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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 Corinthians 1

Verse 1

Called to be an apostle (κλητος αποστολοςklētos apostolos). Verbal adjective κλητοςklētos from καλεωkaleō without ειναιeinai to be. Literally, a called apostle (Romans 1:1), not so-called, but one whose apostleship is due not to himself or to men (Galatians 1:1), but to God, through the will of God (δια τεληματος του τεουdia thelēmatos tou theou). The intermediate (δια δυοdiaτελημαduo two) agent between Paul‘s not being Christ‘s apostle and becoming one was God‘s will (ο αδελποςthelēma something willed of God), God‘s command (1 Timothy 1:1). Paul knows that he is not one of the twelve apostles, but he is on a par with them because, like them, he is chosen by God. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus (MSS. vary here, later epistles usually Christ Jesus). The refusal of the Judaizers to recognize Paul as equal to the twelve made him the more careful to claim his position. Bengel sees here Paul‘s denial of mere human authority in his position and also of personal merit: Namque mentione Dei excluditur auctoramentum humanum, mentione Voluntatis Dei, meritum Pauli.

Our brother (ho adelphos). Literally, the brother, but regular Greek idiom for our brother. This Sosthenes, now with Paul in Ephesus, is probably the same Sosthenes who received the beating meant for Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:17). If so, the beating did him good for he is now a follower of Christ. He is in no sense a Corinthians-author of the Epistle, but merely associated with Paul because they knew him in Corinth. He may have been compelled by the Jews to leave Corinth when he, a ruler of the synagogue, became a Christian. See note on 1 Thessalonians 1:1 for the mention of Silas and Timothy in the salutation. Sosthenes could have been Paul‘s amanuensis for this letter, but there is no proof of it.

Verse 2

The church of God (τηι εκκλησιαι του τεουtēi ekklēsiāi tou theou). Belonging to God, not to any individual or faction, as this genitive case shows. In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul wrote “the church of the Thessalonians in God” (εν τεωιen theōi), but “the churches of God” in 1 Thessalonians 2:14. See same idiom in 1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 11:16, 1 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13, etc.

Which is in Corinth (τηι ουσηι εν Κοριντωιtēi ousēi en Korinthōi). See note on Acts 13:1 for idiom. It is God‘s church even in Corinth, “laetum et ingens paradoxon ” (Bengel). This city, destroyed by Mummius b.c. 146, had been restored by Julius Caesar a hundred years later, b.c. 44, and now after another hundred years has become very rich and very corrupt. The very word “to Corinthianize” meant to practise vile immoralities in the worship of Aphrodite (Venus). It was located on the narrow Isthmus of the Peloponnesus with two harbours (Lechaeum and Cenchreae). It had schools of rhetoric and philosophy and made a flashy imitation of the real culture of Athens. See note on Acts 18:1 for the story of Paul‘s work here and now the later developments and divisions in this church will give Paul grave concern as is shown in detail in I and II Corinthians. All the problems of a modern city church come to the front in Corinth. They call for all the wisdom and statesmanship in Paul.

That are sanctified (ηγιασμενοιςhēgiasmenois). Perfect passive participle of αγιαζωhagiazō late form for αγιζωhagizō so far found only in the Greek Bible and in ecclesiastical writers. It means to make or to declare αγιονhagion (from αγοςhagos awe, reverence, and this from αζωhazō to venerate). It is significant that Paul uses this word concerning the called saints or called to be saints (κλητοις αγιοιςklētois hagiois) in Corinth. Cf. κλητος αποστολοςklētos apostolos in 1 Corinthians 1:1. It is because they are sanctified in Christ Jesus (εν Χριστωι Ιησουen Christōi Iēsou). He is the sphere in which this act of consecration takes place. Note plural, construction according to sense, because εκκλησιαekklēsia is a collective substantive.

With all that call upon (συν πασιν τοις επικαλουμενοιςsun pāsin tois epikaloumenois). Associative instrumental case with συνsun rather than καιkai (and), making a close connection with “saints” just before and so giving the Corinthian Christians a picture of their close unity with the brotherhood everywhere through the common bond of faith. This phrase occurs in the lxx (Genesis 12:8; Zec 13:9) and is applied to Christ as to Jehovah (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 1:12; Philippians 2:9, Philippians 2:10). Paul heard Stephen pray to Christ as Lord (Acts 7:59). Here “with a plain and direct reference to the Divinity of our Lord” (Ellicott).

