The Apostle openeth his Epistle after his usual Manner, with Salutations. He holds up Christ, and very blessedly speaks of his Cross.
(1) Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, (2) Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (3) Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Several very weighty and important things meet us at the very entrance on this scripture. Paul, though called by Jesus himself from darkness to light, would not have thought this a sufficient ordination to the ministry, had he not been called also by the Lord to be an Apostle. He, therefore, in the opening of his Epistle to the Corinthians, makes mention of his call to the Apostleship. He joins with himself, in proof of the humbleness of his mind, and his love to the brethren, Sosthenes, whom he calls brother. We have an account of a Sosthenes, Acts 18:17, at that time the chief ruler of the synagogue, If this be one and the same person, (which indeed seems probable, from being of the same place, Corinth,) it is likely, that since that period, he had been converted to the faith of the Gospel. But what I beg may be more particularly regarded by the Reader is, the special limitation which this Epistle hath to the Church at Corinth. Paul doth not write to the Corinthians, as Corinthians; neither to the men of Corinth as of a province or place; but to the Church of God then in Corinth. It is the Church, not the world. And this is most essentially necessary to be kept in view all along, and through every part of this, and all the Epistles. For to the inattention to this important point, is to be ascribed the gross perversion and misapplication of certain passages here and there scattered over the Apostolic writings, in considering them as of general meaning, when most evidently they belong, in special reference, only to the Church of God, as for example. In this very Epistle, 1 Corinthians 15:22, the Apostle saith, For us in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. And no truth can be more firm, and certain, and sure, when applied to the faithful in Christ Jesus. For, as the Church, as well is the world, is involved in the common death with all mankind, by reason of sin; so by virtue of the Church's union with Christ, the church becomes equally interested in the life, which is in, and by Christ Jesus. But what hath this to do with the unregenerate and such as have no union with Christ Jesus? There must be an union with Christ, before we can have communion with Christ. The Church, as well as the world, prove our union with Adam, by reason of sin, and as such partake alike in death, which is the sure consequence of sin. And, if we can equally prove our union with Christ by regeneration, as we do our oneness with Adam by generation; then, and not else, we take to ourselves the blessedness of this scripture: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But without this testimony, we have no part nor lot in the matter. I beg that this may be specially noticed by the Reader, according to its vast importance, not only in this place, but through the whole of the Apostolic writings. It is to the Church Paul writes. And it is of the Church, when speaking of privileges in Christ, Paul speaks.
But, we must not stop here. The Church is said to be sanctified in Christ Jesus. What sanctification means, is elsewhere shewn, particularly by Jude, when he saith, sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called, Jude 1:1. The Church of God in Christ hath been sanctified, set apart, chosen, and ordained by God the Father before the foundation of the world; and these acts of God the Father in his blessed covenant-offices, included all that related to the Church, during the whole time-state of the Church, until grace is swallowed up in glory. So that Christ is made, (as the close of this very chapter expresseth it,) of God to the Church, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: 1 Corinthians 1:30. See also 1 Corinthians 6:11. And what a blessed and comprehensive view doth this sanctification in Christ Jesus carry with it, through all the departments of the Church, from before the world, through the whole period of time, in, and through the whole eternal world, to which the Church is hastening?
