirmation of the truth in the heart there corresponds the work of Christ, resting upon the faithfulness of God who has called us unto the fellowship of His Son, for the confirmation of His own unto the end that they may be found blameless at His appearing, and prepared to participate in His glory as a bride adorned for the bridegroom (Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9; comp. 2 Corinthians 11:2; Colossians 1:12).
[4. The nature of the believers’ calling: 1. As to its condition. It is a fellowship with Christ through faith in character, in sufferings, and in glory. 2. As to its permanence, endurance unto the end; kept by the power of a faithful God. 3. As to its activity, a cultivation of Divine gifts in the service of Christ.]
[5. The second advent of Christ is possible for any generation, and ought constantly to be looked for, desired and prayed for.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. A proper joy at the prosperity of a church: a. expresses itself in thanks to God, (1 Corinthians 1:4); b. is occasioned by the grace of God manifested to it in Jesus Christ; [c. and should fill every minister’s heart even as it did Paul’s, compensating him for all the toil and suffering of his ministry].
2. The wealth of a church in doctrine, [or utterance] and knowledge, a. has its ground in Christ, (1 Corinthians 1:5); b. is obtained through the confirmation of his testimony in it.
3. The right waiting for the coming of Christ allows us to remain neither idle nor unfruitful, but inspires us with an earnest zeal constantly to appropriate and improve every spiritual gift.
4. Our hope for the perfection of Christians is our confidence in Christ [or God], who will confirm them blameless unto the end, and it is founded upon the faithfulness of God who has called us to the fellowship of His Son. (1 Corinthians 1:9.)
[5. The test of a true or false Christian is his waiting for or dreading the revelation of Christ. Bengel].
Heubner: 1 Corinthians 1:4 : 1. Gratitude is something more than prayer. He who does nothing but always pray, is and appears ever unsatisfied. 2. God must become our God, i. e., we should not only acknowledge Him as God in general, but we should also recognize Him as our own God from all the experiences of life. This is true egotism. 3. A teacher has no blessing except what comes from God. 1 Corinthians 1:5 : 1. Wealth in that which is needful for salvation is true permanent wealth. 2. The amount the Apostles accomplished in their churches ought to shame us. They were obliged to quarry their churches out of the rough rock. We find Christians ready made to our hand, yet how little we achieve. 1 Corinthians 1:7 : Christian life in a church is to be known by the awakening of all good Christian energies. Every one should be ready to serve the holy cause of Christ with his gift. 1 Corinthians 1:8 : Unblamableness at Christ’s judgment should be the goal of a Christian.
[1 Corinthians 1:4. There is a bright side even to the most disheartening circumstances of the church. It is our duty to consider these first and take courage].
[1 Corinthians 1:4-9. The rebukes of a minister, when steeped in love and prefaced by commendation descend like an excellent oil that doth not break the head].
[1 Corinthians 1:4. δοθείσῃ: was given, viz., at the time of conversion].
[Neander believed that in the minds of the Apostles, especially in Paul, a progressive development in Eschatology took place. The second advent at first seemed close at hand and possible in their day, but as they became more enlightened as to the future by the illuminations of the Spirit, it stood at a farther remove. Neander “Plant and Train, of the Christian Church,” p. 484.]
[The reasons for referring “Who” to God, 1 Corinthians 1:4, are well given by Stanley “1. καὶ βεβαιώσει: also confirm, evidently refers back to ἐβεβαιώθη: was confirmed, in ver.6.” 2. “In the day of the Lord Jesus Christ,” would else be: “in His day.” 3. ὁ θεός; God is the general subject of the whole sentence, and therefore repeated in 1 Corinthians 1:9. “God is faithful. For the sense comp. Philippians 1:6.” To these may be added a 4. from Hodge: “vocation and perseverance are in the work of redemption specially referred to the Father.” The same position is taken by Calvin, Alford, Billroth, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander and others.]
REPROOF OF DEFECTS AND FAULTS
I. Exhortation to unity and rebuke of party spirit
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
10Now [But8] I beseech [exhort9] 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 [rather10] that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind [γνώμῃ sentiment] and in the same judgment. 11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which [who] are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for11 you? or were ye baptized in [into: εἰς] the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized 15none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any [In order that no one12] should say that I had baptized in [ye were baptized into13] mine own name. 16And I baptized also the household of Stephanas; besides I know not whether I baptized any other. 17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The connection may be understood thus: I thank my God for his work of grace among you, and in view of his faithfulness am confident that the work, Christ [or God’s] has begun, he will perfect. You, nevertheless, I exhort, that ye consider carefully what is required for the fulfilment of this work, and remove whatsoever shall hinder it.
1 Corinthians 1:10. The Exhortation.—I exhort you brethren.—A friendly, winning address, which, as an evidence of his fellowship in the faith and his equality with them in it, imparts to his exhortation the character of an entreaty. This is also implied, in the Greek παρακαλῶ. “Paul often adds the term: brother, when he has an earnest word to utter.” (1Co 7:29; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 14:20). Meyer. The δε: but, introduces the transition from his exhibition of the bright side of the church to the reproof of its dark side. It is as if he said: “For much in you I have to thank God, but there is much in you which I have to censure.” Neander.—By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.—It is thus he strengthens his exhortation and presents a motive for compliance.—[“The name of Christ was the bond of union and the most holy thing by which they could be adjured.” Stanley.]. The force of it lay in this, that they all acknowledged Jesus Christ to be their Lord, and so professed themselves to belong to one and the same Master; and in this the obligation to unity was unmistakably indicated. Similar instances are found in Romans 15:30; Rom 12:1; 2 Corinthians 10:1.—The contents and aim of the exhortation are expressed in the several clauses which set forth the same leading thoughts in several relations [and they are introduced by ἵνα: in order that, which points not only to the import but also to the intent of the exhortation. See Winer, LIII. 6.]—That ye all speak the same thing.—By this he means: give expression to their inward accord and harmony of sentiment. It is precisely the opposite of the conduct mentioned in v. 12. They were with one voice to avow their allegiance to the one Lord, to the exclusion of all divisive party-watchwords. This is obvious from the following negative clause—that there be no divisions among you.—Inasmuch as he is not treating here of “dissentions in doctrine, but of divisions arising from adherence to different leaders, and from peculiar modes of apprehending and applying doctrine,” we are not to regard him as insisting upon “an exact uniformity of profession in the essential points of doctrine and life.” [The word used for divisions is σχίσματα, lit.: schisms. These, “in their ecclesiastical sense, are unauthorized separations from the church. But those which existed at Corinth were not of the nature of hostile sects refusing communion with each other, but such as may exist in the bosom of the same church, consisting in alienation of feeling and party strifes.” Hodge.]—But rather that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.—The inward positive side implied in the previous negative one. [The original word for “joined together” is from καταρτίζειν: to repair, to mend, to reunite and make perfect what has been broken. It were natural therefore to suppose an allusion here to the broken condition of the church which needed to be reunited and to translate the word as in the text literally. So Alf. and Hodge and Stanley, who says that “καταρτιστήρ was the acknowledged phrase in classical Greek for a reconciler of factions.” Calvin takes the word to signify: “fitly joined together, just as the members of the human body are joined in most admirable symmetry,” thus furnishing a picture of what the church should be. Kling however, following the Vulgate and Theoph. prefers the derivative sense of: perfect, and makes it=τέλειοι.] That wherein they were to be united is given in two words νοῦς and γνώμη. The former “embraces that peculiar mode of thought and of viewing life which lays the foundations for the moral judgment and moral self-determination. So in 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 3:8. Comp. Beck, Bibl. Seelenlehre, § 51; Delitzsch, Bibl. Psychol. § 139. The latter is power of knowledge, understanding, spirit, also sense, disposition, as well as insight obtained, view, opinion, conviction, also resolve, design, aim; view expressed=counsel, proposition. The two must here be distinguished. Only it cannot be readily decided which denotes the side of thought and judgment, and which that of will and disposition. Since, however, γνώμη is used elsewhere in this Epistle to signify view, and counsel (see 1Co 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40, also 2 Corinthians 8:10), perhaps it would be best to take it here also in a theoretic acceptation=view, conviction. [“In the New Testament it always means judgment and opinion. When the two words are used together, the former is most naturally understood of feeling, a sense in which the word mind is often used by us.” Hodge. “Disposition and opinion.” Alford].
1 Corinthians 1:11. Explains the occasion and motives for the exhortation, while the disgrace of it is softened by the fraternal address.—For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them of Chloe.—Sad reports had reached him, and he names his authorities in advance. What relation these persons sustained to Chloe, whether children, or servants, or other members of her household, cannot be ascertained from the text, “Paul names his informants without reserve in order to obviate suspicion.” Besser. “Concealment and mystery sow distrust and destroy love.” Burger. This Chloe must at all events have been a woman well known to the Corinthian brethren, either as a resident at Corinth, so that her people had come from thence to Corinth, or as a resident at Ephesus, so that these persons had learned of the state of things at Corinth during a visit there.—that there are contentions among you.—ἔριδες; discords, wranglings, which would inevitably lead to separations, to a rent in the Church, if not arrested in season. [Here he sets forth in severer phrase what he had more gently intimated in the word “schisms” above, and shows its evil and bitter character.]
1 Corinthians 1:12. Fuller explanation. Now this I mean.—τοῦτο: this, as commonly, points to what follows (1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 15:50), not to what precedes. That every one of you saith: (i.e.) has one or other of the following speeches in his mouth. Alike use of ἕκαστος; every one, appears in 1 Corinthians 14:26. [Winer says, “There is no brachilogy here. In these four statements Paul intended to comprehend all the declarations current in the chapter regarding religious partisanship. Each adherent of the respective sections used one of the following expressions”]. “Saith boastfully.” Bengel. He here vividly sets before us the several partisans, as they step out side by side, or in opposing ranks, each announcing the name of the leader he followed. It is as if he saw or heard them thus arraying themselves “As they were wont to do at the school, so here they acted in the Church.” Besser.—I am of Paul,—(i.e.) I belong to him as my head or spiritual father. The Genitive of ownership or dependence. The order of mention is most readily explained by supposing it to correspond with that of the rise of the parties. According to Neander, Paul follows the order of particular relationship, since the Apollos-party was only a fraction of the Pauline. The idea of a climax (Bengel), Paul in his humiliation putting himself at the bottom, is superfluous and improbable. Altogether groundless, however, and without any indication in its favor, yea, directly contrary to 1 Corinthians 1:14, is the opinion of the old expositors, that Paul used these names at random by way of a cover to the real leaders whom he had in mind. See the statement made respecting these parties and their rise in § 2 of the Introduction. The Pauline party naturally stands first, since the Church depended on Paul as its founder, and that portion which clave to Paul land his ways, (after a fraction had defected to Apollos), must beregarded as the original party.—I of Apollos,—(a shortened form for Apollonius). He was just as little disposed to act the part of leader, as was Paul. This may be seen from the fact that notwithstanding the urgent solicitation of Paul, he positively declined to visit Corinth at that time. This was no doubt with a view to avoid giving any fresh fuel to the strife which had already sprung up. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 16:12). Respecting him see Acts 18:24 etc.; Acts 19:1; also Osiander on our passage [and Smith, Bible Dict.]. That he was a humble man, one who did not pride himself upon his culture, one of the few “wise after the flesh,” who had been early called (1 Corinthians 1:26) and “had sanctified their science by faith in Christ, to whom they made it subservient,” is clear from his willingness to be instructed by those simple mechanics, Aquila and Priscilla. Far from wishing to outbid Paul for influence and popularity, he labored only to confirm believers by a cautious reference to the Prophecies of the Old Testament. We find him once more mentioned commendatorily in Titus 3:13. Highly probable is the suggestion, first made by Luther, and afterwards ably advocated by Bleek, that he was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Osiander calls this Epistle a most noble monument, both of his genius, which harmoniously combined human culture and Divine illumination, and of his style of doctrine, which was directed mainly to the work of atonement, and to the illustration of the fulfilment of the Old Covenant in the New, &c.—I of Cephas,—(i. e.) Peter, without doubt. It was his Aramean name, found also at ix. 5; xv. 5; Gal. ii. 9. Whether the party following him adopted this name, because they derived it through Jewish emissaries out of Syria, or be cause it seemed to them, more sacred as coming from the mouth of our Lord (John 1:42), or because the Shibboleth of a vernacular word sounded more imposingly, we are not able to decide. It is more probable that the Jewish name was the more common one with Paul. Only once in Galatians 2:7 ff, do we find him using the Greek name: Peter.—I of Christ.—As a supplement to what was said in the Introduction on this point, see Meyer in loco. We here give the main particulars. First, according to a fair exegesis it must be maintained that the parties were four in number. A like needless and inadmissible is the attempt to resolve them, either into two essentially identical pairs (as Baur does, who distinguishes between that “of Paul” and that “of Apollos” only in form, and takes that “of Christ” to be the same as that “of Peter,” which only assumed this cognomen because it deemed a genuine Apostleship dependent on personal connection with Christ, or which, as Beeker thinks, consisted of native Jewish converts connected with the Petrinists that had come in from abroad, but had Called themselves Christians because they had been converted by Paul and Apollos); or into two main parties: that of the Apostles and that of Christ, the three first adhering to Apostles or Apostolic teachers, and the fourth going back immediately to Christ (as Neander and others do); or into three parties, in such a way as either to set that “of Christ” as the only rightly disposed one, in contrast with the others as sectarian, see iii. 23, (as Schott and the Greek expositors); or to assign the designation “of Christ” to the three parties in.common who all professed themselves Christ’s, but who desired to have their participation in him regarded as dependent on their connection with this or that teacher (as Räbiger: “I belong indeed to Christ, but it is as a Pauliner and am nevertheless a true Christian”). But Calovïus hit the truth long ago, when he said “even those who called themselves Christians from Christ were guilty of schism, since they separated themselves from the rest in a schismatic spirit and insisted on appropriating this term to themselves alone.” To this we may add what Flacius writes, “Under the pretext of Christ’s name they scorned all teachers and would have, nothing to do with them, pretending that they were wise enough for themselves without the aid of other instructors. For there was sin on both sides, either by exalting Church teachers too much or by appreciating them too little.” As soon as the knowledge of Christ came to be established in the Church, there may have been persons, who, in opposition to an over-estimate of all human instrumentalities, held to an independent Christianity, and so were easily brought to look away from these instrumentalities altogether, and with utter contempt of their worth and authority, fell into the way of asserting their exclusive dependence upon Christ, and so, priding themselves on this point, got to regard themselves as his sole genuine disciples, and tried to pass for such. To seek for this class exclusively among Jewish or among Gentile converts (“the philosophically educated to whom Christ appeared like a second perhaps higher Socrates, and who, despising the Apostolic form of the doctrine of Christ, sought to refine it by philosophical criticism.” Neander) is altogether unwarranted. The few philosophically educated Gentile converts could easily have satisfied themselves with the tendencies of the Apollos party. Nor are we justified in tracing to these the beginning of Gnosticism or Ebionitism, or in charging upon them a looseness in morals and a denial of the doctrine of the resurrection. According to Roman Catholic expositors, the party “of Apollos” were in danger of falling into a false spiritualism which volatilized the positive contents of Christianity; the party “of Peter” contained the germs of the later sect of Ebionites; and the type of the party of Christ was an ecclesiastical liberalism.
