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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 1

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother [Paul does not here call himself the slave of Christ as he afterwards did when he wrote to the Romans, for he now needed to assert the divinity of his apostleship because certain Judaizers had affirmed in Corinth that he was not divinely called, as were the twelve. See 1 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 12:12 . His apostleship was not the result of his own choice, nor yet the choice of any church, but of the will of God. Who Sosthenes was is not known. It is not unlikely that he was Paul’s amanuensis, as was Tertius (Romans 16:22). The speed with which the apostle uses the pronoun "I" (1 Corinthians 1:4) shows how little Sosthenes had to do with the Epistle. It is highly improbable that he is the same man mentioned at Acts 18:17],

Verse 2

unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours [All Christians are sanctified, i. e., set apart from the world and consecrated to God, and in the New Testament Scriptures they are all called saints, which means "holy ones" (Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 6:1-2; Ephesians 1:1; Ephesians 1:18; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2). Into this saintship they were called by the Holy Spirit through the agency of preachers like Paul and Apollos, etc. Unto the saints at Corinth, together with all others who showed themselves saints by calling upon or praying (Acts 7:51; Acts 9:14; Romans 10:3), in the name of Jesus, who is Lord over all Christians everywhere, Paul addresses his letter, and gives the greeting which follows in verse 3]:

Verse 3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [See note at 1 Thessalonians 1:1]

Verse 4

I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus;

Verse 5

that in everything [in every respect] ye were enriched in him, in all utterance [so that they were able to preach, teach, prophesy, and speak with tongues-- 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 2 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 11:6] and all knowledge [so that they had perception of doctrine, discerning of spirits, and interpretation of tongues];

Verse 6

even as the testimony of [about] Christ was confirmed in you [Paul here asserts that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit which characterized the times when he preached to them and converted them, were still equally manifest among them]:

Verse 7

so that [causing that] ye come behind [other churches] in no gift [or miracle-working power of the Spirit]; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ [Christ taught all his followers to be constantly ready for his coming, and the Corinthians were conforming to this rule];

Verse 8

who shall also confirm you [assuming that they earnestly desired and labored to be confirmed, or kept stedfast] unto the end [i. e., unto the coming of Christ], that ye be unreprovable [unimpeachable, because forgiven-- Colossians 1:22; 1 Timothy 3:10; Titus 1:6] in the day [judgment day] of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 9

God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. [The faithfulness of God insured that it would be no fault of his if the Corinthians failed to attain fellowship with Jesus; i. e., a close intimacy with him in the present, and an association with him in glory in the future. In these nine verses with which the apostle opens his Epistle he follows his usual course of putting his commendation before his reproof. But the quality of his commendation should be carefully noted. He praises them for their spiritual endowments, and not for their private virtues. There is no commendation for moral advance, as is accorded to the Thessalonians and Philippians. Moreover, he deftly concludes by noting how God had brought them into fellowship and union with Christ, that this unifying act of God might stand in sharp contrast with the schisms and factions into which they had divided themselves, and for which he is just now going to reprove them.]

Verse 10

Now I beseech you [a voice of entreaty], brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [a voice of authority, enforced by threatened judgment (1 Corinthians 4:21). In this Epistle Paul has already used the name of Jesus nine times, thus emphasizing its virtue before he uses it as the symbol of supreme authority: as Chrysostom says, "he nails them to this name"], that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. [The pride of Corinth showed itself largely in philosophical conceit, and the citizens who vaunted their superior intelligence were divided into sects, of whom Aristotle, Plato, Zeno, Epicurus, and later philosophers, were the heads. The church became inflated with this same intellectual vanity, and apparently sought to make Christianity the rival of philosophy by exalting her humble teachers to be heads of religio-philosophical sects, and rivals of Christ himself. As to this sinful condition the apstle gives an injunction, covering three points: 1. Unity of speech. 2. Unity of organization. 3. Unity of mind and judgment. They may be treated in their order as follows: 1. Paul first strikes at their speech, because then, as now, speculative discourses, philosophical dissertations, unscriptural reasonings, vapid dialectics for display’s sake, etc., had become a fruitful cause of division. It is this speculative, argumentative spirit which genders confessions and creeds. 2. He strikes next at the divisions themselves, as the finished, completed evil complained of. But the divisions which he censures were mere parties in the church, not sects disrupting it, nor organized denominations professing to be "branches of the church." These greater divisions, and hence greater evils, came centuries later. 3. He proposes unity of mind and judgment as the ideal condition--the condition in which he had left them, and to which he would now restore them. The "mind" represents the inner state, the "judgment" the outward exhibition of it in action. In all this, Paul bespeaks not a partial, but a perfect, unity. "Perfected together" is a very suggestive phrase. Perfection of knowledge brings unity of thought and action, but defective understanding results in division. If one body of men, therefore, grows in truth faster than another, the tardiness of the latter tends to divide. All should grow and be perfected together. Hence, it becomes the duty of the growing disciple to impart his knowledge, and the correlative duty of the ignorant disciple to freely receive it.]

Verse 11

For it hath been signified [made known] unto me concerning you, my brethren [as they indeed were, despite their shortcomings], by them that are of the household of Chloe [no doubt one of their number], that there are contentions among you.

Verse 12

Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

Verse 13

Is Christ divided? [the church is called the "body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 1 Corinthians 12:27), and Paul asks if that body can be cut in pieces and parceled out to human leaders] was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul? [Paul shows the disinterestedness of his rebuke by centering it more especially upon those who had honored him as their leader, thus showing, as Bengel says, that "he disliked Paulinists as much as he did Petrinists." Jesus became the Author of our salvation, and the head of the church through suffering upon the cross (Hebrews 2:10), and Paul, in order to be his rival, should not only have been crucified for his followers, but his sacrifice should have been as efficacious for the cleansing of sin and the procuring of salvation as was Christ’s. This was, of course, preposterous. Again, if Paul was incompetent as the head of a religious body, his followers also had not properly qualified themselves as his disciples, for they had not been baptized into Paul’s name, but being baptized into Christ they had put on Christ (Galatians 3:27), and, becoming thus members of Christ, how could they belong to Paul? What Paul thus spoke of himself could be said with equal force of either Apollos or Cephas.]

Verse 14

I thank God [who, foreseeing the future, prevented him from making such a mistake] that I baptized none of you, save Crispus [the ruler of the synagogue-- Acts 18:8] and Gaius [from whose house Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans-- Romans 16:23];

Verse 15

lest any man should say that ye were baptized into my name. [Paul knew that they would think it unreasonable that he should be accused of baptizing in his own name, but it was equally unreasonable in them to suppose that he was making disciples in his own name. Though many converts were made at Corinth, they appear to have been baptized by Paul’s assistants, Silas and Timothy, and the few whom he baptized with his own hand were no doubt converts made before Paul’s two friends arrived from Thessalonica. We should note how inseparably connected in Paul’s thought were the sacrifice of the cross and the baptism which makes us partakers in its benefits-- Romans 6:3-11]

Verse 16

And I baptized also the household of Stephanas [this man, being then present with Paul in Ephesus, probably reminded the apostle of his baptism]: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. [Inspiration did not make the apostle remember such matters.]

Verse 17

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. [A baptism is part of the commission (Matthew 28:19). Paul was sent to baptize; but it was not necessary that the apostle should administer the rite in person. It sufficed if he saw to it that it was done (John 4:2). Paul does not here mean to assert that he preached without study or forethought. His words must be construed in the light of the context; which show that he intends to deny that he encumbered the gospel message with any philosophical reasoning.]

Verse 18

For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. [From this point Paul proceeds to contrast the "words," or message of the cross, with the "wisdom of words," or worldly wisdom, i. e., the philosophical messages or schemes of men, of which he has just spoken; having particularly in mind those of the two leading classes; viz.: Greeks and Jews. He first notes that the word of the cross is differently viewed by two different classes; those who, whether as disciples of Greek philosophers or of Jewish scribes, have dulled their moral perception by following worldly wisdom, and leading a worldly, perishing life, look upon it as foolishness; while those who have quickened their apprehension by leading a godly life, look upon it as God’s saving power.]

Verse 19

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.

Verse 20

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? [triumphant questions, as at Isaiah 36:19] hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

Verse 21

For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. [Here Paul quotes Isaiah 24:14 to show that God had foretold how he would make foolish and useless all kinds of worldly wisdom, Grecian or Jewish, by making the gospel the only means of salvation, and how he had carried out the prophecy; for in his wisdom, or plan of operation, he had frustrated the efforts of wise men to find or know him by their coldblooded, philosophical research, or speculative reasoning (Acts 17:23), and showed that it was his good pleasure to reveal himself and his salvation through this (to them) foolish preaching, and save them who believe the preaching. Where, then, asked the apostle in triumph, are these men of worldly wisdom, be they scribes or philosophical dialecticians? What have they done in comparison with that gospel which reveals their efforts as foolish and useless? What place, then, has a wise Paul or a disputing Apollos in the church, which, having the gospel, has this superior, saving wisdom of God? and why should the Corinthians leave the leadership of God in Christ and return to fools?]

Verse 22

Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom:

Verse 23

but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness;

Verse 24

but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Verse 25

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. [The apostle here enlarges the thought of 1 Corinthians 1:18; and describes the two methods by which worldly wisdom sought to be led to God, or to know him when he revealed himself as he did in Christ. The Jews looked for him to prove his claims by miracles of power, such as signs from heaven (Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; John 2:18; John 4:48); and the Greeks required that he transcend all their philosophers before they gave him their allegiance. But God revealed himself in his crucified Son, and so was rejected by both classes of wiseacres, the one stumbling at a crucified Messiah, whom they regarded as an accursed one (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13), when they expected a regal and victorious Messiah (Romans 9:33; comp. Isaiah 8:4); the other, looking upon crucifixion as a slave’s death, regarded salvation by such a one as absurd. But believing Jews saw in Jesus a power of God far transcending all their dreams of an earthly Messiah, and believing Greeks found in him a divine wisdom higher than all their ideals of truth, goodness and holiness. Thus God vindicated his so-called foolishness as wiser than all man’s wisdom, and his so-called weakness in Christ as stronger than all the conceptions of an earthly Messiah--yet the Corinthians were leaving this transcendent sign and incarnate truth to return to their old worldly wisdom with its human leaders.]

Verse 26

For behold your calling [the "principle God has followed in calling you"--Beza; a principle whereby "God," as Augustine says, "caught orators by fishermen, not fishermen by orators"], brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called [The wise were moved by conceit to reject the gospel invitation: see the case of Gallio (Acts 18:12-17). The corruptness of Roman politics kept the mighty aloof from the purity of Christianity, and the pride of noble birth felt repugnance at the lowly fellowship of the early church. A brief catalogue will record all the distinguished names brought into the church during its first thirty years, viz.: Joseph of Arimathea, perhaps Nicodemus, Saul of Tarsus, Sergius Paulus and Dionysius the Areopagite]:

Verse 27

but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world [Psalms 8:2; John 2:5], that he might put to shame the things that are strong;

Verse 28

and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not [the people whom the world called "nobodies"], that he might bring to nought the things that are:

Verse 29

that no flesh [no minister or other instrument of his] should glory [take pride in himself, and aspire to be head of a faction] before God. [The Corinthians in endeavoring to exalt their leaders were running counter to the counsels of God, who had rejected as his instruments all those who had worldly wisdom and power, and had chosen those utterly deficient in those things, that the triumph of his gospel might be manifestly due to his own power, and not to any excellency residing in the instruments or ministers whom he chanced to employ-- 2 Corinthians 4:7]

Verse 30

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption:

Verse 31

that, according as it is written [Jeremiah 9:24], He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. [By the power of God, therefore, and not by the human wisdom of preachers, were the Corinthians brought into Christ, in whom they had found a wisdom of God superior to all worldly wisdom, and also the blessings of righteousness and sanctification and redemption, which no philosophy could obtain for them; so that every one who gloried in being a Christian was properly directed by the Scripture to glory in the Author of his salvation, and not in the humble nobody whom God had used as a messenger of grace. Glorying in men is even more sinful in us than it was in the Corinthians, for we have more light.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/1-corinthians-1.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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