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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Corinthians 1

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 1:1. Paul, called to be an apostle — There is great propriety in every clause of the salutation, particularly in this, as there was a faction at this time in the church at Corinth, which pretended to entertain doubts of his apostleship, 1 Corinthians 9:1; probably in consequence of insinuations thrown out against it by the Judaizing teacher, or teachers, who had come thither after his departure. The apostle, therefore, begins his letter by informing them, “that he was not, like Matthias, an apostle made by men, neither did he assume the office by his own authority, but he was called to it by Christ himself, who for that purpose appeared to him from heaven.” The original expression, κλητος αποστολος ιησου χριστου, is literally, a called apostle of Jesus Christ, or Jesus Christ’s called apostle. Through the will of God — Termed the commandment of God, 1 Timothy 1:1. This was, to the churches, the ground of his authority; to Paul himself, of an humble and ready mind. By the mention of God, the authority of man is excluded, Galatians 1:1; by the mention of the will of God, the merit of Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:8, &c. And Sosthenes — If, as most commentators think, this person be that chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, mentioned Acts 18:17, as active in persecuting Paul, we must suppose that he was afterward converted, and became an eminent preacher of the gospel. And as it seems he had considerable influence among the Corinthians, it was prudence, as well as humility, in the apostle, thus to join his name with his own, in an epistle where he was to reprove so many irregularities. Sosthenes our brother — Probably this word is emphatical; as if he had said, Who, from a Jewish opposer of the gospel, became a faithful brother.


Verse 2

1 Corinthians 1:2. Unto the church of God which is at Corinth — The apostle, writing in a familiar manner to the Corinthians, as also to the Thessalonians and Galatians, uses this plain appellation; to the other churches he uses a more solemn address: to them that are sanctified in, or through, Christ Jesus — That is, called out of the world, set apart for God, and made holy, through faith in Christ, and by grace derived from him, the head of his mystical body. Thus sanctified, undoubtedly they were in general, notwithstanding some exceptions, called — Of Jesus Christ, Romans 1:6; to be saints — That is, holy persons, by virtue of that calling, or, as κλετοις αγιοις is literally, saints, or holy persons, called: with all that in every place — All the world over; and particularly in every part of Achaia; nothing could better suit that catholic love which Paul labours to promote in this epistle, than such a declaration of his good wishes for every true Christian upon earth. Call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord — This plainly implies that all true Christians pray to Christ, as well as to the Father through him. We have the same expression with that here used, Acts 7:59 : They stoned Stephen, επικαλουμενον, calling upon, or invoking, namely, Christ, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. See also Acts 9:14; Acts 22:16; Romans 10:12-14. Praying to Christ was so much practised by the first Christians, that Pliny mentions it in the letter to Trajan: Carmen Christo quasi Deo dicere, They sing a hymn to Christ as God. Both theirs and ours — That is, who is Lord of all true believers everywhere. This the apostle mentioned in the beginning of his letter, to show the Corinthians how absurd it was for the disciples of one master to be divided into factions under particular leaders. Christ is the only Lord or Master of all his disciples, whether they be Jews or Gentiles; and therefore they ought not to disagree among themselves. “Though this epistle was written primarily to correct the disorderly practices of the Corinthians, it contains many general instructions, which could not fail to be of use to all the brethren in the province of Achaia likewise, and even to Christians in every place: for which reason the inscription consists of three members, and includes them all.”