Their Lord and ours (αυτων και ημωνautōn kai hēmōn). This is the interpretation of the Greek commentators and is the correct one, an afterthought and expansion (επανορτωσιςepanorthōsis) of the previous “our,” showing the universality of Christ.

Verse 3

Identical language of 2 Thessalonians 1:2 save absence of ημωνhēmōn (our), Paul‘s usual greeting. See note on 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Verse 4

I thank my God (ευχαριστω τωι τεωιeucharistō tōi theōi). Singular as in Romans 1:8; Philemon 1:3; Philemon 1:4, but plural in 1 Thessalonians 1:2; Colossians 1:3. The grounds of Paul‘s thanksgivings in his Epistles are worthy of study. Even in the church in Corinth he finds something to thank God for, though in II Cor. there is no expression of thanksgiving because of the acute crisis in Corinth nor is there any in Galatians. But Paul is gracious here and allows his general attitude (always, παντοτεpantote) concerning (περιperi around) the Corinthians to override the specific causes of irritation.

For the grace of God which was given to you in Christ Jesus (επι τηι χαριτι του τεου τηι δοτεισηι υμιν εν Χριστωι Ιησουepi tēi chariti tou theou tēi dotheisēi humin en Christōi Iēsou). Upon the basis of (επιepi) God‘s grace, not in general, but specifically given (δοτεισηιdotheisēi first aorist passive participle of διδωμιdidōmi), in the sphere of (ενen as in 1 Corinthians 1:2) Christ Jesus.

Verse 5

That (οτιhoti). Explicit specification of this grace of God given to the Corinthians. Paul points out in detail the unusual spiritual gifts which were their glory and became their peril (chapters 1 Corinthians 12-14).

Ye were enriched in him (επλουτιστητε εν αυτωιeploutisthēte en autōi). First aorist passive indicative of πλουτιζωploutizō old causative verb from πλουτοςploutos wealth, common in Attic writers, dropped out for centuries, reappeared in lxx. In N.T. only three times and alone in Paul (1 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 6:10, 2 Corinthians 6:11). The Christian finds his real riches in Christ, one of Paul‘s pregnant phrases full of the truest mysticism.

In all utterance and all knowledge (εν παντι λογωι και πασηι γνωσειen panti logōi kai pasēi gnōsei). One detail in explanation of the riches in Christ. The outward expression (λογωιlogōi) here is put before the inward knowledge (γνωσειgnōsei) which should precede all speech. But we get at one‘s knowledge by means of his speech. Chapters 1 Corinthians 12-14 throw much light on this element in the spiritual gifts of the Corinthians (the gift of tongues, interpreting tongues, discernment) as summed up in 1 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Corinthians 13:2, the greater gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:31. It was a marvellously endowed church in spite of their perversions.

Verse 6

Even as (κατωςkathōs). In proportion as (1 Thessalonians 1:5) and so inasmuch as (Philemon 1:7; Ephesians 1:4).

The testimony of Christ (το μαρτυριον του Χριστουto marturion tou Christou). Objective genitive, the testimony to or concerning Christ, the witness of Paul‘s preaching.

Was confirmed in you (εβεβαιωτη εν υμινebebaiōthē en humin). First aorist passive of βεβαιοωbebaioō old verb from βεβαιοςbebaios and that from βαινωbainō to make to stand, to make stable. These special gifts of the Holy Spirit which they had so lavishly received (ch. 1 Corinthians 12) were for that very purpose.

Verse 7

So that ye come behind in no gift (ωστε υμας μη υστερεισται εν μηδενι χαρισματιhōste humas mē hustereisthai en mēdeni charismati). Consecutive clause with ωστεhōste and the infinitive and the double negative. Come behind (υστερεισταιhustereisthai) is to be late (υστεροςhusteros), old verb seen already in Mark 10:21; Matthew 19:20. It is a wonderful record here recorded. But in 2 Corinthians 8:7-11; 2 Corinthians 9:1-7 Paul will have to complain that they have not paid their pledges for the collection, pledges made over a year before, a very modern complaint.

Waiting for the revelation (απεκδεχομενους την αποκαλυπσινapekdechomenous tēn apokalupsin). This double compound is late and rare outside of Paul (1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Romans 8:19, Romans 8:23, Romans 8:25; Philippians 3:20), 1 Peter 3:20; Hebrews 9:28. It is an eager expectancy of the second coming of Christ here termed revelation like the eagerness in προσδεχομενοιprosdechomenoi in Titus 2:13 for the same event. “As if that attitude of expectation were the highest posture that can be attained here by the Christian” (F.W. Robertson).

Verse 8

Shall confirm (βεβαιωσειbebaiōsei). Direct reference to the same word in 1 Corinthians 1:6. The relative οςhos (who) points to Christ.

Unto the end (εως τελουςheōs telous). End of the age till Jesus comes, final preservation of the saints.

That ye be unreproveable (ανεγκλητουςanegklētous). Alpha privative and εγκαλεωegkaleō to accuse, old verbal, only in Paul in N.T. Proleptic adjective in the predicate accusative agreeing with υμαςhumas (you) without ωστεhōste and the infinitive as in 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Philippians 3:21. “Unimpeachable, for none will have the right to impeach” (Robertson and Plummer) as Paul shows in Romans 8:33; Colossians 1:22, Colossians 1:28.

Verse 9

God is faithful (πιστος ο τεοςpistos ho theos). This is the ground of Paul‘s confidence as he loves to say (1 Thessalonians 5:24; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Romans 8:36; Philippians 1:16). God will do what he has promised.

Through whom (δι ουdi' hou). God is the agent (διdi') of their call as in Romans 11:36 and also the ground or reason for their call (δι ονdi' hon) in Hebrews 2:10.

Into the fellowship (εις κοινωνιανeis Koinéōnian). Old word from κοινωνοςKoinéōnos partner for partnership, participation as here and 2 Corinthians 13:13.; Philippians 2:1; Philippians 3:10. Then it means fellowship or intimacy as in Acts 2:42; Galatians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 John 1:3, 1 John 1:7. And particularly as shown by contribution as in 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Philippians 1:5. It is high fellowship with Christ both here and hereafter.

Verse 10

Now I beseech you (παρακαλω δε υμαςparakalō de humas). Old and common verb, over 100 times in N.T., to call to one‘s side. Corresponds here to ευχαριστωeucharistō I thank, in 1 Corinthians 1:4. Direct appeal after the thanksgiving.

Through the name (δια του ονοματοςdia tou onomatos). Genitive, not accusative (cause or reason), as the medium or instrument of the appeal (2 Corinthians 10:1; Romans 12:1; Romans 15:30).

That (ιναhina). Purport (sub-final) rather than direct purpose, common idiom in Koiné{[28928]}š (Robertson, Grammar, pp.991-4) like Matthew 14:36. Used here with λεγητε ηι ητε κατηρτισμενοιlegēteλεγητε παντεςēiμη ηι εν υμιν σχισματαēte katērtismenoi though expressed only once.

All speak (Σχισμαlegēte pantes). Present active subjunctive, that ye all keep on speaking. With the divisions in mind. An idiom from Greek political life (Lightfoot). This touch of the classical writers argues for Paul‘s acquaintance with Greek culture.

There be no divisions among you (σχιζωmē ēi en humin schismata). Present subjunctive, that divisions may not continue to be (they already had them). Negative statement of preceding idea. αιρεσειςSchisma is from στασιςschizō old word to split or rend, and so means a rent (Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21). Papyri use it for a splinter of wood and for ploughing. Here we have the earliest instance of its use in a moral sense of division, dissension, see also 1 Corinthians 11:18 where a less complete change than ητε δε κατηρτισμενοιhaireseis 1 Corinthians 12:25; John 7:43 (discord); John 9:16; John 10:19. “Here, faction, for which the classical word is νοιstasis division within the Christian community” (Vincent). These divisions were over the preachers (1:12-4:21), immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-13), going to law before the heathen (1 Corinthians 6:1-11), marriage (7:1-40), meats offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8-10), conduct of women in church (11:1-16), the Lord‘s Supper (11:17-34), spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14), the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).

But that ye be perfected together (γνωμηιēte de katērtismenoi). Periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive. See this verb in Matthew 4:21 (Mark 1:19) for mending torn nets and in moral sense already in 1 Thessalonians 3:10. Galen uses it for a surgeon‘s mending a joint and Herodotus for composing factions. See 2 Corinthians 13:11; Galatians 6:1.

Mind (νουςnoi), judgment (γνωμηgnōmēi). “Of these words νουςnous denotes the frame or state of mind, gnōmē the judgment, opinion or sentiment, which is the outcome of nous ” (Lightfoot).

Verse 11

For it hath been signified unto me (εδηλωτη γαρ μοιedēlōthē gar moi). First aorist passive indicative of δηλοωdēloō and difficult to render into English. Literally, It was signified to me.

By them of Chloe (υπο των Χλοηςhupo tōn Chloēs). Ablative case of the masculine plural article τωνtōn by the (folks) of Chloe (genitive case). The words “which are of the household” are not in the Greek, though they correctly interpret the Greek, “those of Chloe.” Whether the children, the kinspeople, or the servants of Chloe we do not know. It is uncertain also whether Chloe lived in Corinth or Ephesus, probably Ephesus because to name her if in Corinth might get her into trouble (Heinrici). Already Christianity was working a social revolution in the position of women and slaves. The name

Chloe means tender verdure and was one of the epithets of Demeter the goddess of agriculture and for that reason Lightfoot thinks that she was a member of the freedman class like Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Hermes (Romans 16:14), Nereus (Romans 16:15). It is even possible that Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17) may have been those who brought Chloe the news of the schisms in Corinth.

Contentions (εριδεςerides). Unseemly wranglings (as opposed to discussing, διαλεγομαιdialegomai) that were leading to the schisms. Listed in works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19.) and the catalogues of vices (2 Corinthians 12:20; Romans 1:19.; 1 Timothy 6:4).

Verse 12

Now this I mean (λεγω δε τουτοlegō de touto). Explanatory use of λεγωlegō Each has his party leader. ΑπολλωApollō is genitive of ΑπολλωςApollōs (Acts 18:24), probably abbreviation of ΑπολλωνιυςApollōnius as seen in Codex Bezae for Acts 18:24. See note on Acts 18:24 for discussion of this “eloquent Alexandrian” (Ellicott), whose philosophical and oratorical preaching was in contrast “with the studied plainness” of Paul (1 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 10:10). People naturally have different tastes about styles of preaching and that is well, but Apollos refused to be a party to this strife and soon returned to Ephesus and refused to go back to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:12). ΧηπαCēphā is the genitive of ΧηπαςCēphās the Aramaic name given Simon by Jesus (John 1:42), ΠετροςPetros in Greek. Except in Galatians 2:7, Galatians 2:8 Paul calls him Cephas. He had already taken his stand with Paul in the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:7-11; Galatians 2:7-10). Paul had to rebuke him at Antioch for his timidity because of the Judaizers (Galatians 2:11-14), but, in spite of Baur‘s theory, there is no evidence of a schism in doctrine between Paul and Peter. If 2 Peter 3:15. be accepted as genuine, as I do, there is proof of cordial relations between them and 1 Corinthians 9:5 points in the same direction. But there is no evidence that Peter himself visited Corinth. Judaizers came and pitted Peter against Paul to the Corinthian Church on the basis of Paul‘s rebuke of Peter in Antioch. These Judaizers made bitter personal attacks on Paul in return for their defeat at the Jerusalem Conference. So a third faction was formed by the use of Peter‘s name as the really orthodox wing of the church, the gospel of the circumcision.

And I of Christ (εγω δε Χριστουegō de Christou). Still a fourth faction in recoil from the partisan use of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, with “a spiritually proud utterance” (Ellicott) that assumes a relation to Christ not true of the others. “Those who used this cry arrogated the common watchword as their peculium ” (Findlay). This partisan use of the name of Christ may have been made in the name of unity against the other three factions, but it merely added another party to those existing. In scouting the names of the other leaders they lowered the name and rank of Christ to their level.

Verse 13

Is Christ divided? (μεμερισται ο Χριστοσmemeristai ho Christos̱). Perfect passive indicative, Does Christ stand divided? It is not certain, though probable, that this is interrogative like the following clauses. Hofmann calls the assertory form a “rhetorical impossibility.” The absence of μηmē here merely allows an affirmative answer which is true. The fourth or Christ party claimed to possess Christ in a sense not true of the others. Perhaps the leaders of this Christ party with their arrogant assumptions of superiority are the false apostles, ministers of Satan posing as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

Was Paul crucified for you? (Μη Παυλος εσταυρωτη υπερ υμωνMē Paulos estaurōthē huper humōṉ). An indignant “No” is demanded by μηmē Paul shows his tact by employing himself as the illustration, rather than Apollos or Cephas. Probably υπερhuper over, in behalf of, rather than περιperi (concerning, around) is genuine, though either makes good sense here. In the Koiné{[28928]}š υπερhuper encroaches on περιperi as in 2 Thessalonians 2:1.

Were ye baptized into the name of Paul? (εις το ονομα Παυλου εβαπτιστητεeis to onoma Paulou ebaptisthēte̱). It is unnecessary to say into for ειςeis rather than in since ειςeis is the same preposition originally as ενen and both are used with βαπτιζωbaptizō as in Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48 with no difference in idea (Robertson, Grammar, p. 592). Paul evidently knows the idea in Matthew 28:19 and scouts the notion of being put on a par with Christ or the Trinity. He is no rival of Christ. This use of ονομαonoma for the person is not only in the lxx, but the papyri, ostraca, and inscriptions give numerous examples of the name of the king or the god for the power and authority of the king or god (Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 146ff., 196ff.; Light from the Ancient East, p. 121).

Verse 14

I thank God (ευχαριστω τωι τεωιeucharistō tōi theōi). See 1 Corinthians 1:4, though uncertain if τωι τεωιtōi theōi is genuine here.

Save Crispus and Gaius (ει μη Κρισπον και Γαιονei mē Krispon kai Gaion). Crispus was the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth before his conversion (Acts 18:8), a Roman cognomen, and Gaius a Roman praenomen, probably the host of Paul and of the whole church in Corinth (Romans 16:23), possibly though not clearly the hospitable Gaius of 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:6. The prominence and importance of these two may explain why Paul baptized them.

Verse 15

Lest any man should say (ινα μη τις ειπηιhina mē tis eipēi). Certainly sub-final ιναhina again or contemplated result as in 1 Corinthians 7:29; John 9:2. Ellicott thinks that already some in Corinth were laying emphasis on the person of the baptizer whether Peter or some one else. It is to be recalled that Jesus himself baptized no one (John 4:2) to avoid this very kind of controversy. And yet there are those today who claim Paul as a sacramentalist, an impossible claim in the light of his words here.

Verse 16

Also the household of Stephanas (και τον Στεπανα οικονkai ton Stephanā oikon). Mentioned as an afterthought. Robertson and Plummer suggest that Paul‘s amanuensis reminded him of this case. Paul calls him a first-fruit of Achaia (1 Corinthians 16:15) and so earlier than Crispus and he was one of the three who came to Paul from Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:17), clearly a family that justified Paul‘s personal attention about baptism.

Besides (λοιπονloipon). Accusative of general reference, “as for anything else.” Added to make clear that he is not meaning to omit any one who deserves mention. See also 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 2 Timothy 4:8. Ellicott insists on a sharp distinction from το λοιπονto loipon “as for the rest” (2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:8; Ephesians 6:10). Paul casts no reflection on baptism, for he could not with his conception of it as the picture of the new life in Christ (Romans 6:2-6), but he clearly denies here that he considers baptism essential to the remission of sin or the means of obtaining forgiveness.

Verse 17

For Christ sent me not to baptize (ου γαρ απεστειλεν με Χριστος βαπτιζεινou gar apesteilen me Christos baptizein). The negative ουou goes not with the infinitive, but with απεστειλενapesteilen (from αποστελλω αποστολοςapostellōαλλα ευαγγελιζεσταιapostolos apostle).

For Christ did not send me to be a baptizer (present active infinitive, linear action) like John the Baptist.

But to preach the gospel (ευαγγελιονalla euaggelizesthai). This is Paul‘s idea of his mission from Christ, as Christ‘s apostle, to be a gospelizer. This led, of course, to baptism, as a result, but Paul usually had it done by others as Peter at Caesarea ordered the baptism to be done, apparently by the six brethren with him (Acts 10:48). Paul is fond of this late Greek verb from ουκ εν σοπιαι λογουeuaggelion and sometimes uses both verb and substantive as in 1 Corinthians 15:1 “the gospel which I gospelized unto you.”

Not in wisdom of words (ουouk en sophiāi logou). Note μηou not απεστειλενmē (the subjective negative), construed with ινα μη κενωτηι ο σταυρος του Χριστουapesteilen rather than the infinitive. Not in wisdom of speech (singular). Preaching was Paul‘s forte, but it was not as a pretentious philosopher or professional rhetorician that Paul appeared before the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Some who followed Apollos may have been guilty of a fancy for external show, though Apollos was not a mere performer and juggler with words. But the Alexandrian method as in Philo did run to dialectic subtleties and luxuriant rhetoric (Lightfoot).

Lest the cross of Christ should be made void (ινα μηhina mē kenōthēi ho stauros tou Christou). Negative purpose (κενοωhina mē) with first aorist passive subjunctive, effective aorist, of κενοςkenoō old verb from kenos to make empty. In Paul‘s preaching the Cross of Christ is the central theme. Hence Paul did not fall into the snare of too much emphasis on baptism nor into too little on the death of Christ. “This expression shows clearly the stress which St. Paul laid on the death of Christ, not merely as a great moral spectacle, and so the crowning point of a life of self-renunciation, but as in itself the ordained instrument of salvation” (Lightfoot).

Verse 18

For the word of the cross (ο λογος γαρ ο του σταυρουho logos gar ho tou staurou). Literally, “for the preaching (with which I am concerned as the opposite of wisdom of word in 1 Corinthians 1:17) that (repeated article οho almost demonstrative) of the cross.” “Through this incidental allusion to preaching St. Paul passes to a new subject. The discussions in the Corinthian Church are for a time forgotten, and he takes the opportunity of correcting his converts for their undue exaltation of human eloquence and wisdom” (Lightfoot).

To them that are perishing (τοις μεν απολλυμενοιςtois men apollumenois). Dative of disadvantage (personal interest). Present middle participle is here timeless, those in the path to destruction (not annihilation. See note on 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3.

Foolishness (μωριαmōria). Folly. Old word from μωροςmōros foolish. In N.T. only in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 3:19.

But unto us which are being saved (τοις σωζομενοις ημινtois sōzomenois hēmin). Sharp contrast to those that are perishing and same construction with the articular participle. No reason for the change of pronouns in English. This present passive participle is again timeless. Salvation is described by Paul as a thing done in the past, “we were saved” (Romans 8:24), as a present state, “ye have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5), as a process, “ye are being saved” (1 Corinthians 15:2), as a future result, “thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

The power of God (δυναμις τεουdunamis theou). So in Romans 1:16. No other message has this dynamite of God (1 Corinthians 4:20). God‘s power is shown in the preaching of the Cross of Christ through all the ages, now as always. No other preaching wins men and women from sin to holiness or can save them. The judgment of Paul here is the verdict of every soul winner through all time.

Verse 19

I will destroy (απολωapolō). Future active indicative of απολλυμιapollumi Attic future for απολεσωapolesō Quotation from Isaiah 29:14 (lxx). The failure of worldly statesmanship in the presence of Assyrian invasion Paul applies to his argument with force. The wisdom of the wise is often folly, the understanding of the understanding is often rejected. There is such a thing as the ignorance of the learned, the wisdom of the simple-minded. God‘s wisdom rises in the Cross sheer above human philosophizing which is still scoffing at the Cross of Christ, the consummation of God‘s power.

Verse 20

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? (Που σοποσ που γραμματευσ που συνζητητης του αιωνος τουτουPou sophos̱ pou grammateus̱ pou sunzētētēs tou aiōnos toutou̱). Paul makes use of Isaiah 33:18 without exact quotation. The sudden retreat of Sennacherib with the annihilation of his officers. “On the tablet of Shalmaneser in the Assyrian Gallery of the British Museum there is a surprisingly exact picture of the scene described by Isaiah” (Robertson and Plummer). Note the absence of the Greek article in each of these rhetorical questions though the idea is clearly definite. Probably σοποςsophos refers to the Greek philosopher, γραμματευςgrammateus to the Jewish scribe and συνζητητηςsunzētētēs suits both the Greek and the Jewish disputant and doubter (Acts 6:9; Acts 9:29; Acts 17:18; Acts 28:29). There is a note of triumph in these questions. The word συνζητητηςsunzētētēs occurs here alone in the N.T. and elsewhere only in Ignatius, Ephesians. 18 quoting this passage, but the papyri give the verb συνζητεωsunzēteō for disputing (questioning together).

Hath not God made foolish? (ουχι εμωρανεν ο τεοσouchi emōranen ho theos̱). Strong negative form with aorist active indicative difficult of precise translation, “Did not God make foolish?” The old verb μωραινωmōrainō from μωροςmōros foolish, was to be foolish, to act foolish, then to prove one foolish as here or to make foolish as in Romans 1:22. In Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34 it is used of salt that is tasteless.

World (κοσμουkosmou). Synonymous with αιωνaiōn (age), orderly arrangement, then the non-Christian cosmos.

Verse 21

Seeing that (επειδηepeidē). Since (επειepei and δηdē) with explanatory γαρgar

Through its wisdom (δια της σοπιαςdia tēs sophias). Article here as possessive. The two wisdoms contrasted.

