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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 1

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 CORINTHIANS 1 General remarks. It will throw much light on many passages of this epistle to learn something of the city of Corinth. I shall first quote from Smith's Bible Dictionary: "The situation of Corinth and the possession of its eastern and western harbors, Cen-chrea and Lecheun, are the secrets of its history. Corinth was a place of commercial and manufacturing enterprise. Its wealth was so celebrated as to be proverbial; so were the vice and profligacy [extravagant living] of its inhabitants. The worship of Venus [heathen goddess of bloom and beauty] here was attended with shameful licentiousness [immoral thoughts and practices]. "I shall next quote from the Schaff-Herzog. Encyclopedia on the city of Corinth: "It soon became one of the most important commercial places on the Mediterranean; but its character was somewhat peculiar. Its population was extremely heterogenous [a mixture]. A numerous colony of Jews settled there when driven away from Rome by Claudius, and among them were Aquila and Priscilla. Everybody went to Corinth to make money or to spend it. All nations were represented there; but nearly the only bonds which held the inhabitants together were their common enterprises and their common debaucheries." A number of serious defects had come into the church at Corinth when Paul wrote his first epistle to it, which will be commented upon as we come to them in the course of this study. Notwithstanding these evils, the apostle recognized it as a church of God. It will help to understand this apparent inconsistency by considering the case of the church at Ephesus as recorded in Rev 2:1-5. The Lord had a serious complaint against this church, yet he recognized it as one of His at the time of sending a letter to it. But the candlestick that represented its standing was to be removed if it did not repent. This means that a church (and likewise an individual) does not necessarily lose its standing with the Lord at the mere instance of doing wrong; it loses it when it refuses to correct itself after being admonished. The church at Corinth acted favorably upon the admonition of Paul (2 Co rinthians 7:8-11), hence it continued to be recognized as a church of God. Verse 1. Called is from KLETOS, which Thayer defines at this place, "called to some office," and he explains it to mean, "divinely selected and appointed." Of Jesus Christ denotes by whom Paul was thus called unto the apostleship, which also was according to the will of God. Of Sosthenes, Thayer says historically, "a Christian, an associate of the apostle Paul, 1Co 1:1." Paul chose this brother to join with him in the salutation.

Verse 2

1Co 1:2. The terms church of God and church of Christ are both used for the same institution because of their common relation to the Deity. For the meaning of church see the notes on Rom 16:16, in volume 1 of the New Testament Commentary. The various qualifying terms following the phrase of the church do not indicate separate groups, but are qualities belonging to the one institution. Sanctified is from HAGIAZO, which Thayer defines, "1. to render or acknowledge to be venerable, to hallow. 2. to separate from things profane and dedicate to God, to consecrate." Saints is from HAGIOS, which Thayer defines, "set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his." With all, etc., means to apply the epistle to Christians everywhere. For the meaning of calling on the name of the Lord, see the notes at Act 22:16 in volume 1 of the New Testament Commentary. Lord . . . theirs . . . ours, signifies there is only one God.

Verse 3

1Co 1:3. Grace is from CHARIS, and one part of Thayer's definition is, "kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved." This phase of the word explains why the apostle specifies that it is the grace from God he is wishing for his brethren, since all of God's favors upon man are undeserved. Such favors are bestowed upon man only through the Lord Jesus Christ. That is because the sacrifice of Christ provided the way for God to maintain his Justice and at the same time extend this unmerited favor to humanity. (See the notes at Rom 3:26, volume 1 of the New Testament Commentary.)

Verse 4

1Co 1:4. In his unselfishness Paul was thankful for the favors bestowed upon the brethren at Corinth. In this he was carrying out his own words in Rom 12:15.

Verse 5

1Co 1:5. Riches do not always consist of material wealth; the Corinthians had been given the wealth of spiritual blessings in the form of utterance and knowledge. The first is from LOGOS which is the Greek term for "word," and is applied in a variety of senses. It denotes any expression of thought, whether in single words or in sentences, or even in entire discourses. It is also applicable either to inspired or uninspired speech, so that it would include the gift of tongues. The second word is from GNOSIS and the outstanding definition in Thayer's lexicon is, "intelligence."

Verse 6

1Co 1:6. This verse shows 'the preceding one has special reference to the spiritual gifts that were bestowed on the church at Corinth, since that was the primary purpose of those gifts (Mar 16:20; Eph 4:8-15).

Verse 7

1Co 1:7. Come behind in no gift. Not every member of a congregation was given a spiritual gift, but a sufficient per cent of the membership would be thus endowed to accomplish the Lord's work. The Corinthian church was large in numbers (Act 18:8), which would call for a proportionate number of gifted men. Waiting for the coming. All persons must of necessity wait literally for the coming of Christ. Strong defines the original word, "to expect fully."