1 Corinthians 1:13. The reproof, in the form of questions which expose the absurdity of the partisanship just charged.—Is Christ divided ?—There is a doubt whether this should be read as a question or as a simple declaration. Meyer and others [likewise Stanley following Lachmann] take it as an emphatic assertion of the lamentable results of the aforenamed divisions: “Christ has been divided! torn up into various sect-Christs instead of being, entirely and undividedly the Christ common to all!” Since each of the exclusive parties claimed to have him, their conduct was virtually a rending of Christ. But ever since Chrysostom, commentators have generally regarded the words as a question. This would be more conformable to the analogy of the other clauses, and be just as forcible. Besides the subsequent question is of different import, so that it is not to be expected he would connect the second to the first with an or, as in the case of the third which is but a correlate to the second. This is what Bengel means. “The cross and baptism claim us for Christ. The correlatives are, redemption and self consecration.”—To the sound consciousness of a true Christian who knows but one Christ, the bond of universal fellowship, such partisanship is a contradiction. It involves a division of Christ against himself, since the parties, who exclude each other, all think to have him. Hence the question, “Is Christ divided? Is there a Pauline, an Apollonian, a Petrine, a Christian Christ?” Thus we apply the question to all parties alike; and not, merely to the fourth, as Baur does, who takes Paul to imply, that the name of Christ employed as a party designation was the most significant evidence, that they by their sectarianism, had rent Christ in pieces. Every party, he says, must still, as a Christian party, have thought to have Christ. If then there were but one proper Christ-party, it followed that the one Christ, in whom all distinctions ought to vanish, was rent asunder (Tüb. Zeitschrift, 1836, s. 4). It is clear in this case that the clause is not to be taken as a question. Under the term Christ, we are to undertsand not the Church as a mystical body of Christ (Estius, Olsh.), still less Christian doctrine, the Gospel (Grotius), but the Person of Christ, as the Head of the Church, in opposition to all party leaders. This is evident from the following questions, in which the exclusive right of Christ as Lord over His redeemed ones, and their obligations to Him as having been baptized into His name, are set forth: Was Paul crucified for you?—Lit: Paul surely was not crucified for you; was He? [The question is introduced here with the negative Particle μή. Meyer adduces this as an argument to prove that the previous clause which is without μή, is consequently to be read differently, as a declaration. To this Alford replies, “that the μή introduces a new form of interrogation respecting a new person, viz. Paul; and that it was natural for solemnity’s sake to express the other question differently. In μεμέρισται ὁ χριστός the majesty of Christ’s person is set against the unworthy insinuation conveyed in: “is divided”—in μή Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπερ ὑμῶν, the meanness of the individual Paul is set against the triumph of Divine love implied in “was crucified for you.”] With the strictest impartiality, which here appears as the truest prudence, he rebukes first the partisan attachment to his own person, and makes those, who set him up as their leader, to feel his painful disapproval of their course. Such persons while boasting of their connection with him, were as assigning to him a position which belonged to Christ alone. They were acting on the supposition that he had suffered for them, an act which was the ground of their belonging to Christ, who through His sacrifice for sinners had acquired the right to their undivided devotion (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:15). [If (as Socinianism alleges) the sufferings of Christ were merely exemplary, there would be no such absurdity or simplicity, as St. Paul here assumes to exist, in comparing the sufferings of Christ to the sufferings of Paul” Words]. To this ground of claim there corresponds the question expressing and confirming their personal objection.—Or were ye baptized unto the name of Paul?—That is: was the name of Paul called over you at your baptism, as though he were the person to whom you pledged yourselves, and in whom ye believed and whom you professed as your Lord and Saviour? This is certainly the sense, although “the baptism into the name” may be regarded primarily as submersion into it as a person’s life element; so also as an introduction into fellowship with the party named as into an essential ground of salvation; or as immersion in reference to him, so that the obligation to profess faith in that which is expressed by the name is indicated (comp. on Matthew 28:19). “The fact that Paul puts his name for all the rest proves how ingenuously he was opposed to all this party spirit, and how humbly he was anxious that Christ’s name should not be prejudiced through his own” Neander.
1 Corinthians 1:14-16. I thank God that I baptized none of you.—The Apostle recognizes as a thank worthy Providence that he had been kept, for the most part, from administering baptism, since he had thereby obviated all appearance of intention to bind the baptized to his own person, an appearance which certainly would have arisen had he here acted contrary to his usual custom elsewhere;—but Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, converted through Paul (Acts 18:8),—and Gaius, certainly not the one of Derby (Acts 20:4), but the same as that Gaius mentioned in Romans 15:23, a man of distinction, who entertained Paul, and with him the Church, either by furnishing his house as a place for meeting, or by receiving there such of the Church as wished to visit Paul—in order that no one should say—By this is expressed not the design of the Apostle, but the Divine intention in ordering his conduct in such a way.—While writing he recalls another exception, “perhaps from information derived from Stephanas himself, who was with him.”—And I baptized also the household of Stephanas—the family whom in 1 Corinthians 16:15 he calls “the first fruits of Achaia.” οἶκος includes also the domestics. [“Under the old dispensation, whenever any one professed Judaism, or entered into covenant with God, as one of his people, all his children and dependents, that is, all to whom he stood in a representative relation, were included in the covenant, and received its sign. In like manner, under the Gospel, when a Jew or Gentile joined the Church, his children received baptism and were recognized as members of the Christian Church” Hodge]. In order to avoid all blame for want of frankness he adds, besides I know not whether I baptized any other.—[“Inspiration, although it rendered him infallible, did not make him omniscient”]. It will be seen that he baptized only the first converts, afterwards, when these multiplied, he transferred the business to helpers, possibly also to deacons, to whose functions this in course belonged. In like manner Peter (Acts 10:48). On this point he next proceeds to explain himself more fully by stating the veiw he took of his office.
1 Corinthians 1:17.a For Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.—Sent: ἀπέστειλεν a plain allusion here to his office as ἀπόστολος The appointment to this office did indeed include the work of baptizing (Matthew 28:19). But in Mark 16:15, as well as in Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8, and John 15:27, the work of preaching, of bearing testimony concerning Christ, appears to be the chief calling of an Apostle. And so it was in the calling of Paul (Acts 9:15; Acts 22:15; Acts 26:16-18 comp. Galatians 1:16). The preaching which awakened faith, was the proper entrance upon the work of Christ, who indeed never Himself baptized but only through His disciples (John 4:2). [“The main thing in the commission was to make disciples. To recognize them as such by baptism, was subordinate, though commanded, and not to be safely neglected. In the Apostolic form of religion, truth stood immeasurably above external rites. The Apostasy of the Church consisted in making rites more important than the truth Hodge].—Whether we are to assume here, as Calvin does, an ironical hit intended at the opposers, who employed the easier function to gain adherents, may be doubted. The supposition that they did so, is, at least, uncertain. The word εὐαγγελίζεσθαι: to evangelize, in classic usage, and commonly in the Old Testament, like בִּשֵּר employed to denote the announcement of all sorts of good news, is in the New Testament used solely in regard to “the good tidings,” by way of preëminence, the proclamation of salvation in Christ, and the fulfilment of the promises and the perfect revelation of divine grace before prepared (Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 60:6; Isaiah 61:1, &c.—The contrast in “not,”—“but,” is not to be weakened into a comparative, “not so much as.” Baptism was not the object of his commission, although it was allowed to him. (Acts 9:15; Acts 9:20; Acts 22:15; Acts 26:16-18.)
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The Church is essentially one, as a body subject to Jesus Christ, the one perfect Lord and Head, who has an absolute right over all its members by virtue of His complete self-offering in their behalf, and to whom they are absolutely bound by being taken up into fellowship with Him, as the element of their life and the sole ground of their salvation. It can properly be divided no more than Christ Himself can be divided. [This unity consists of onenesss of sentiment, of conviction and of speech. That is, there must be an inward and an outward unity, an invisible and a visible unity; the former manifesting itself in the later, the latter sustained by the former. The pretence of the one is not sufficient without the other.—See this. whole matter exhaustively discussed by Baxter on “Catholic Unity,” “Reasons for Christian Unity and Concord,” “The Catholic Church Described,” Practical Works, vol. 4.; Litton On the Church of Christ,” B. 2. part 2. chap. 1; John M. Mason, Complete Works, vol. 2. p. 265; Emmon’s Works, vol. 2. sec. 13].
2. All sectarianism arising out of an inordinate preference for favorite teachers is a sin. It raptures this unity by limiting Christ’s right over us and our subjection to Him. It concedes to a mere man, to his peculiar opinions and ways and doctrines, something of that power and importance which belong to Christ alone; inasmuch as it binds men, and would fain bind all, to these objects, as if on these our whole salvation depended; causes them to move in these as the very element of their existence; draws to these their entire devotion, and so makes a human personality with all its individuality and singularity an essential mediator of spiritual life, which comes alone by truth and grace.
3. The proper view of Christ and of the instrumentalities He employs in their relation to Him is the true antidote against schismatical tendencies. Christ is the fountain-head of truth and grace, in whom all fulness dwells, and from whom all believers, whether teachers or taught, derive their spiritual excellencies; Where this truth is recognized, there there can be no inordinate devotion to human agencies. These agencies can be regarded only as the various imperfect rays of the One Light, which, so far from detaining us by themselves, should conduct us up to the source from whence they stream. Yet just as little does it become us to despise these human agencies, and withdraw into our own particular knowledge and experience of Christ, as though we were sufficient unto ourselves. Rather it must appear to us that, the more superabundant and glorious the fulness of Christ is, the greater must be the necessity for numerous and manifold vessels to take it up, from various sides and according to their several capacities, and to present it to others in ways suited to their manifold necessities, so that persons shall be most easily led, one through one and another through another, into a participation of the riches of Christ, according to their several aptitudes and needs.
But the more this is done in truth the more open does a person gradually become to other aspects of Christ and to other organs of His, And this will lead us, on the one hand, to a just estimate of these organs themselves, and, on the other hand, to modesty of deportment and to a loving regard for such as were first led to Christ and edified by this or that teacher. And while the interested adherence to one particular aspect of Christ leads to a division of the one Christ in our feelings, and then to a rupture of the Church into parties, which deny to each other the full and proper enjoyment of salvation, and shut themselves up against each other in those aspects of the life and character of Christ which have been exhibited to them through the several organs they have chosen, the procedure we have been advocating conducts at last to a perfect unity of conviction and sentiment, which, precluding all division, makes itself known in unity of speech, wherein the manifold voices confessing the one all-embracing, all-suffering Christ, blend in harmony. This is a catholicity which is to be found as little in Romish Christianity as in the coagulations of a Lutheran or Calvanistic specialty.
4. [Sectarianism; its nature and origin; a historical survey of it in its existing aspects]. “The tendency to sectarianism lies in human selfishness and stubbornness of opinion, in conceit and egoism. Sectarianism does not consist in holding fast to our profession for conscience sake, but in using our own form of doctrine or religion as a means for exalting ourselves and for ruling over or opposing others. And this is not confined to leaders alone. That sectary who does not feel strong or courageous enough to take the lead, will at least join himself with ambitious devotion to some other person better able to do it, in whose honor and glory he may share. But Christianity refuses to be sectarian at all. How then, it may be asked, do existing divisions comport with it? They arise, under the Providence of God, out of the diversity of human opinions. Only, these denominations ought not to hate one another, but they ought to plant themselves on the one common ground, Christ, and recognize each other there.—The one Christ can have but one doctrine and one church. But under the hands of men Christianity disintegrates into parties. From this arises a necessity for our choosing that party which seems to us the purest and most Christian. Parties were unavoidable. God suffered them that they might become instrumental in exciting Christians to greater zeal, to mutual purification, and to the exercise of kindly forbearance towards each other. Toleration is a word which should not be spoken among Christians; for toleration is a very proud, intolerant word.” Heubner.
Our confessions (Greek, Romish, Evangelical, with all their divisions) are, on the one hand, historical necessities; they resulted from the gradual working out of Christian ideas or principles, such as the Theocratic, the Hierarchical, and the Protestant, which is the principle of freedom, subject only to the word of God. On the other hand, they result from the disturbance occasioned by sin in the development of Christian truth and life. This is true even in respect to their national forms: the Greek, the Roman, the German, and the mixture of the latter with Roman and other elements. Hence the petrifaction of the first principle (theocratic) in the Oriental Greek Church; of the second (the hierarchical) in the Occidental Romish Church, so that the third (the Protestant) came to an independent form in the sphere of German life, diiferencing itself only according to national peculiarities. In one place there was a rigid adherence to the letter, accompanied with great intellectual acumen and force of will; and in another larger freedom prevailed, associated with greater breadth and depth of spirit and sentiment. But on the part of both (the Reformed and the Lutheran) communions, the influence of the two first principles was again felt, and the result was a stiffening of life and form, which showed itself in the former case in an ever-increasingly superficial adherence to the letter of the Bible, and in the latter case in an external induration of a form of doctrine,—which was originally free, and which asserted the freedom of the religious personality (justification by faith),—until at last in both spheres a false freedom usurped the throne, a subjectivity emancipated from all obligations to the word of God; in other words, rationalism. And now the only proper return to unity can be effected by attaining unto the knowledge of the truth of the several principles above mentioned, and by fusing down in our living consciousness the stiff forms of the past, and with these the truth of all that has been transmitted to us, through a deeper penetration into the word, or rather into Christ Himself, who is the kernel and substance of the written Word; and through a more humble, self-denying appropriation of Him in our lives. Such a return is at the same time an advance towards the true union, which the spirit of God will create by the harmonious combination of diversities.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. The Apostolic exhortation to unity, addressed to a church torn by factions, and suited to Christendom at the present time. 1. Its matter: a. To speak the same thing, unity of confession; b. on the ground of unity of sentiment and views. 2. The motive of such unity: the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; a due regard for the interest all have in Him according as He has given Himself to be known, experienced and enjoyed by them (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).
2. The wrong of parties in Christendom; a, so far as they subordinate Christ to human leaders or put these literally into His place; b. so far as they are servilely dependent on such leaders and take pride in them; c. so far as they exclude, scorn and hate each other: d. so far as they boast of their partisanship in vain self sufficiency, and seek to glorify themselves and their leaders in it (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).
3. The proper conduct of a teacher towards such as are devoted to him: a. that he perpetually points them away from himself to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10), while he never forgets that he and they alike are indebted to Christ for everything (1 Corinthians 1:13); b. that he ever keeps in view the main object of his calling, to preach Christ (1 Corinthians 1:17).
1 Corinthians 1:13-14. As the Corinthians made it a matter of great moment by whom they were baptized, instead of considering into whom they had been baptized, so now multitudes put a greater stress upon the party by whom they are confirmed, that into what and to what they are confirmed (Bibl. Wörterb., II. § 79.)