One word more. The Apostle saith, Called to be saints. Yes! For before this call, the Church, though sanctified by God the Father, and betrothed to God the Son, yet being born in the Adam-nature of a sinful, fallen state, is in that state of sin, and must be called out of this state of nature to a state of grace, by the regenerating power of God the Holy Ghost. And until this is done, the Church is not brought into her high privileges, but in every individual instance of Christ's mystical body, is living without God, and without Christ in the world. But, when this sovereign act of God the Holy Ghost hath passed upon the soul of a poor sinner, and the Lord the Spirit hath quickened one of Christ's little ones, whom God the Father had chosen to holiness in Christ before the world began, and whose redemption Christ in the time-state of the Church had purchased with his blood; then is the child of God called with an holy calling, and from an unholy sinner is made an holy saint in Christ, and translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son, Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9. And this blessed state to which the Church is called, (as the Reader it is to be hoped will perceive,) becomes everlastingly safe and secure, being the joint work, and proceeding from the joint love, purpose, and will, of the whole Persons of the Godhead. And, therefore, the Apostle adds, that it is not to the Church of God which is in Corinth only, but to all Christ's church, and to every individual member of that Church in every place, who call upon Christ, the common glorious Head of his whole Church in heaven and in earth. A sweet intimation by the way, (and let not the Reader overlook it,) of the eternal power and Godhead of Christ! For the calling upon the Lord Jehovah, was made by the Prophet the token of salvation, in the great and terrible day of the Lord). And the Apostle not only in this place, but elsewhere, applies this to Christ. Compare Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:12-13. And such is the Church of Christ. And to such, and such only, Paul sends this Epistle, both theirs, the Church at Corinth, and ours, all Christ's Church in every place, to whom the Apostle sends his usual benediction of grace and peace, which includes the whole blessings of the Covenant from all the Persons of the Godhead. So much for the introduction of this beautiful Epistle of Paul, wrote to the Church by his pen, under the immediate dictation of God the Holy Ghost. And I have been the more particular in the introduction of it, that the Reader might not only see, that it is addressed to the Church of Christ, with special reference to the Church, and not to the world; but also, how that Church is known by those blessed marks in those, who in every place as well as Corinth, call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
(4) I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; (5) That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; (6) Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: (7) So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (8) Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (9) God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
What is here said is so plain; as to need no comment; and so very blessed, as when opened to the soul of the regenerate by the Holy Ghost, as to need no other endearment. Let the Reader look at it again and again, for it will bear reading every day. Observe how the very heart of Paul is going forth in love to the Church, while blessing God on their account. His very soul seems to be moved in him, as well it might, that in such a place as Corinth, Christ had a Church. And, observe, how the Apostle expresseth himself on the occasion. I thank my God, said he, always on your behalf. And, observe, how he dwells upon the cause of his thanksgiving. It was not for their numbers, among those that professed a belief in Christ, in Corinth. There might be many there, as it is to be feared is, and hath been in all ages of the Church elsewhere, who professed to love Christ, on whom no change by grace had been wrought. It is not the largeness of a congregation which implies soul prosperity. Great leanness is sometimes found amidst fat pastures of ordinances. Paul did not thank his God and Savior because they were many, but for the grace of God which was given them, and for their being enriched by the Lord, and for the testimony of Christ being confirmed in them. Reader! look into your own soul for these things, for it is by these, (and not by outward things,) men live, and in these is the life of the soul. And I pray the Reader not to overlook in this sweet and precious paragraph, how blessedly Paul speaks of God's faithfulness, and the Church's everlasting safety in him. Oh! what a soul ravishing thought it is, that He who hath called the whole body the Church to an union, and oneness, and fellowship with Christ in grace here, gives an earnest and pledge thereby, of the everlasting continuance of that interest, in all Christ's communicable glory hereafter. Reader! take it for your daily motto, and wear it in your heart from day to day; God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The Reader will pardon me; I hope, if I call upon hint before he dismisseth this part of the Chapter we have gone over, to take notice with me, how sweetly Paul dwells upon the name of his adorable Lord. No less than ten times, in the first ten verses of this chapter, hath he written his lovely name? He seems to hang upon it, as the bee upon some sweet flower, where the little creature finds so much food for honey, that though he is so laden with what he hath, that he can scarcely fly, yet so much remains, he cannot go away, So Paul dwelt upon the very name of the Lord Jesus. And, Reader! allow me to add, that such would be the love of every child of God, had we the same knowledge as Paul had. Let you and I, above all things, seek from the Lord a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him! See Paul's prayer for the Church, Ephesians 1:15 to the end.