Verses 3-9

1 Corinthians 1:3-9. Grace be unto you, &c. — See on Romans 1:7. I thank my God always — Whenever I mention you to God in prayer, or on every occasion; on your behalf — On your account; for the grace of God which is given you, &c. — For all those spiritual blessings which are freely conferred upon you by God, for Christ’s sake. That in every thing — With all kinds of spiritual gifts, pertaining to the knowledge and preaching of the gospel; ye are enriched by him — That is, many among you are; in all utterance — With great freedom of speech; and in all knowledge — Namely, of the mystery of the gospel. These gifts the Corinthians particularly admired. Therefore this congratulation naturally tended to soften their spirits, and make way for the reproofs which follow. Even as the testimony of Christ — The gospel, which testifies of Christ, and declares the will of God concerning the way of saving sinners, Matthew 24:14; was confirmed in — Or among, you — That is, was plainly proved to be from God, Revelation 19:10, by these gifts bestowed upon you. They knew they had received these gifts by the hand of Paul, and that long before the false teachers came among them, and that they had received none from them. And this consideration was highly proper to revive in them their former reverence and affection for their spiritual father, and to show them how much they were to blame for attaching themselves to teachers who had given them no proof at all either of their divine mission or of the truth of their doctrine. So that ye come behind — Other churches, and are defective in no gift — Namely, tending to edification and confirmation in the faith and hope of the gospel; waiting for the coming την αποκαλυψιν, the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ — A sure mark of a true or false Christian, to long for, or dread, the second glorious revelation of the Lord Jesus. The apostle speaks here, not of all individual believers at Corinth, but of the church there in general; as having in it many spiritual persons, who possessed all the different spiritual gifts which common believers could enjoy. Accordingly he asked them, 2 Corinthians 12:13, What is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches? Who shall also — If you faithfully apply to him; confirm you — In these gifts and graces; unto the end — Of your lives, and of the time of your trial; that ye may be blameless — Clear from the guilt of any known sin; in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ — The time of his coming to judgment. Now it is our day, wherein we are to work out our salvation: then it will be eminently the day of Christ, and of his glory in the saints. God is faithful to all his promises, and therefore to him that hath shall be given: by whom ye were called — By his word and Spirit; unto the fellowship of his Son

To partake, through him, of all the blessings of the gospel. And this calling, as if he had said, you should consider as a pledge of his willingness to save you unto the uttermost.


Verse 10

1 Corinthians 1:10. Now I beseech, παρακαλω, I exhort you, brethren — You have faith and hope, secure love also; by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — That endearing name, infinitely preferable to all the human names in which you glory. The apostle intending, says Locke, to abolish the names of the leaders, whereby the parties distinguished themselves, besought them by the name of Christ. Indeed, as the same writer observes, the apostle scarcely ever makes use of a word or expression which hath not some relation to his main purpose. That ye all speak the same thing — That ye agree both in your judgments and expressions concerning the doctrines of the gospel: or, that you do not unnecessarily and unkindly contradict each other, but rather maintain a peaceful and loving disposition toward each other. And that there be no divisions — Greek, σχισματα, schisms, among you — No alienation of affection from each other, and no factions or parties formed in consequence thereof: but that ye be perfectly joined together κατηρτισμενοι, perfectly united, or knit together, in the same mind and in the same judgment — Touching all the great truths of the gospel; waiving unnecessary controversies, debating those which are necessary with temper and candour, and delighting to speak most concerning those great and excellent things, in which, as Christians, you cannot but be agreed, and which, if duly considered, will cement your hearts to each other in the strictest and most tender bonds. “It was morally impossible, considering the diversities of their educations and capacities, that they should all agree in opinion; nor could he intend that, because he does not urge any argument to reduce them to such an agreement, nor so much as declare what that one opinion was in which he would have them agree. The words must therefore express that peaceful and unanimous temper, which Christians of different opinions may and ought to maintain toward each other; which will do a much greater honour to the gospel, and to human nature, than the most perfect uniformity that can be imagined.” — Doddridge. In short, “the meaning is, that in our deliberations we should yield to each other from mutual affection, and from a love of peace. Accordingly the heathen moralists describe true friendship as cemented by the same inclinations and aversions: Idem velle, et idem nolle,” &c.


Verse 11-12

1 Corinthians 1:11-12. For it hath been declared — Not out of ill-will, but to procure a remedy of the evil; unto me — Whom it concerns to know such things, that I may redress them; of you, my brethren — Brethren, says Locke, is a name of union and friendship, and is twice used by the apostle in this exhortation to these virtues. By them of the house of Chloe — According to Grotius, these were Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus, mentioned 1 Corinthians 16:17; who, he thinks, were Chloe’s sons, and the bearers of the letter which the Corinthians sent to the apostle, 1 Corinthians 7:1. That there are contentions among you — A word equivalent with schisms, in the preceding verse: now this I say — That is, what I mean is this; that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, &c. — There are various parties among you, who set themselves one against another, in behalf of the several teachers they admire. And I of Cephas — This seems to have been the boast of the Judaizing teachers: for as they came recommended by letters from Judea, they might be particularly attached to Peter, perhaps having been converted under his ministry: and I of Christ — Such spoke well, if they did not, on this pretence, despise their teachers. It seems there were now in the church at Corinth some Jewish Christians, who, having heard Christ preach, had been converted by him, and who claimed greater respect on that account. Chrysostom thought this was said by Paul himself, to show the Corinthians that all ought to consider themselves as the disciples of Christ, and of no other master; otherwise they derogated from the honour due to Christ. The Greeks, it must be observed, “valued themselves greatly on account of the fame of their masters in philosophy and the arts. This humour the Corinthians brought with them into the church. For some, especially the heads of the faction, claimed an authority over others on account of the dignity of the persons who had converted them, and to whom they had attached themselves, as their masters in the gospel. But others, who reckoned themselves equally honourable on account of the reputation of their teachers, opposed their pretensions. Hence arose those envyings, strifes, and divisions, which prevailed in the Corinthian church, and which the apostle termed, a walking after the manner of men, 1 Corinthians 3:3.” — Macknight.


Verses 13-16

1 Corinthians 1:13-16. Why do you not all say the same thing, namely, I am of Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:23. Is Christ divided? — Did one Christ send Paul, and another Apollos, to preach the gospel to you? Is not one and the same Christ preached to you by us all? or is his body divided? See 2 Corinthians 11:4. Was Paul — Or any other but Christ Jesus; crucified for you — That you should be baptized into his death, as Christians are into the death of Christ? that is, engaged by baptism to be conformed to his death, by dying to sin and to the world. As if he had said, Are your obligations to me, or to any other apostle or Christian minister, equal or comparable to those which you are under to our common Master? to him who died for us upon the cross? He mentions himself, as it was least invidious to do so; though the application was equally just as to every other instance. The apostle’s question here implies, that the sufferings of Christ have an influence in saving the world, which the sufferings of no other man have, or can have. Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul —

By his authority, and dedicated to his service? To be baptized in or into the name of any person is, as Locke observes, “to enter himself a disciple of him into whose name he is baptized, with profession to receive his doctrine and rules, and submit to his authority: a very good argument here, why they should be called by no one’s name but Christ’s.” In this sense the Israelites are said, 1 Corinthians 10:2, to have been baptized into Moses, in the cloud, and in the sea. I thank God — Who so ordered it in the course of his providence: it is a pious phrase for the common one, I rejoice: that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius — Crispus was the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, and among the first of the Corinthians who were converted by Paul, Acts 18:8 : Gaius, or Caius, was the person with whom the apostle lodged when he wrote his epistle to the Romans, Romans 15:23. Both of them were persons of eminence. The other Corinthians may have been baptized by the apostle’s assistants, Silas, Titus, and Timothy. Lest any should say I had baptized in my own name — In order to attach the persons baptized to myself, and cause them to acknowledge me for their head. Also the household of Stephanas — Who, according to Theophylact, was a person of note among the Corinthians; and his family seem all to have been adults when they were baptized, being said, 1 Corinthians 16:15, to have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. I know not — That is, it does not at present occur to my memory; whether I baptized any other — “Here the apostle intimates that he is not speaking by inspiration, but from memory. He did not remember whether he baptized any more of the Corinthians. The Spirit was given to the apostles indeed to lead them into all truth; but it was truth relative to the plan of man’s salvation, which was thus made known to them, and not truth, like the fact here mentioned, the certain knowledge of which was of no use whatever to the world.”


Verse 17

1 Corinthians 1:17. For Christ sent me not to baptize — Not chiefly: this was not the principal end of my mission. He did not call me in so wonderful a way, and endue me with extraordinary powers, chiefly in order to my doing that which might be done as well by an ordinary minister: (all the apostles, however, were also sent to baptize, Matthew 28:19 :) but to preach the gospel — Or to plant churches by preaching the gospel to those that never heard it before, Acts 26:17-18. “The apostles, being endued with the highest degrees of inspiration and miraculous powers, had the office of preaching committed to them, rather than that of baptizing, because they were best qualified for converting the world, and had not time to give the converted, either before or after their baptism, such particular instruction as their former ignorance rendered necessary. These offices, therefore, were committed to the inferior ministers of the Word.” The apostle here slides into his general proposition, respecting preaching the gospel, namely, the doctrine which he preached, and the manner in which he preached it. Not with wisdom of words λογου, of speech, with the artificial ornaments of discourse, invented by human wisdom. This observation was intended to show the Corinthians how ill-founded the boasting of the faction was, who valued themselves on the learning and eloquence of their teachers. Lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect — Lest the bare preaching of Christ crucified, 1 Corinthians 1:23, as a fundamental article of Christianity, and the foundation of all our hopes, should be thought unavailing to procure salvation for guilty sinners. The whole effect of Paul’s preaching was owing to the power of God accompanying the plain declaration of this great truth, Christ bore our sins upon the cross. But this effect might have been imputed to another cause, had he come with that wisdom of speech which the Greeks admired. “To have adorned the gospel with the paint of the Grecian rhetoric would have obscured its wisdom and simplicity, just as the gilding of a diamond would destroy its brilliancy. Besides, it would have marred its operation as a revelation from God. For the evidence and efficacy of the gospel arise not from its being proved by philosophical arguments, and recommended by the charms of human eloquence, but from its being proved by miracles, and founded on the testimony of God.” — Macknight.


Verses 18-21

1 Corinthians 1:18-21. The preaching of the cross — The doctrine of the crucifixion of the Son of God, to expiate the sins of mankind, and procure salvation for such as should believe in him; is to them that perish — By obstinately rejecting the only name whereby they can be saved; foolishness — Accounted an absurd, ridiculous, and impossible thing, and what no men of sense will believe; but unto us who are saved — That is, believe in order to salvation; it is the power of God — The great instrument whereby his power regenerates, sanctifies, and finally saves us. For, &c. — As if he had said, It appears that this is the only means of salvation, because all other ways of man’s own invention are ineffectual; it is written — And the words are remarkably applicable to this great event, (see the note on Isaiah 29:14,) I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, &c. — That carnal and worldly wisdom, which they so much confide in and boast of, as to despise the doctrine of the gospel, shall be of no advantage to them for their salvation. Where is the wise, &c. — The deliverance of Judea from Sennacherib is what Isaiah refers to in these words, (see note on Isaiah 33:18;) in a bold and beautiful allusion to which, the apostle, in the clause that follows, triumphs over all the opposition of human wisdom, to the victorious gospel of Christ. What could the wise men of the Gentiles do against this? Or the Jewish scribes? Or the disputers of this world? — Those among both, who, proud of their acuteness, were fond of controversy, and thought they could confute all opponents. Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world — That is, shown it to be very foolishness? For after that — Since it came to pass, that in the wisdom of God — According to his wise disposals, leaving them to make the trial; the world — Whether Jewish or Gentile, by all its boasted wisdom knew not God — Though the whole creation declared its Creator, and though he declared himself by his servants the prophets, the heathen were not brought to the true saving knowledge of God, and the generality of the Jews did not attain that spiritual, experimental, and practical knowledge of him, which entitles to, and prepares for eternal life. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching — By a way which those who perish count mere foolishness; to save them that believe — From the guilt and power of sin here, and from its consequences hereafter.


Verses 22-25

1 Corinthians 1:22-25. For the Jews require a sign — Demand of the apostles, as they did of their Lord, more signs still, after all they have seen already. And the Greeks — Or Gentiles; seek after wisdom — The depths of philosophy, and the charms of eloquence. But we preach Christ crucified — We proceed to bear our testimony in a plain and historical, not rhetorical or philosophical manner, to the sufferings and death of Christ, endured to expiate the guilt of mankind, and procure for them pardon, holiness, and eternal life: unto the Jews a stumbling-block — An occasion of offence, by reason of his mean appearance, his sufferings, and death; they having looked for a glorious and victorious Messiah, who should rescue them from all their enemies, and exalt them to wealth, dignity, and power; and because the profession of Christianity was attended with reproach, and various other sufferings. This doctrine therefore was in direct opposition to the signs which they demanded, and to all their secular expectations; and unto the Greeks foolishness — A silly tale, just opposite to the wisdom they seek. But unto them which are called — And who obey the call; both Jews and Greeks — For the effect is the same on both; Christ — With his doctrine, his miracles, his life, his death, his resurrection, &c.; the power of God — Creating men anew by his word and Spirit, enabling them to withstand and conquer all their spiritual enemies, and to do with cheerfulness, and suffer with patience, the whole will of God: and the wisdom of God — The person by whom God also manifests his infinite wisdom in the contrivance and execution of his plan of redemption and salvation, and the preaching of whom in the gospel, is not such folly as the Greeks count it; but the declaration of that great mystery of godliness, in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Because the foolishness of God — That preaching of Christ crucified which men account foolishness; is wiser than men — Contains more true wisdom than any or all of the apparently wise contrivances of men: or, the lowest expressions of God’s wisdom in those actions and dispensations, which are most contrary to the judgment, wisdom, and experience of carnal persons, are incomparably wiser than all the projects which the wit of men can devise; and the weakness of God — Those weak means by which God is wont to accomplish his purposes, or the smallest effects of his power; are stronger than men — More available than any human power to bring about their designs. In other words, the weakness of Christian teachers which God makes use of will be found to be stronger than all the efforts which men can make, either to reform the world any other way, or to obstruct the prevalence and success of this.


Verse 26

1 Corinthians 1:26. And hereby it appears that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, &c. — Because he makes use of such weak and mean instruments to bring men to the knowledge of the truth. For ye see — βλεπετε, behold, consider; your calling — And you will discern how agreeably to these things the divine wisdom hath ordered it; observe especially the state of your fellow-Christians in general, and what method he uses, and what manner of persons he employs, to bring men to the knowledge of, and to obedience to the gospel; that not many wise men after the flesh — In secular matters, and according to the wisdom of this world, or in the account of carnal, worldly men. Not many mighty, &c., are called — Are brought to the knowledge of the truth: or, as the apostle rather means, and as ought to have here been supplied to complete the sense, are employed to call you. Our translators, in supplying the words, are called, “convey a sentiment,” says Macknight, “neither true nor suitable to the apostle’s design. It is not true: for even in Judea, among the chief rulers, many believed on him, John 12:42; particularly Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. Other Jews, likewise, of rank and learning were called; such as the nobleman whose sick son Jesus cured, John 4:53; and Manaen, Herod’s foster-brother, and Cornelius, and Gamaliel; and that great company of priests mentioned Acts 6:7, who were obedient to the faith. At Ephesus many who used the arts of magic and divination were called, and who were men of learning, as appears from the number and value of their books, which they burned after embracing the gospel, Acts 19:19. And in such numerous churches as those of Antioch, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome, it can hardly be doubted that there were disciples in the higher ranks of life. There were brethren even in the emperor’s family, Philippians 4:22. In short, the precepts in the epistles to masters, to treat their slaves with humanity, and to women, concerning their not adorning themselves with gold and silver, and costly raiment, show that many wealthy persons had embraced the gospel. On the other hand, though it were true, that not many wise men, &c., were called, it did not suit the apostle’s argument to mention it here. For surely God’s not calling many of the wise, &c., joined with his calling the foolish ones of the world to believe, did not put to shame the wise and strong, &c. Whereas, if the discourse be understood of the preachers of the gospel, who were employed to convert the world, all is clear and pertinent. God chose, not the learned and mighty, and the noble ones of this world, to preach the gospel, but illiterate and weak men, and men of low birth: and by making them successful in reforming mankind, he put to shame the legislators, statesmen, and philosophers among the heathen, and the learned scribes and doctors among the Jews, who never had done any thing to the purpose in that matter.”


Verses 27-29

1 Corinthians 1:27-29. But God hath chosen the foolish things — Or, supplying the word προσωπα, the foolish persons of the world. Such persons as are of little esteem in the world, for want of learning, parts, eloquence, and such other endowments as some have attained, and who are judged altogether unfit to teach others, especially the Greeks and Romans. To confound the wise — To shame those who account themselves, and are accounted wise; and of whom the world is most ready to boast. In this passage the apostle imitates the contemptuous language in which the Greek philosophers, and men of learning, affected to speak of the Christian preachers: yet, as he does it in irony, he aggrandizes them. The first preachers of the gospel, as Bishop Newton observes, “were chiefly a few poor fishermen, of low parentage, of no learning or eloquence, of no reputation or authority, despised as Jews by the rest of mankind, and by the Jews as the meanest and worst of themselves. What improper instruments were these to contend with the prejudices of the world, the superstition of the people, the interests of the priests, the vanity of the philosophers, the pride of the rulers, the malice of the Jews, the learning of the Greeks, and the power of Rome!” But the weaker the instruments who converted the world, the greater was the display of the power of God by which they acted. See on 2 Corinthians 4:7. And the weak things of the world — Persons who pretend to no extraordinary abilities or endowments; to confound — Or shame; the things which are mighty — Which, with all their boasted powers and qualifications, have never been able to work such a reformation among men, as these despised disciples of Jesus have been the means of effecting. And base things of the world — Things accounted vile and despised, εξουθενημενα, set at naught; and things which are not — Which are as little regarded, or as much overlooked, as if they had no being, and were below contempt itself; hath God chosen — To be his instruments in renewing and saving mankind; to bring to naught — To annihilate; things that are — In the highest esteem, and that make the most illustrious figures among mankind. That no flesh — A fit appellation; flesh is fair, but withering as grass; should glory in his presence — That no human being might boast of any advantages or distinctions, or of any excellence in himself, as the cause of his being appointed an apostle, evangelist, or minister of Christ, and employed in preaching the gospel: and that none who are converted by the preaching of such, should consider their conversion as the effect of any human abilities, natural or acquired, but should be compelled to ascribe the glory of all to God.


Verse 30-31

1 Corinthians 1:30-31. But of him — Of his free mercy and grace; are ye in Christ Jesus — Ingrafted into him, and therefore possessed of an interest in him, and union with him; who of God — The original source of our salvation in all its parts, and of all the gifts and graces we possess; is made unto us who now believe — But were formerly ignorant and foolish; wisdom — Teaching us by his word and Spirit, and making us wise unto salvation; righteousness — The procuring cause of justification through his obedience unto death, to us who were before under guilt, condemnation, and wrath; sanctification — The principle and example, source and author of universal holiness to us, whereas before we were altogether polluted and dead in sin; and redemption — Complete deliverance from all the consequences of sin, and especially from death, the punishment of it, by a glorious resurrection, (termed the redemption of our body, Romans 8:23,) and eternal bliss both of soul and body. That, as it is written, (see on Jeremiah 9:23-24,) He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord — Not in himself, not in the flesh, not in the world, not in any creature, nor in any endowment or qualification, mental or bodily.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-corinthians-1.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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