Knew not God (ουκ εγνωouk egnō). Failed to know, second aorist (effective) active indicative of γινωσκωginōskō solemn dirge of doom on both Greek philosophy and Jewish theology that failed to know God. Has modern philosophy done better? There is today even a godless theology (Humanism). “Now that God‘s wisdom has reduced the self-wise world to ignorance” (Findlay).

Through the foolishness of the preaching (δια της μωριας του κηρυγματοςdia tēs mōrias tou kērugmatos). Perhaps “proclamation” is the idea, for it is not κηρυχιςkēruxis the act of heralding, but κηρυγμαkērugma the message heralded or the proclamation as in 1 Corinthians 1:23. The metaphor is that of the herald proclaiming the approach of the king (Matthew 3:1; Matthew 4:17). See also κηρυγμαkērugma in 1 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Timothy 4:17. The proclamation of the Cross seemed foolishness to the wiseacres then (and now), but it is consummate wisdom, God‘s wisdom and good-pleasure (ευδοκησανeudokēsan). The foolishness of preaching is not the preaching of foolishness.

To save them that believe (σωσαι τους πιστευονταςsōsai tous pisteuontas). This is the heart of God‘s plan of redemption, the proclamation of salvation for all those who trust Jesus Christ on the basis of his death for sin on the Cross. The mystery-religions all offered salvation by initiation and ritual as the Pharisees did by ceremonialism. Christianity reaches the heart directly by trust in Christ as the Saviour. It is God‘s wisdom.

Verse 22

Seeing that (επειδηepeidē). Resumes from 1 Corinthians 1:21. The structure is not clear, but probably 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 1:24 form a sort of conclusion or apodosis to 1 Corinthians 1:22 the protasis. The resumptive, almost inferential, use of δεde like αλλαalla in the apodosis is not unusual.

Ask for signs (σημεια αιτουσινsēmeia aitousin). The Jews often came to Jesus asking for signs (Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; John 6:30).

Seek after wisdom (σοπιαν ζητουσινsophian zētousin). “The Jews claimed to possess the truth: the Greeks were seekers, speculators ” (Vincent) as in Acts 17:23.

Verse 23

But we preach Christ crucified (ημεις δε κηρυσσομεν Χριστον εσταυρωμενονhēmeis de kērussomen Christon estaurōmenon). Grammatically stated as a partial result (δεde) of the folly of both Jews and Greeks, actually in sharp contrast. We proclaim, “we do not discuss or dispute” (Lightfoot). Christ (Messiah) as crucified, as in 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 3:1, “not a sign-shower nor a philosopher” (Vincent). Perfect passive participle of σταυροωstauroō

Stumbling-block (σκανδαλονskandalon). Papyri examples mean trap or snare which here tripped the Jews who wanted a conquering Messiah with a world empire, not a condemned and crucified one (Matthew 27:42; Luke 24:21).

Foolishness (μωριανmōrian). Folly as shown by their conduct in Athens (Acts 17:32).

Verse 24

But to them that are called (αυτοις δε τοις κλητοιςautois de tois klētois). Dative case, to the called themselves.

Christ (ΧριστονChriston). Accusative case repeated, object of κηρυσσομενkērussomen both the power of God (τεου δυναμινtheou dunamin) and the wisdom of God (τεου σοπιανtheou sophian). No article, but made definite by the genitive. Christ crucified is God‘s answer to both Jew and Greek and the answer is understood by those with open minds.

Verse 25

The foolishness of God (το μωρον του τεουto mōron tou theou). Abstract neuter singular with the article, the foolish act of God (the Cross as regarded by the world).

Wiser than men (σοπωτερον των αντρωπωνsophōteron tōn anthrōpōn). Condensed comparison, wiser than the wisdom of men. Common Greek idiom (Matthew 5:20; John 5:36) and quite forcible, brushes all men aside.

The weakness of God (το αστενες του τεουto asthenes tou theou). Same idiom here, the weak act of God, as men think, is stronger (ισχυροτερονischuroteron). The Cross seemed God‘s defeat. It is conquering the world and is the mightiest force on earth.

Verse 26

Behold (βλεπετεblepete). Same form for imperative present active plural and indicative. Either makes sense as in John 5:39 εραυνατεeraunate and John 14:1 πιστευετεpisteuete

Calling (κλησινklēsin). The act of calling by God, based not on the external condition of those called (κλητοιklētoi 1 Corinthians 1:2), but on God‘s sovereign love. It is a clinching illustration of Paul‘s argument, an argumentum ad hominen.

How that (οτιhoti). Explanatory apposition to κλησινklēsin

After the flesh (κατα σαρκαkata sarka). According to the standards of the flesh and to be used not only with σοποιsophoi (wise, philosophers), but also δυνατοιdunatoi (men of dignity and power), ευγενειςeugeneis (noble, high birth), the three claims to aristocracy (culture, power, birth).

Are called. Not in the Greek, but probably to be supplied from the idea in κλησινklēsin f0).

Verse 27

God chose (εχελεχατο ο τεοςexelexato ho theos). First aorist middle of εκλεγωeklegō old verb to pick out, to choose, the middle for oneself. It expands the idea in κλησινklēsin (1 Corinthians 1:26). Three times this solemn verb occurs here with the purpose stated each time. Twice the same purpose is expressed, that he might put to shame (ινα καταισχυνηιhina kataischunēi first aorist active subjunctive with ιναhina of old verb καταισχυνωkataischunō perfective use of καταkata). The purpose in the third example is that he might bring to naught (ινα καταργησηιhina katargēsēi make idle, αργοςargos rare in old Greek, but frequent in Paul). The contrast is complete in each paradox: the foolish things (τα μωραta mōra), the wild men (τους σοπουςtous sophous); the weak things (τα αστενηta asthenē), the strong things (τα ισχυραta ischura); the things that are not (τα μη ονταta mē onta), and that are despised (τα εχουτενημεναta exouthenēmena considered nothing, perfect passive participle of εχουτενεωexoutheneō), the things that are (τα ονταta onta). It is a studied piece of rhetoric and powerfully put.

Verse 29

That no flesh should glory before God (οπως μη καυχησηται πασα σαρχ ενωπιον του τεουhopōs mē kauchēsētai pāsa sarx enōpion tou theou). This is the further purpose expressed by οπωςhopōs for variety and appeals to God‘s ultimate choice in all three instances. The first aorist middle of the old verb καυχαομαιkauchaomai to boast, brings out sharply that not a single boast is to be made. The papyri give numerous examples of ενωπιονenōpion as a preposition in the vernacular, from adjective ενωπιοςeṅōpios in the eye of God. One should turn to 2 Corinthians 4:7 for Paul‘s further statement about our having this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.

Verse 30

Of him (εχ αυτουex autou). Out of God. He chose you.

In Christ Jesus (εν Χριστωι Ιησουen Christōi Iēsou). In the sphere of Christ Jesus the choice was made. This is God‘s wisdom.

Who was made unto us wisdom from God (ος εγενητη σοπια ημιν απο τεουhos egenēthē sophia hēmin apo theou). Note εγενητηegenēthē became (first aorist passive and indicative), not ηνēn was, the Incarnation, Cross, and Resurrection. Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:2.) “both righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (δικαιοσυνη τε και αγιασμος και απολυτρωσιςdikaiosunē te kai hagiasmos kai apolutrōsis), as is made plain by the use of τεκαικαιtė̇kai̇̇kai The three words (δικαιοσυνη αγιασμοσ απολυτρωσιςdikaiosunēσοπιαhagiasmosδικαιοσυνηapolutrōsis) are thus shown to be an epexegesis of απολυτρωσιςsophia (Lightfoot). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ Jesus. We are made righteous, holy, and redeemed in Christ Jesus. Redemption comes here last for emphasis though the foundation of the other two. In Romans 1:17 we see clearly Paul‘s idea of the God kind of righteousness (αγιασμοςdikaiosunē) in Christ. In Romans 3:24 we have Paul‘s conception of redemption (apolutrōsis setting free as a ransomed slave) in Christ. In Romans 6:19 we have Paul‘s notion of holiness or sanctification (hagiasmos) in Christ. These great theological terms will call for full discussion in Romans, but they must not be overlooked here. See also Acts 10:35; Acts 24:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 1 Corinthians 1:2.

Verse 31

That (ιναhina). Probably ellipse (γενηταιgenētai to be supplied) as is common in Paul‘s Epistles (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 8:13; Galatians 1:20; Galatians 2:9; Romans 4:16; Romans 13:1; Romans 15:3). Some explain the imperative καυχαστωkauchasthō as an anacoluthon. The shortened quotation is from Jeremiah 9:24. Deissmann notes the importance of these closing verses concerning the origin of Paul‘s congregations from the lower classes in the large towns as “one of the most important historical witnesses to Primitive Christianity” (New Light on the N.T., p. 7; Light from the Ancient East, pp. 7, 14, 60, 142).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.