Verse 8

1Co 1:8. The promise to confirm them unto the end does not mean that spiritual gifts will continue that long. The idea is that the Lord will do whatever is necessary for the purpose. After the New Testament will have been completed, spiritual gifts will not be needed and they will cease (chapter 13:8-10). The grand purpose of all divine means for the confirming of God's people, is that they may be prepared to stand approved by Christ when he comes again.

Verse 9

1Co 1:9. A part of Thayer's definition of faithful is, "worthy of trust; that can be relied on," and this definition is especially applicable to the Lord. It carries the idea that He may be expected fully to fulfill all his promises. God had promised to bless all mankind through Christ, who is the seed promised to Abraham (Gen 22:18). In being faithful to redeem that promise, God called the Corinthians into the fellowship of his Son.

Verse 10

0 1Co 1:10. The apostle now approaches one of the serious defects referred to in the "general remarks," that of divisions. This is not a formal or bodily division, but one of sentiment that causes contention and strife. That is why he specifies the mind and judgment in his exhortation, to the end that all would speak the same thing. The mind means the faculty of reason, and judgment denotes the conclusions arrived at with the mind. The apostle beseeches them all to be united in sentiments.

Verse 11

1Co 1:11. The name Chloe does not appear in any other place, and all we can learn of her is that she was a disciple who was concerned about the conditions existing in the church at Corinth. She passed the information on to the apostle which he repeated in his epistle to the church in that city.

Verse 12

1Co 1:12. The reader should not be confused over the apparent similarity between contentions and "contend," both of which are used in the New Testament. The first means quarrels and wranglings over petty matters of personal opinion. The second is from the vocabulary of contests in the physical exercises, in which a man engages with a contestant under recognized rules of combat. Every one of you. That is, each man among them had his preference and was wrangling with the others about it. The four persons named were not literally the subject of their quarrels; chapter 4:6, 7 shows this, which will be commented upon in detail when we reach that place in this study. But until that time, the apostle reasons as if their contentions were actually over these men (even including Christ), and I also shall make my comments from that standpoint. The idea of Paul seems to have been that, having received the force of the argument before their actual prejudices were aroused, they should be prepared to see the folly of their variances.

Verse 13

1Co 1:13. The three questions in this verse require negative answers. In is from EIS which means "into" the name of another, that was supposed to have been accomplished by the ordinance of baptism.

Verse 14

1Co 1:14. There was more than one man named Gaius, one of whom belonged to the congregation in Corinth, and was among the few persons whom Paul baptized.

Verse 15

5 1Co 1:15. The apostle gives his reason for the feeling expressed in the preceding verse. In is from the same word as in verse 15.

Verse 16

1Co 1:16. Paul did not place much stress on the question of who personally does the baptizing, consequently he seems to have overlooked this case in verse 14. Household is from OIKOS, and in the King James Version it has been rendered by house 102 times, home 4, household 3, temple 1. The first definition in Thayer's lexicon is, "an inhabited house." We know the inhabitants of Stephanas' house were old enough to believe on the Lord, for Act 18:8 shows that such were the ones baptized.

Verse 17

1Co 1:17. Christ sent me not to baptize. This statement has been perverted by some who seek to belittle the importance of baptism, and to represent Paul as thinking little of the ordinance. What he teaches in Act 19:1-5; Rom 6:3-4; Gal 3:27 and Col 2:12 indicates the weight that he attaches to the ordinance. But as to what person does the physical act of baptizing a believer, because of the wrong use that might be made of the subject, Paul was thankful he had let others do most of it at Corinth. What Paul could do that others could not was to preach the Gospel, which required more than physical strength. And even that great work was not to be accomplished by the use of words or speech that consisted of worldly wisdom, for that would detract from the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ.

Verse 18

1Co 1:18. The Greek nation was devoted to the importance (as it was considered) of philosophy, or what we would term worldly wisdom. Its people estimated any theory proposed to them in proportion to whether it agreed or disagreed with this philosophy, and it was in view of this truth that Paul wrote as he did in this and several verses following. However, the relation between divine truth and philosophy is somewhat similar to that between it and "science." When this last term is understood, it is found to be in harmony with divine truth. Likewise, when true philosophy is understood, it will be seen that it, too, is in harmony with divine truth. In support of this from the standpoint of history, I shall quote from the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia: "PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION. Both philosophy and religion must first have had some historical development before their relations could appear -for investigation. In fact, they may be said to have proceeded apart until the Christian era, when they openly met as strangers whose mutual interests were yet to be perceived and adjusted. It was not until Christianity had emerged from the symbols of Judaism, that religion stood forth in a mature form, free from philosophic speculation; and it was not until Grecian wisdom had outgrown the myths of Heathenism, that philosophy appeared in a pure state, disengaged from religious superstition. Nor was it strange that the first meeting of the two great powers should have resulted in misunderstanding and conflict. The early Christians, claiming a revealed knowledge from Heaven, could only denounce philosophy as the foolishness of the world; and the philosophers, in their skeptical pride of intellect, were fain to despise Christianity as a mere vulgar superstition. The struggle had its practical issue in the bitter persecutions which prevailed until the triumph of Christianity under Constantine." Corinth was in Greece and the church there was made up in most part of Greeks, hence the occasion of Paul's teaching on the subject of worldly wisdom. The reader should note this paragraph and refer to it frequently as he reads the comments on the following verses. Perish and saved in this verse refer respectively to the philosophers and Christians described in the quotation from Herzog. Before this development, the philosophers were inclined to judge religion by the standard of their theories, and Paul was opposing that position.