(10) Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (11) For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. (12) Now this I say, that everyone of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. (13) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (14) I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; (15) Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. (16) And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. (17) For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
I would rather seek for grace from God the Spirit, to improve what the Apostle here observed on the contentions which brake out in the Corinthian Church, in relation to the present infirmities of the Lord's people, than enter into an enquiry of what nature those contentions were. Certain it is, that the purest Churches have their spots, and too often, from the imperfection of all things here below, the Lord's children fall out by the way. Instead of entering into the discussion, whether those divisions are about infant or adult baptism, kneeling or sitting in services, partiality to ministers, or forms of worship; I would beg the Reader to observe with me, the method Paul took to heal those quarrels. Paul did I say? not so, it is not Paul but God the Holy Ghost who speaks by Paul. His is the office to glorify Christ, and here he hath done it most blessedly. All that is done, or can be done to bless the Church, to heal divisions, and to unite the whole body in love, can only be in Christ, the glorious Head from whom all grace flows, and in whom all blessings are found. And where faith in Christ is in true lively actings upon his Person, blood, and righteousness, there will be found a common principle knitting and uniting the whole body together. It is worthy our closest observation, that in that sweet recommendatory prayer of the Lord Jesus, in which before his death, the Lord committed the whole body the Church into his Father's hands to keep, and from whom Jesus had received it; this formed a most earnest part, and for which the Lord again and again repeated his desire, that his Church might be kept in sweet concord and union. Holy Father, (said Jesus,) keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are. And the Lord puts up again the same request three times more in the after part of the same chapter, John 17:11; Joh_17:21-23. And it is truly blessed to observe, how the Apostles of this divine Lord, followed the same steps in praying for, and earnestly studying to accomplish the unity of the Church. See Romans 15:5-6; Philippians 2:1-2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 4:7-12.
(18) For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence.
Never, surely, could the Apostle have chosen a more happy form of words to describe the vast difference between the divine wisdom of the Lord, as manifested in the salvation of the Church in Christ, and what is called the wisdom of the world, which uniformly rejects and despiseth it. And we see it every day. If these words of Paul had been written but yesterday, they could not more strikingly set forth the different characters of the christless, despising salvation by the cross; and the precious souls, who taught of God, receive it with open arms, knowing it by heartfelt experience, to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth.
Reader! this is one among the many of the believer's evidences to the truth of the Gospel. Fond as some men are, that all the world should be believers; the child of God would lose a very striking testimony if it were so. There must be heresies among you, (said one that could not be mistaken,) that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Corinthians 11:19. Never must, never can, the offence of the cross cease. The children of the bondwoman will always hate the doctrine of the cross. The pride of the human heart, the self-righteousness of corrupt, unhumbled nature, will always revolt at it. And, while the thing itself is the wisdom of God, the wonder of angels, and the everlasting joy of the redeemed, both in heaven and earth; to them that perish it appears foolishness, and they perish in their foolishness, And to all such, the word of God speaks: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish! for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you! Acts 13:41.
Reader! what a distinguishing mercy it is to be made wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus? And we may see, and indeed we do see every day, under every ordinance where Christ is faithfully and fully preached, in the glories of his Person, and the compleatness of his finished salvation, as the whole of Jehovah's purpose of grace, for the recovery of his Church and people, and where those who have been taught to feel and know the plague of their own heart; Christ becomes the all in all, and their whole souls are melted into holy joy, adoration, love, and praise; we behold no less, the wise in their own eyes, and the prudent in their own conceit, turning with the most bitter looks of hatred against the doctrine of the cross, and rejecting the counsel of God against their own souls. Christ becomes a stumbling block and a rock of offence, as much now, as to the Jews of old. So the Lord declared by his servants the Prophets it should be; and the Lord be praised, that he hath not left himself without witness: Isaiah 29:14 and Isaiah 33:18. Precious Jesus, I would say, how sweet thy words to my soul, Blessed is he whomsoever shall not be offended in me! Matthew 11:6.