Starke: 1 Corinthians 1:10. The noblest virtue which can befit Christians is brotherly union through the bond of love (Colossians 3:14), and this because of Christ’s command (John 13:34) and of his prayer (John 17:11), after the example of the Apostolic Church (Acts 4:32) and the manifold exhortations of the Apostles (Philippians 2:1; 1 Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:2). Lange:—The unity of the church is certainly much insisted on and very important. Yet we must take care not to prescribe one for another a form or a name according to our own opinions, especially in incidentals which do not belong to the fundamentals of faith. In these respects there must be variety of judgment. It is enough if we agree in all matters essential to salvation. Hed. (1 Corinthians 1:11):—What a shame! Rending asunder the body of Christ! Who perpetrates the mischief? Not the peacemakers, not the confessors and friends of Christ, but the zealots without knowledge; those who love profane and vain babblings; impure spirits who preach Christ of contention. O man, study the precept which inculcates the restoration of the erring in a spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1) and exercise thyself therein. 1 Corinthians 1:11.—Teachers should not believe every report, but should ascertain facts before they reprove. To give information at proper quarters from a desire to effect reform is no sin; only let care be taken not to exaggerate. 1 Corinthians 1:12.—Honor is due to ministers, but they must not be served as lords. To call oneself Lutheran by way of distinction from the Papists or those belonging to other denominations, without adhering to Luther as authority, is not improper; but to do this in a sectarian spirit is just as wrong as it was for the Corinthians to say, “I am of Paul.” 1 Corinthians 1:13.—The death of Christ is alone meritorious; no saint can merit anything for himself, much less have his merits imputed to others. 1 Corinthians 1:14-15.—The care of God’s Providence over us can best be recognized in the issues of events, which is then to be acknowledged with reverence and gratitude even in the smallest particulars.
1 Corinthians 1:10. Burger: “Speak the same thing;” unnecessary, capricious deviation from the established forms of doctrine is a violation of the spirit of unity and love.
[“There are many sore divisions at this day in the world among and between the professors of the Christian religion, both about the doctrine and worship of the Gospel, as also the discipline thereof. That these divisions are evil in themselves and the cause of great evils, hinderances of the Gospel, and all the effects thereof in the world, is acknowledged by all; and it is doubtless a thing to be greatly lamented that the generality of those who are called Christians are departed from the great rule of ‘keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.’ He who doth not pray always, who is not ready with his utmost endeavor to remedy this evil, to remove this great obstruction of the benefit of the Gospel is scarce worthy the name of a Christian.” John Owen.]
[1 Corinthians 1:13. Calvin: “Paul crucified for you!”—This passage militates against the wicked contrivance of Papists by which they attempt to bolster up their system of indulgences. For it is from the blood of Christ and the martyrs that they make up that imaginary treasure of the church which they pretend is dealt out by means of indulgences. Here, however, Paul in strong terms denies that any one but Christ has been crucified for us. The martyrs, it is true, died for our benefit, but (as Leo 14 observes) it was to furnish an example of perseverance, not to procure for us gifts of righteousness.”]
1 Corinthians 1:14-17. [If the doctrine of baptismal regeneration be correct, Paul was instrumental in saving but few souls. Certainly the commission of modern Romish missionary seems to read the reverse of St. Paul’s. He is sent to baptize, not to preach the Gospel.]
1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 1:10.—[“δέ: but, introduces a contrast to the thankful assurance just expressed.”—Alf.]
1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 1:10.—[παρακαλῶ; “obsecro—a mixture of entreaty and command.”—Stanley.]
1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 1:10.—[δὲ: but rather.—Hartung, Parlikellcher, 1:171.]
1 Corinthians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:13.—[“Instead of ὑπὲρ some MSS. B. D.* have περὶ, but ὑπὲρ is in A. C. D.***E. F. G. L. and also in Cod. Sin.”—Words.]
1 Corinthians 1:15; 1 Corinthians 1:15.—[ϊνα μή τις εἴπῃ; ἵνα carries here a telic force.]
1 Corinthians 1:15; 1 Corinthians 1:15.—Instead of ἐβάπτισα, which is to he accounted for from its occurring in the next verse, Lachmann and Tischendorf [and Alford and Wordsworth] in accordance with the best authorities read ἐβαπτίσθητε.
Leo the great ad Palæstinos, Ep. 31. See the passage cited in full, Calvin’s Inst. (Lib. 3. cap. 5. §10.
II. THE TRUE METHOD OF PREACHING
A. Repugnant to the predelictions of both Greeks and Jews
1 Corinthians 1:17-25
17Not with [in ἐν] wisdom of words, [discourse15] lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18For the preaching [discourse] of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God. 19For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of 20the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this16 world [the world]? 21For after that [since]17 in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased 22God by the foolishness of preaching18 to save them that believe. For [since both]19 23the [om. the] Jews require a sign, [signs]20 and the [om. the] Greeks seek after wisdom: But we [on the contrary]21 preach Christ crucified, unto the [om. the] Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the [om. the] Greeks [Gentiles ἔθνεσι]22 foolishness; 24But unto them which are called, [these, the called]23 both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
[The connection.—from the mention of his commission, especially to preach the Gospel, the Apostle takes occasion, as it were incidentally, to set forth the manner in which this work was to be done. The topic thus introduced has however a direct bearing upon the previous one, for he handles it in a way both to vindicate his own course to which some had taken exception, and also to rebuke those tendencies, which, in their antagonism to a pure Gospel, had engendered contention and schism. Of the mode of transition to this theme Bengel remarks: “I doubt whether it would be approved by the rules of Corinthian eloquence. Therefore the Apostle in this very passage is furnishing a specimen, so to speak, of apostolic folly, and yet the whole is arranged with the greatest wisdom.”]
1 Corinthians 1:17-211 Corinthians 1:17-211 Corinthians 1:17-21. [The proper mode of preaching described first negatively].—Not in wisdom of speech.—οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου. It is better to join this clause to the word “preach” just preceding, than to the main statement “Christ sent me.” [As to the meaning there are three distinct interpretations. 1. That of Calvin and others, who place the stress on “speech,” and understand by the phrase ornate and artificial discourse in contrast with plain homely speech. The objection to this is that it fails to give due weight to the word “wisdom,” which is used by the Apostle in a strict sense throughout the chapter, and is the special object of his animad version. 2. That of Olshausen, who takes it to denote “word-wisdom,” i.e., “a wisdom in appearance and not in reality,” an interpretation which de Wette justly styles “sonderbar.” 3. That of Storr and Flatt, de Wette and Hodge, who, taking the emphasis to be on “wisdom,” and understanding it of the subject-matter, suppose the Apostle to be repudiating here all connection with heathen philosophy. But to this it may be replied that such repudiation was wholly gratuitous, for no one would imagine that in preaching the Gospel he would be likely to employ the speculations of a secular Wisdom 4. That of Meyer and Kling, who while emphasizing “wisdom,” understand it as referring to the form of discourse. According to this, what the Apostle asserts is that he was not to preach the Gospel in a philosophical manner, making it a matter of science rather than a vital power for the heart and conscience. In such a case the Genitive would be used analogously to the Hebrew construction, where the first noun in construction qualifies the second. Hence “wisdom of discourse” would be=philosophic discourse. See Nordheimer Heb. Grammar B. III. 1 Corinthians 5:0. § 801. 2.] So Neander “Σοφία λόγου σοφία ἐν ̓τῷ λέγειν, not wisdom absolutely, but the wisdom of dialectic demonstration.” Indeed it is not to be denied that in the course of this paragraph both σοφία and λόγος are used also in relation to the subject matter, and that this is always more or less affected by the mode of exposition. Unquestionably it makes a difference whether the subject matter is first vitally apprehended by the spirit and then creates its own form of expression for itself, or whether a form foreign and unsuitable is forced upon it, drawn from other spheres of life and thought; in other words whether the Gospel is proclaimed naturally in its divine excellence and simplicity, or whether, taken up under the conceptions of an alien philosophy, and arrayed in the rhetoric and dialectics of a people still unsanctified (like the Greeks for example), it be thus presented to the mind. An instance of the latter kind occurred not only in the Gnosis of the heretics, but also to a certain degree in that of the Alexandrian Church of a later period. And probably it was with an eye to the beginning of such a tendency in the party of Apollos that the Apostle affirmed that, according to the will of the Great Commissioner, it devolved on him not to preach the Gospel “in wisdom of speech.” And the expression means nothing else than: not in the style of a philosopher trained in the rhetoric and dialectics of the schools, [but in that of a witness, bearing testimony to the great facts in and through which God had chosen to reveal himself. The reason for this was], lest the Cross of Christ be made of none effect.—Κενωθῇ, become empty, void; here according to the connection: be robbed of its power and influence. By “the Cross of Christ” we understand that death of Christ upon the cross by which we are redeemed and reconciled to God. This is the centre and kernel of all Gospel preaching, by the power of which sinners are delivered from the tyranny of sin, and restored to a new and divine life. And this cross, he says, would be bereft of all efficiency for such results were it set forth in the forms of philosophy, inasmuch as in this way it would serve only to call out the assent of the intellect or awaken an aesthetic pleasure, while the flesh, that is, the corrupt natural life of the selfish heart, would remain unaffected. But let the cross only be held up before that heart in its divine simplicity, and it would then display an energy destructive of this life. Through it the flesh with its affections and lusts would be crucified. (Galatians 5:24). But although this blessed result is obtained by means of preaching or doctrine, yet it does not follow from this that we are to make “the cross” here equivalent to “the doctrine of the cross, or to the doctrine of Christ crucified.” Rather the relation which this clause sustains to the foregoing implies that here we are to understand the simple fact itself held up in its own native majesty and power. [Whatever obscures or diverts attention from this deprives, it to that extent of its power].
1 Corinthians 1:18. [The position thus taken he proceeds to explain and substantiate from obvious facts.—For the preaching (lit: word λόγος) of the cross is to them that perish folly, but to those that are saved, ourselves, it is the power of God.—Here the force of the argument is to be found in the second member of the antithesis. The first is introduced merely as a concession to a supposed objection. The Corinthians might retort, “The cross of Christ rendered without effect by wisdom of speech! Why, your method of preaching is not half so taking and effectual as the one you denounce.” This the Apostle concedes, but limits its applicability only to a certain class, to those who are in the way of sin and are going to destruction. ‘These,’ he says, ‘are blind. They have no sense of sin, and gee not therefore the wisdom of the cross. To them it is folly. But while to them I acknowledged it is such as you say, yet to those who are in the way of salvation, the cross is a thing of power. They see its meaning. They feel its disenthralling and life-giving influences. And it is by what you see of its effect among these that you must judge of it”]. Accordingly that to which this divine power is ascribed, “the word of the cross,” must be regarded as Gospel-preaching in its simplest and most unadorned style, the earnest exhibition of the great act of redeeming love directly to the heart, without human accessories. It is not the doctrine about the cross, but the word which presents the cross itself in its concrete form and in its plain and pungent application to human conditions. It is of this he predicates a divine power. But this power is manifested only among such as are saved—a thought which is brightened by the foregoing contrast. In both clauses the sign of the Dative “to” means “in their judgment.” But in the one case it is a judgment proceeding from a blinded mind, in the other a judgment founded upon blessed experience. In reference to the first see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; to both 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. To the former it seems absurd to have the fact of Christ’s death nakedly held before them as the ground of all salvation—to hear a voice from the cross calling unto them “Look unto me and be saved,” because they see no rational connection between cause and effect here. These are “the lost,” i.e., they are excluded from all participation in the blessedness and glory of God’s kingdom, and are doomed to bitter anguish and disgrace. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; Mark 9:43). In contrast with this appears the state of salvation, that is, a deliverance from this doom, (see Luke 6:9; Matthew 18:11; James 4:12) which includes also a share in the blessedness and glory of God’s kingdom. (Comp. 2 Timothy 4:18; Romans 5:10; Romans 8:21). There are here, then, two classes of persons contrasted in relation to their final lot. For the purpose of designating them uses P. the present participles (ἀπολλυμένοις—σωζομένοις) as the ones best suited, since time is not taken into account. It is therefore not “the present for the future” for the purpose of indicating the certainty of the lot contemplated, nor yet does the present denote the progressive development in the condition of the parties. Nor yet would it be in place here to introduce the idea of predestination, as Rückert does, taking the terms to denote the divinely appointed destiny of two classes, for with Paul this idea never occurs in any such way as to exclude the idea of a free self-determination, (comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:10; Acts 13:46) since to all pro founder contemplation the work of God and the act of man in the genesis and development of faith are inseparably one. “This only must be conceded that the Apostle’s mode of expression is grounded upon a τρόπος παιδείας; a mode of teaching peculiar to him. Paul delights to refer back everything at once to the divine superintendence. Only in this reference the human receptivity or non-receptivity is at the same time included.” Neander. On “the power of God” see Romans 1:6 where the Gospel is said to be “the power of God to every one that believeth.” The contrast between “folly” and “power” is certainly not a strict one, but nevertheless a true one. As the former implies that the Gospel is, according to the judgment of those that perish, a weak thing, so does the latter imply that it is to the others, a manifestation of divine wisdom; or, as the idea of folly excludes that of power, so does the idea of power presuppose that of wisdom.
1 Corinthians 1:19. Confirmation adduced from Scripture. “For it is written [“This formula with its following citations is found only in those Epistles of Paul which were addressed to churches in which there was a large admixture of Jewish converts. It does not occur in those written to the Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, which were composed almost entirely of Gentile converts. This coincidence between the History in Acts and the character of the Epistles is evidence of the genuineness of both.” Words.] I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to naught the prudence of the prudent.”—This Divine declaration is taken from a prophecy of Isaiah, which culminates in an announcement of salvation through the Messiah. (Isaiah 29:14, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:17 ff.), and, as the result and penalty of the hypocritical conduct of the Jewish people, proclaims the downfall of the wisdom of their wise ones and the vanishing of the understanding of the prudent, so that this wisdom and understanding should contribute nothing towards their deliverance in the day of evil. This judicial threatening on the part of God was incontrovertibly fulfilled in the times of the New Testament. The wisdom of the ungodly proves unfit for apprehending the Gospel salvation. In reference to this it loses all its availability and appears as nothing worth. The citation is not literal, though, according to the sense, exact. [It is taken from LXX. with slight variation: ἀθετήσα for κρύψω, and αὐτοῦ omitted twice. “The prophet makes use of neuter verbs, while Paul turns them into the active form by making them have a reference to God. They are however perfectly the same in meaning. “Wisdom perishes,” but it is by the Lord’s destroying it. “Prudence vanishes,” but it is by the Lord’s covering it over and effacing it.—The application of this to the subject in hand is this: The Lord has been wont to punish the arrogance of those who, depending on their own judgment, think to be leaders to themselves and others; and if this happened among a people whose wisdom the other nations had occasion to admire, what will become of others?” Calvin]. In reference to this subject see the words of Christ: Matthew 11:25 ss.; also 1 Corinthians 15:7-8.
1 Corinthians 1:20. [The Apostle’s triumphant challenge for disproof of this declaration.—Where is a wise? where is a scribe? where is a disputer of this world?—The designations here are all anarthrous, and Meyer, de Wette, Kling, all translate as above. Alford, Stanley, Hodge, Barnes, insert the article. The difference in meaning is plain, though not important. In the one case the inquiry is after the person mentioned, q. d., ‘Where is a wise man to be found?’ as though he were not. In the other the question is, ‘What has become of him conceding that he exists?’ The latter better suits the drift of the text.—There is a question also as to whether these words likewise are cited from the Old Testament. There is something like them to be found in Isaiah 33:18, uttered “in a burst of triumph over the defeat of Sennacherib,” and Stanley considers them as taken from thence. But as the Apostle is here evidently speaking in his own name, we can regard his language as no more than an undesigned imitation of that of the Prophet—a lingering echo of it freely reproduced to suit a present purpose. He is here appealing in his own name to existing facts by way of confirmation. Where is the wise? etc. So Calvin]. They have vanished. They pass for nothing in the Divine economy. So far as it is concerned, they are as if they had never been. His mode of challenge occurs also elsewhere with Paul (1 Corinthians 15:55; Romans 3:27; Romans 3:29; Romans 3:31.)—The last attributive: “of this world,” belongs, although not grammatically, (since the questions are rapid and abrupt), yet logically, to all the three terms, and describes those mentioned as belonging to the lower stage of human development, the Præ Messianic period. This old world, so far as it seeks to maintain itself still, even after that which is perfect has come in Christ, shows itself to be perverse and at enmity with God; yea, as in itself evil, because pervaded with error and sin. Comp. Galatians 1:4, “from the present evil world.” Here the term rendered “world” is a αἰών and more properly denotes a period of time, an age of the world. The antithesis to this is αἰὼν ἐκεῖνος or μέλλων: that age, or: the coming age. (הַבָּא עוֹלָם). This is a course of existence founded on the redemptive work of Christ, and includes in itself all the impulsive forces and power of the new life. Until the end of “this age,” the “coming age,” will be in a germinal state, enclosed and restricted within the envelope of the present; but then it will burst into open manifestation as the sole reality. The αἰὼν οὗτος: present age, is identical with ὁ κόσμος: this world. The only distinction is that the latter designates the sphere of life itself as one essentially godless and corrupt in its on-goings, especially the human race as alienated from the life of God, while the former indicates the period of time through which it continues. Hence in Ephesians 2:2 we see the two united in one phrase. αἰὼν τοῦ κόσμου τούτου: the course of this world. The present age, as the period of the rule of sin and error, has for its god or governing principle the devil, as in 2 Corinthians 4:4 he is denominated ‘the god of this world,’ and in John 12:31 ‘the archor or ruler of this world.’ In so far now as the Jews also in their hostility to the perfect revelation of God in Christ, by which they became blinded to the nature of earlier revelations, also (2 Corinthians 3:14 ff.) belonged to this corrupt age, and inasmuch as in the progress of this discussion the Jewish element also is brought up to view, we shall be obliged to understand by the “wise” here mentioned, Jewish as well as Pagan sages, (not the one or the other exclusively); and since the Apostle afterwards speaks of wisdom only, it may be well perhaps to take the term “wise” in a general sense as denoting all those who were devoted to the higher science, or at least pretended to be such; and the other two terms as specific, “the scribe” denoting the wisdom-seekers among the Jews—and “the disputer,” the like among the Greeks. Such appropriation of the terms is supported by the fact that according to the uniform usage of the New Testament (Acts 19:35 alone excepted) “scribe” is the designation of the Jewish learned class. But the other term, συζη τητής, which is best translated: “disputer” (comp. συζητεῖν Mark 8:11 ff.; συζήτησις Acts 15:2; Acts 15:7; Acts 28:29), and hence denotes a class of persons who make disputing their business and have facility in it, can be only incidentally applied to the Sophists then widely spread throughout the Hellenic world. So Meyer. But would it not be more suited to the rhetorical character of the passage to make no such disposition of terms, but merely to abide by the general fact that the Apostle had in his eye men who boasted of their learning and science and ready abilities, and as masters of the truth looked down contemptuously upon the masses—men who were to be found among the Jews as well as among the Greeks,—and that only in the word “scribe” there is a prevailing reference to the Jew? [Stanley, who takes 1 Corinthians 1:20 as a modified citation from Isaiah 33:18, says “These expressions acquire additional force by a comparison with the Rabbinical belief that the cessation of Rabbinical wisdom was to be one of the signs of the Messiah’s coming ‘see the quotations from the Mishna in Wetstein ad loc.), and that this was expressly foretold in Isaiah 33:18. Analogous to this was the belief of Christians that the oracles of the heathen world ceased on the birth of Christ”].
The challenge is strengthened by a further question—hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?—i.e. actually demonstrated that it is not what it professes to be; but rather, folly—unreason, stupidity, incapacity for knowledge in relation to the highest matters. [“We must here carefully notice these two things that the knowledge of all the sciences is mere smoke, where the heavenly science is wanting; and man with all his acuteness is as stupid for obtaining of himself a knowledge of the mysteries of God as an ass is unqualified for understanding musical harmonies.—Paul (however) does not expressly condemn either man’s natural perspicuity, or wisdom acquired from practice and experience, or the cultivation of mind obtained by learning; but only declares that all this is of no avail for acquiring spiritual wisdom.—We must restrict what he here teaches to the specialties of the case in hand.” Calvin].
1 Corinthians 1:21.—Shows why and how it was that God had made foolish the wisdom of this world.—For since in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching [κήρνγμα, not κήρυξις, not so much the preaching as the thing preached, though not without an implication of the former] to save them that believe.—The relation of the premise to the conclusion is that of a sequence, divinely ordained in the way of punishment [rather of mercy], so that in the first man’s guilt [rather guilty impotence, see below], is assigned as the ground of what is stated in the other. From this we perceive the incorrectness of Rückert’s view, who, snuffing predestination everywhere, explains the phrase “in the wisdom of God” to mean: “in virtue of God’s wisdom, its leading and appointment.” Neither does it consist with the relation of the two clauses to explain it of the wisdom of God’s plan of salvation in the Gospel (Mosheim and others); for the refusal to recognize this wisdom was not anything to which the divine determination spoken of in the second clause could be referred, as to something definitely concluded upon. To this it must be added that from the very beginning, before the disposition of men in relation to it could be ascertained, the preaching of the Gospel had for the world the appearance of folly. The case is entirely different in 1 Corinthians 2:6. Rather we must here understand a reference to something prior to Christ, to certain exhibitions of Divine wisdom previous to the revelation made in Christ, in and through which man could or ought to have discerned God,—to its sway in nature and history, and indeed not merely to that revelation alluded to in Romans 1:18 ff; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:24 ff, but also to the ordinances of this wisdom in the guidance of the covenant-people, who, because of their unbelief (with the exception of the “election,” Romans 11:7), belonged together with the world. Neander, on the contrary, discovers here only a contrast instituted between revelation and the religion of reason, and regards the wisdom of the Greeks as the particular object of whose relation to Christianity the Apostle is treating. But this interpretation is opposed by the fact that in the 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 closely connected by ἐπειδή: since, with v. 21, Paul three times expressly states that by “the world,” in v. 21, not only the heathen but also the Jews are intended. But does not the declaration in reference to the heathen that, they “did not know God” conflict with Romans 1:21 where it said that ‘when they knew God they glorified him not as God?’ We must here distinguish between that sense of a God forced upon the mind by a revelation of God, a merely passive religious notion, the ineffectualness of which is set forth even in the passage above referred to, and that living knowledge of God, which involves communion with Him, and which is the thing here denied of the world and which, had the world possessed, it would have qualified the world for the comprehension of that more perfect revelation in Christ which was to be the fulfilment and consummation of all that had gone before, so that had this knowledge existed such a decree of God as is affirmed in the second clause would not have been made, nor would the preaching of the Gospel have been to them foolishness. The “wisdom” then, “through” which the world knew not God (διὰ τῆς σοφίας), denotes that intelligence by means of which the knowledge of God ought to have been attained, but was not. It is the appropriate organ of the human mind, sharpened by culture, through which God is perceived and recognized as He displays Himself in His wisdom; in other words, the eye for discerning God’s light. But this proved itself disqualified for its proper end, since the world, the possessor of this wisdom, had become alienated from the truth and love of God, and hence perverted and darkened by error and sin. The translation, “on account of their wisdom,” as though this was the cause of their not perceiving God would require the accusative (διὰ τὴν σοφ αν). It might still be questioned whether the phrase “through wisdom” does not refer like the previous one to the wisdom of God, so that it has its corresponding antithesis in the phrase, “through the foolishness of preaching.” This is Bengel’s view. “In the wisdom of God, i.e. because the wisdom of God was so great. By wisdom, namely, that of preaching, as is evident from the antithesis, by the foolishness of preaching.” So, too, Fritsche (Hall, Lit. Zeit. 1840). “After that, in the wisdom of God, i.e. while God allowed His wisdom to shine forth, the world did not recognize God, through the wisdom made available for them by God, then God resolved to choose means of directly the opposite kind. In setting forth the antithesis here, it occurred to him to emphasize strongly the wisdom of God, which failed of attaining its end.” But all things considered, the view carried out by us merits the preference, and the repetition of “the wisdom of God” must always appear somewhat artificial.24
The judgment [rather the merciful pleasure] of God towards a world not recognizing Him in consequence of its own sin, is introduced by the phrase εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεός,—God was pleased—hence “concluded,” “determined.” It indicates here not so much the freedom or pure favor, from which the resolve proceeded, as the suitableness of his proceeding to the end contemplated, or to the circumstances of the case. We find it first among the later Scripture writers, and most commonly in the Sept. In the New Testament it occurs chiefly in Paul (Romans 15:26; Galatians 1:15 ff.). In reference to the expression and thought comp. Luke 10:21. The world had shown itself incapable of discerning God in His wisdom through its wisdom. Therefore God found it good no more to appeal to human wisdom by the manifestations of His wisdom, but by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,—i.e., by a proclamation, the contents of which carried the impress of folly, or must need appear foolish to the world as it was. This was to deliver from sin and wrath, and introduce to everlasting blessedness those who should believe in what was declared. In other words, the determination was, to appeal to faith instead of to reason. [So Hodge: “The foolishness of preaching means the preaching of foolisness, i.e., the cross.” But is there not an allusion to the nature of the preaching itself as being distinct from philosophical disquisition in the simplicity of its method. Preaching is heralding, proclaiming facts and messages, a foolish matter for those who delight in the subtleties and arguments of philosophy.] From this it is clear [?] that the phrase “through foolishness of preaching” does not furnish, as might appear to be the case at first sight, the contrast to the phrase “this wisdom,”25 but to the other, “in the wisdom of God;” and the antithesis to “this wisdom” is to be sought in “them that believe.” Faith is pure receptivity, and as such is directly the opposite of all endeavors after knowledge by the unaided powers of the intellect, such as are peculiar to human wisdom. It is the humble acceptance and appropriation of the testimony concerning Christ crucified, in spite of all the objections which the understanding of the natural man may urge against the doctrine of salvation, and in the utter renunciation of one’s own opinions, and in the entire repudiation of predominant theories. In the act of believing there are united, therefore, both humility and courage. Finally, there is still another correspondence in the words “know” and “save.” Knowledge ought to lead to salvation (comp. John 17:3). Not knowing, therefore, hindered the obtaining of salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24. Modein which the Apostle fulfilled the good pleasure of God expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:21.—Since both Jews require signs and Greeks seek after wisdom, we therefore on the contrary preach Christ crucified.—[So Kling translates the passage. But there is a question here as to the construction. This verse, like the previous one, begins with ἐπειδή. It may therefore be taken as a parallel to that, (so Hodge, Meyer), resuming the thought and amplifying it (so Stanley), and like the preceding having a protasis26 and apodosis (as Kling); or it may be joined by ἐπειδή directly to the previous clause, and regarded as explanatory of what is said of the “foolishness of preaching” being the means of saving believers (so Alford, Calvin, Rückert, de Wette). In this case the second clause instead of being an apodosis would be directly dependent on ἐπειδή, and the rendering would be:—Since, or seeing that, while both Jews require signs and Greeks seek after wisdom, we on the other hand preach Christ, etc.—This seems to us the most natural rendering. See Winer, P. 3 § 65: 6. But Kling rejects it as “the less suitable.” According to his view], what the protasis states is the result of “not knowing God” (1 Corinthians 1:21); what the apodosis states is the judicial procedure corresponding to it as carried out in “the foolishness of preaching,” viz., a refusal to yield to vain demands for wisdom, and the counter preaching which appears to those making these demands as absurd, but which to believers proves to be the power of God and the wisdom of God. The ἐπειδή introduces a case well known and made out: since indeed; the δέ (after ἡμεῖς) is used also elsewhere in the apodosis after ἐπεί and ἐπειδή to make the antithetic relation of this clause the more prominent: therefore, on the contrary (comp. Meyer on this passage). This construction is favored by the parallelism between the protasis and apodosis in 1 Corinthians 1:21, and those here found. The και,—και: both,—and, unite here classes alike in one respect, i.e., in the unwarrantableness of their demands, but otherwise diverse, and they belong not exclusively to the subjects mentioned (Jews and Greeks), but serve to connect the two clauses in one whole: “since it is so, that both Jews require signs and Greeks seek wisdom.” Jews and Greeks here represent two classes of men according to their peculiar characteristics. Hence they are mentioned without the article. It is as if he said “since people like the Jews seek, etc.” The Greeks here as in Romans 1:16, and elsewhere, stand as pars pro toto, for the Gentiles generally, who, according to the most probable reading, are mentioned afterwards in 1 Corinthians 1:23. They are the people who best represent the whole multitude of nations (έθνη) found outside of the covenant relation with God, and who, in respect of culture and language, prepared the whole civilized world for Christianity; just as the Jews, scattered among them all, did the same thing in respect of religion, being freighted with the promise which was to be fulfilled in Christ. It was among these two nations that Christianity had its first sphere of operations,—the Jews, who had the first claim to announce the fulfilment of that promise which had been preserved, and of that hope which had been awakened by them (comp. Acts 13:46; Acts 3:25; Romans 1:16; Romans 15:8), and the Greeks, who had carried out the work of human culture in science and art, and had, as it were, taken the whole civilized world in possession, and so had furnished the most perfect form for the human appropriation of the truth of revelation, and so the richest receptivity for the life and truth which were in Christ, and which were fitted to ensure them the most perfect satisfaction. But in both alike did Christianity encounter peculiar obstructions. The Jews clave to the external form of revelation, the miracle; and they did this to such a degree as to insist on having it before their eyes in its most striking, dazzling form, as the condition of their acceptance of the truth. They thus betrayed their fundamental unbelief and disaffection for the truth which rebuked their sin, humbled their pride, and demanded of them entire self-denial. This is what is meant by their “seeking after a sign,” or, according to another reading, “signs.” (Comp. John 4:48; and Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:4; Luke 11:16; John 2:18; John 6:30). (Meyer, Exodus 3:0.) “Signs, that is, miraculous tokens, by which Jesus, whom the Apostles asserted to be risen from the dead and ascended on high, should prove Himself to be the Messiah. These they still called for, inasmuch as the miracles of His earthly career had lost for them all evidencing power, in consequence of His crucifixion”). The Greeks, on their part, had been captivated by the outward show and glitter of their civilization. Whatever did not appear before them under the name of a new philosophy (comp. Acts 17:19 ff.), or was not sustained by philosophic proof, or was not set forth with logical and rhetorical art, this they refused to accredit; and by insisting on wisdom only in a form agreeable to them, they likewise betrayed their unbelief and their aversion to that Divine truth which required a mortification of their vain self, with all its pride of science and art, and which demanded a humble surrender to a revelation in Christ that infinitely surpassed all their attainments. Thus on both sides, in modes diverse and conditioned by their peculiar histories, did the same opposition arise to the preaching of the Gospel which held up to their faith the one Christ, who was declared to have secured the salvation of mankind, and built up the way to regal glory, not through wondrous miracles, according to the demand of the Jew, nor through such wisdom as wisdom-seekers sought, but by suffering the shameful death of a malefactor. Thus did the preaching of the Apostles and their associates (ἡμεῖς) concerning a crucified Messiah, their public proclamation of this fact and its significance in all simplicity, prove for the Jews a stumbling block, i.e., an offence, a hinderance to faith, the occasion of a fall, something causing them to err (comp. πρόσκομμα Romans 9:32 ff.). A person hanging on the accursed tree presented such a contrast to all their desires for some glorious exhibition of power (such as destruction to their enemies, etc.), that they could do no otherwise than reject Him. [“They could have tolerated Christ on the mount, but not Christ on the cross.”—A. Butler].—For the Greeks (Gentiles) foolishness.—That salvation could come to the world through a crucified Jew appeared to them plainly absurd. It was an instrumentality utterly inadequate to the end proposed. Thus while to the Jews such a person was an object of horror, as one accursed of God, to the Gentiles he was an object only for scorn and contempt. (Comp. Acts 23:18-32; Luke 23:36-41). To this, however, there is a noble contrast.
But unto these—the called—Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.—This clause might be taken to depend on “we preach,” so that this would be repeated in thought, and “Christ the wisdom of God” form an antithesis to “Christ crucified” with its adjuncts: We preach Christ as crucified, who for the Jew is a stumbling block, etc., but to those who are called we preach Christ as the power of God. Bengel appears to suggest this, when to “Christ” he adds “with his cross, death, life, kingdom,” and says further, “When the offence of the cross is overcome, the whole mystery of Christ lies open.”—But the course of thought would be more simple if we put “Christ crucified” directly in opposition with what precedes: “We preach a crucified Messiah who to the Jews is a stumbling block, etc.—but to them who are called, Christ—the power of God.” By it then is signified, that He, the crucified one, at whom the Jews stumble, is to the called, the Anointed of God, (Messiah, Christ),—the One in whom the promise of a heavenly king is fulfilled, the Power of God, etc. This corresponds also to the expression respecting the “word of the cross” in 1 Corinthians 1:18. The αὐτοῖς: to these serves to give prominence to “the called” as the chief persons in the case, who occupy a positive relation to “the crucified,” and enjoy an experience corresponding to it. It points at the same time to those already mentioned, to “them that believe,” 1 Corinthians 1:21, and to the “saved,” 1 Corinthians 1:18; and while the first of these terms designates their subjective position towards the Gospel, the second shows the advantage they derive from it. The term “called” indicates the Divine ground on which they stand. (On κλητόι: called, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:2). By the addition of: both Jews and Greeks he gives us to understand that in the purpose of grace denoted in their calling the separation hitherto existing between these parties had been removed. (Comp. Romans 9:24; Romans 10:12).—the power of God and the wisdom of God.—Here we have the antithesis to “stumbling block” and “foolishness.” While the Jews were asking how a person crucified and accursed could possibly be the Saviour of Israel, how one so utterly devoid of strength could be able to overthrow all hostile power, and the Greeks were deeming it absurd to expect salvation from one who came to so miserable an end, the chosen of God were, on the contrary, experiencing and confessing that from this very crucified Redeemer there issued a Divine power, the power of a heavenly life and peace, a renewing, sanctifying, beatific power, such as could be found in nothing creaturely, and that accordingly Christ was the possessor of such a Divine power, that in Him there existed a Divine wisdom that was capable of solving the hardest problems, of lighting up the darkness that rested on the ways of God, of fulfilling God’s noblest purposes of bringing men back from all their wanderings into the path of life and of introducing them at last to their final destination.
1 Corinthians 1:25. A general proposition, substantiating what has just been said.—Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God mightier than men.—The phrase “foolishness of God” is not to be taken too abstractly, as if it meant the Divine folly. The Apostle is evidently here speaking from a human point of view and implies merely that which appears foolishness in God. He here has in mind God’s dealings with men in the Gospel, such as the procuring of salvation through the crucifixion of Christ, and other things connected therewith, which in the judgment of self-styled wise men of this world, who measure every thing by the measure of their fancied wisdom, appeared contrary to reason. Now of this apparent foolishness of God he affirms that it surpassed in real wisdom all men however wise they seemed to be in their own sight, or were held to be by others, or whatever they might be able to reason out or imagine. In a similar manner we must interpret the following expressson, the weakness of God—By this he means a Divine scheme which seemed weak to those who held merely to physical force and boasted in that (for instance, the, procuring of redemption through one subjecting himself to the humiliation of death on the cross), but which in fact is stronger than men, i.e., exerts a mightier power than they with all their imagined strength and prowess. Bengel adds: “Although they may appear to themselves both wise and strong, and wish to be the standards of wisdom and strength.” Thus interpreted, it would be needless to construe the words “than men” as involving a figure of speech in which a comparison instituted with a person or thing as a whole, properly applies only to a part of it, or to some quality in it, as though they meant: “than the wisdom of men,” or “than the strength of men.” Both interpretations, however, amount to the same thing.—There is still another construction suggested by what follows, viz.: that by the foolishness and the weakness of God are meant the persons themselves who are “called” (1 Corinthians 1:24), who experience Christ crucified as “the wisdom of God and the power of God,” so that they in consequence become Divinely wise and strong, and are thus enabled as the foolishness and weakness belonging to God to surpass men, i.e. that portion of the race who remain out of Christ in wisdom and power. “The thought is this—Human nature delights in doing great things. God, on the contrary, in His earthly dispensations always appears weak and small at the first, and not until afterwards reveals the overwhelming power that is concealed in His instrumentalities.” Neander.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Christ and His cross—Christ crucified.—This is the clear light from Heaven, which comes to scatter all the darkness of man’s sinful life. This is the key to all the riddles of a history that has been deranged and confused by falsehood and sin. All God’s revelations in the Old Testament, his ordinances, institutions, promises, judgments and blessings here reach their fulfilment and find their real explanation. All the hints of truth current among heathen nations—all their sighing and striving after the knowledge of God and communion with Him, all attempts to get rid of the consciousness of guilt, to atone for sin and to effect a perfect restoration to Divine favor—all the labor of the wise to discover a clue for the great labyrinth of human life—in short every thing which glimmered as a ray of light here and there in this darkness, obtains in Christ its proper goal; and in so far as it at last leads to the apprehension of this perfect light and salvation, it has been not in vain. Here is the “power of God” which in place of a thousand-fold yet vain endeavor on the part of man is able to insure a true Divine life, an undisturbed peace, an all pervading sanctification—spreading from the inmost centre of a heart that embraces the holy, forgiving love of God,—and an invincible patience and steadfastness combined with the serenest tranquillity amid all the plagues, diseases, adversities and conflicts which may assail us from within and without. Here, too, is the wisdom of God. From this the deepest problems of human knowledge and human activity receive light, so that they can be recognized in their truth and in the goal to which they tend; and right methods of solution for them may be attained. Here the eternal thoughts of God, and the thoughts of man which spring up responsive to these out of the inmost truth of the human heart through the operation of the all-enlightening Logos, encounter each other. Here redeeming love with its wondrous plan of forgiveness and regeneration meets the manifold devices and strivings of man for the removal of guilt and, the acquisition of the chief good, and gives them a perfect satisfaction.
2. Christ and His cross—as confronting the world.—But the more this revelation of God in a crucified Saviour surpasses all the doings of man hitherto, the less can it be measured by the standard of truth and goodness existing among men, the less can it come within the scope of their ordinary conceptions. Where, therefore, the heart has not been renewed by a surrender to the truth foreshadowed by its mysterious need and corresponding to it, and so no change has been wrought in the whole course of thought, there this revelation remains an incomprehensible mystery; and where to the indolence, which refuses to stir out of the old beaten track, there is added an arrogant pride, which, with arbitrary exaggeration and embellishments insists on making what already exists the measure of the new and rejects whatever does not suit the demands thug originated, there, it is certain, that the revelation of God will be violently opposed. And this will be so much the more sure to occur, when, for the sake of presenting a contrast with the vain parade of carnal self in adhering to what is externally imposing and brilliant, and in cleaving to its own productions which seem so beautiful and fair, the revealed truth and grace are constrained to show themselves in an unpretending form, putting contempt upon the proud display of might by assuming a lowly aspect of weakness and setting at naught a lofty pretentious wisdom by wearing the guise of foolishness in order to lift humanity thereby out of the vanity of its conceited claims, and out of the arbitrariness of its own devices and endeavors, into the experience of a true divine power and wisdom.—But the cross and its preaching, which prove such a stumbling block and foolishness to those who are bound up in their vain conceit becomes to those who obey the heavenly calling in faith and who in the mortification of self with all its foolish conceits and pretensions yield themselves to the influences of the grace and truth in Christ, and in so doing experience its enlightening, sanctifying and beatific power, the wisdom of God and the power of God. Thus it happens that men with all their wisdom and power remain far inferior to what belongeth unto God, however foolish and weak it may seem.
3. “1 Chronicles 1:22-24; 1 Chronicles 1:22-24 afford us a point of observation which enables us to survey Church History in clearest light. The Apostles found two distinct tendencies setting in in strong hostility to the Gospel, the desire for miracles, and the conceit of wisdom. These two tendencies show themselves repeatedly through all times. A false, one-sided supernaturalism and a false one-sided rationalism are ever in rivalry with each other either to resist the Gospel in open enmity or to disturb and corrupt it by secretly insinuating themselves into it. It may be said that all external opposition and all internal peril to the Gospel resolve themselves at last into these two opposite principles. So long as a pure Gospel withstands and excludes these it will succeed in satisfying the genuine human needs lying at their foundation and in thus quieting them on both sides. This proves itself to be the true wonder-working power before which all other miracles must pale, and the true wisdom of God before which all other wisdom must be put to shame, and thus does it exhibit itself in both ways as the absolute Religion.” Neander.
4. [Since it is “to the called” that the Gospel proves “the power of God and the wisdom of God,” by bringing them at last to believe and be saved, it follows that the difference in the effects produced by the Gospel, so that on the one hand it appears to some as an offence and to others as foolishness, but to others still as a means of salvation, is all owing to the calling of God—his effectual calling.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. The cross of Christ is made of none effect by cunning words or the wisdom of speech.—For the wisdom of speech Isaiah 1:0, on the one hand scholastic wisdom which a. culminates only in knowledge, not in reformation; b. gives no satisfaction on the chief point, Religion; c. being in constant strife with itself evermore corrupts rather than improves; 2. On the other hand an artificial rhetoric, which springs not from the heart or from zeal for a cause known to be true, but aims only to dazzle and please, and by this means to persuade. But a mode of proceeding so altogether unworthy of heavenly truth robs the cross of Christ of its peculiar power; since a. the attention is turned away from the subject to the speaker, and so the heart is diverted and betrayed into vanity; b. and everything is viewed according to its fitness to delight; c. and the effect is ascribed not to the power of the truth presented but to the eloquence displayed. After Heubner.
2. The preaching of the cross. 1, is foolishness for those who are lost. a. Who are these? They are such as are hardened in their own guilt—such as follow their own perverted sense and will not accept of truth or consent to self-humiliation, so that humanly judging there is nothing to be hoped for from them. b. Why is the preaching of the cross foolishness for them? Because to the world, which insists on its own importance, everything appears absurd which fells its pride, destroys its meritoriousness and conflicts with its wisdom and righteousness. 2, is a wisdom of God unto us who are called.—The believer who permits himself to be saved, awakened and enlightened by the spirit of God, finds in the cross a divinely derived and divinely operating power, which draws the heart into peace with itself and with God, fills it with holy love, and strengthens it with a new power of life; and he recognizes therein a wisdom far surpassing all human thought and sense. After Heubner.
3. The vanity of scholastic wisdom or the judgment of God upon conceited worldly wisdom.—1. It effects nothing, because it aims only at show and not at improvement. 2. God allows it to be betrayed into folly and shame, because it seeks to be wise and strong without God, without prayer and piety. 3. Christianity exposes it in all its barrenness, since, while Christianity renews humanity, worldly wisdom perishes in its own schools, and is unable to maintain its own progress. After Heubner.
4. The causes of the rejection of the Crucified.—1. The Jewish desire for whatever was striking, imposing and externally mighty; 2. The Gentile conceit of wisdom and a vain misculture; 3. The pride of both which sought to comprehend God, but which would not enter into the apparently weak and foolish ways and means of his economy. After Heubner.
5. The preaching of the cross has with those who are saved a threefold effect. 1. It shames, inasmuch as man crucified Christ with his sins; for a long time did not recognize him; did not honor or thank him; and was willing so long to tolerate the sins which nailed Him to the cross. 2. It humbles, by reminding us of Christ’s own love, in that He, the Great God, died for us poor worms, and did so much for us when we were utterly worthless. It inclines us also to benevolence towards all men who differ from us only in this, that we are sinners saved, while they can and may yet be saved. 3. It awakens, gives power and life, so that we not only are ready and inclined, but also are enabled to love God, and to prove our love by works.
6. The Cross of Christ is an offence to all men who think that a good life will ensure them a happy end. These are the enemies of the Cross in the midst of Christendom. They worship it externally; they take pride in it, but in fact they hate the doctrine of the Cross. They cannot accept the truth that Christ has become our Redeemer and that we are saved out of sheer mercy, so that the holiest, the most pious, the most liberal, the most upright man is just as far from Heaven as the most miserable sinner, and that there is but one way for all. To the wise and prudent the cross of Christ is foolishness. The truth that Christ died for us they regard as a fable. There are persons even among [nominal] believers who take it as a compliment if they are said not to believe. Yet should one accuse them of holding the truth, and yet of living in untruthfulness, disobedience and ingratitude towards God, it would be the same as if he pronounced them deliberate villains. Oh! could they but once hear the Gospel in a way to pierce their
hearts they would certainly ask, What shall we do? Let the doctrine of the Cross be once made vital in the soul, then would there be no need of exhortation, alarm and threatening in view of this or that judgment. It would be sufficient to say, “The Saviour died for me.” If we are in trouble for our sins, and the hope of salvation vanishes, and the voice comes, “Christ has died and earned salvation for us,” how the heart not only seizes but holds fast to the declaration! How the truth penetrates like a divine power into the soul which can never be lost or forgotten! Then are our sins buried in the depths of the sea; they can no more tyrannize over us. Then we need sin no more. Such is the effect of the Word of the Cross in them that believe. Gossner.
