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- 1 Corinthians
by Thomas Coke
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
AS there was no country in the world, perhaps, where superstition and idolatry were more deeply rooted, or had more able defenders, than in Greece (the centre, as it were, of eloquence and of philosophy), St. Paul, who was particularly destined to the conversion of infidels, thought that he could not better fulfil his duty than by attacking idolatry in its strong-hold. For this purpose, he travelled through all the Asiatic provinces of Greece; and, passing thence into Europe, there was scarcely a city, how small soever, throughout Greece, in which he did not preach the Gospel, and establish churches. The city of Corinth (by its antiquity, greatness, and opulence, become one of the most celebrated and powerful cities in the world, and the capital of Achaia in the Peloponnesus) was not forgotten upon this occasion. St. Paul went thither to preach the Gospel, and remained there a year and a half. Having then quitted it, to follow the duties of his ministry elsewhere, he received at Ephesus a letter which the Corinthians had written to him in order to consult him on some important matters; and this Epistle is in answer to that letter. But, previous to answering their questions, he begins by censuring those contests and divisions which he heard had broken out among them, as to the different ministers of the Gospel; some saying, I am of Paul; others, and I of Apollos; others, and I of Cephas, ch. 1 which was extremely culpable, and threatened no less than in a short time to destroy their church entirely. He next reproves their unbounded partiality for eloquence and philosophy, to the prejudice of that simplicity with which the Gospel was preached. And, as this arose from a false delicacy, and too high an opinion of human wisdom, he shews them that the Gospel is not to be grounded in the heart by such methods, but only by the light of the Holy Ghost, and the immediate operation of grace, ch. 2 He continues the same subject in ch. 3 a part of which tends to render God all the glory of the conversion of sinners, while the most excellent ministers of the Gospel are merely, instruments in the forwarding of that most blessed work. The rest of the chapter shews that Christ is the only foundation of the church, and that the preachers of the Gospel must never seek for any other. In the ivth chapter the Apostle defends the dignity of his office against those envious persons who labored to contemn it. In the vth he blames the church of Corinth for not cutting off from their community a man who had committed incest.
In the vith chapter he reproves the Corinthians for having lawsuits among them; and, instead of settling their disputes quietly among themselves, that they carried them into the courts, which at that time were filled with pagans. The rest of the chapter is against impurities of the flesh; and, by some of the strongest reasons that were ever alleged upon the subject, the Apostle endeavours to turn the Corinthians from practising or encouraging such impurities.
He then comes to the questions which had been proposed to him by the Corinthians; and for this purpose, in chap. 7: he speaks of marriages, wherein one of the parties professes the Christian religion, while the other remained in error and unbelief. In the viiith he examines the question of meats offered to idols, whether it were lawful for a believer to eat of them or not. The ixth chapter respects the privileges of ministers, and their condescension upon certain occasions. The xth begins with a recital of the most memorable things which happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness; then he speaks of the feasts which idolaters made to their idols, and of the liberty, under the Gospel dispensation, of eating, with a safe conscience, whatsoever is sold in the shambles. The xith chapter treats, first, of the dignity of the man, and of the subordination of the woman; and afterwards, of the αγαπη, or love-feast, and of the sacrament of the Lord's supper. The xiith chapter contains an enumeration of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, of which the church of Corinth had received a plentiful share. The xiiith is entirely in praise of charity, or love. The xivth contains a censure of the abuse which some persons made in public of the gift of speaking with tongues. The xvth is very strong against those who denied the resurrection of the body or who had but a wavering belief on that grand article of the faith. The xvith, and last, begins with some instructions relative to the collections which were making in the churches of Greece for the poor at Jerusalem; and concludes with pressing exhortations to perseverance in the faith, and in the love of Christ. It appears moreover, from the 8th verse of this chapter, that it was from Ephesus, where St. Paul abode three months, Act 19:8 that he wrote this Epistle; and not from Philippi, as some injudicious person has added at the end of it. Lastly, it appears from the first verse of this last chapter, where the collections are spoken of, that this Epistle was written some time before the Epistle to the Romans; since, when St. Paul wrote the latter, the collections were finished, and he was himself on his way to Jerusalem with the money. Romans 15:25-26.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29