By the expressions, the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God stronger than men, we are not to understand, as if it implied either foolishness or weakness in God. But the sense is, that what the carnal and ungodly in their dim sighted view consider folly and weakness of Christ, and salvation by his cross, is higher in wisdom, and greater in power than all that human knowledge can conceive. So that what men call foolishness, is, in God's esteem, a rich manifestation of his wisdom and power, in conquering sin, death, hell, and the grave, by the very means, which to human wisdom appears the most unlikely and improbable; by Christ's death overcoming death, and by his rising to life again, opening a way to his people to everlasting life. And herein was demonstrated the highest wisdom and power of God. Wisdom, in contriving, and power in accomplishing, by such unheard of unthought of ways; the recovery of the Church from the Adam fall of nature; punishing sin, and yet pardoning the sinner; taking judgment on the surety, and liberating the principal; bringing praise to God from salvation, and overruling sin, which tends to dishonour the Lord; the very means of bringing forth a greater revenue of glory, in, and by, the Person, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and everlasting reign of grace here, and glory hereafter, of God's dear Son. Surely, every heart which knows the blessedness of these precious things, will join the Apostle, and say, however, to them that perish all is foolishness; yet to us which are saved, Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God!
I must not allow the Reader's attention to pass away from this most interesting view, which God, by the Holy Ghost, hath given of the cross of Christ, as the power of God, and the wisdom of God; before that I have first called upon him to remark with me, what is also said of the Lord's distinguishing grace in the holy calling. Every part of the Bible, indeed, is full to the same, for the whole is of electing love, from beginning to end. But here, the Lord the Spirit more especially calls upon the Church to notice it. The brethren, partaker's of the heavenly calling, are directed to behold it. And, while they are commanded to observe, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; they are no less taught from their own circumstances, to consider, that in their call, it was grace manifested to the foolish, and to the weak, and to the base things of the world. And, Reader! I beseech you to pause, and pass not away for a moment from the consideration of the Church of Corinth in those days, in which Paul sent this Epistle, and take home the same doctrine now, for it equally holds good in all ages of the Church. We have reason to bless God, that while he saith, not many are called from among the great, and noble, and wise men of the earth, that the Lord did not, say, not any. For, though but few, yet there have been some. In the days of Christ himself, we find Joseph, an honorable counselor, and Nicodemus among the rulers of the Jews. But, indeed, for the most part, we find the Lord's people gathered from among the humbler walks in life, poor in worldly circumstances, as well as poor in spirit, made rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom. But it should be observed also, that the expressions here used by the Apostle, when he saith, that not many wise men, and mighty, and noble, are called, he adds to the term, not many wise men after the flesh; and the same after the flesh, is to be subjoined to the mighty and the noble. For their worldly wisdom, and their might, and their nobility, are all earthly. Not that wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation, neither that might which is founded in divine strength, neither that nobleness of soul which distinguisheth the Church of God. So, it like manner, the foolish things of the world, and the weak, and the base, which are Chosen, they are in worldly wisdom foolish, and it human policy weak, and in all their own attainments base and despised; but they are in spiritual things, both wise, and strong, and dignified. The Holy Ghost by Peter, calls them, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. And the Lord Jesus com mended John to write them to the Churches, as made kings and priests unto God and his Father: 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6. Reader! may it be your happiness and mine; through grace, to be enabled to enter into the proper apprehension of those words by the Apostle, when he saith, For ye see your calling, brethren!
(30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
I beseech the Reader to observe how blessedly Christ is here spoken of by the Holy Ghost, as made all these things to his people, and that by God himself. It is not only said, that Christ is the wisdom, and the righteousness, and the sanctification, and the redemption of his Church, but that God hath made him so. Here, indeed, is the blessedness of the whole. For, when God the Holy Ghost leads a poor sinner to God, in the perfections of Jesus; if it be demanded how, or by what authority, the poor self-condemned creature comes in another's perfections, and not his own? this is the answer: this is faith's warrant, Christ is made of God unto the soul these things. So that here is the authority in which all the Persons of the Godhead join. God the Holy Ghost, who regenerates the sinner, and makes him a new creature in Christ Jesus, leads him to the throne, in the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of Christ Jesus; and, taught of God the Spirit, the regenerated sinner pleads in Christ, and by Christ, on the footing of Christ's person and work, for acceptance before God, and in the covenant word, oath, and promise, of God the Father! And, how then can any soul fail of justification at the throne, who thus pleads God's grace, and Christ's righteousness, as the sole means of acceptance? Who doth not see all human glory tarnished, and divine grace praised, when as it is written, he that gloried, thus glorieth the Lord? Jeremiah 9:23-24.