Hedinger:—Power, wit, all human work and counsel corrupts faith, misleads in the church, and hinders the efficacy of the means of grace. In divine things, the more foolish anything seems to the world, the better it is. “Wisdom, wisdom, ready understanding, science, learning out of a thousand books!” Such is the cry of the world. An evil sound is it in the churches and in the schools. One thing is needful—one book, one Christ.
Starke:—The Gospel has a differencing effect according to the character of the persons who hear and use it. Mankind are divided into two classes: 1. Unbelievers; they are such as live on, without caring for their salvation, either in security or hypocrisy; each word and work of theirs is a step toward Hell. 2. Believers; they are those who are in daily concern about their salvation; and this is with them so vital a point that even when unmoved by efforts from abroad, while in the midst of their labors or talk, they are not easily repelled from it (1 Corinthians 1:18). Wisdom is in itself something divine, and before the fall the image of God in man consisted in it (Colossians 3:10); and even now the inclination to know and learn something is a remnant in us of this divine image. But if our natural wisdom profits us but little now, and is every where scandalized, this is the fault, not of wisdom, but of our corrupted reason and understanding. None of the loftiest and most learned of this world ought to be ashamed of the simplicity of the Gospel, for God Himself, the, highest and wisest of all, let Himself down to it. Sufficient is it for us that an infinite power resides in the Cross to deliver us out of all our deep depravity, (1 Corinthians 1:21).—God can never suit people. One will have it this way and another that. Shame on you! God does as it pleases Him (Matthew 11:16 ff.). Men always delight in what is strange, lofty, conspicuous. Instead of desiring that God’s name alone should be praised they seek themselves in every thing. They look either at power, wealth, faculty, or at learning, prudence, dexterity. Both are means to greatness, but they prove hinderances in the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22).—God will remain unsurpassed in His words and works (Psalms 78:41), but their wisdom and strength are vain. The world makes wisdom to consist in much learning which secures honor and regard. But a believer considers it the height of wisdom to know that he is a poor sinner, becomes justified and saved only in deepest humility. The greatest power consists in being able to overcome ourselves and the kingdom of Satan. God can put to shame all the devices of the craftiest and all the might of the greatest in this world. Why wilt thou fear? Look to God! He can and will give thee enough for all things (1 Corinthians 1:25).
H. Rieger:—Let him who would even now, by the preaching of the Cross, awaken a sense of the Cross in the hearts of men, and thereby coöperate for their salvation, not seek for assistance from the fickle arts of worldly wisdom, but let him observe what renders himself humble, and subdued, and what he can thus convey with a tender spirit to others, and let him shun every thing which on the contrary tends to puff himself up and wherewith he is tempted to court the favor of men.
[Spencer: (1 Corinthians 1:21).—“Some Christian ministers sometimes think to do Christianity a very good service by philosophizing it to make it keep up with the times. In all this they do Christianity no other service than rob it of its power by robbing it of its peculiarity, and do no other service to the ‘philosophic minds’ which they say they would influence, than just to mislead them and keep them away from true faith in Christ and reliance on his great atonement.
Every thing is coming to be philosophized. Many a minister in the pulpit—shame on him—betrays his trust to the Bible and his God by teaching religion very much as if it were a new matter of reason, and human progress, and human discovery, instead of taking God’s Word as his authority and instructor, and uttering in the ears of the people like the old prophets, Thus saith the Lord God. Beware of such proceedings. They tend to infidelity. Learn duty from God. The Bible is safe. Philosophy is blind.”]
[Robertson:—“Men bow before talent even if unassociated with goodness, but between these two we must make an everlasting distinction. When once the idolatry of talent enters, then farewell to spirituality; when men ask their teachers, not for that which will make them more humble and God-like, but for the excitement of an intellectual banquet, then farewell to Christian progress. Here also St. Paul again stood firm. Not Wisdom, but Christ crucified. St. Paul might have complied with these requirements of his converts, and then he would have gained admiration and love, he would have been the leader of a party, but then he would have been false to his Master—he would have been preferring self to Christ.”]
1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:17.—[ἐν σόφίᾳ λόγου might be rendered: in philosophic discourse.]
1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 1:20.—The τούτου of the received text is undoubtedly transferred from the preceding. Lachmann and Tischendorf reject it according to the best authorities.
1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:21.—[ἐπειδή is not temporal but illative.—Alf.]
1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:21.—[κηρύγματις: passive noun, the thing preached both in contents and in form.]
1 Corinthians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 1:22.—ἐ͂πειδη και. it may be rendered: “For both,” but Kling translates as above.]
1 Corinthians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 1:22.—The plural σημεῖα is better attested: whether it is internally the more probable may be doubted.
1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 1:23.—[δὲ after ἐπειδή expresses contrariety.]
1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 1:23.—ἔθνεσι is decidedly better attested than the received ’Ελλησι which arose out of 1 Corinthians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 1:24.
1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 1:24.—[“αὐτοις δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς; the αὐτοῖς serves to identify the called with the believers, 1 Corinthians 1:21.”—Alf.]
[Kling has hardly done justice to the view which he calls Rückerts, and stigmatizes as Predestianationism. There certainly is no little plausibility, and much fair ground in Scripture for interpreting. “in the wisdom of God” All the movements of the ante-Christian period were unquestionably so disposed by Providence as to prepare the way for the coming, and the reception of Christ. And why may it not have been a part of the Divine plan to allow the world to try its own wisdom, and test its capacities to the utmost, in order that its utter inefficiency for discovering God, and finding out a means of salvation, might be fully proved and thus that consciousness of ignorance and inability be awakened, which is one of the first conditions of simple faith in revelation? Paul hinted at this very truth in his speech at Athens (Acts 17:26-27). “And hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if happily they might feel after Him and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us.” This interpretation carries therefore a legitimate and Scriptural sense, and it is preferred by Alf., Barnes, Poole, and most American sermonizers.
But there is still another interpretation, worthy of consideration, as having the advantage of giving to the important word “wisdom” a uniformity of meaning throughout the entire passage. What Paul is here controverting is the fondness for philosophic speculation so characteristic of the Greeks, and which in the Corinthian Church was threatening to destroy the practical nature of Christianity, and turn it into another scheme of philosophy. This tendency, or rather its products, the Apostle calls “wisdom” (σοφία), and it is, as he says, something he would not indulge in, however pleasing to the Corinthian temper. One reason for this was, the utter inefficiency of all philosophy in the matter of religion. He does not condemn it absolutely, but relatively to the ends in view. This, therefore, it became him distinctly to state, which he does in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, may be paraphrased thus: “For since in its speculations concerning God, the word through speculation and philosophy did not know God, it pleased God through “the announcement of the simple facts of the Gospel, which to a speculative mind seems like folly; to save those who accept them in mere faith.” We thus take σοφία φιλοσοφία, make τοῦ θεοῦ the objective Genitive, and interpret the whole phrase “in the wisdom of God,” as denoting the sphere of thought in reference to which the Apostle was speaking. This was in fact theosophy, a word compounded of just the ones here associated. The antithesis then in the two clauses would be between philosophy and preaching, between scientific knowledge and faith, accepting the simple proclamation of the Gospel ].
[One would suppose that the naturalness and indeed inevitableness of this contrast would have shown the incorrectness of Kling’s interpretation. (See Winer, part 3 sect. 47. d.) Paul means here to set the simple “testimony of Jesus” over against “philosophy” or “wisdom,” and the method of faith over against the method of reason. In all that follows he is correct.]
[Rob. in Lex. observes that ἐπειδή is never used in the protasis.]
THE TRUE METHOD OF PREACHING
B. As suited to the character of the called and the ends contemplated
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
26For ye [om. ye] see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But 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; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and [om. yea, and]27 things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence [the presence of God].28 30But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God [om. of God], is [has been] made unto us wisdom, [from God, ἀπὸ θεοῦ]29 and [both] 31righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
[The connection. Kling here, as usual, follows Meyer in considering these verses as confirmatory of what immediately precedes 1 Corinthians 1:24. It were better, however, with de Wette and Hodge, to regard the Apostle as introducing here a new argument in support of the general position taken in the previous section. It is an argument drawn from facts directly under their eye. In proof of what he had said of the true method of preaching and the utter vanity of the worldly wisdom they were tempted to prize, they could see for themselves what course the Gospel had in the main actually taken among them who were its converts and what were the ends subserved by this. Accordingly he begins by directing attention to the character of the called, first described negatively].
1 Corinthians 1:26. For look at your calling, brethren.—The verb βλέπετε may be taken in the Indicative [as in the E. V.]; but the Imperative corresponds better with the animated style of the Apostle (see 1 Corinthians 10:18; Philippians 3:2). [“And is required by the emphatic position which the verb occupies in the sentence” Alf. So also Words., Wickliffe, Tyndale, and the Rheims version]. Nor is this at all inconsistent, as Bengel asserts, with the use of the “for,” since this is to be found elsewhere also in imperative clauses. [Βλέπειν: “to consider, take to heart, is employed to express a more intent, earnest, spiritual contemplation than ὀρᾶν. The one denotes mental vision, the other bodily sight.” W. Webster]. (Hebrews 12:3). The “calling” which they are requested to observe is not their secular vocation, or their external circumstances [Olshausen], in which they were found when called of the Lord. Nothing is said of this in the subsequent context. Nor yet can we admit Bengel’s explanation: “the state in which the heavenly calling proves an offence to you.” This anticipates a thought which is not mentioned till afterwards. It is more correct to understand it of the Divine call, both as to the act itself, and the method God pursued in calling them, especially in respect to the persons whom he had chosen and their condition. [This is seen in the very use of terms. “He does not say τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμετέραν, nor τὴν ὑμῶν κλῆσιν but τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν; the calling of you.” Words.]. What this was he proceeds to state—how that not many wise men after the flesh.—The “flesh” here denotes the purely human state or course of action, as utterly devoid of Divine influence or coöperation. It is the sensuous and selfish life, possessed by sin. Hence a wisdom which is suited to this life, which moves according to its ways instead of after the methods of that Divine spiritual principle from which all true higher knowledge springs, is “a wisdom of this age,” “of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:20), earthly, godless, and hostile to God. Such is its essential character. Yet without pushing the matter so far, we might simply abide by the idea of what is purely human. (Comp. Herzog’s Theol. Real. Ency. under the word “Fleisch”).30—To attach this qualification to the remaining predicates, would be superfluous. These of themselves indicate what is external, worldly, and belonging to the lower extra-christian life.—not many mighty, δυνατοι: persons of consequence in civil life, influential, powerful, whether it be by wealth or any other means,—not many noble, εὐγενεῖς: of distinguished descent, well-born. In highly-civilized, aristocratic Corinth, all this was regarded of great importance.—are called.—There is no verb in the original with which the above nominatives can agree, and it is best to supply the defect [as in the E. V.] “are called” from the word “calling” in the first clause. Others prefer “are,” and take it either as the sole predicate of the clause: “There are not many wise, etc., among you;” or they unite with it the adjectives as predicates: “Many are not wise, etc.” [Some of the Fathers thought that the persons employed to dispense this calling were here meant. So Theodoret. “God endorsed the nations in the evangelical net of Galilean fishermen.” Also Augustine. “Christ caught orators by fishermen, not fishermen by orators.” Wordsworth]. The supplying of “are called,” suits as well with the preceding words, “your calling,” as with the following, “hath chosen.” “In the early centuries it was often flung at Christianity (by Celsus and others) that its converts were, for the most part, common people, women and slaves.” Paul here not only confesses the fact, but also discovers in it one cause of glory for the Gospel; for it is precisely in this that the Gospel displays itself to be the power of God and the wisdom of God, that starting from such humble beginnings it had nevertheless both outwardly and inwardly overcome the world.
1 Corinthians 1:27-28. The positive aspect of the case. But the foolish things of this world.—Luther translates “in the eyes of the world,” as though the Genitive in the original were that of estitmaion. But Paul is here speaking of things not as they seem, but as they are; and here, as well as in the subsequent Epistles, we have the actual quality indicated. “The foolish things” (τὰ μωρά), the neuter for the sake of greater generalization. We have here a strong contrast to “the wise,” i. e. whatever is lacking in higher cultivation and insight, including, too, the additional thought of being deemed foolish, contracted and simple.—hath God chosen, an expression which is repeated three times with great emphasis. It denotes the Divine purpose which is made known in the calling; or that Divine decision in virtue of which a separation is effected among fallen mankind, and certain individuals are selected out of it to become a possession of God in Christ, and are so made blessed (comp. ἐκλέγεσθαι Ephesians 1:4; Is. 15:19). The expression belongs to the Theocratic language of the Old Testament (comp. בָחַר Deuteronomy 14:2 ff.). “Foreknowledge” and “Predestination “are cognate terms, Rom 8:29; 2 Timothy 1:9, yet so, however, that the word “choose” here designates the free, eternal gracious will of God, as carried out in time, and therefore includes the “calling” in itself.—The object of such a choice is to confound the wise i.e., the wise after the flesh. By the fact that He selected the “foolish,” persons destitute of superior culture, to enjoy holy and blessed communion with Him, the wisdom in which “the wise” boasted, is exposed in all its insufficiency and worthlessness. Or we may say with de Wette, “the wise were put to shame by being compelled to see the foolish obtaining that which was denied to them.” In the latter case, it is implied that “the wise” are conscious of the preference made, “and so were stung to reform” (Osiander). But this is not sustained by the context as the parallel expression “bring to nought” shows. The jubilant contrast proceeds.—and the weak things of this world, i. e. the weak of every kind, bodily, mentally, politically.—God hath chosen to confound the things which are mighty.—The antithesis here is introduced by the neuter: τὰ ίσχυρά, denoting the category in general, although persons are meant. That any thing contemptuous was intended by this use of the neuter, is not probable, since he just before spoke of a kindred class, “the wise,” in the masculine. The “confounding” is seen in the fact that “the weak things,” by virtue of the indwelling “power of God,” evince an energy and an overcoming power which is denied to the strong of this world.—In the third set of contrasts there appears an expansion of thought on the one side, with which there is nothing to correspond on the other.—And the base things of the world, and the despised things hath God chosen—the things which are as good as not, in order that He may bring to nought the things that are.—Here we have the antithesis only to the last expression of the first series: “the things that are” (τὰ ὄντα). [This is readily accounted for, if the omission of the καί as sustained by the best authorities (see critical notes) be correct. In that case the τὰ μὴ ὄντα: the things which are not instead of being an addition to the previous specifications, would stand in opposition with them, as a sort of summary of their meaning, and so be the main word requiring the offset on the other side]. Observe also the order of thought in the specifications, “base things,”—ἀγενῆ: of low origin. To this is added as a natural consequence: “despised things”—τὰ ἐξουθενηένα: regarded as nothing. Then below both, as putting the matter in its strongest possible aspect, there comes the τὰ μὴ ὄντα (to be distinguished from τὰ οὐκ ὅντα inasmuch as the μὴ is not an absolute, but a subjective negative. Winer, § 59, 3): that which in the opinion of men is as good as nonexistent.—In the antithetic τὰ ὄντα, some would insert a τί, making it read: things that are somewhat, of some importance. But this we are as little warranted in doing as in making τὰ μὴ ὄντα τὰ μηθὲν ὄντα: things which are of no account, are nothing. What Paul here sets in contrast with the former are things which have being, are real, which are regarded as existing, and “which continue to make themselves pass for sole realities.” And for these things the verb “confound” would no longer suit. So we have another “bring to naught:” καταργήσῃ make null, deprive of all validity. This is a much stronger expression, and it puts its object, relatively to the highest good to be enjoyed, out of existence.31 The truth of the assertion has been well brought out by Neander: “In its scorned professors, the Gospel has in fact displayed a power of action and endurance, which far transcends the measure of the natural man. They alone never bowed to the despotism of the Roman Emperor. To them also the Gospel has imparted a steadfastness of conviction, which the proud philosophy of the Greeks never possessed; and a Christian mechanic, as Justin Martyr and Tertullian have affirmed, was able to answer questions which the Greek philosopher asked in vain.”
1 Corinthians 1:29. The reason of the above mentioned peculiarity of God’s procedure in “calling” men.—that no flesh should boast in the presence of God.—μῃ καυχήσεται πὰσα σάρξ, lit.: that all flesh should not boast. A Hebraism. The negative belongs to the verb, and=that all flesh should give up their boasting. The sense is: “no man should boast that he, out of his own endeavors, or position, or worth, had contributed any thing to the great achievements of the Gospel.” Neander. It is a question whether we are to take the word “flesh” as simply denoting humanity in general, or are to associate with this the ideas of guilt and transientness which are also conveyed by it. As a general rule the expression occurs in this way only when the one or the other of these ideas is implied in the context. “Flesh beautiful, yet frail” says Bengel.—[“Here then we see that God by confounding the mighty, and the wise, and the great, does not design to elate with pride the weak, the illiterate, and the abject, but brings down all of them together to one level.” Calvin].
1 Corinthians 1:30. The ground in the Divine economy on which this end is obtained and the glory of salvation secured to God alone.—But of him ye are in Christ Jesus.—A two-fold construction and exposition is here possible. Either the first five words may be taken as a sentence by itself, stating the fact of their origin in God: “Of him are ye.” The subsequent words, “in Christ Jesus,” would then assert the ground of their being from God—of their Divine Sonship, and this too in such a manner as to carry the emphasis. Such a construction is supported by the fact that the important relative clause which follows is joined directly to it. Or the words “ye are in Christ Jesus” may be taken together as denoting their being in fellowship with Christ, and then “of Him” assigns the cause of this fact,—shows how they came to be in Christ. The latter construction is not contrary to usage, and at least is not more forced than to suppose the word “are” to be employed as a pregnant construction for ‘have sprung’ or ‘been born,’ as Osiander does. We might compare with this Ephesians 2:8, “And that,” to wit, being saved, “not of yourselves,” which is the same as ‘and ye are not saved of yourselves,’—stated in the positive form, ‘ye are saved of God,’ i. e. He is the author of your salvation. So here: He is the author of your being in Christ Jesus. This is sustained also by the “from God” (ἀ πὸ θεοῦ) in the relative clause which evidently refers back to “of Him” (ἐξ αὐτοῦτοῦ) and imparts to the thought additional emphasis32 by repetition. In relation to the truth conveyed see John 6:44; John 6:37; John 6:65. The preference accordingly is to be given to the second construction. In this way, on the one hand, we preserve the Pauline expression “to be in Christ,” and avoid one which never elsewhere occurs—ἐκ θεοῦ εἶναι: “to be from God.” By this explanation we would be compelled to refer ἐν κυρίῳ: “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31), to God and not to Christ, contrary to Pauline usage. But this need present no difficulty, singe these words in 1 Corinthians 1:31 are not Paul’s, but a citation from the Old Testament.—Who was made wisdom unto us from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption.33—Here we have the rich treasure of blessings contained for us in Christ all laid open, revealing the largeness of our indebtedness to God, for what of real worth we have and are. “From God” is not to be connected with “wisdom” as indicating the source whence it came, but with “was made” as showing the author of the act. (ἐγενήθη, a later Doric form for ἐγένετο, not passive). This is the order of thought presented in the German [as well as in the English] version. The fact that Christ has been made to us “wisdom” depends on God; and not only “wisdom,” but also the other particulars specified. Observe, too, he here passes over into the first person plural, “unto us,” including therein himself as he frequently does elsewhere when specially moved by a sense of his fellowship with his readers in the salvation of Christ. The position of “wisdom,” coming in as it does before the words “unto us from God,” and thus separated from the remaining predicates, is not to be explained on the ground that “wisdom” is the leading thought to which the others are subordinated. Such a construction is neither called for by the τε καί, which only serves to connect “righteousness” and “sanctification” a little more closely, nor by the nature of the conceptions expressed by the other terms, which designate rather coördinate aspects of the one great scheme of salvation entirely distinct from wisdom, and therefore not capable of being included under it. Rather we may say that in consequence of the course of thought thus far pursued, the idea of “wisdom” pressed foremost upon his mind, and so came in where it did; or that he put the qualifying word common to the several members of the sentence right in among them as a word of connection (Osiander.) It is natural to look for some antithesis to what precedes in these four specifications, “wisdom,” etc. But it can only be called a mistake in Bengel when he attempts to find a contrast, as in “wisdom” to “the foolish things;” so also in “righteousness” to “the weak things,” in “sanctification” to “the base things,” and in “redemption” to “the despised things.”34—When it is affirmed that “Christ was made to us wisdom,” by this we are to understand that in Him, in His person, the fulness of which was unfolded in His history, the mystery of the Divine plan of salvation has been disclosed, and with this an insight been afforded us into the dispensations and judgments of God, and we are enabled to recognize and lay hold upon that which shall conduct us to the goal of our noblest longings (comp. 1 Corinthians 2:7 ff.; Colossians 1:9 ff.; Colossians 1:26 ff.; Colossians 3:2; Colossians 3:10; Philippians 1:9 ff.; Ephesians 5:8 ff. etc.). As closely related ideas, “righeousness” and “sanctification” are so joined as to form a distinct whole: δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμός. The first reminds us of 2 Corinthians 5:21—“that we might be made the righteousness of God in him;” and of Jeremiah 23:5—“The Lord our righteousness;” and also of the saying of Christ himself in Matthew 3:15, as well as of Acts 13:38; Isaiah 53:11; Galatians 2:16-17; Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21 ff. In the language of Holy Writ righteousness denotes that conduct which comports with the law of God or the disposition suitable to it. This existed in Christ in absolute perfection; and it existed in Him as the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:4; 1 Corinthians 15:7), the son of man, the head representing the whole body, and in behalf of the entire sinful race, whose obligations to the law He had fulfilled by a life of perfect obedience, and whose debt to justice He has cancelled by submiting to the penalty threatened upon sin in a voluntary sacrifice of Himself even unto death, thereby complying with the behests of the Father and revealing His holy and compassionate love towards the fallen. In this way has He become righteousness for us, that we may be counted righteous before God and enter into the possession of the rights and privileges which belong to this state of righteousness—that is, be adopted into the Divine family. This, regarded as an act of God, is expressed by the terms δικαιοῦν δικαίωσις: to justify, justification; and the pardon of sin, as the negative side of justification, includes also, for its corresponding positive side, God’s cordial acceptance of us as pleasing in His sight. But in this judicial portion of Christ’s redeeming work there lies also, at the same time, an element of moral change—of sanctification (ἁγιαςμός), and the intimate connection between these two things is expressed by the τε καί. (“In this conjunction there is implied at once distinction and equality, an intimation of similarity, as though the one were consequent upon the other.” Osiander. In order that the relation to God, in which our justification places us, may be subjectively sustained, so that we may say “the judgment of God is according to truth,” there must be an inward connection between the Head and the members who participated in the righteousness of their Head. This connection is effected by the love of Christ awakening faith in us. This love at once destroys in the subject of it all disposition to live for himself, as the moving spring of his existence, all ambitious aspiring, and transports him into a state of mind that leads him to live and to become every thing in Christ alone. And this is faith, humble, earnest faith, that works in us repentance as its result. In this emancipation of the individual from the thraldom of selfishness (an emancipation which is at the same time a deliverance from every thing to which selfishness binds us, even the idols of flesh and sense, and the world), and in this union to Christ as the sole worthy and worth-giving Saviour, lies the germ of our “sanctification.” By this we understand becoming godly-minded—the consecration of our whole life in all its elements unto God—the offering up of self unto the Most High, so that all labor becomes a Divine service, the springs of which are joy in the Lord and the witness of the Spirit to our adoption and final salvation. This ἁγιασμόζ: holiness, may be regarded either as progressive—sanctification, or as a fixed quality—sanctity. The latter is the prevailing usage in the New Testament (Romans 6:19-22; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 12:14 etc.). It is to be so taken here. In reference to the thing itself see John 17:19, and the juxtaposition of “ye are justified” and “ye are sanctified” in 1 Corinthians 6:11. But while all are agreed as to the meaning of these foregoing terms as a whole, it is not so in regard to the last one, “and redemption” (ἀπολύτρωσις). Are we (with Meyer) to take this as denoting the work of Christ through which our salvation is achieved (as in Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7), so that it is for us an object of faith? or (according to the Catholic expositors) as our final deliverance from death and all the evils and temptations of sin (as in Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14), and so as an object of hope? The latter interpretation corresponds better with the position of the word, since it will hardly do, after having mentioned “righteousness and sanctification,” to go back again to the negative idea of deliverance from guilt, which is already involved in the term righteousness. On the other hand, its position renders the addition of any explanatory term like that found in Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30, unnecessary. Comp. for a fuller development of the thought Romans 8:10-11; Romans 8:21-24.—Here then is the final stage of our salvation a deliverance from the bondage of corruption unto the glorious liberty of the sons of God. That in this, as well as in the foregoing instances, Christ exhibits himself as the “power of God” victorious over the power of sin and its terrible consequence, death, is a proximate thought, so that here again those two chief predicates, “wisdom and power,” recur to view, only the second with greater prominence. But in the case of “sanctification,” as well as of “redemption,” it is implied that Christ is in Himself what He has become for us; that He in all His life and walk was entirely severed from all fellowship with sin and wholly consecrated to God, i.e. holy, and as such was the principle of our sanctification; that He arose victorious from the grave and the whole realm of sin, and at once ascended up on high, exalted over all, and as such carries in Himself the power by which our redemption is to be achieved. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:26; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Ephesians 2:6).
1 Corinthians 1:31. The final cause of the peculiar method of God’s call and the plan of His salvation by the free gift of an all-sufficient Saviour.—In order that, according as it is written, he that boasteth, in the Lord let him boast.—Here is where the argument conducts us. There must be a boasting, a glorying; not, however, in oneself before God, but in God as the author of all our advantages and blessings. And this boasting is the expression of a lofty emotion of joy and confidence. If by the term “Lord” Christ were meant, it should be explained as an exultation in His fellowship, in possessing a share in His salvation. But the relation to 1 Corinthians 1:29 points rather to God, the original source of all salvation. And such an application would not militate against Paul’s usage, because, as has already been remarked, the passage is a citation from the Old Testament (Jeremiah 9:23), particular prominence being given to the chief thought by holding fast to the original form. Hence the anacoluthon, ἵνα—καυχάθω, instead of καυχᾶται. If anything were to be supplied it would be γένηται. For a similar case see Romans 15:3.
DOGMATICAL AND ETHICAL
1. God’s thoughts and ways entirely unlike those of the natural man.—What is great and glorious in the sight of men, God sets at naught. What men slight as mean and contemptible, God prizes, or makes it precious. Man’s propensity is to exalt himself, and hold in honor whatever is the product of his own powers and bears the mark of mental or physical superiority, or can be used to personal advantage, or is of noble origin, while he treats all that is crude and powerless and vulgar, just as if it had no existence. God, on the other hand, in His work of redeeming vain man, especially at its very commencement, proceeds on methods quite the reverse. Here we see the Son of the Highest, who is in the form of God, the Fulness of Divine life and wisdom and power, and, as the perfect image of the Father, is infinitely exalted above the most eminent of created beings, yea, is the very substance and vital principle of all the excellence and power which these beings possess—we see Him emptying Himself of His glory, entering into a state of creaturely dependence, assuming the form of a servant, coming into association with a sinful race although Himself sinless, bearing in holy sympathy all their burdens and trials on His own heart, and sharing in their condemnation and suffering and death, even to the ignominious death of the cross. Thus, at the very start, did Divine Power and Wisdom and Holiness exhibit themselves as weakness, foolishness and sin; Life and Light, as death and darkness; Riches inexhaustible, as deepest poverty; the All in All, as nothing; Essential Being, as not being. Thus in His fundamental act did God confront and confound the vain conceit of men who aspired to resemble Him in power, wisdom and blessedness. And this initial procedure has shaped the whole method of salvation ordained in the Gospel. As the condition of pardon and acceptance God requires of men the absolute renunciation of their own wisdom, power and sufficiency, and a disposition to ascribe all honor and glory unto God, who has thus manifested Himself to them in Christ, and to regard His workmanship in them as alone possessing worth. But since this requirement is exceedingly difficult for such as have distinction in this world, it happens that among the saved there are found not many wise, mighty and noble; but the Divine calling proves effectual rather in the sphere of the rude, the weak, the ignoble and the lowly, inasmuch as it is among these that the disposition to accept salvation exists in the highest degree or is most readily awakened. Thus it cometh to pass that while the wise and the noble and the mighty of earth are passed by and deemed unfit for heavenly honors, the foolish are lifted up into the light of Divine wisdom, the weak are clothed with Divine power, the ignoble are invested with the highest nobility, those who are as if they were not, attain consideration as the only real personages, and by the contrast the pomp and pride of earth are put to shame. The reason of this is that there may be no boasting before God. To this there is the opposite.
2. Unto God the Lord be all glory—He is the author of all benefits which come to us through Christ, and as He is the author so is He their final cause. Of Him and to Him are all things.
And these benefits appertain to all the aspects and relations of man’s being and life as connected with God and His kingdom, viz. the intellectual, the legal, the moral and the physical. First, Wisdom. This in its highest form is the knowledge of God, and such a knowledge we have imparted in the revelation of His Gospel—a knowledge of His character, His works and ways, of the economy of His kingdom in its preparation, establishment, spread and final consummation, by means of which the thoughtful spirit may be led to choose the way of life, and to advance from the first appropriation of salvation in faith on to its full fruition in glory. Of this wisdom Christ is made to us the substance and the illuminating principle. The second is Righteousness, i. e., restoration of fellowship with God by the satisfaction of all the law’s demand, and the cancelling of all obligations incurred, so that the sinner can on this ground, be accounted righteous in the sight of God, and be reinstated in his forfeited rights, and have free access to the Father as one of His family. This righteousness Christ has been made unto us by His having fulfilled all the claims of the law, both in doing and in suffering, both by yielding a perfect obedience and by assuming the curse out of His free, infinite love, so that we, being found in Him, may be made partakers of His merits. The third, inseparably connected with the preceding, is the Sanctification of human life in all its inward and outward movements so far as they are determined by man’s own will. This is effected by the shedding abroad of the love of God in the heart through the indwelling Spirit, who, consequent upon the work of Christ, comes to appropriate to us His righteousness and to assure us of his pardoning grace. And when, notwithstanding all past sins, we become thoroughly conscious of this love to us, there is awakened in our souls a love in return which shows itself in perfect confidence and in entire devotion to God, and in the utter renunciation of all selfish and worldly affections. And this is holiness. But this holiness perfects itself gradually, in the daily exercise of repentance and faith, and love more and more takes possession of the whole life to the complete regulation of all our faculties and relations, so far as they can be determined by it. And this Christ is made, unto us by virtue of His holiness passing over into our hearts through the Holy Ghost, whom He hath given unto us, and who transforms us into a likeness to His all-perfect character. Finally, Redemption.—This is the destruction of all our enemies, even to the last, which is death, so that not only is the spirit life because of righteousness, but God, who hath raised from the dead the Lord Jesus Christ, will quicken our mortal bodies through the Spirit that dwelleth in us. Thus is man, in respect to his entire organism, delivered from the bondage of corruption, and introduced into the glorious liberty of the children of God. And all this is done through the power and after the type of Christ, who, Himself victor over death, has become the principle of life eternal for all who believe in Him. As they die with Him, so also will they reign with Him. In this that profound saying is fulfilled, that corporeity is the end of the ways of God; in other words, that the deliverance of our whole organization from the ban of death, and our introduction into the fulness and power of an indestructible life is the consummation of God’s work of restoring fallen man; a work which was begun in his deliverance from the Condemnation of sin. Short and good, Olearius: Christus est sapientia in verbo, quoad doctrinam, justibia in merito, quoad fidem; sanctificatio in spiritu, quoad vitam; redemptio in novissimo adventu, quoad salutem æternam.
3. [The efficiency of faith in the matter of salvation.—This consists not in any virtue or meritoriousness of the act itself but in the fulness of blessings contained in the Being whom it appropriates or to whom it unites us. It enlightens because it lets in the light of Christ’s wisdom; it justifies because it appropriates the righteousness of Christ; it sanctifies because it puts us into fellowship with Christ’s holy life, and it proves our victory over death and the grave by associating us with Him who, as the Captain of our salvation, has proved himself the mighty conqueror. Thus while the wisdom and the power of this world are limited by the weakness and imperfection of human faculties, faith proves its superiority over both by taking to itself the fulness of Him who filleth all in all.]
4. [Christ cannot be divided in the benefits accruing from Him. We cannot have Him for our wisdom or for our righteousness without at the same time having Him for our sanctification and our redemption. The lack of any one of these benefits proves the absence of them all.—Christ is a perfect whole, and His work a perfect whole, and to be accepted at all He must be accepted as a whole.]
5. [The surpassing excellence of God’s method of salvation is seen in the fact that he presents to us not a dead system of doctrines nor lifeless instrumentalities to be acquired and improved by us, but a living agency, a person, infinite, ever-present, ever-active, all-wise, all-powerful, all-good, who acts upon us while we act on Him, and saves us by an efficiency of his own.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. [The method of preaching the Gospel must be adapted to the nature of the Divine calling.—1. As to the subjects thereof. The preaching should be of such a kind, and be set forth in such a manner, as to reach the poor, the illiterate and the weak. One sign that the kingdom of God has come is that the poor have the Gospel preached unto them. As it was in the beginning so must it still be. God’s calling has not changed its nature. But in thus suiting the Gospel to the humble, we are not to set aside the noble and learned as though excluded from salvation. At the manger in Bethlehem the worship of the shepherds was followed by the worship of the wise men from the East; among the disciples there was a Joseph of Arimathea; the vacancy in the Apostleship made by the fall of Judas was filled by a Paul; among the converts at Corinth, was Erastus the chamberlain and the wealthy Gaius. 2. As to the ends it has in view, viz: the humbling of man’s pride and the promoting of God’s glory.—The aim at such an end must be seen in the style and manner of the preacher himself and in the effects which he seeks to produce. 3. As to its contents.—This must be Christ in all His fulness and in His manifold adaptations to the wants of the sinner; Christ Himself, not a system of doctrines, nor a code of precepts, but the living person.]
2. The reason why not many wise are called. 1. Not because God puts contempt on human wisdom, on rank or fortune, or upon man’s natural faculties and powers, for these are His gifts and were designed for good, 2, but on account of men’s guilt. They abuse these gifts into an occasion for withdrawing themselves from the grace of God, and setting up for themselves to the darkening of their own understandings and the ruin of all their own interests through their weakness and insufficiency. Spener in Starke.
3. Three classes of persons, the wise, the strong and the noble, are the special foes of God’s kingdom, partly because they think that God’s grace detracts from their power and consequence, and partly because they imagine themselves to be already in a blessed condition (John 9:39-41). Starke.
4. The fact that a majority of its professors at first were of humble rank redounds to the honor of Christianity. From this it is seen: 1. That it esteems all men alike. 2. That it owes its rise and spread not to human might and art, but to God. 3. That it requires not learning but an honest heart that is anxious for its own salvation.—A miserable hull often conceals a precious kernel. Heubner.
5. The obligations which spring from these truths.—The poor and needy owe Christianity their profoundest gratitude for being so honored by it. [At the same time they must be careful not to arrogate any superiority in the sight of God over those who are above them in learning or birth or ability. Pride in ignorance and meanness is no less abominable in the sight of God than pride in greatness, wealth and learning.] On the contrary, the rich and the noble have occasion to humble themselves. Christianity owes them nothing, and they should be mindful of the danger of being beguiled from it.
6. The proud and self-sufficient must be humbled.—The Saviour did not become the Son of David until the princely glory of David’s house had departed and his descendants had come to the saw-horse. This was to show that the loftiness of this world must be brought low, if it would enter the kingdom of God. [The heights of earthly promotion and glory lift us no whit nearer Heaven.—It is easier to step there from the lowly vale of humiliation and sorrow.] God’s kingdom is a cross-kingdom. Gossner.
7. Cheer for the lowly.—What the world rejects that God lifts up and transforms into a sanctuary. Art thou small and despicable in the sight of men, rejoice at it and consider that God looks down especially upon thee (Psalms 113:6-8; Psalms 138:6).
8. Instruction for the high.—To God belongs all the glory. If then God is to display his power in thee and make something out of thee, thou must consent to become as nothing. Everything in Christianity turns upon this one quality of humility. The blessedness of the children of God is that they possess nothing, the glory of which does not belong to God.
9. What incomparable riches in Christ!—Believest thou in Him? Then thou possessest Him. Let earth’s trifles pass. Thou hast Christ, and with Him thou hast all things.—He is thine in all his offices.—As a Prophet, he is our wisdom; as High-Priest, he is our righteousness; as King, he is our sanctification; and in all three offices, he is our complete redemption. Hedieger.
10. J. Spencer. 1 Corinthians 1:21. The superiority of Christianity over human science, on the subject of religion. I. Demonstrated as to a. a future state; b. Human duty; c. The character of God; d. The pardon of the sinners. II. Application; a. Guard against a so-called philosophical style of reasoning; b. Cling to the great distinctive doctrines of the Gospel; c. Prize the pure Gospel; d. Heedlessness of sinners, strange. J. Barrow. 1 Corinthians 1:23. The doctrine of the Gospel—the doctrine of the cross. 1. As a suffering—in appearance criminal. 2. As most bitter and painful. 3. As most ignominious and shameful. 4. As agreeable and advantageous to the intents of the passion. 5. As completory of ancient significations and predictions. 6. As apt to excite devotion, and enforce the practice of duty. H. Bushnell. 1 Corinthians 1:23. The power of God in self-sacrifice. I. God is morally passible; a part of His glory is to be compassionate. II. This compassion exhibited in Christ’s passion on the cross. III. The power of it as seen in the effect it has to subdue enmity. It conquers evil by enduring evil.—C. H. Spurgeon. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24. Christ crucified. I. The Gospel rejected. II. The Gospel accepted. III. The Gospel admired. Anonymous. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. The Christian calling. I. Its nature; a. Not many mighty, wise and noble; but b. The foolish, the weak, the base, are called. II. The reason: a. Not that God is unwilling that the great, and wise, and noble should be saved; but b. Because the foolish, the weak, the base, are more ready to feel their need and accept grace; and c. that the glory of God may be the more signalized. III. In its bearings; a. Shows us the perilous position of the mighty, and noble, and wise; they are in danger of being passed by and confounded; b. Teaches us not to disparage the foolish, the weak and the base; c. The foolish, the weak and the base are not to be proud against the opposite class, as though any better in God’s sight; d. The true preparation for God’s kingdom is an entire emptying of self; e. The purport of the calling, the glory of God.—Jon. Edwards. 1 Corinthians 1:29-31. God glorified in man’s dependence. I. This dependence absolute and universal; a. As they have all their good of God; a. of his grace; ß. of his power; b. As they have all through God; c. As they have all in God both their objective good and their subjective good. II. God is glorified in it. a. In that it affords greater occasion and obligation to take notice of and acknowledge God’s perfections and all-sufficiency; b. In that it is hereby demonstrated how great God’s glory is as compared with the creature’s. III. Use of the doctrine; a. It shows us God’s marvellous wisdom in the work of redemption; b. Those systems of doctrine, that are opposed to this absolute and universal dependence on God, do derogate from God’s glory, and so thwart the design of the contrivance for our redemption; c. We learn the efficiency of faith; d. Our duty is to exalt God above, and ascribe to Him all the glory of redemption. A. Butler, 1 Corinthians 1:30. Christ the source of all blessings.
1 Corinthians 1:28; 1 Corinthians 1:28.—The καὶ before τὰ μὴ ὄντα is not original. [“A mistaken supplement of the sense.”—Alf.]
1 Corinthians 1:29; 1 Corinthians 1:29.—Instead of the rec. αὐτοῦ the best authorities read τοῦ θεοῦ which is repeated by way of emphasis.
1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 1:30.—The best attested order of words is σοφία ἡμῖν . That in the Rec. ἡμῖν σοφία is to be explained from the tendency to take σοφία together in relation (Meyer). [See below].
[See also for a masterly analysis of the Ethical import of this word. Müller on Sin. 2 Book, 2 Chap. Also Sartorius, “Von der heiligen Liebe.”]
Whitby discovers an allusion in the above designations to the Jews and Gentiles. His observations are valuable. “The Jews looked upon themselves as the only ἐυγενεῖς, persons of true nobility, as being of the stock of Abraham. ‘Even the poorest Israelite,’ saith R. Akibah, ‘is to be looked upon as a gentleman, as being the son of Abraham, &c.;’ but the Gentiles they horribly despised, as the base people of the earth, not fit to be conversed with, they being styled in their law, οὐκἔδνος: not a nation; λαὸς ὁ τεχθήσομενος, a people that shall be born, Psalms 22:31; ὁ κτιζόμενος, that should be created in the generation to come, Psalms 102:19, and so yet had no being, Deuteronomy 31:21. οὑ λαὸς, not a people, Hosea 1:10; and it being said by the prophet, that all the Heathens are as nothing, and were accounted as nothing. Isaiah 40:17, they still account them as such. Hence, Mordecai prays, Lord, give not thy sceptre τοῖς μὴ οὖσι, to them that are not, Esther 4:11; and Esdras. As for the people which also came of Adam, thou hast said they are nothing. And now, O Lord, these Heathens who have ever been reputed as nothing, have begun to be lords over us. 2Es 6:56-57. Thus Abraham is said to be the father of the Gentiles, before that God who calleth things which are not as if they were, Romans 4:17 : and Clemens Rom. saith of the Gentiles, “He called us who were not, and would that of no being we should have a being.” So filthy are the Gentiles represented here by things that are not, things base, things accounted as nothing. See also 1 Corinthians 6:4. And this is the ancient exposition of Origen, who, speaking of the rejection of the Jews, or the calling of the Gentiles, and God’s provoking the Jews to jealousy by them that were not a nation, he confirms this from these words: “God hath chosen the base things of the world, and things which are not, that he might abolish the things which were before, that Israel, according to the flesh, might glory before God.” Philœal c.p. 3. Now, however much we may feel constrained to take these designations in question in their more natural and broader acceptation as above, it is very evident that they were derived from the Theocratic usus loquendi.]
A question might then arise: why ἐξ was not repeated and instead we have ἀπὸ. See below].
We have here given the exact order of the Greek in order to render the exposition more intelligible.]
We here insert the arguments in favor of the interpretation which Kling has simply set aside without refuting, and which seems worthy of consideration as best fitted to dispose of some of the difficulties under which his view labors—and also as fraught with valuable suggestions. This other interpretation has in its favor, that it takes in the thought as it flows upon the mind in the order of the words, “who is made unto us a wisdom from God—both righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” In a collocation of words so peculiar, it were natural to take the last three terms as an after thought exegetical of the main one—and such an addition was needed. Wisdom was what Paul had been disparaging throughout this section. But it was the wisdom of man. Now he glories in Christ as having been made unto us wisdom. It was necessary therefore to difference this from what he had been condemning. So he adds ἀπό θεοῦ—not ἐξ, as in the previous clause where he wishes to express the cause of an act; but ἀπό: from, denoting derivation, showing whence this wisdom came. It is no objection to this that the article τή is not mentioned before ἀπό, since the omission is quite in Paul’s style. Ephesians 3:13. (See Alf.: also 15). Then to characterize this wisdom, to exhibit its distinguishing peculiarities as practical and suited for man’s deepest deeds, instead of being merely speculative, he subjoins the three great points it contemplated. And here is where wisdom of the Gospel far surpasses that of secular philosophy. It gives him in Christ pardon, holiness, triumphant deliverance from woe to glory. Here then we find 1, an adequate reason for the order of the words; 2, not a repetition but a distinct thought in ἀπὸ θεοῦ, and so a reason for the change of preposition: 3, not a digression from the main course of thought as must be supposed in the other interpretation, which Stanley admits, but a glorious consummation of it, displaying the infinite superiority of the wisdom from God over all human Wisdom 4, an epexegesis quite in the manner of Paul. Romans 1:12. Since writing the above I see that the view above given is adopted, though not argued out, by Butler in his sermons on our text. It is substantiated also by the Syriac, Vul., and Rheims versions. Neander’s testimony may be added: “In these last three conceptions (righteousness, sanctification and redemption), there are presented to us the practical contents of the wisdom (from God), by which it is distinguished from the wisdom of to is world.”]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26