Verse 19

1Co 1:19. This quotation is in Isa 29:14. What was once called the wisdom of the sages was proved to be not only unwise, but utterly contrary to natural evidences.

Verse 20

1Co 1:20. Where is the wise? etc., means what has become of the theories of these so-called wise and great ones? Made foolish means the foolishness has been made apparent by the light of truth. Only one out of the many examples will be cited here. For years the "wise" men of the world taught that the earth is flat, but today the engineers have been compelled to make certain changes in the operation of television in order to compensate for the curvature of the globe.

Verse 21

1Co 1:21. The world with all its theories that it called wisdom, failed to attain unto that wisdom that would make known to it the true God. Foolishness of preaching. Paul is not admitting that the Gospel is foolish, but is using the term expressed by the professed wise men. What they consider as foolishness is the very means God uses to save the believers. But it must be made known in order to save anyone. The third word in italics is from KERUGMA and is defined by Thayer, "that which is promulgated [publicly proclaimed] by a herald or public crier, a proclamation by a herald; in the N. T. the message or proclamation by the heralds of God or Christ." (See Rom 10:13-18 on the necessity of preaching.)

Verse 22

1Co 1:22. The Jews professed to believe in a higher form of knowledge than was possessed by mere human beings, but they were critical of any teaching that claimed such a quality unless accompanied with some direct demonstration from heaven. The Greeks were not interested in anything that did not come up to the standard of their own philosophy. (See the long note and historical quotation at verse 18.)

Verse 23

1Co 1:23. The first clause is virtually the same as the last part of verse 21. The preaching of Christ was always a stumblingblock to the Jews (Rom 9:32). The story of Jesus did not agree with the philosophy of the Greeks, hence they regarded it as foolishness. This was manifested when Paul was in Athens (Act 17:32).

Verse 24

1Co 1:24. Them which are called denotes the ones who respond favorably to the Gospel call. There were persons among both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) who were sufficiently free from prejudice to recognize the merits of the story of Christ, and to them He represented both the power and wisdom of God.

Verse 25

1Co 1:25. That which seemed like foolishness in the estimation of the ones clamoring for worldly wisdom, was far beyond the best that the philosophers of the nations could display. The weakness of God is used in the same comparative sense as the foolishness of God, using the language of the philosophers for the sake of argument.

Verse 26

1Co 1:26. Are called has the same bearing as the words in verse 24, namely, those who accept the call of the Gospel. The classes named are among the philosophers and wise men of the nations. The invitation and promises held out by the story of a slain and risen Lord, do not appeal to many of those classes, hence a comparatively small number are willing to accept the favor.

Verse 27

1Co 1:27. In all of these verses Paul uses such terms as foolish and wise in the sense attached to them by the so-called leaders of thought among the people of Greece especially, and of the world in general. To confound means to confuse and baffle. The unpretentious proclaimers of the Gospel were able to put their adversaries to shame. The case of Stephen in Act 6:10 is an outstanding one which states: "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake."

Verse 28

1Co 1:28. This has virtually the same thought as the preceding verse, with a different set of terms. Base and despised means the subjects that the philosophers looked down upon. Things which are not of any consequence in the eyes of these wise men of the world, were to have such an influence with the sincere believers who hear the sacred story that the things that are so important in the estimation of the proud sages would be exposed and shown to be vain.

Verse 29

1Co 1:29. No flesh should glory. The self-exalted accomplishments of fieshly man were to be stripped of their show of wisdom, and leave them without anything of which to boast.

Verse 30

1Co 1:30. Ye in Christ refers to the brethren at Corinth, and Him stands for God in verse 28, who had received these brethren in Christ. Is made unto us denotes that Paul ascribed to them the qualities named in the verse, even though the philosophers might belittle them.

Verse 31

1Co 1:31. As it is written has such a wide scope of references that it is unnecessary to cite them. The whole teaching of the Bible is that man owes all to God.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-corinthians-1.html. 1952.
 
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