Reader! pause a moment longer over these precious verses, for they are most precious. You, and I, are both by nature and by practice, so lost and fallen in the Adam-state of sin and corruption, that we are not only miserably blind and ignorant of our state by nature, but so utterly senseless of our ruin, that Until Christ, the sun of righteousness, arose on our benighted souls, so far were either of us from seeking redemption, we did not even know that we needed it. How blessed that Christ was made of God to us wisdom, to open to our view a sense of sin, and to make us wise unto salvation? But it would not have been enough to have made us sensible of our misery, and to have instructed us in the way of obtaining salvation by Christ out of it, had not the same Lord which taught us these precious things, taught us also, that He who made Christ to us wisdom, made him also our righteousness. Oh! the blessedness, when a child taught of God, can say, the Lord is my righteousness. But here again, a soul needed somewhat more. The child of God, though renewed in soul, is not renewed in body. The flesh lusteth against the spirit. I feel, I groan daily under a conscious sense of indwelling, inbred, corruptions. Oh! the grace, the mercy, when my Lord taught Me that Christ is made of God sanctification also, and He who justified me, as freely sanctifieth me. And, finally, to crown all, and to counteract all the exercises, which at any time sin or Satan, the world without, or fears within, might suggest; how blessedly doth this scripture come in to our aid, that Christ is not only wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, but redemption God's works, and not man's. God's providing, not our's. And He who gives the covering, puts it on. First gives a gracious acceptation to the persons of his people, in His dear Son; and then blesseth them with all spiritual blessings, in Christ; that they may be holy, and blameless before him, in love! Thanks! thanks be to God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ! 2 Corinthians 2:14.
READER! let you and I, as we enter upon the perusal of this inspired Book of God the Holy Ghost, first pause, and bless the Almighty Author of it for giving so sweet and precious a portion of his holy word to the Church. Oh! for grace, to be always watching the footsteps of God the Spirit, who hath been from the first formation of the Church, to the present hour, watching over it, watering it every moment, and keeping it, night and day. And, oh! for grace, while we bless God for giving to his Church some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; to keep always in view, that these are but instruments; it is the Lord himself is the Almighty Minister, presiding over his Church : for all these worketh that One and the self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally as he will! Lord! from thee, may my soul look for blessing, on thy servant's labors!
And Reader, let us also not lose sight of the Lord's distinguishing mercy, in this, and all the sacred, and inspired writings, sent to the Church. It is to Christ's Church, they are sent; not to the world. It is to them that are sanctified, as the opening of this Chapter shews, not to the unsanctified : to the called to be saints, not to them whose names are not written in the book of life. Oh! for grace here also, to watch the Lord's gracious regard to his Church.
And Reader! let you and I, as we go over the several beautiful, and soul-refreshing portions of this sweet Chapter, remark, the preciousness of Jesus in all, his Person, offices, relations, and characters, to his people; the blessed teachings of God the Spirit, in glorifying Christ Jesus to their view; and the faithfulness of God the Father, in calling his people to the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ. And, Oh! for sweet communion, and fellowship, with all the Persons of the Godhead, in, and through Christ, that amidst all the diversity of forms, and contentions of the several Churches, like Corinth; our souls may be found resting wholly on Christ. And while the fleshly wisdom, and pride of men of the world count Christ and his cross foolishness; we may know the Lord Jesus to be to us, the power of God, and the wisdom of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth. Thou hast indeed, 0 Lord, in the instance of all thy redeemed, chosen the weak and the foolish, yea, the base things, to confound the mighty; but the Lord's strength, is thereby made manifest, in creature weakness And we bless thee, our God, that as we have nothing, and are nothing in ourselves, yea, worse than nothing, by reason of ignorance, sin, and unholiness: Christ is made of God to us, all we need, for grace here, and glory hereafter. Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: and all our glorying is in the Lord!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany