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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
1 Corinthians 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-9

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God.

The salutation

I. The character of Paul.

1. There were two things the apostle knew confidently.

2. The strength and nobleness of Paul’s character was based on the confidence that he was “called of God” to be and to do the work of an apostle. A little thing will not make us lose heart in our work if we believe we are “called of God.”

II. The character of the Corinthians.

1. They also were “called of God” “to be saints”--i.e., separated to God. They were not self-called, to be and to do what they liked. They were called of God to be like God, and to do His will; to be separated from their former selves.

2. They had been called out of a society--

3. The character given them by God should inspire them with jealous care against--

III. The benediction. Grace is essentially an element of “peace.” Its great dispensation was heralded in by “peace on earth.” “Sinai” and “peace” were not known; but “Calvary” and “peace” are one. They who build on anything but “grace” will not know “peace.” The Church, too, will be characterised by “peace” in the measure of the “grace” in the heart of its members. The peace-breaker is never a man “full of grace.” (The Study.)

The salutation

I. The designation of the writers.

1. An apostle means “one sent,” a missionary to teach the truth committed to him; and the authority of this apostolic mission St. Paul substantiates in 1 Corinthians 1:1, for it was questioned. In the firm conviction of his call by the will of God lay all his power. No man felt more strongly his own insignificance, but more deeply did he feel that he was God’s messenger. Imagine that conception dawning on him in the midst of his despondency, and his joyful boldness against the slander of his enemies, and the doubtfulness of his friends is natural. This should be our strength. Called to be a politician, a tradesman, a physician. Why should not each and all of us feel that? But we get rid of it by saying that God called the apostles, but does not speak to us. But observe the modesty of the apostolic claim. He did not wish that his people should receive his truth because he, the apostle, had said it, but because it was truth.

2. St. Paul’s joining with himself “brother” Sosthenes is another proof of his desire to avoid lording it over God’s heritage. If Sosthenes be he of Acts 18:1-28., what a conqueror St. Paul, or rather Christianity, had become. Like the apostle, Sosthenes now built up the faith which once he destroyed.

II. The persons addressed.

1. “The Church,” which, according to the derivation of the word, means the House of God. It is that body of men in whom the Spirit of God dwells, and who exist on earth for the purpose of exhibiting the Divine life, to penetrate and purify the world. It has an existence continuous throughout the ages, not on the principles of hereditary succession or of human election, but on the principle of spiritual similarity of character, just as the seed of Abraham are the inheritors of his faith.

2. There is, however, a Church visible and invisible; the latter consists of those spiritual persons who fulfil the notion of the ideal Church; the former embraces within it all who profess Christianity, whether they be proper or improper members of its body. Of the invisible Church St. Paul speaks as “called to be saints,” “temples of the Holy Ghost.” Of the visible as “carnal, and walking as men,” and when he reproves their errors Christ too speaks of the same in the parables of the draw-net and the tares. To illustrate the abstract conception of a river is that of a stream of pure water, but the actual river is the Rhine or the Thames, muddy and discoloured. So of the Church. Abstractedly and invisibly it is a kingdom of God in which no evil is; in the concrete, and actually, it is the Church of Corinth, Rome, or England, tainted with impurity; and yet just as the muddied Rhone is really the Rhone, and not mud and Rhone, so there are not two churches, the Church of Corinth and the false church within it, but one visible Church in which the invisible lies concealed (cf. the parable of the Vine)
.

3. Rut beyond the limits of the visible is there no true Church? Are Plato, Socrates, Marcus Antoninus, and such as they, to be reckoned by us as lost? Surely not. The Church exists for the purpose of educating souls for heaven; but goodness is goodness, find it where we may. A vineyard exists for the purpose of nurturing vines, but he would be a strange vine-dresser who denied the reality of grapes because they had ripened under a less genial soil, and beyond the precincts of the vineyard.

4. The visible Church of which the Church of Corinth formed a part existed to exhibit what humanity should be to represent the Life Divine in

III. The benediction: “Grace and peace,” &c. The heathen commenced their letters with the salutation, “Health!” There is a life of the flesh, and there is a life of the spirit--a truer, more real, and higher life, and above and beyond all things the apostle wished them this. He wished them neither “health” nor “happiness,” but “grace and peace,” &c. And nosy comes the question, What is the use of this benediction? How could grace and peace be given as a blessing to those who rejected grace, and not believing fell no peace? Its validity depended on its reception by the hearts to whom it was addressed. If they received it they became in fact what they had been by right all along. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The apostolic salutations

The praise here bestowed, though not greater than that with which other Epistles are opened, is remarkable as being addressed to a Church which is thought deserving of severe censures. But it is to be observed--

1. That the praise there bestowed on faith and holiness is here almost confined to gifts such as knowledge and wisdom, which were obviously not incompatible with the moral degradation into which some of the members of the Church had fallen. And it is in accordance with the apostle’s method to seize, in the first instance, on some point of sympathy and congratulation, not merely from a prudential policy, but from natural courtesy and generosity.

2. That this apostolic practice is an exemplification of the general rule, according to which Scripture presents strongly the ideal of the whole without describing the defects and sins of the parts. The visible society of Christians was to the apostles, in spite of its many imperfections, the representation of Messiah’s kingdom. And then, although the Christian congregation in each city or country was distinct from the heathen community in which it was situated, it was, as it were, the Christian representative of that community. A Christian of Corinth or Ephesus might travel backwards and forwards from one to the other; but however great were the disorders of the one or the excellences of the other, there was no call upon him to exchange communions unless he actually ceased to reside in Corinth or Ephesus. The supposed duty of gaining proselytes from Christian communities different from our own, and the consequent division of Churches by any other than their local and national designations, are ideas alien from the apostolic age. “Spartam nactus es; hanc exorna,” was a maxim of apostolical, no less than of Grecian wisdom. No Church of later ages has presented a more striking example of corruption or laxity than was exhibited at Corinth, yet the apostle does not call on his converts to desert their city or their community; and he himself steadily fixes his view on the better and the redeeming side. (Dean Stanley.)

The Church in Corinth

I. The writer--“Paul, an Apostle,” &c.

1. An apostle is one sent, as Christ was sent by the Father (John 17:18). It was therefore an office no one could take to himself, nor was it promotion from previous service. This explains one of Paul’s most prominent characteristics: the combination of humility and authority. He is “not worthy to be called an apostle,” yet he never hesitates to assert his claim to be listened to as the ambassador of Christ. And this is for us all the source of humility and confidence. It is altogether a new strength with which a man is inspired when he knows that God calls him to do this or that.

2. What share in the letter Sosthenes had we cannot say. He may have written it, and he may have suggested a point here and there. Paul did not stay to inquire whether Sosthenes was qualified to be the author of a canonical book; but knowing the authoritative position he had held among the Jews of Corinth, he naturally conjoins his name with his own.

II. The persons to whom this letter is addressed (verse 2).

1. With them are joined “all that in every place,” &c. And therefore we may gather that Paul would have defined the Church as those who “call upon the name of Jesus Christ.” This implies trust in Him, and acknowledgment of Him as supreme Lord. It is this which brings men together as a Christian Church.

2. But at once we are confronted with the difficulty that many persons who call upon the name of the Lord do so with no conviction of their need, and with no real dependence upon Christ or allegiance to Him. Hence the distinction between the Church visible, which consists of all who nominally belong to the Christian community, and the Church invisible. Where the visible Church is its members can be counted, its property estimated, its history written. But of the invisible Church no man can fully write the history, or name the members, or appraise its properties, gifts, and service.

3. From the earliest times it has been said that the true Church must be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. That is true if the Church invisible be meant. But it is not true of the Church visible. Paul here gives us four notes which must always be found in the true Church.

4. Paul, with his usual courtesy and tact, begins with a hearty acknowledgment of the distinctive excellences of the Corinthian Church (verses 4-6).

(a) Paul thanked God for their gift of utterance. Perhaps had he lived now he might have had a word to say in praise of silence. There is more than a risk nowadays that talk takes the place of thought and action. But this utterance was a great gift. In no other language could Christian ideas have found such adequate and beautiful expression. And in this Paul saw promise of a rapid and effective propagation of the gospel. Legitimately may we hope for the Church when she so apprehends her own wealth in Christ as to be stirred to invite all the world to share with her.

(b) But utterance is well backed by knowledge. Often has the determination to satisfy the intellect with Christian truth been reprehended as idle and even wicked. The faith which accepted testimony was a gift of God, but so also was the knowledge which sought to recommend the contents of this testimony to the human mind.

The call of God is

1. The ground of ministerial authority.

2. The motive to ministerial usefulness. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The authority of the Christian minister

He is--

1. The messenger of Christ.

2. Divinely called.

3. Set apart by the will of God as indicated by His Providence. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

And Sosthenes our brother.--

Sosthenes a brother

I. Who was Sosthenes?

1. After Paul began work at Corinth, Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, was converted; and that Paul considered his a notable case is proved by the fact that he personally baptized him. But as Paul was compelled to leave the synagogue, it is probable that Crispus would also have to leave; and the fact that Sosthenes is afterwards mentioned as chief ruler implies that Crispus was deposed. Paul continued his lectures next door to the synagogue, and its success would naturally enrage Sosthenes, who was doubtless the head of the conspiracy which led Paul before Gallio. We know the result. The Jews had risen in insurrection; it was now the turn of the Greeks, who made Sosthenes the special object of their attack.

2. That the Sosthenes of the text is the same as he of Acts 18:1-28, seems likely.

II. The lessons.

1. How wonderful in its operations is the grace of God! Here is a man the very last one would expect to become a Christian.

2. Do not be hopeless over any case. Sosthenes was in office, and officials are always difficult to move, and the indignities he suffered would exasperate him against Christianity.

3. Cherish a forgiving spirit. How fully Paul forgave his enemy and admitted him into his friendship.

4. Cultivate kindly feelings towards the Christian friends with whom we have been or are associated. The first Christians Sosthenes knew were at Corinth. At first he hated them, but afterwards he loved them as he had never loved friends before; but the brotherliness was on both sides. (A. Scott.)

To the Church of God.

The term, ἐκκλήσια (church), formed of the two words “out of” and “to call,” denotes in ordinary Greek language an assembly of citizens called out of their dwellings by an official summons (cf. Acts 19:41)
. Applied to the religious domain in the New Testament, the word preserves essentially the same meaning. Here, too, there is a summoner--God, who calls sinners
to salvation by the preaching of the gospel (Galatians 1:6). There are the summoned--sinners, called to faith thenceforth to form the new society of which Christ is the Head. The complement “of God” indicates at once Him who has summoned the assembly, and Him to whom it belongs. The term, “the Church of God,” thus corresponds to the Old Testament phrase, “the congregation of the Lord”; but there is this difference, that the latter was recruited by way of filiation, while in the new covenant the Church is formed and recruited by the personal adherence of faith. (Prof. Godet.)

Threefold sanctification

(Jude 1:1, text, and 1 Peter 1:2):--Mark the union of the three Divine Persons in all their gracious acts. How unwise all those who make preferences in the Persons of the Trinity. In their love, and in the actions which flow from it, they are one. Specially is this in the case of sanctification. This being the case, what value God must set upon holiness! God could as soon cease to be as cease to be holy, and sooner renounce the sovereignty of the world than tolerate anything unholy. Sanctification means--

I. Setting apart--the taking of something which might legitimately have been put to ordinary uses for God’s service alone.

1. E.g., in Exodus 13:2 God claimed the firstborn of men and cattle. The tribe of Levi was set apart to be the representatives of the firstborn. In Genesis 2:3, God set apart for His own service what had been an ordinary portion of time before. So Leviticus 27:14 was meant as a direction to devout Jews, who intended that the produce of the field or the occupation of the house should be wholly given to God. So in Exodus 29:44 we read that God said, “I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar.” To the same effect are the sanctification of the altar, instruments, and vessels (Numbers 7:1), the setting apart of Eleazer to keep the ark (1 Samuel 7:1), and the establishment of cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7). This Old Testament use of the word explains John 10:26. Immaculately conceived and preserved from all stain of evil, Christ needed no sanctifying work within Him. All that is here intended is that He was set apart (John 17:19). You understand now the text in Jude. God the Father has specially set apart His people.

2. What suggestive and solemn thoughts are here.

II. That the thing set apart for holy uses is to be regarded, treated, and declared holy.

1. E.g., in Isaiah 8:13, it is said, “Sanctify the Lord of Hosts, Himself.” Now the Lord does not need to be set apart for holy uses, nor to be purified, for He is holiness itself. When Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-20.) put strange fire on the altar, and the fire of the Lord consumed them, the reason was--“I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me”; by which He meant that He would be treated as a most Holy Being with whom such liberties were not to be taken (see also Numbers 10:12, and “hallowed be Thy name” in the Lord’s Prayer).

2. Have we not some light here concerning our second text--“Sanctified in Christ Jesus” ? In Christ Jesus the saints are regarded by God as being holy, and treated as such, i.e., are justified. A holy God cannot have dealings with unholy men; but He views us, not in ourselves, but in our federal Head, the Second Adam. We may boldly enter into the Holiest, where no unholy thing may come, because God views us as holy in Christ Jesus. We now come to--

III. Actually to purify or make holy.

1. In Exodus 19:10-12 sanctification consisted in certain outward deeds by which they were put into a cleanly state and their souls were brought into reverential awe. In Joshua 3:1-17., when Israel were about to pass the Jordan, they were to prepare themselves to be beholders of a scene so august. Men in the old times were sprinkled with blood, and thus sanctified from defilement and considered to be pure in the sight of God. This is the sense in which we view our third text, “Sanctification through the Spirit,” the sense in which it is generally understood.

2. Sanctification begins in regeneration, and is carried on in two ways--by mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued, and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to spring up into everlasting life. This is carried on every day in what we call perseverance, and it comes to perfection in “glory.” Now this work, though we commonly speak of it as being the work of the Spirit, is quite as much the work of Christ. There are two agents: one is the worker who works this sanctification effectually--that is the Spirit; and the other, the agent, the efficacious means by which the Spirit works this sanctification is--Jesus Christ and His most precious blood. There is a garment which needs to be washed. Here is a person to wash it, and there is a bath in which it is to be washed--the Person is the Holy Spirit, but the bath is the precious blood of Christ.

3. The Spirit of God as the Author of sanctification employs a visible agent. “Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy Word is truth.” How important then that the truth should be preached.

4. In another sense we are sanctified through Christ Jesus, because it is His blood and the water which flowed from His side in which the Spirit washes our heart from the defilement and propensity of sin (Ephesians 5:25). There is no being sanctified by the law; the Spirit does not use legal precepts to sanctify us. No; just as when Marah’s waters were bitter, Moses had a tree cast in, and they were sweet, so the Spirit of God, finding our natures bitter, takes the tree of Calvary, casts it into the stream, and everything is made pure. He finds us lepers, and to make us clean He dips the hyssop of faith in the precious blood, and sprinkles it upon us and we are clean. The blood of Christ not merely makes satisfaction for sin, but works the death of sin. The blood appears before God and He is well pleased; it falls on us--lusts wither, and old corruptions feel the death-stroke.

5. Just as the Spirit only works through the truth, so the blood of Christ only works through faith. Our faith lays hold on the atonement, sees Jesus suffering on the tree, and says, “I vow revenge against the sins which nailed Him there”; and thus His precious blood works in us a detestation of all sin. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Three notes of the Church

I. It is God’s--but to distinguish it from the heathen ἐκκλησίαι--a name never used in profane Greek to denote a religious assembly--but to distinguish it from the κόσμος, which is the antagonist of the kingdom and out of which the Church is called. Though the name ecclesia was borrowed from the clubs or associations of the time, the apostle discovers in it a Christian idea--that of separation from the world. To say that the Church is an ecclesia is to say it is God’s.

II. As a result of its being an ecclesia, the Church is sanctified (cf. John 17:16-19). The primary meaning is consecration. The Christian enters into the place hitherto occupied by the Jewish Church. But consecration in its Christian form resolves itself into holiness. Christ takes possession of every morality and raises it into spirituality. All goodness becomes a religion, binding the soul to God. “In” means that believers are not only sanctified “through the offering of Christ” (Hebrews 10:10), but also continue holy in virtue of union with Christ (cf. Romans 15:16)
.

III. It consists of men “called to be saints.” They are saints by reason of a Divine call from without as well as of a Divine operation from within (cf. Romans 1:6; Leviticus 23:2)
. The notion of saintship is in Scripture inseparable from that of being reckoned, of being allotted a place by God
. (Principal Edwards.)

Grace be unto you, and peace.--

Grace and peace

Grace is favour, and peace its fruits. The former includes all that is comprehended in the love of God as exercised towards sinners; and the latter all the benefits which flow from that love. All good, therefore, whether providential or spiritual, whether temporal or eternal, is comprehended in these terms--justification, adoption, and sanctification, with all the benefits which either accompany or flow from them. These infinite blessings suppose an infinite source; and as they are sought no less from Christ than from God the Father, Christ must be a Divine person. It is to be remarked that God is called our Father, and Christ our Lord. God as God has not only created us, but renewed and adopted us. God in Christ has redeemed us. He is our owner and sovereign, to whom our allegiance is immediately due; who reigns in and rules over us, defending us from all His and our enemies. This is the peculiar form which piety assumes under the gospel. All Christians regard God as their Father and Christ as their Lord. His person they love, His voice they obey, and in His protection they trust. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The peace of the Christian

Trust God and thy soul shall no longer be like “the sea that cannot rest,” full of turbulent wishes, full of passionate desires that come to nothing, full of endless meanings, like the homeless ocean that is ever working, and never flings up any product of its work but foam and broken weeds; but thine heart shall become still, like some land-locked lake, where no winds or tempests ruffle, and on its calm surface there shall be mirrored the clear shining of the unclouded blue, and the perpetual light of the sun that never goes down.

No peace without Christ

The vessel in which we are passing over the sea of life is always driven by contrary winds till the Lord embarks. (J. Pulsford.)

Divine blessings

Observe--

I. The blessing we announce.

1. Grace and peace.

2. Needed by all.

3. Offered to all.

II. Their source.

1. God.

2. Our Father.

3. Through Christ.

4. Hence the supply is inexhaustible. (J. Lyth, D. D.)


Verses 1-9

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God.

The salutation

I. The character of Paul.

1. There were two things the apostle knew confidently.

2. The strength and nobleness of Paul’s character was based on the confidence that he was “called of God” to be and to do the work of an apostle. A little thing will not make us lose heart in our work if we believe we are “called of God.”

II. The character of the Corinthians.

1. They also were “called of God” “to be saints”--i.e., separated to God. They were not self-called, to be and to do what they liked. They were called of God to be like God, and to do His will; to be separated from their former selves.

2. They had been called out of a society--

3. The character given them by God should inspire them with jealous care against--

III. The benediction. Grace is essentially an element of “peace.” Its great dispensation was heralded in by “peace on earth.” “Sinai” and “peace” were not known; but “Calvary” and “peace” are one. They who build on anything but “grace” will not know “peace.” The Church, too, will be characterised by “peace” in the measure of the “grace” in the heart of its members. The peace-breaker is never a man “full of grace.” (The Study.)

The salutation

I. The designation of the writers.

1. An apostle means “one sent,” a missionary to teach the truth committed to him; and the authority of this apostolic mission St. Paul substantiates in 1 Corinthians 1:1, for it was questioned. In the firm conviction of his call by the will of God lay all his power. No man felt more strongly his own insignificance, but more deeply did he feel that he was God’s messenger. Imagine that conception dawning on him in the midst of his despondency, and his joyful boldness against the slander of his enemies, and the doubtfulness of his friends is natural. This should be our strength. Called to be a politician, a tradesman, a physician. Why should not each and all of us feel that? But we get rid of it by saying that God called the apostles, but does not speak to us. But observe the modesty of the apostolic claim. He did not wish that his people should receive his truth because he, the apostle, had said it, but because it was truth.

2. St. Paul’s joining with himself “brother” Sosthenes is another proof of his desire to avoid lording it over God’s heritage. If Sosthenes be he of Acts 18:1-28., what a conqueror St. Paul, or rather Christianity, had become. Like the apostle, Sosthenes now built up the faith which once he destroyed.

II. The persons addressed.

1. “The Church,” which, according to the derivation of the word, means the House of God. It is that body of men in whom the Spirit of God dwells, and who exist on earth for the purpose of exhibiting the Divine life, to penetrate and purify the world. It has an existence continuous throughout the ages, not on the principles of hereditary succession or of human election, but on the principle of spiritual similarity of character, just as the seed of Abraham are the inheritors of his faith.

2. There is, however, a Church visible and invisible; the latter consists of those spiritual persons who fulfil the notion of the ideal Church; the former embraces within it all who profess Christianity, whether they be proper or improper members of its body. Of the invisible Church St. Paul speaks as “called to be saints,” “temples of the Holy Ghost.” Of the visible as “carnal, and walking as men,” and when he reproves their errors Christ too speaks of the same in the parables of the draw-net and the tares. To illustrate the abstract conception of a river is that of a stream of pure water, but the actual river is the Rhine or the Thames, muddy and discoloured. So of the Church. Abstractedly and invisibly it is a kingdom of God in which no evil is; in the concrete, and actually, it is the Church of Corinth, Rome, or England, tainted with impurity; and yet just as the muddied Rhone is really the Rhone, and not mud and Rhone, so there are not two churches, the Church of Corinth and the false church within it, but one visible Church in which the invisible lies concealed (cf. the parable of the Vine)
.

3. Rut beyond the limits of the visible is there no true Church? Are Plato, Socrates, Marcus Antoninus, and such as they, to be reckoned by us as lost? Surely not. The Church exists for the purpose of educating souls for heaven; but goodness is goodness, find it where we may. A vineyard exists for the purpose of nurturing vines, but he would be a strange vine-dresser who denied the reality of grapes because they had ripened under a less genial soil, and beyond the precincts of the vineyard.

4. The visible Church of which the Church of Corinth formed a part existed to exhibit what humanity should be to represent the Life Divine in

III. The benediction: “Grace and peace,” &c. The heathen commenced their letters with the salutation, “Health!” There is a life of the flesh, and there is a life of the spirit--a truer, more real, and higher life, and above and beyond all things the apostle wished them this. He wished them neither “health” nor “happiness,” but “grace and peace,” &c. And nosy comes the question, What is the use of this benediction? How could grace and peace be given as a blessing to those who rejected grace, and not believing fell no peace? Its validity depended on its reception by the hearts to whom it was addressed. If they received it they became in fact what they had been by right all along. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The apostolic salutations

The praise here bestowed, though not greater than that with which other Epistles are opened, is remarkable as being addressed to a Church which is thought deserving of severe censures. But it is to be observed--

1. That the praise there bestowed on faith and holiness is here almost confined to gifts such as knowledge and wisdom, which were obviously not incompatible with the moral degradation into which some of the members of the Church had fallen. And it is in accordance with the apostle’s method to seize, in the first instance, on some point of sympathy and congratulation, not merely from a prudential policy, but from natural courtesy and generosity.

2. That this apostolic practice is an exemplification of the general rule, according to which Scripture presents strongly the ideal of the whole without describing the defects and sins of the parts. The visible society of Christians was to the apostles, in spite of its many imperfections, the representation of Messiah’s kingdom. And then, although the Christian congregation in each city or country was distinct from the heathen community in which it was situated, it was, as it were, the Christian representative of that community. A Christian of Corinth or Ephesus might travel backwards and forwards from one to the other; but however great were the disorders of the one or the excellences of the other, there was no call upon him to exchange communions unless he actually ceased to reside in Corinth or Ephesus. The supposed duty of gaining proselytes from Christian communities different from our own, and the consequent division of Churches by any other than their local and national designations, are ideas alien from the apostolic age. “Spartam nactus es; hanc exorna,” was a maxim of apostolical, no less than of Grecian wisdom. No Church of later ages has presented a more striking example of corruption or laxity than was exhibited at Corinth, yet the apostle does not call on his converts to desert their city or their community; and he himself steadily fixes his view on the better and the redeeming side. (Dean Stanley.)

The Church in Corinth

I. The writer--“Paul, an Apostle,” &c.

1. An apostle is one sent, as Christ was sent by the Father (John 17:18). It was therefore an office no one could take to himself, nor was it promotion from previous service. This explains one of Paul’s most prominent characteristics: the combination of humility and authority. He is “not worthy to be called an apostle,” yet he never hesitates to assert his claim to be listened to as the ambassador of Christ. And this is for us all the source of humility and confidence. It is altogether a new strength with which a man is inspired when he knows that God calls him to do this or that.

2. What share in the letter Sosthenes had we cannot say. He may have written it, and he may have suggested a point here and there. Paul did not stay to inquire whether Sosthenes was qualified to be the author of a canonical book; but knowing the authoritative position he had held among the Jews of Corinth, he naturally conjoins his name with his own.

II. The persons to whom this letter is addressed (verse 2).

1. With them are joined “all that in every place,” &c. And therefore we may gather that Paul would have defined the Church as those who “call upon the name of Jesus Christ.” This implies trust in Him, and acknowledgment of Him as supreme Lord. It is this which brings men together as a Christian Church.

2. But at once we are confronted with the difficulty that many persons who call upon the name of the Lord do so with no conviction of their need, and with no real dependence upon Christ or allegiance to Him. Hence the distinction between the Church visible, which consists of all who nominally belong to the Christian community, and the Church invisible. Where the visible Church is its members can be counted, its property estimated, its history written. But of the invisible Church no man can fully write the history, or name the members, or appraise its properties, gifts, and service.

3. From the earliest times it has been said that the true Church must be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. That is true if the Church invisible be meant. But it is not true of the Church visible. Paul here gives us four notes which must always be found in the true Church.

4. Paul, with his usual courtesy and tact, begins with a hearty acknowledgment of the distinctive excellences of the Corinthian Church (verses 4-6).

(a) Paul thanked God for their gift of utterance. Perhaps had he lived now he might have had a word to say in praise of silence. There is more than a risk nowadays that talk takes the place of thought and action. But this utterance was a great gift. In no other language could Christian ideas have found such adequate and beautiful expression. And in this Paul saw promise of a rapid and effective propagation of the gospel. Legitimately may we hope for the Church when she so apprehends her own wealth in Christ as to be stirred to invite all the world to share with her.

(b) But utterance is well backed by knowledge. Often has the determination to satisfy the intellect with Christian truth been reprehended as idle and even wicked. The faith which accepted testimony was a gift of God, but so also was the knowledge which sought to recommend the contents of this testimony to the human mind.

The call of God is

1. The ground of ministerial authority.

2. The motive to ministerial usefulness. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The authority of the Christian minister

He is--

1. The messenger of Christ.

2. Divinely called.

3. Set apart by the will of God as indicated by His Providence. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

And Sosthenes our brother.--

Sosthenes a brother

I. Who was Sosthenes?

1. After Paul began work at Corinth, Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, was converted; and that Paul considered his a notable case is proved by the fact that he personally baptized him. But as Paul was compelled to leave the synagogue, it is probable that Crispus would also have to leave; and the fact that Sosthenes is afterwards mentioned as chief ruler implies that Crispus was deposed. Paul continued his lectures next door to the synagogue, and its success would naturally enrage Sosthenes, who was doubtless the head of the conspiracy which led Paul before Gallio. We know the result. The Jews had risen in insurrection; it was now the turn of the Greeks, who made Sosthenes the special object of their attack.

2. That the Sosthenes of the text is the same as he of Acts 18:1-28, seems likely.

II. The lessons.

1. How wonderful in its operations is the grace of God! Here is a man the very last one would expect to become a Christian.

2. Do not be hopeless over any case. Sosthenes was in office, and officials are always difficult to move, and the indignities he suffered would exasperate him against Christianity.

3. Cherish a forgiving spirit. How fully Paul forgave his enemy and admitted him into his friendship.

4. Cultivate kindly feelings towards the Christian friends with whom we have been or are associated. The first Christians Sosthenes knew were at Corinth. At first he hated them, but afterwards he loved them as he had never loved friends before; but the brotherliness was on both sides. (A. Scott.)

To the Church of God.

The term, ἐκκλήσια (church), formed of the two words “out of” and “to call,” denotes in ordinary Greek language an assembly of citizens called out of their dwellings by an official summons (cf. Acts 19:41)
. Applied to the religious domain in the New Testament, the word preserves essentially the same meaning. Here, too, there is a summoner--God, who calls sinners
to salvation by the preaching of the gospel (Galatians 1:6). There are the summoned--sinners, called to faith thenceforth to form the new society of which Christ is the Head. The complement “of God” indicates at once Him who has summoned the assembly, and Him to whom it belongs. The term, “the Church of God,” thus corresponds to the Old Testament phrase, “the congregation of the Lord”; but there is this difference, that the latter was recruited by way of filiation, while in the new covenant the Church is formed and recruited by the personal adherence of faith. (Prof. Godet.)

Threefold sanctification

(Jude 1:1, text, and 1 Peter 1:2):--Mark the union of the three Divine Persons in all their gracious acts. How unwise all those who make preferences in the Persons of the Trinity. In their love, and in the actions which flow from it, they are one. Specially is this in the case of sanctification. This being the case, what value God must set upon holiness! God could as soon cease to be as cease to be holy, and sooner renounce the sovereignty of the world than tolerate anything unholy. Sanctification means--

I. Setting apart--the taking of something which might legitimately have been put to ordinary uses for God’s service alone.

1. E.g., in Exodus 13:2 God claimed the firstborn of men and cattle. The tribe of Levi was set apart to be the representatives of the firstborn. In Genesis 2:3, God set apart for His own service what had been an ordinary portion of time before. So Leviticus 27:14 was meant as a direction to devout Jews, who intended that the produce of the field or the occupation of the house should be wholly given to God. So in Exodus 29:44 we read that God said, “I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar.” To the same effect are the sanctification of the altar, instruments, and vessels (Numbers 7:1), the setting apart of Eleazer to keep the ark (1 Samuel 7:1), and the establishment of cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7). This Old Testament use of the word explains John 10:26. Immaculately conceived and preserved from all stain of evil, Christ needed no sanctifying work within Him. All that is here intended is that He was set apart (John 17:19). You understand now the text in Jude. God the Father has specially set apart His people.

2. What suggestive and solemn thoughts are here.

II. That the thing set apart for holy uses is to be regarded, treated, and declared holy.

1. E.g., in Isaiah 8:13, it is said, “Sanctify the Lord of Hosts, Himself.” Now the Lord does not need to be set apart for holy uses, nor to be purified, for He is holiness itself. When Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-20.) put strange fire on the altar, and the fire of the Lord consumed them, the reason was--“I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me”; by which He meant that He would be treated as a most Holy Being with whom such liberties were not to be taken (see also Numbers 10:12, and “hallowed be Thy name” in the Lord’s Prayer).

2. Have we not some light here concerning our second text--“Sanctified in Christ Jesus” ? In Christ Jesus the saints are regarded by God as being holy, and treated as such, i.e., are justified. A holy God cannot have dealings with unholy men; but He views us, not in ourselves, but in our federal Head, the Second Adam. We may boldly enter into the Holiest, where no unholy thing may come, because God views us as holy in Christ Jesus. We now come to--

III. Actually to purify or make holy.

1. In Exodus 19:10-12 sanctification consisted in certain outward deeds by which they were put into a cleanly state and their souls were brought into reverential awe. In Joshua 3:1-17., when Israel were about to pass the Jordan, they were to prepare themselves to be beholders of a scene so august. Men in the old times were sprinkled with blood, and thus sanctified from defilement and considered to be pure in the sight of God. This is the sense in which we view our third text, “Sanctification through the Spirit,” the sense in which it is generally understood.

2. Sanctification begins in regeneration, and is carried on in two ways--by mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued, and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to spring up into everlasting life. This is carried on every day in what we call perseverance, and it comes to perfection in “glory.” Now this work, though we commonly speak of it as being the work of the Spirit, is quite as much the work of Christ. There are two agents: one is the worker who works this sanctification effectually--that is the Spirit; and the other, the agent, the efficacious means by which the Spirit works this sanctification is--Jesus Christ and His most precious blood. There is a garment which needs to be washed. Here is a person to wash it, and there is a bath in which it is to be washed--the Person is the Holy Spirit, but the bath is the precious blood of Christ.

3. The Spirit of God as the Author of sanctification employs a visible agent. “Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy Word is truth.” How important then that the truth should be preached.

4. In another sense we are sanctified through Christ Jesus, because it is His blood and the water which flowed from His side in which the Spirit washes our heart from the defilement and propensity of sin (Ephesians 5:25). There is no being sanctified by the law; the Spirit does not use legal precepts to sanctify us. No; just as when Marah’s waters were bitter, Moses had a tree cast in, and they were sweet, so the Spirit of God, finding our natures bitter, takes the tree of Calvary, casts it into the stream, and everything is made pure. He finds us lepers, and to make us clean He dips the hyssop of faith in the precious blood, and sprinkles it upon us and we are clean. The blood of Christ not merely makes satisfaction for sin, but works the death of sin. The blood appears before God and He is well pleased; it falls on us--lusts wither, and old corruptions feel the death-stroke.

5. Just as the Spirit only works through the truth, so the blood of Christ only works through faith. Our faith lays hold on the atonement, sees Jesus suffering on the tree, and says, “I vow revenge against the sins which nailed Him there”; and thus His precious blood works in us a detestation of all sin. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Three notes of the Church

I. It is God’s--but to distinguish it from the heathen ἐκκλησίαι--a name never used in profane Greek to denote a religious assembly--but to distinguish it from the κόσμος, which is the antagonist of the kingdom and out of which the Church is called. Though the name ecclesia was borrowed from the clubs or associations of the time, the apostle discovers in it a Christian idea--that of separation from the world. To say that the Church is an ecclesia is to say it is God’s.

II. As a result of its being an ecclesia, the Church is sanctified (cf. John 17:16-19). The primary meaning is consecration. The Christian enters into the place hitherto occupied by the Jewish Church. But consecration in its Christian form resolves itself into holiness. Christ takes possession of every morality and raises it into spirituality. All goodness becomes a religion, binding the soul to God. “In” means that believers are not only sanctified “through the offering of Christ” (Hebrews 10:10), but also continue holy in virtue of union with Christ (cf. Romans 15:16)
.

III. It consists of men “called to be saints.” They are saints by reason of a Divine call from without as well as of a Divine operation from within (cf. Romans 1:6; Leviticus 23:2)
. The notion of saintship is in Scripture inseparable from that of being reckoned, of being allotted a place by God
. (Principal Edwards.)

Grace be unto you, and peace.--

Grace and peace

Grace is favour, and peace its fruits. The former includes all that is comprehended in the love of God as exercised towards sinners; and the latter all the benefits which flow from that love. All good, therefore, whether providential or spiritual, whether temporal or eternal, is comprehended in these terms--justification, adoption, and sanctification, with all the benefits which either accompany or flow from them. These infinite blessings suppose an infinite source; and as they are sought no less from Christ than from God the Father, Christ must be a Divine person. It is to be remarked that God is called our Father, and Christ our Lord. God as God has not only created us, but renewed and adopted us. God in Christ has redeemed us. He is our owner and sovereign, to whom our allegiance is immediately due; who reigns in and rules over us, defending us from all His and our enemies. This is the peculiar form which piety assumes under the gospel. All Christians regard God as their Father and Christ as their Lord. His person they love, His voice they obey, and in His protection they trust. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The peace of the Christian

Trust God and thy soul shall no longer be like “the sea that cannot rest,” full of turbulent wishes, full of passionate desires that come to nothing, full of endless meanings, like the homeless ocean that is ever working, and never flings up any product of its work but foam and broken weeds; but thine heart shall become still, like some land-locked lake, where no winds or tempests ruffle, and on its calm surface there shall be mirrored the clear shining of the unclouded blue, and the perpetual light of the sun that never goes down.

No peace without Christ

The vessel in which we are passing over the sea of life is always driven by contrary winds till the Lord embarks. (J. Pulsford.)

Divine blessings

Observe--

I. The blessing we announce.

1. Grace and peace.

2. Needed by all.

3. Offered to all.

II. Their source.

1. God.

2. Our Father.

3. Through Christ.

4. Hence the supply is inexhaustible. (J. Lyth, D. D.)


Verses 1-20

Verses 4-13

1 Corinthians 1:4-13

I thank my God … for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.

Apostolic thanksgiving for

I. The grace they had received.

1. Freely given.

2. Richly supplied.

3. Amply confirmed.

II. The hope they anticipated. They waited confidently for--

1. The coming of Christ.

2. Their final justification.

3. Everlasting fellowship with Him. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Apostolic congratulation and warning

I. The apostolic congratulation. “I thank my God,” &c.

1. In the heart of St. Paul, the unselfishness of Christianity had turned this world into a perpetual feast. If we want to know what his life was, turn to 2 Corinthians 11:1-33.; yet it was filled with the blessedness which arises from the abilities to enjoy the blessings of others as though they were our own. Personally we get very little in this world; and if we are to mourn that we never had a whole kid to ourselves “to make merry with,” life will become desolate indeed. Only by saying, “It is meet we should rejoice and be glad” with our brethren, can life be a blessing. Thus the apostle, in all his weariness and persecutions, was nevertheless always rejoicing with his Churches.

2. Here he rejoices over three gifts to the Corinthians--

(a) We are to look for a Church of the future--not of the past, nor of the present. The coming of Christ includes the perfect state of human society, and here--Christ coming to us, not our going to Him. And we are to be looking forward to this; not busying ourselves in dreams about, and mournings after, the past, nor complacently praising the present, but thankful to God for what we have, feeling that the past was necessary, and, still dissatisfied with ourselves, hoping something better yet, both for God’s Church and world.

(b) It, implies a humble expecting state; not dogmatising, not dreading, but simply waiting. The kingdom of God is within us; but the kingdom of God developed will be as the lightning, sudden and universal.

3. Note the ground of hope for the continuance and successful issue of those blessings. Not on any stability of human goodness, but the character of God (verse 9). Had not Saul once had the Spirit? Had not Judas once had gifts? Who, then, could say that the Corinthians might not make shipwreck of their faith? The apostle answers this, not by counting on their faithfulness to God, but on God’s faithfulness to them. Of course, this doctrine may be misused. We may rest upon it too much, and so become unwatchful and supine; but, nevertheless, it is a most precious truth, and without it I cannot understand how any man dares go forth to his work in the morning, or at evening lay his head on his pillow to sleep.

II. The apostle’s warning and reproof.

1. Parties had arisen in Corinth.

2. The guilt of these partisans did not lie in holding views differing from each other; the guilt of schism is when each party, instead of expressing fully its own truth, denies that others are in the truth at all. Nothing eats out the heart and life of religion more than party spirit. Christianity is love; party spirit is the death of love. Christianity is union amidst variety of views; party spirit is disunion. In these days of party spirit, be it urged solemnly on our hearts that we “love one another.” Accuracy of view is worth little in comparison with warmth of heart. It is easy to love such as agree with us. Let us learn to love those who differ from us. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Exemplary gratitude and precious confidence

Two blessed states of mind:--

I. Exemplary gratitude. “I thank my God always on your behalf.” The gratitude here was--

1. Unselfish. “On your behalf.” It is right and well to praise God for what He has done for us, but it is a nobler thing to praise Him for what He has done for others. No man rightly appreciates a blessing who does not desire others to participate in it. The sublimity of a landscape is more than doubly enjoyed when one or more stand by your side to share your admiration.

2. For spiritual good. “For the grace of God.”

3. An habitual state of mind. “I thank God always.” It was not an occasional sentiment. It was a settled attitude of heart.

II. Precious confidence.

1. In Christ perfecting character. “Who shall also confirm you unto the end.” So perfecting it that it shall be “blameless.” All moral imperfections removed.

2. In His appearing again. The day when He will appear is the day of days for humanity.

3. In His granting them companionship. “Unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ the Lord.” “Where I am there ye shall be also.” (D. Thomas D. D.)

The grace and gifts of God

Paul uses here two expressions, elsewhere placed in the same close connection (see Romans 12:6; 1 Peter 4:10), “grace” ( χάρις) and “gift”--not δῶρον or its cognate words (which might include every natural blessing common to heathen and Christian), but χάρισμα, the spiritual blessing connected with and flowing from God’s “grace.” Note that--

I. Both are characteristic of the gospel dispensation.

1. True, “grace” is mentioned in the Old Testament, and God is proclaimed to be “gracious,” but this rarely. It is in the New Testament that we have complete revelation of this, and first have the frequent phrase “the grace of God.”

2. And this because “grace … came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17; Titus 2:11). So in the text. God’s fullest, freest favour to a sinful world, made possible by the sacrifice of Christ, made manifest by His life and ministry, and made over to His disciples as an abiding possession in the outpouring of the Spirit.

3. The “gifts” of God are thus--

II. Both are to be used by us.

1. “Grace” looks chiefly to the side of personal sanctification. St. Paul beseeches his converts not to “receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1), shows how he himself had been changed from a chief of sinners “by the grace of God” (1 Corinthians 15:10), and thanks God that they had been partakers of the same blessing (text and 1 Corinthians 6:11).

2. “Gifts” look chiefly to the side of Church edification. They are to be used for others (1 Peter 4:10). Some have more, and some less; some have one, and some others. In our text St. Paul mentions two, “utterance” (or perhaps the expounding of “doctrine”-- λόγος) and “knowledge” of spiritual things. In chap. 12. he shows how this Church was “enriched” by an abundance (see verses 8-10, 28).

3. As every truehearted Christian has received both grace and some spiritual gift or gifts, we should be careful to use both aright.

4. The grace and gifts of God may be neglected or misused. Illustrate by the parable of the ten pounds for “grace,” and of the ten talents for “gifts.”

III. Both point forward to the end set before us.

1. Sanctification is in order to that “holiness without which no m an shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14); to that being “like Him,” that we may “see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

2. Christian work is not an end, but the means to an end, even preparedness for the second coming of Christ.

3. This second advent--and not death--is the one great end set forth in the New Testament as the goal of the Christian’s hopes and efforts. So our text.

Conclusion: Let this subject lead to--

1. Thankfulness for the grace of God manifest in the progress of His work amongst us.

2. Humility in the recognition of our spiritual gifts as of His grace alone.

3. Earnestness in the fulfilling our obligation of “ministering the same one to another.”

4. Singleness of purpose in looking towards the end of God’s work in us and by us--the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (T. H. Barnett.)

The blessings which the gospel

I. Implants--

1. An enlightened mind.

2. A waiting spirit.

II. Secures--

1. The continued preservation of believers.

2. Their ultimate acceptance.

Application:

1. Be thankful if you are partakers of this grace.

2. Be careful to walk worthy of it.

3. Remember in whom is all your strength. (C. Simeon, M. A.)

Christian excellence

Paul here brings this before us as--

I. A fact of human experience.

II. A product of Divine influence.

III. A subject of thankfulness to God. (J. Willcox.)

Our Lord Jesus Christ is

I. The channel of Divine grace. If we are “called to be saints,” “partakers of the heavenly calling,” it is all in and through “the grace given by Jesus Christ” (verse 4).

II. The source of all spiritual gifts. “Enriched by Him in all utterance and in all knowledge” (verse 5); “So that ye come behind in no gift” (verse 7); “Who shall also confirm you unto the end” (verse 8); “That ye be unreprovable” (R. V.).

Thus: Gifts of--

1. Preaching.

2. Hearing.

3. Miracles (1 Corinthians 12:4).

4. Perseverance.

5. Holiness--Are all traced to Him as the Author.

III. The subject of apostolic preaching. “The testimony of Christ” means the witness given concerning Christ. Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all true preaching. Christ in all His work and offices, especially “Christ as crucified.”

IV. The object of Christian expectation (verses 7, 8). We look for Him in faith, and hope, and love. His coming will be a revealing of His glory, and of our judgment. May we be “unreprovable” in His sight. (Clerical World.)

That in everything ye are enriched by Him--

Spiritual riches by Christ

I. Man poor by nature (Revelation 3:17). Lost his birthright--his inheritance.

1. Poor in time. If not enriched, poor in eternity.

2. “Poor” in utterance, because poor in knowledge. His language impious, foolish, idle, &c.

3. “Poor,” though possessing earthly wealth. “Carry nothing out.”

4. “Poor,” because without Him, “without whom nothing is strong.”

II. Man enriched by grace (Revelation 3:18). Birthright restored. Inheritance secured. “If children, then heirs.”

1. “Rich” in utterance--“all utterance”--because rich in “all knowledge.” Holy, loving, grateful words. Prayer and praise.

2. “Rich,” though possessing little of this world’s wealth. “Having nothing, yet,” &c.

3. “Rich,” because “in Christ,” “in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” “Unsearchable riches.” Enriched by Him. All of Christ, “who for our sakes became poor that we … might be made rich.” (J. Cornford.)

The enriching power of God

“In everything”--in your

All nature shows this affluence of God. We are enriched in all our relations--at home, in society, &c. “In Him.” This can be said of no one else than God. Presidents and kings may help us to justice. Millionaires, railroad magnates, and bankers have the power to enrich us temporally. Only of God can it be said that in everything ye are enriched by Him. In what ways are we enriched?

1. The best way to secure true honours is to make our lives conform to Christian principles.

2. The ideas of inspiration will more largely and more permanently enrich the intellect than draughts drawn from other reservoirs of wisdom. All others are receiving reservoirs: the Bible is a fountain source.

3. The man whose business is conducted on a Christian basis will most certainly be rich in the best sense of the word. No one is rich who is not rich in contentment and in good works.

4. We are enabled in God to believe in and assert our immortality.

5. In Him we have a wealth of spirituality which is ever-increasing. It is unaffected by the grave. Lack we any good thing, we ask and receive. All things are ours. If such to us is the enriching power of God on earth, how much more enriching will that power be in the world to come! (N. Schenk, D. D.)

Enriched by Christ

1. Christ has enriched the world’s intellectual life. Range of human thought immense, but finite. Grandeur of world’s art and literature evidences the high, capacious powers of man. Christ has touched and refined the world’s art and literature. Ancient literature, except Jewish sacred writings, Pagan, a mass of mingled glory and shame. Christ’s purifying influence. To-day the world’s art and literature are Christian.

2. Christ has enriched the world’s moral life. Fatal weakness of human moralists. Lacked authority. Christ spake with authority. His teachings not opinions, but living rule of life and conduct. Christ’s teachings have changed the world’s moral life. Most important.

3. Christ has enriched the world’s social life. Truths which enrich the world’s thought and moral life bound to tell upon its social life. Living power in true and noble thoughts to leaven character. Truth subjective in its influence upon the mind; objective in character and influence upon others. Christian thought can mould a nation’s life.

Life enriched through Christ

If you will to be His disciple, He will enrich your life, He will purge it of its pollution, He will conquer your lusts, He will enlighten your mind, He will deepen in you all that is generous and rich and brotherly and true and just. He will make your life worth having--yea, increasingly worth having--as you gain in experience of His power and His love, even to the end. He will touch your sufferings and your labours with the glory of His sympathy; He will deepen your hopes for yourselves and others with the security of an eternal prospect. At the last He will purify and perfect and welcome you. Only do not make the fatal mistake of imagining that your life is Christian anyhow, or that it can be Christian by any other process than by your deliberate and courageous acceptance of the law of Christ, because you desire to be His disciple. (Chas. Gore, M. A.)

The power of utterance

There is another power which each man should cultivate according to his ability, but which is very much neglected in the mass of the people, and that is the power of utterance. A man was not made to shut up his mind in itself, but to give it voice and to exchange it for other minds. Speech is one of our grand distinctions from the brute. Our power over others lies not so much in the amount of thought within us as in the power of bringing it out. A man of more than ordinary intellectual vigour may, for want of expression, be a cipher, without significance, in society; and not only does a man influence others, but he greatly aids his own intellect by giving distinct and forcible utterance to his thoughts. We understand ourselves better, our conceptions grow clearer, by the very effort to make them clear to another. Our social rank, too, depends a good deal on our power of utterance. To have intercourse with respectable people we must speak their language. (H. E. Channing, D. D.)

Utterance and knowledge

The two special gifts of the Corinthians consisted partly in the elevation and consecration of their national characteristics. Speech occupies no less prominent a place in the New Testament than it did among the Greeks. It has for its object to bear witness for Christ, and is a “gift” of God for which the apostle gives thanks. Christianity broke on the world as a new revelation, which, by being told and echoed on all sides, is powerful to regenerate men. This is the origin and life of preaching; for, as Pascal says, “The saints have never been silent.” (Principal Edwards.)

Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.--

Bearing witness to the truth

Note--

I. The testimony of Jesus. When He was brought before Pilate the interrogatory was, What was His mission? The response was that He had a kingdom, not of this world, and consequently He must be a King. His was the kingdom of truth; and the weapons of His warfare were not carnal, but spiritual. He came into the world that He might bear witness to the truth. The Pharisees charged Him with witnessing for Himself. The response was not a denial of the facts, but a reaffirmation that He should be the light of the world and bear witness to the truth. When John, in his exile, began to see the revelations of God, he declared that Jesus was the faithful Witness: that He was the Prince of the kings of the earth. Whether, therefore, we view Him in prophecy or in history, or in the revelation which He made of Himself to His servants, we see that His mission was to be that of Witness.

II. Jesus having given His evidence for truth, it now remains for every reliever to confirm that witness to the world in his life by words and deeds. The world does not believe in the Son of God. The Pharisees told Him that His witness was not true. He, on the other hand, when He had laid claim to being the witness for the truth, speaking as never man spake, working with the mighty power of God, turns round upon His followers, and says unto them, “Ye shall be My witnesses.” The idea here evidently is that Jesus, having once deposed, they must stand forth to confirm Him before the world. He is, so to speak, the main witness in court. The effort is to break Him down when He claims to be the King of the truth. His word has been spoken, and now His people are rendering their evidence; it is passing silently to the jury, and the verdict is rapidly being made up, either for or against the Son of God. Men must receive Him. This they will do when they see His disciples corroborating in their lives the witness He made for the truth. This corroborating witness of the Church is borne in these ways: we do for God, or we bear for Him, or we suffer for Him. The world pays a special tribute to Christian ethics when it says, Your creed is a good one, but your life is not up to it. We may print religious literature and scatter it over the land, but the world will not read books--it is too busy, too restless, too eager; but it will read you, and it will receive or reject the claims of the religion of Christ in proportion as it finds in everyday life the record which believers are there making, the witness they are giving. (R. K. Smoot, D. D.)


Verse 7-8

1 Corinthians 1:7-8

So that ye come behind in no gift.

Gift

This word plays a large part in this Epistle. As the form of the Greek indicates, it denotes in general every concrete product in which grace is embodied. The various powers, which so often in St. Paul’s writings bear the name of χάρισματα, are certainly the effects of the supernatural life due to faith in Christ; but they fit in, notwithstanding, to pre-existing natural aptitudes in individuals and peoples. The Holy Spirit does not substitute Himself for the human soul; He sanctifies it and consecrates its innate talents to the service of the work of salvation. By this new direction He purifies them and exalts them, and enables them to reach their perfect development. This was what had taken place at Corinth, and it was thus especially that the apostolic testimony had been divinely confirmed in the Church. We see how Paul still carefully avoids (as in 1 Corinthians 1:5) speaking of the moral fruits of the gospel, for this was the very respect in which there was a grave deficiency at Corinth. (Prof. Godet.)

Gifts and graces

Gifts show what a man has; graces, what he is.

Gifts and prayer

In mining operations, the full and empty carriages or vessels being connected together, those which have been emptied are from time to time raised up the ascent by the descending of those that have been filled. In this way let the descent of God’s mercies and the gifts bestowed out of His fulness raise your empty vessels to receive again and again from His inexhaustible treasury all that you need. (R. Bickersteth.)

Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Waiting for the coming of the Lord

I. The object of expectation to all true believers. “The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It should rather have been rendered, the discovery or manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The primary idea is that of stripping off a garment, rolling away a curtain, or removing a screen; and under whichever of these aspects we contemplate the image depicted by the apostle, it will come home with equal power to our own consciousness of frailty, our own liability to death. Practically, that moment will be to us the manifestation of Christ as Judge, which shall strip off this garment of mortality, roll away the dark curtain of the grave, and remove the screen which divides us from the invisible world. The believer does not, like one conscious of unacknowledged and unrepented sin, start back from judgment with apprehension and alarm. It is not a Judge who will be manifested to his spiritual view, arrayed in lightnings and attended by ministers of wrath--it is not such a Judge, but our Lord Jesus Christ: yea, he can even say, with all the confiding appropriation of the Apostle Paul, “Christ Jesus, my Lord, the excellency of whose knowledge is life eternal, and in whom I desire to be found, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

II. The mode of so preparing for the coming or manifestation of Christ Jesus, that it shall be, not the apprehension of impending evil, but’ the expectancy of certain and enduring good. The apostle speaks of God “confirming these Corinthians unto the end.” Confirming them, you will ask, in what? The reference is to the fourth verse, in which St. Paul speaks, first, of the producing cause, in which alone preparation had commenced or could commence, even the “grace which had been given through Jesus Christ”; and afterwards of the effect which had been produced thereby--“that they were enriched in all utterance and in all knowledge”; in which utterance, being the declaration of a good confession--and in which knowledge, being that which is to life eternal--he desires that through the same grace, and by the same power, they may he confirmed.

III. The consequence of being thus prepared by grace and confirmed of God unto the end: viz., that we shall be found blameless in the day of Jesus Christ. This word “blameless” is strictly a forensic term, applicable to the trial of the soul in the high court of heaven, and by God, the Judge of all. Whatever may be the discoveries of the last day, or to whomsoever made, of one thing we are certain, beyond all fear of a contingency, “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” (T. Dale, M. A.)

Waiting

1. We are all doing this in one way or another. Some watchful and faithful at our post, in the midst of a wicked world, like the sentry who died on guard in sinful Pompeii; some in slothful forgetfulness, like the foolish virgins; others in abject fear, like condemned criminals who wait the coming of the executioner; many, I trust, with patience, and hope, and peace.

2. Waiting is very hard work, far harder than doing. Waiting too for uncertainties, and better times which may never come; “hoping against hope,” with that “hope deferred which maketh the heart sick,” is one of the hardest of the tasks which we have to do. Waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ is also hard work, because of the sin which is in us and around us, but it is not hopeless or doubtful. “In due time we shall reap if we faint not.”

3. How may we best wait for this?

4. Though we are waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus, He is in a sense always with us.

5. We must wait for our Lord’s coming with our armour girded on and in the front of the battle. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)

The coming of Christ

When we expect any one we turn our eyes that way, as the wife looks towards the sea when she expects her husband’s return. Surely, then, if we look for Christ to come we shall keep our eyes heavenward, and our minds occupied with the country from which He cometh.

Christ’s second coming

We are not afraid to go alone on a journey to a strange place when we are sure that a friend will meet us at the end of the journey. The husband in a distant city telegraphs to his wife to come to him, and he will be at the station to receive her.

Faith and preparation as to the second coming of Christ

The coming of Christ literally refers to His appearing at the last day, but in its substantial meaning, and as to all its practical effects, it may be considered as equivalent to our death, because there not only is our future condition determined, but we enter into that scene in which His award shall fix us when He pronounces our final sentence. Let us, then, consider what is implied in the Christian’s waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. A firm conviction that Christ will come. In any other state of mind the term “waiting” would be inapplicable. And, indeed, the second coming of Christ forms a part of the deliberate and cherished creed of every true disciple. It is not a mere speculation indulged in because it is agreeable; a conjecture suggested by appearances, and adhered to as being probable and useful; the result of a process of reasoning, liable to errors and doubts; it is a point of settled belief, which the Christian maintains because it is founded on the testimony of Him who is equally omniscient and true. It is the subject of a Divine prediction, of a Divine promise, of a Divine assurance; and therefore we cannot withhold our full assent to it without impeaching the absolute perfection of that absolutely perfect Being by whom it has been attested. And remember that it is not set down merely as one of a multitude of events which will happen, but as a constituent portion of that scheme which the Son of God undertook to execute as the Redeemer of sinful men. Christ was “once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them who look for Him Christ will appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation.”

II. That this event is the subject of habitual thought and contemplation. How, indeed, can it be otherwise, seeing it is so true and so important in His regard? Were it a merely probable circumstance, a fact of little interest, or nothing more than a dry abstract truth, the mind of the Christian could not entertain it with much cordiality, or look forward to the period of its being realised with any intensity of feeling. But how differently must he be affected towards it, when he considers its indubitable certainty--the touching concerns which it involves--the various attractions which it presents in its every aspect--and the bearing which it has on all that he now is, and all that he is to be for ever!

III. A diligent and faithful preparation for it. Unless we had this preparation, we could not with any propriety be said to wait for Christ’s coming, because, if unprepared for His coming, it would be an event to be feared and deprecated. Christ will come for two purposes: to reward His people and to punish His enemies. But if we are among the number of His enemies, then, when He comes, we must suffer the condemnation which He has threatened against all those who have refused or neglected to become what He required them to be. Those who wait for His coming, and are prepared for that event, are--

1. Believers. Relying on Christ in the exercise of a true faith, we may wait for His coming, because His merit, appropriated by that faith, has cancelled our guilt, the prevalence of which would have made His coming terrible, and has obtained for us a title to the celestial kingdom, which we never could have entered through any doings or deservings of our own.

2. Saints--holy persons. When Christ comes it is to conduct His people to their reward. But how can He take us into His Father’s house, if our principles and dispositions and habits are all in irreconcilable hostility to the exercises and enjoyments of that blessed abode? Nothing that defileth can enter into the New Jerusalem.

IV. A decided and ardent desire for it. The feeling is dictated by all our present experience, and by all our future prospects. There are evils from which that event alone can emancipate us, and there are enjoyments to which that event alone can introduce us. And if it be a right thing to wish for deliverance from the one, and for the attainment of the other, then it is right to wish for the second advent of Christ, because that is identified with both advantages.

1. Here you are subject to disease--to its pain, and its languishing, and its mortal issue. But when your Saviour comes He will put upon you the crown of life, and you shall neither sicken, nor suffer, nor die any more.

2. Here your reputation may be wounded from ignorance, envy, prejudice, or malevolence. But when your Saviour comes He will place you among those whom God hath justified, and whom no man can condemn--in whose society calumny cannot reach you, and reproach cannot hurt you.

3. Here you may have to struggle with the numerous ills and hardships of poverty. But when your Saviour comes you shall have no wants which He will not supply with inexhaustible abundance.

4. Here your cherished friends may betray you when you are most confiding, and those who were dear to you as your own soul may be torn from your embrace by the relentless hand of death. But when your Saviour comes He will wind up this scene of trial, and will take you where ingratitude and treachery and dissolution shall be unknown.

5. Here you have the plague of sin to trouble and torment you. But when your Saviour comes He will place you where you shall be beyond the reach of temptation, and beyond the fear and the capacity of transgressing.

6. Here your eye and your heart are often pained by the sight of abounding iniquity. But when your Saviour comes He will conduct you into a region as pure as it is happy.

7. Here your best services and highest attainments are mixed with much imperfection and weakness. But when your Saviour comes He will make you “perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

8. Here all your enjoyments, however exquisite, multiplied, and prolonged, are but mingled at the best, and soon over. But when your Saviour comes He will impart to you a happiness immortal as the souls that are to enjoy it--as the uncreated source from which it is to flow.

9. Here it is a trial to your patience that the Cross of Christ should be such a rock of offence, and that He who bore its agony and its shame should be despised and rejected of men. But when your Saviour comes His enemies will be destroyed, the numberless trophies of His humiliation and His blood will be assembled to honour Him, and all the hosts of heaven will unite with all the redeemed from the earth, to ascribe to Him the blessing, and dominion, which He had so richly won.

V. The exercise of patience and resignation. Submission to the Divine arrangements is a necessary part of the Christian character, and particularly in this regard. You should wait for Christ’s second coming with patience, because--

1. The period of that coming is fixed by God’s appointment. It is a part of the plan which He has formed for your salvation. It originates in the same mercy which prompted Him to give up His Son to suffering and to death for you. And does not every view of the Divine perfections constrain you to acquiesce in all that has been fixed as to the second coming, as well as in all that took place with regard to the first coming of Christ?

2. It is conducive to your own improvement and advantage. The present is a scene of preparation for the future. Every temptation that you successfully resist; every obligation that you faithfully fulfil; every trial to which you patiently submit; every step that you advance in the career of godliness and virtue; every victory that you achieve over the devil, the world, and the flesh, by that faith and patience which characterisc the saints of God upon earth, will put a loftier note in your song of praise, and add another gem to your crown of righteousness and glory in heaven. Seeing, then, that your continual stay here is conducive to your everlasting benefit, let not your souls be cast down, and let not their desires for deliverance overstep the limits of devout resignation to the will of Him who has arranged your lot in this world with a view to your destiny beyond it, and whose redeeming mercy will lead Him to make all things work together for your good.

3. It is for the advantage of your brethren and fellow men. This was one of Paul’s motives, when amidst his longings to depart and to be with Christ, he was still contented to remain where the great Head of the Church had ordained him to labour. “Nevertheless,” said he, “to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” (A. Thomson, D. D.)

The uncertainty of Christ’s coming

This blending of light and obscurity--

I. Leaves us in a state more suitable and more profitable than either absolute ignorance or perfect knowledge.

1. It awakens feelings which the former would fail to excite, and which--

2. The latter would quench as they arose.

II. It is specially adapted to keep alive expectation, by bringing emphatically before us the perpetual possibility of an immediate manifestation. It keeps us in a state of--

1. Lively hope;

2. Watchfulness;

3. Humility;

4. Fidelity;

5. Earnest inquiry after truth;

6. Reverence and dread. (W. A. Butler, M. A.)

The revelation of Jesus Christ

This “revelation” would do two things--

I. “Confirm them unto the end” (1 Corinthians 1:8). “All is well that ends well.” The “end” of the Christian will confirm the wisdom of his choosing such an “end.” Hence “the end of a thing is better than the beginning.” The world calls him a “fool”; the day of Christ will “confirm” his wisdom. The world calls him ignoble; the day of Christ will “confirm” his pretensions to greatness and glory. The world calls him poor; the “day of Christ” will “confirm” his claims to an “inheritance incorruptible,” &c. We are now “confirming the testimony of Christ,” and proving Him true (1 Corinthians 1:6). In “that day” Christ will confirm our testimony, and prove us true. It will be the manifestation of the sons of God.

II. Make them blameless. Then all imperfections will end. Sin’s damp mists will no longer rise to obscure the moral heavens. Lessons:

1. Encouragement to the faithful worker.

2. Confidence. Do circumstances look discouraging in your labours of love? Do long-looked-for wants tarry? Do the desired clouds refuse to break in blessings on the parched heart? Have faith. The blessing will come, though it tarry, “for God is faithful,” &c. (1 Corinthians 1:9). He will keep His promises, &c.

3. Stimulus. “The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” will be a revelation of unrecognised or undeveloped” “gifts.” Therefore “come behind in no gift,” &c. When that day dawns, the grand confirmation service will be held--“confirming” the good and the bad alike. (The Study.)

Who shall also confirm you unto the end.

The Christian’s strength

The writings of St. Paul contain frequent assurances to the converts of the continuance and increase of God’s blessing and the grace of Christ, and of strength to support them under their trials, to carry them through their difficulties, and to make them “more than conquerors through Him who loved them” (Romans 8:37; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:31-32; Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:4, &c.). In what sense, and with what necessary restrictions, are such promises as these always to be understood? It is manifest, both from the reason of things and from Holy Writ, that some spiritual blessings are so entirely the work of God, that, when considered in themselves, it is impossible that man can contribute to them, or bear any part in their completion. Thus, forgiveness of sins; adoption into God’s family; a resurrection from the dead; and the gift of eternal life; though they suppose due preparations in man, repentance, faith, hope, charity, fixed purposes of obedience, and patient continuance in well-doing are in themselves the absolute gifts of God, simple in their nature, and, as far as we can perceive, admitting of no addition nor decrease. But there are other blessings or endowments, implying increase and variety, in the advancement of which man must bear his part, and work with God. Such are those graces which qualify the human soul for pardon, and peace, and everlasting glory; which are the rudiments or first principles of the heavenly character. For these set out, for the most part, from small and often imperceptible beginnings, and are strengthened and ripened into habits by exercise and godly discipline. When, therefore, St. Paul assures the converts that God will “confirm them unto the end, that they may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he does not comfort them with an assurance of support, divorced from all conditions and contingencies; nor does he lead us to believe that there are any particular persons whom God will at all events endow with an unfailing perseverance. Since, therefore, faith is spoken of in Scripture sometimes as God’s gift, sometimes as man’s duty, it is manifest that the gift and the duty mutually imply each other. On the one hand, our faith can neither begin nor continue, nor be perfected, without God’s grace and blessing. On the other hand, we have no ground for supposing that He will “confirm our faith until the end,” unless we endeavour to “hold fast our own faith,” to improve it by acts of piety and obedience, and to abound in it more and more. Man is, of himself, strongly inclined to evil: he has a sinful nature stirring within him: his passions are continually provoking him to transgress the restraints of conscience and reason, and the laws revealed to him by his God. God, therefore, who well knows his indisposition to bear up against the power of corruption, mercifully promises to take him in hand, to discipline his imagination and affections (Ezekiel 36:26; Deuteronomy 30:6). But though God thus promises to circumcise the hearts of His people, and to subdue them to His own purposes, in other passages of Holy Writ He calls upon them to circumcise their own hearts, and to master and mortify themselves (Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:5-6). But in order to complete the Christian character, man stands in need of continual improvement in righteousness and true holiness, the daily renewal of his mind, and confirmed habits of piety and obedience. But since, when unassisted, he has no power in himself to help himself, and is, at the best, a mere beginner in the trade of virtue, God has graciously promised to renew and to supply him with spiritual sufficiency (Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27). Yet these promises of grace and spiritual succour are accompanied with earnest exhortations to the performance of our duty, and pressing calls upon us to do that for ourselves which God has, in some sort, engaged to do for us (Ezekiel 18:31; Ephesians 4:23-24). Hence it follows that God’s promises of help to perfect our inner man, require diligence and exertion on our part; that our prayers for renewal will bring no blessing with them, if we do not endeavour to renew the spirit of our own minds; and that it is worse than idle to presume that God will not leave nor forsake us, if we shrink from our duty, and leave and forsake ourselves (Ephesians 5:1; Colossians 3:14-15). I shall lay down a few practical lessons which the consideration of this subject naturally suggests.

1. You should make it your business to study the whole of God’s Word, and, as far as you are able, to compare and combine its contents; and you must not accustom yourselves to dwell on the particular parts of it to the exclusion of other portions which require an equal degree of consideration and deference.

2. You will learn from those statements of the scriptural doctrine which have been laid before you, the folly and presumption of relying on God’s goodness, and the grace and promises of Christ, without the exercise, on your own part, of religious labour and spiritual industry.

3. Whatever measure of religious industry you may exert, whatever progress you may make in the improvement of your souls and the reformation of your hearts and habits, still remember that you owe everything to God; that you are yourselves inclined to evil, and that it is your bounden duty to refer back all holy desires, good counsels, and just works to the Author and Giver of all goodness. (Bp. Bethel.)

Confirming grace

I. What does it include?--Confirmation.

1. In faith, holiness, love.

2. Unto the end.

II. How is it effected?

1. By Christ.

2. Through the means of grace.

III. Why is it so necessary?

1. That ye may be blameless.

2. In the day of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Firm to the end

Steadfastness is one of the most important characteristics of a Christian. What are love, self-denial, patience, and faith without it? It is not the best regiment which makes the most headlong charge, but which can stand firm. The Spartans were forbidden by their laws to flee. In the Pass of Thermopylae stands a monument to Leonidas and his followers, bearing this inscription--“Go, stranger, and tell at Lacedaemon that we died here in obedience to our laws.” What we want, as soldiers of Christ, is not so much zeal, or enthusiasm, or outward profession, as firmness to the end, steadfastness to die, if need be, for the laws of our God. We find plenty of zealous professors, but after a time the fire dies out into dead ashes; they have no staying power. Note--

I. Some of the dangers of the Church now.

1. The restless spirit of the age. This is the result of various causes.

2. A constant desire for something new, and, if possible, sensational. And, above all, these people want a religion made easy. They have no objection to being saved provided that the process is quick and cheap. They turn away from the thought of self-denial, &c.; they must be made good all at once. Beware of this mushroom religion; the best fruit is not that which ripens most quickly, and the best Christian certainly does not come to maturity all in a moment. The Persian fable tells us how a gourd wound itself round a lofty palm-tree, and in a few weeks climbed to its very top. The gourd asked the palm-tree its age, and the tree answered, “An hundred years.” Then the gourd answered boastingly that it had grown as tall as the palm in fewer days than the tree could count years. “True,” answered the palm-tree, “every summer has a gourd climbed round me, as proud as thou art, and as short-lived as thou wilt be.”

3. This is a specially busy age. Every walk of life is crowded, and competition is most keen. Now there is great danger in all this to a man’s spiritual life, if he has not God with him in his work. He will become selfish and unscrupulous.

II. The means by which Christ will confirm you unto the end. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)

Blameless in the day of … Christ.--

Unimpeached

“So as to be unimpeached in the day of our Lord”; for when the saints stand before the tribunal of Christ, they will not indeed be found to have been free from sin in their earthly life, but having persevered in the faith and in good works will find themselves under the wing and shelter of God’s righteousness, safe from all impeachment. “Unimpeached” of whom? Probably of the “accuser of the brethren,” the adversary Satan. But being found holy in Christ and blameless to God, “who shall then lay an impeachment against God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” (Colossians 1:22-23). (Canon Evans.)

Eternal blamelessness

I. Judicial. The word used here is the judicial one. A Christian is one against whom there is not only no condemnation, but no accusation. He is a sinner, yet no man, nor angel, nor devil, may accuse him, or mention his guilt to God.

II. Priestly. I might call it sacrificial. The word used in such places as Ephesians 1:4 is the same as that in 1 Peter 1:19, “the Lamb without blemish, and without spot.” This unblemishedness has special reference to our fitness for worship and service.

III. Personal (Philippians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:13). We are forgiven and delivered from wrath that we may be personally holy; holy in heart and life; saved from sin, conformed to Christ. Holiness is to be everywhere in and about the man. If, then, you call yourself a Christian, consider how much is expected from you. Consider--

1. Your names. They are “saint,” “Christian,” “redeemed from among men,” “follower of the Lamb.” Do not these call you to blamelessness?

2. Your designations. You are the lights of the world, the salt of the earth; pilgrims, strangers, virgins, cross-bearers, kings and priests; a temple, a habitation of God.

3. Your calling. You are called to glory, honour, and immortality.

4. Your hopes.

5. Your companionships. They are all heavenly and pure. Old friendships are severed, and new ones formed. If you are Christians, then, be consistent. Be Christians out and out; Christians every hour, in every part, and in every matter. Beware of half-hearted discipleship. (H. Bonar, D. D.)


Verse 9

1 Corinthians 1:9

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son.

The faithfulness of God

On this eternal, self-existent fidelity we can repose with safety.

I. It is well that we have something sure, for talk as we will of the fidelity of man and woman, there is much to say also of their infidelity.

1. Who can say--in friendship, in love--what a week, a month, a year may not bring forth? In the very strength of human affection lies its frailty. And it is in hours when this is realised, when we seem to toss upon a shifting sea in sailing over human love, that we turn to the everlasting firmness of God’s fidelity.

2. But even more than in others do we recognise this faithlessness in ourselves. How often are we only faithful because we are ashamed to be otherwise, and how often have we betrayed that which was given us to keep? We look into our own hearts and know how slight and fluttering, how changeable we have often been, how we even enjoyed our change. What wonder, then, if we turn from the weakness of our own fidelity to seek a centre for it and a power of it in the unalterable strength of the faithfulness of God, and cry, “Faithful Master of fidelity, enter into my life and make it all fidelity.”

II. What answer does God give us to that? Not that we should at first expect. We have fled from man to God, God sends us back to man. If a man find not fidelity in his brother whom he hath seen, how can he find fidelity in God whom he hath not seen? We have been looking on the unfaithfulness we have found in man. Nothing can be worse for us. He bids us search for faithfulness, and we shall find it.

1. In the hearts of those that love us. And the moment our whole position is thus changed, and we look on a new side of facts, we remember all the uncomplaining patience of long love that mother and father, wife and sister, have bestowed on us. We recollect that there are friends who have never failed us, to doubt whom would be a crime.

2. With this new light we look within our own hearts, and we are conscious that we have been true to many. Surprised, we ask ourselves, What is this faithfulness in the midst of unfaithfulness, this stability in human nature that accompanies instability? Oh! it is what we searched for, it is what we fled away from man to find. It is the fidelity of God Himself that moves and lives within His children. The kingdom of God is among you.

III. Having learnt that lesson, we learn from it--

1. To love and honour men much more. We are not so ready to impute unfaithfulness, and we are kinder and more gracious, and being so, we find that men and women are more faithful to us, for we have lost the evil and unpleasant qualities which made people tire of our love. By believing in faithfulness we make it grow. Then our power of creating faithfulness has a reflex action on our own faithfulness. That which we cause to grow in others, grows by that very effort in ourselves.

2. An ideal of God’s fidelity. The beauty of human fidelity forces us to aspire to a more beautiful fidelity, the real leads us onwards to the ideal.

IV. Still an ideal remains always somewhat in the vague. But to our wonderful comfort the fidelity of God is realised in humanity, in Christ, the image of God in man. “He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” He who hath seen the human faithfulness of Christ hath seen the Divine faithfulness of God.

1. His faithfulness was faithfulness to duty. At twelve years of age it was clearly conceived. “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” For eighteen years He brooded on His duty, and at thirty it was accepted, and never let go. The imperative of His later saying, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day,” was said with the same fervour as it had been said by the joyful enthusiasm of the boy; and when the supreme hour of life came He could say, “It is finished.” What? tits Father’s business!

2. That is the outward aspect of Christ’s faithfulness to duty; its inner aspect was Eternal Truth. He had a few clear, dominant conceptions on which His whole life was built. To these ideas--such as the universal Fatherhood of God, the union of the Divine and human, the existence of a spiritual kingdom, and the necessity of man being a believer in these things, and being made at one with God through Him--Christ’s whole inner life was faithful. He could say, with absolute truthfulness, feeling that His whole inner life had been faithful to them throughout: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should hear witness unto the Truth.” This was Christ’s fidelity, the image of God’s.

V. But what duty can God be said to have to which He is faithful? There can be no duty imposed on Him from without, else there were another greater than Himself. But there can be an imperative within His own nature which is to Him that which duty was to Christ and to us.

1. With regard to us, that duty is the duty of a Father to His children. By that imperative of Fatherhood He can never cease to care for us, watch over us, educate us, and finally perfect us.

2. That is the outward form. But the central idea of which it is the form, and to which in His own inner life He is for ever faithful, is this: “I am the eternal spiritual All. I give Myself forth in all that thinks, and loves, and acts, and is.” That being such, it is inconceivable that He should ever be unfaithful to His thought, for that thought is His own realisation of Himself, and were He unfaithful to it, God were unfaithful to God, which is absurd. To this idea, then, and to all the duties it brings with it, God is absolutely faithful; He cannot be otherwise. “I am,” He says, “because I am.” Conclusion: That is our security. We have arrived at the conception of it through Christ, through our own humanity taken up into and filled with divinity. And once we have grasped it, it transfigures life and gives us a rock to stand on amid the shifting sands of our own feeling, amid the wavering of human faithfulness. The foundation of God standeth sure. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

The faithfulness of God

I. Results from, or stands connected with, all His other perfections.

1. His power (Psalms 146:6). This enables Him, without the possibility of failure, to accomplish all His promises and threatenings. Honest men may be prevented keeping their word by unexpected difficulties; but the designs of the Almighty cannot be frustrated (Matthew 19:26; Genesis 18:14; Romans 4:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:12).

2. His holiness; without it, indeed, He could not be holy (Psalms 92:15; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; Numbers 23:19). Well might the Psalmist say, “God hath spoken in His holiness: I will rejoice” (Psalms 60:6), for the holiness of God is a pledge of His faithfulness.

3. His unchangeableness. Angels have changed, and become devils; man is changed, and become a rebel; but God changes not (Malachi 3:6). Men frequently change their minds, sometimes from good to evil, at other times from evil to good; their second thoughts are best: but God’s thoughts can neither be improved nor depraved (James 1:17). The promises and vows of men (like Jephthah’s and Herod’s) are sometimes unlawful or incautiously made, so that “there may be more honour in the breach than in the observance of them.” Not so the engagements of Heaven (Job 23:13-14).

4. His wisdom. Among men, the non-performance of promises is frequently occasioned by circumstances which human prudence could not foresee; and therefore good men should not make promises hastily, and never without reference to St. James’s caution (James 4:15). But no provisions are necessary when God makes a promise. No difficulties, no disappointments, can occur to Him; His instruments are always at hand, and shall all subserve His holy designs.

5. His mercy, love, and goodness (Psalms 138:2). His love inclines Him to make the promise, and His veracity induces Him to fulfil it.

II. Our confidence in it is confirmed by the following facts.

1. The promises are made in and to Christ, as the Head of His Church; and faithfulness to Him, as well as to us, insures their fulfilment (2 Corinthians 1:20; Titus 1:2; Ephesians 1:6).

2. God has confirmed His promise by an oath (Genesis 22:16; Hebrews 6:13; Hebrews 6:17-18).

3. The experience of the people of God in all ages.

1. Learn the unreasonableness and sinfulness of unbelief (1 John 5:10).

2. Let God be honoured in His faithfulness by a suitable confidence in it.

3. Let us, in our humble measure, try to imitate God in this His glorious attribute (Ephesians 5:1). (G. Burder.)

Faithful is He that calleth you

Consider--

I. How God deals with you, in so calling you as to unite you to His Son. Faithfully throughout. He is faithful--

1. In discovering to you your case.

2. In commending to you His Son.

3. In presenting Christ to you, in free gift, as yours.

4. In not repenting of His call.

II. The end of this calling. You are united to His Son, and to such an effect as to have all things in common.

1. Common interests. The interests which Christ has as--

2. A common character.

3. A common history. With respect to--

The special call and the unfailing result

I. Your calling.

1. Its Divine origin. The text says, “God called you”--does not your experience prove the same? We thought that we had had no other call than that which came through our Bibles, good books, &c. But did we not read the same books years before? but they never touched a chord in our hearts; therefore we conclude that that time it must have been the finger of God. We had been called scores of times before, but we always turned a deaf ear. But when this particular call came, we threw down our sword and said, “Great God, I yield!”

2. Its graciousness. What was there in you to suggest a motive why God should call you? Some of you were drunkards, profane, injurious. John Bradford, when he saw a cartful of men going off to Tyburn to be hanged, said, “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.” A good Scotchman called to see Rowland Hill, and without saying a word, sat still for some five minutes, looking into his face. At last Rowland asked him what engaged his attention. Said he, “I was looking at the lines of your face.” “Well, what do you make out of em?” “Why,” said he, “that if the grace of God hadn’t been in you, you would have been the biggest rascal living.”

3. The privileges it brings.

II. To what end did God call you? That you might have fellowship with Christ. Now the word “koinonia” is not to be interpreted here as a society, but as the result of society; i.e., fellowship lies in mutual and identical interests. A man and his wife have fellowship with each other, in that which is common to both and enjoyed in communion accordingly. Now when we were called to Christ we became one with Him, so that everything Christ had became ours. This was the act of faith. Now we have fellowship to Christ.

1. In His loves. He loves saints, sinners, the world, and pants to see it transformed into the garden of the Lord. What He loves we love, and what He hates we abhor.

2. In His desires. He desires to see multitudes saved, the glory of God, that the saints may be with Him where He is--we desire the same.

3. In His sufferings. We do not die a bloody death; yet many have done so, and there are millions ready to do so. But when He is reproached we have learned to bear His reproach too. Some few drops of His cup we drink, and it has been given to some more than to others to “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ for His body’s sake, which is the Church.”

4. In His joys. Is He happy? We are happy to think Christ is happy.

5. In His riches. If He has riches in pardoning, supporting, instructing, illuminating, sanctifying, preserving, or perfecting Christians, they are all ours. Is His blood precious, His righteousness complete, His merits sweet? They are mine. Has He power in intercession, has He wisdom, righteousness--has He anything? It is mine.

6. In His glory. There is not a crown He wears but we have part of it; nay, there is not a gem that sparkles in His crowns but it sparkles for us as well as for Him. For us the golden streets, the chariot, the crowding angels; the shout of “Hallelujah! for Thou wast slain,” &c., the second advent with all its splendours, universal reign of Christ, the day of judgment.

III. All this leads us to perceive our security. Saints must be saved--

1. Because God has called them. “The gifts and culling of God are without repentance,” Because--

2. God has called them into fellowship with Christ, and that fellowship, if God be faithful, must be complete. You have shared His sufferings, His faithfulness secures the rest. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The fellowship of God’s Son

1. The apostle writes as a peacemaker. Party strife had weakened spiritual life, and a weakened spiritual life had been fruitful in other evils. St. Paul would remedy all evil and restore harmony. He finds his potent spell in the Name which is above every name, and recalls Corinthian Christians to the consideration of the common Saviour, and their one hope which is by Him and in Him. Christ Jesus is all to each and to every one of them. Thus it is that throughout these opening verses this name occurs again and again.

2. Divine fellowship is often spoken of in the Scriptures. In the New Testament it is naturally most familiar, for there God has come nearest to man, and therefore man may come nigh unto Him. This is the gospel message that, “made nigh by the blood of Christ” there is, for all, “boldness to enter into the holiest.” “No one cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Between God and men there is but the one Mediator. Fellowship with God must needs be first of all the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ.

3. But what is this high privilege? Ordinarily the term suggests the interchange of sympathy and thought, or association in acts of Christian worship and participation in common joys and sorrows. The word itself has a meaning which, in its application to ordinary affairs, is very definite and clear. The sons of Zebedee are twice spoken of as “partners” of Simon. Without any violence, therefore, we may read: “The partnership of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (cf. Hebrews 3:14)
. In this busy life, partnerships are common; but never in human commerce did men look upon one like this. Suppose a firm utterly and hopelessly ruined. A wealthy man asks to be admitted as partner. As honest men, the bankrupts must needs protest that the offerer knows not what he is doing. Then comes the reply that all is known, that wealth is available more than sufficient to meet all the need, and that practical wisdom also whereby the ruin may be reconstructed on a safe and enduring basis. Yet this, and more than all this, is in the gospel. A ruined race may scan the present, or peer as they will into the dark future. Sin hath wrought shame and death. Yet now, in the midst of the utter wreck, there stands One who offers much, as He offers life--who giveth all, as He gives Himself. This is true for each and for all, without respect of persons, and without limitation of gift.

4. What has this communion brought to the Saviour Himself? The answer is soon given. He took upon Himself our nature, “the likeness of sinful flesh.” He shared to the utmost its weakness, weariness, pain, and death. One burden He shared not; for Himself hath borne it all. “By Himself” He “purged our sins.” Beyond this He had nothing. Joy became His, “the joy that was set before Him,” that of presenting “faultless before the presence of His glory” the redeemed sons of men. Glory has been given to Him, but it is the glory of “power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life.” And these things He hath “received of the Father,” and not from mankind.

5. But let us turn to the other side, the relation of man to this fellowship. In the commercial world, partnerships are not all alike. Modern society, under the pressure of altered circumstances, has invented the contrivance of “limited liability.” But in olden times when any man entered a firm he took in with him all that he possessed. Thenceforth none of the things which he had could, in presence of the common need, be called his own. From such a partnership the young ruler recoiled: “Sell that thou hast,” &c. Into such a partnership the early Christians gladly entered, for they “had all things common.” Into such a partnership are we called--one of unlimited liability. Entire consecration is the first requirement. “Ye are not your own.” “Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Christ will have all, or nothing. On this essential condition, the partnership is open to every man. He came “to call sinners to repentance,” and, when sinners come, they are accepted just as they are. No man may bring less than his all to the fellowship of Christ; but no man can bring more. So the trembling servant comes with his burden of conscious liability. His all is a debt of ten thousand talents; but the Saviour admits him to the partnership. The poor wasteful and wasted wanderer comes, with rags and shame as his only contribution, but he meets with no denial. Penitent, needy soul! Lay thy gift thyself, whatever thou hast been, whatever thou art--lay it all upon the altar. It is His will, it is His command; therefore, for once, obey. The gift is accepted, for He hath promised. For “God is faithful, by whom” thou hast been called unto this fellowship.

6. Once admitted, “all things are yours.” In earthly partnerships, though there may be unlimited liability, there is only a limited supply. It cannot be that every partner shall have power to draw as he may upon the common resources. The banking account is strictly guarded; and the available funds are doled out to each and to all, not according to need, but according to legal claim. For sinful men, all this is blessedly otherwise. The treasury of grace is the fulness of God. There is “enough for all, enough for each, enough for evermore!” “But all He hath for mine I claim.”

7. If, now, we would learn something of the wealth which we share with and in Christ Jesus, we may read His own words (John 17:22-23). The glory of Christ is the possession of His people. That glory consists in what He is, and what He has; the riches of life and the gifts of love. (G. W. Olver, B. A.)

Fellowship with Christ

I. Our distinctive position as Christians is that we have fellowship with God’s Son. Men are often marked out from others by the particular fraternity, corporation, or firm to which they belong. We as Christians are members of the firm of the Son of God; for the word here means co-partnership.

1. The grounds of this fellowship are--

2. Its terms or conditions--entire self-surrender. Faith receives Christ “as He is presented in the gospel,” i.e., in all His relations. To Christ as a Saviour trust is reliance, as a Teacher trust is teachableness, as a Ruler it is obedience, as a Leader following, as a King homage, as a Man sympathy, as God worship. Let there be no mistake here. Many put their trust in Christ as a Saviour, but not as a King; as man, not as God. They will take all He has to give, but give nothing in return, or if anything their money, but Hot themselves. But Christ seeks not yours, but you. He requires not large capital, knowledge, skill, art, &c., although He will receive them when offered; what He does require is your whole affection and unlimited trust.

3. Its prospects. Our position is that of partners--in spiritual life, brotherhood and service; but not on equal terms. We take nothing into the concern but weakness and poverty. Without Him we can do nothing, but with Him we shall jointly realise God’s ideal of humanity. Military or commercial companies have often proposed to themselves the conquest of the world; this society has the same object, and will achieve it, only in a nobler sense.

II. God has called us into the fellowship of His Son. In the invitations of the gospel God is calling men to become co-partners with Christ; but mere invitation does not come up to the full meaning of the term, and our hearts must say what that full meaning is. The heart makes God the author of its whole salvation. “By the grace of God I am what I am.” That grace makes all the difference between a stranger to and a partner with Christ.

III. Everything must depend on the faithfulness of God. This fellowship from first to last is His creation; on Him it depends to render it a failure or a success.

1. Therefore our confidence rests immediately on God. In worldly affairs men usually contemplate success through natural laws and material properties. Farmers trust to the virtues of the seed, &c., merchants to the winds and waves, warriors to the spirit of their troops; but even in such cases a devout spirit will recognise the presence of God in all secondary causes, and make Him at least the basis of its hope. But in this great co-partnership we have no interventions to distract our faith. We go right to God at once.

2. We rest upon the most Godlike thing in God--His faithfulness, which supports the universe. Our fellowship with Christ is thus placed beyond the possibility of failure in God. No storm can shatter our bark, no blight destroy our harvests, for God is faithful. And what a stimulus to endeavour we have in this! Because God is so faithful to me I will be faithful to Him. Consequently the fellowship of Christ becomes to us the one permanent interest in this uncertain world. There is no possibility of bankruptcy; we cannot be outbidden or undersold; for ours is the capital of God’s unsearchable Fiches. His name is pledged to every acceptance in which cur safety is involved, and so long as His throne shall stand our safety and glory is assured. (Prof. J. M. Charlton.)

The Divine call, and its design

I. The call comprehends all the purposes, decrees, providences, and means of salvation.

II. The design of this call of God is, that all who obey it may for ever have “fellowship” or communion with His Son our Saviour, Communion signifies joint participation in anything, good or bad. Here all is good. God calls the believer--

1. To communion with His Son, in His miraculous formation in the womb. The Spirit creates believers anew “in Christ Jesus unto good works.”

2. In His purity from sin. The Spirit keeps our new nature from sin.

3. In growth in grace. The Spirit brings “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

4. In fitness for every duty. The Spirit anointed Him, and He anoints the believer.

5. In working miracles. The Spirit enables the believer to conquer Satan, sin, the world, death, and hell.

6. In comfort. The Spirit comforted Him, and He comforts real believers.

7. In death.

8. In the state of the dead. The Spirit preserved His holy body that it saw no corruption. The Spirit will keep the bodies of believers “still united to Christ, till the resurrection.”

9. In the resurrection. The Spirit raised Him up; and the same Spirit will raise up the believer.

10. In glory. The Spirit glorified our Lord; and He will also glorify the true believer. (Jas. Kidd, D. D.)

Sonship and fellowship

Let us consider his fellowship or partnership with Christ in the following aspects:--

I. Partnership with Him in what He was. He was crucified, He died, was buried, rose again. In all these we have part.

II. Partnership with him in what he is. He has not only risen, but He has ascended. We share His present dignity; for we are said to be seated with Him in heavenly places, and are treated by God as such. We share His offices; we are prophets, priests, and kings; heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ Jesus.

III. Partnership with Him in what He shall be. Much of His glory is yet in reserve; for now we see not yet all things put under Him. (H. Bonar, D. D.)


Verses 10-16

1 Corinthians 1:10-16

Now I beseech you … that ye speak the same thing, and that, there he no divisions among you.

The apostolical exhortation to unity

I. What it includes--unity.

1. In confession.

2. In spirit.

3. In object.

II. How it is enforced--by the name of Christ, implying--

1. His will.

2. His authority.

3. His claims on our love and obedience. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Unity of sentiment

I. The reasons why Christians should think alike upon religious subjects.

1. God has given them an infallible rule of faith. His Word contains a complete system of Divine truth. That being the case, there is a plain propriety in His requiring them to believe that it is a complete system, and also to believe all the particular truths which compose the system.

2. That rule of faith is sufficiently plain and intelligible to every capacity. All who are capable of knowing that they are the creatures of God are equally capable of knowing what He has required them to believe concerning Himself, their own character, their present situation, and their future state.

II. The objections which have been urged against this unpalatable doctrine.

1. The great and visible diversity in the intellectual powers and external circumstances of Christians. But unity of sentiment does not require equality of knowledge. As one star differs from another star, so angels will differ from saints, and saints from each other in glory. But their difference in knowledge will not create any diversity of opinions respecting the same subjects. Saints will agree with angels so far as their knowledge extends; but so far as it fails, they will wait for further light.

2. The wide difference in the education of Christians. But since they have the Word of God in their hands, it is in their power to bring their own opinions and those of their instructors to an infallible standard, and to decide for themselves what they ought to believe or to disbelieve.

3. The right of private judgment. It is readily granted that every Christian has a right to collect evidence, and after that, to judge according to the evidence. But he has no right to examine and judge under the influence of prejudice, and form his opinion contrary to reason and Scripture.

4. That in Romans 14:1-23. the apostle allows Christians to differ in their religious sentiments, and only exhorts them to view their difference with a candid and charitable eye. But this only applies to the Mosaic rites, which were things indifferent, and which might be observed or neglected under a sense of duty. But he reminds them that they must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, where their opinions as well as actions would be either approved or condemned.

III. The truths which naturally flow from the subject. If God does require Christians to believe alike upon religious subjects, then--

1. It is not a matter of indifference what religious sentiments they embrace.

2. They have contracted a great deal of guilt from age to age by embracing and propagating error.

3. Christians who are united in the belief of the truth have a right to blame those who think differently from them upon religious subjects.

4. There appears to be no propriety in attempting to unite them in affection, without uniting them in sentiment.

5. It seriously concerns all who acknowledge the truth and divinity of the gospel to use every proper method to become entirely united in sentiment.

(a) It will directly tend to unite them in affection. We find that those who agree in art or science commonly feel a mutual attachment arising from their concurrence in opinion. And a unity of faith never fails to produce a mutual esteem and affection among Christians.

(b) The sure word of prophecy predicts the future peace and harmony of the Church as resulting from the knowledge of the truth.

(c) By uniting in sentiment, Christians will remove one of the strongest prejudices of unbelievers against the Bible.

(d) They will strengthen and animate one another in promoting the cause of Christ. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

Divisions in the Church

Hardly five years had lapsed since Paul had first preached the gospel at Corinth, when he is constrained to write to his converts, now in the language of fatherly entreaty, now in the language of the sharpest rebuke, and that though he can still give thanks to God with unfeigned gratitude for the growth of their faith in Christ. What then is the fault which causes him such keen anxiety? It is not heresy, it is not apostasy, it is not open separation from the Church of Christ: it is a matter which we might be inclined to regard as far less momentous than any of these: it is the growth and spread of party spirit within their body. They are degrading the names of the apostles into watchwords of divisions. Christ is divided! indignantly exclaims St. Paul. You are rending His body asunder, you are severing the members which cannot exist in isolation. The harmonious combination of manifold parts, all subservient to one end and united by one Head; this is the essential idea of the physical body. The same law holds in the mystical body of Christ. Disregard the Divine order, and the result can only be death. This division into parties is no venial offence, no pardonable enthusiasm for the teachers whose names you thus dishonour: it is the ruin of the unity for’ which Christ prayed, “That they all may be one.” It is a work of the flesh: the outcome of the evil propensities of your unrenewed nature.

I. What are the causes of party divisions?

1. The ultimate cause lies, I believe, in a radical misapprehension of the nature of truth. God’s truth is infinite. Man’s mind is finite. It is in the nature of things impossible that we with our limited capacities should comprehend the whole of truth. All that we can do is to grasp some fragments, here a little and there a little: truth indeed sufficient for our personal necessities, if we seek aright in faith and patience, but immeasurably falling short of the reality. Our views of truth are therefore partial, disjointed; and it is inevitable that men with minds differently trained should apprehend different parts and different aspects of the truth. This variety is not of itself an evil. Far from it. Such different views are complementary, not antagonistic. As God’s truth was revealed to man “in many parts and in many fashions,” so only in “many parts and in many fashions” can it be grasped and interpreted by man. Only as the ages roll on, and each generation contributes its share towards the final result, are we slowly learning the grandeur of the gospel. Differences are not to be ignored or dissembled, but frankly acknowledged: “combination in diversity,” it has been said, is the characteristic feature of the Church of Christ, and it must be the characteristic feature of every organisation which truly represents that Church. Combination in diversity is a characteristic feature of Holy Scripture. It needs the records of four Evangelists to give a true portraiture of the Son of Man in His earthly ministry. We are not to regard one as more faithful than another, not to take any one as in itself complete, but to find in the harmony of all the true delineation of that perfection which we can only realise by contemplating it in its several parts. St. Paul and St. James, St. Peter and St. John, each offer to us different aspects of the truth; one is the apostle of faith, another of works; one of hope, another of love; but if they have each some special grace or duty upon which they insist, it is not to the neglect or exclusion of other graces and duties: nor are we to pit them one against the other.

2. Thus we see that various schools of thought are necessary for the full representation of truth. They supply, moreover, “that antagonism of influences which is the only real security for continued progress.” But schools of thought are painfully liable to degenerate into parties. We naturally and rightly concentrate our attention upon that fragment of truth which we have realised for ourselves to be true and precious: gradually we grow to think that this is the whole of truth. We divide the swelling river of truth into a thousand paltry runlets, and each cries, Come drink at my stream, for it, and it alone, is pure and uncontaminated. Well for us, then, if the water of life is not evaporated and lost amid the sands of the barren desert of strife.

3. For the next step is easy. We affirm that because others see not with our eyes, they are enveloped in the mists of dangerous error; resistance to their tenets becomes a duty, and in the fierceness of controversy charity is forgotten, and the party contentions of the Christian Church become a spectacle that provokes the scornful laugh of devils and moves our angelic watchers to tears. The absence of humility, the strength of self-will, the spirit that desires victory rather than truth, all contribute to the direful result, and the imperfection of our knowledge is perverted by our sinful folly into the source of incalculable mischief to ourselves and those around us.

4. Especially in days of revival of religious life is there danger of party contentions. Conviction is intense, enthusiasm unbounded, old truths are resuscitated, new truths apprehended, and each individual cherishes his own discovery, and proclaims it as the one vital element of truth to the exclusion of others in reality no less important.

5. The use of party phraseology, too, tends to accentuate the difference between various schools of thought. “By this means over and above all the real differences of opinion which exist, a fresh cause of separation is introduced among those who would perhaps be found, if their respective statements were candidly explained, to have in these tenets no real ground for disunion.”

6. Extremes beget extremes: if one set of men form themselves into an exclusive party, with narrow views and aims, the almost certain consequence is that those who are of the opposite way of thinking will form a party to resist them. But it is a faithless expedient. “Through strife, and not by strife, the Church of God has passed upon her way.”

II. What are the evils arising from party divisions?

1. Party spirit causes the decay of spiritual life: for love is the breath of life, and where love is not, life must wither and die. But how can the gentle breezes of love co-exist with the fierce burning blasts of the sirocco of controversy? As each party circle moreover ceases to hold communion with its neighbours, and feeds more exclusively upon its own limited truths, there is peril that even these will grow to be lifeless, and become petrified into hard unmeaning formulas. Not loss of knowledge and narrowness of sympathy alone, but even death, may be the consequence of isolation.

2. Party spirit is a grievous hindrance to the growth of God’s kingdom. This it is which breeds distrust between the clergy and the laity, and opens that gap which we are sometimes told is daily widening. When shall we learn that the kingdom of God does not consist in a phraseology, but in “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” ?

3. Party spirit is a waste of strength.

4. Party divisions are a stumbling-block to weak ,believers. What are we to think when we see men whose personal characters are equally estimable denouncing one another with unmitigated bitterness?

5. Party divisions are a laughing-stock to unbelievers. “See how these Christians love one another,” is the scornful taunt. And thus we lose that testimony of an united Church which was the ideal contemplated by our Lord.

III. What are the remedies for party divisions?

1. The fundamental bond of religious unity is this: “Ye are Christ’s.” Not primarily in outward organisation, however valuable, not in creeds, however necessary, but in living union with our Head.

2. Another remedy is to be found in the frank recognition that in the Church of Christ variety is not only not wrong, but natural and necessary; because the views of any one individual or group of individuals can be at best but partial embodiments of the whole truth. When we maintain that our partial view is the complete and only true one, it is as if the dwellers in the valleys round some mighty mountain, a Mont Blanc or a Matterhorn, should meet and compare their ideas of its size and form: and because these ideas do not tally, and the outlines of its slopes and peaks and precipices are differently described by each, should forthwith deny the identity of the object of their argument; or impeach the veracity of their neighbours, and part with angry and embittered feelings.

3. A candid and patient examination of the views of those who differ from us will do much to moderate party spirit. Men of undeniable honesty, conscientiousness, zeal, holiness, differ from us. Why is this? They cannot be entirely in the wrong. No holy life is based entirely upon false premises. No system rests altogether upon a lie.

4. Once more, a remedy for divisions is to be found in practical co-operation wherever possible.

5. If controversy should unfortunately be unavoidable, as it may be on some occasions, and for some individuals, we must take heed that it is conducted with calm sobriety, temperate reason, and with the desire of truth, not success. But it is a perilous resource: far healthier for us if we can abstain from entangling ourselves in it. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (A. F. Kirkpatrick, M. A.)

Division in the Church contrary to the spirit of Christ

Because--

I. Contrary to the doctrine of Christ. Christ here by His servant--

1. Exhorts to unity in

2. Condemns all disunion.

II. Incompatible with our obligations to Christ. Divisions--

1. Arise from sinful attachment to persons, interests, or opinions.

2. Divide the body of Christ.

3. Transfer the honour due to Him to another. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Like-minded

An eminent preacher says: “I was walking some weeks ago in a beautiful grove, the trees were distant apart, and the trunks were straight and rugged. But as they ascended higher the branches came closer together, and still higher the twigs and branches interlaced. I said to myself, our Churches resemble these trees; the trunks near the earth stand stiffly and rudely apart; the more nearly toward heaven they ascend, the closer and closer they come together, until they form one beautiful canopy, under which men enjoy both shelter and happiness. Then I thought of that beautiful prayer of the Saviour, ‘That they all may be one.’ Those who have the Spirit of Christ, who go about always doing good, will be like-minded.”

Divisions, how to heal

When so much had been done at Marburg to effect an agreement between Luther and the Helvetians, Zwingle and his friends, he magnanimously resolved that they should not make larger grants for peace, nor carry away the honour of being more desirous of union than he. He suggested that both “the interested parties” should “cherish more and more a truly Christian charity for one another,” and earnestly implore the Lord by His Spirit to confirm them in “the sound doctrine.” (W. Baxendale.)

The evil and danger of schism

The Church of Corinth was now lying bleeding of her wounds, given her not by enemies, but by her own children. The apostle applies himself to the curing of this rent and broken Church in this most pathetic exhortation to unity. Note--

I. The compellation, “Brethren.”

1. A kindly compellation, whereby he endeavours to insinuate himself into their affections; for it is hard for faithful ministers to get people’s affections kept where once divisions enter.

2. An argument for unity: he minds them that they are brethren; and it is a shameful thing for brethren to fall out by the ears (Genesis 13:8; Genesis 45:24).

II. The obsecration, “I beseech you, by the name,” &c. Paul turns a petitioner for the Church’s peace, and begs of them, as he did of the jailor (Acts 16:28), that they would do themselves no harm, but lay by the sword of contention; and that it might have the more weight, he interposeth the name of Christ. It is as much as if he had said--

1. As ye have any regard to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who hath so often enjoined unity and brotherly love to His followers, beware of divisions.

2. As ye love the Lord Jesus, as ye tender His honour and glory, let there be no divisions among you; for the name of Christ sadly suffers by your contentions.

III. The matter of his exhortation.

1. He exhorts them to unity of principles, “that ye all speak the same thing”; for now some were crying one thing, some another, like that confused multitude (Acts 21:34), till some of them came at length to deny the resurrection (chap. 15.).

2. He dehorts them from schisms, which properly signifies a cutting in a solid body, as in the cleaving of wood. Thus the one Church of Corinth was rent into divers factions, some following one, some following another; therefore says the apostle, “Is Christ divided?” Where will you get a Christ to head your different and divided party? Through these divisions, it would seem, from 1 Corinthians 11:33, they had separate communions, they would not tarry for one another. The apostle also taxeth their divisions as carnal (1 Corinthians 3:3), where the word “divisions” properly signifies separate standing, where one party stand upon one side, and another party on another side--such dissension, wherein one separate one from another.

3. He exhorts them to amend what was amiss already among them in that matter, to be perfectly joined together, in opposition to their contentions and divisions. The word in the original is very emphatic, and signifies--

IV. From the words we draw these following doctrines:

1. That schism is an evil incident to the Churches while in this world.

2. That professors ought to beware of it, as they tender the authority and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Where schism enters into a Church, there will be great heats, people contradicting one another in matters of religion.

4. That however hard it be, yet it is possible to get a rent Church healed.

5. That it is the duty of all Church members to endeavour the unity of the Church, and the cure of schisms; and particularly, it is the duty of disjointed members to take their own places in the body again.

6. That schisms, as they are grievous to all the sons of peace, so they are in a special manner heavy and afflicting to faithful ministers of the gospel of peace. (T. Boston, D. D.)

It hath been declared.., by them which are of the house of Chloe that there are contentions among you.--

Contentions in the Church

I. How they arise. Out of undue attachments to persons or opinions.

II. How they should be repressed.

1. Not by seeking the triumph of one party over the other, or by the absolute sacrifice of private opinion.

2. But by exalting these points in which all agree, and cultivating one mind and spirit.

III. Why they should be repressed--for the sake of Christ.

1. His body is one and undivided.

2. He was crucified for us.

3. We are baptized into His name.

4. None other has any claim upon us. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The factions

I. There were four parties in the Church at Corinth.

1. Those who held by Paul himself. They owed to him their salvation; and having experienced the efficacy of his gospel, they thought that there was no other efficacious mode of presenting Christ to men. So probably they fell into the mistake of all mere partisans, and became more Pauline than Paul, and were in danger of becoming more Pauline than Christian.

2. Those who were grouped round Apollos, who watered what Paul had planted. He fitted the gospel into their previous knowledge, and showed them its relations to other faiths, and opened up its ethical wealth and bearing on life. His teaching was not opposed to Paul’s, but supplementary of it; and 1 Corinthians 16:12 shows that there was no jealousy between the two men.

3. Those who gloried in the name of Cephas, the apostle of the circumcision, whose name was used in opposition to Paul’s as representing the original group of apostles who adhered to the Jewish law. Extreme Judaizers would find in this party a fruitful soil.

4. That which named itself “of Christ.” From 2 Corinthians 10:7-18; 2 Corinthians 11:1-33; 2 Corinthians 12:1-18, it would appear that this party was led by men who prided themselves on their Hebrew descent (1 Corinthians 11:22), and on having learned their Christianity from Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 10:7). They claimed to be apostles of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:13) and “ministers of righteousness” (1 Corinthians 11:15); but as they taught “another Jesus,” “another spirit,” “another gospel” (1 Corinthians 11:4), Paul does not hesitate to denounce them as false apostles.

II. The apostle hears of these parties with dismay. What, then, would he think of the state of the Church now? There was as yet in Corinth no outward disruption; and indeed Paul does not seem to contemplate as possible that the members of the one body of Christ should refuse to worship their common Lord in fellowship with one another.

1. The evils attaching to such a condition of things may no doubt be unduly magnified; but the mischief done by disunion should not be ignored. The Church was intended to be the grand uniter of the race; but instead of this, the Church has alienated friends; and men who will do business and dine together, will not worship together. Had the kingdom of Christ been visibly one, it would have been without a rival in the world. But instead of this the strength of the Church has been frittered away in civil strife. The world looks on and laughs while it sees the Church divided over petty differences while it ought to be assailing vice, ungodliness, and ignorance. And yet schism is thought no sin.

2. Now that the Church is broken into pieces, the first step towards unity is to recognise that there may be real union without unity of external organisation. The human race is one; but this unity admits of numberless diversities. So the Church may be truly one in the sense intended by our Lord, one in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, though there continue to be various divisions and sects. As amidst all diversities of government and customs it is the duty of States to maintain their common brotherhood and abstain from tyranny and war, so it is the duty of Churches, however separate in form of government, to maintain and exhibit their unity.

3. There may be real union without unity in creed. This unity is desirable; and Paul entreats his readers to be of one mind.

III. From this casual expression of Paul we see his habitual attitude towards Christ.

1. He was never slow to affirm the indebtedness of the young Christian Churches to himself: he was their father, but he was not their saviour. Not for one moment did he suppose that he could occupy towards men the position Christ occupied. Between his work and Christ’s an impassable gulf was fixed. And that which gave Christ this special place and claim was His crucifixion. Paul does not say, Was Paul your teacher in religion, and did he lead your thoughts to God? did Paul by his life show you the beauty of self-sacrifice and holiness? but “Was Paul crucified for you?”

2. It was not, however, the mere fact of His dying which gave Christ this place, and which claims the regard and trust of all men. Paul had really given his life for men; but Paul knew that in Christ’s death there was a significance his own could never have. It was net only human buy Divine self-sacrifice that was there manifested. Through this death sinners find way back to God and assurance of salvation.

3. This unique work, then--what have we made of it? Paul found his true life and his true self in it. It filled his mind, his heart, his life. This man, formed on the noblest and largest type, found room in Christ alone for the fullest development and exercise of his powers. Is it not plain that if we neglect the connection with Christ which Paul found so fruitful we are doing ourselves the greatest injustice, and preferring a narrow prison-house to liberty and life? (M. Dods, D. D.)

The apostle’s view of party spirit

Paul denounces it as a sin in itself irrespective of the right or wrong opinions connected with it; and the true safeguard against it is the recollection of the great bond of fellowship with Christ which all have in common. “Christianus mihi nomen est,” said an ancient bishop in answer to some such distinction; “Catholicus cognomen.”

1. The first duty of the apostle was to lose himself entirely in the cause he preached. The most important details or forms were so insignificant in comparison that Paul spoke of them as though he had no concern with them. How often in later ages have the means and institutions of the Church taken the place of the end! Antiquity, novelty, a phrase, a ceremony, a vestment, each has in turn overbalanced the one main object for which, confessedly, all lower objects are inculcated. To all these cases the apostle’s answer applies, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.”

2. The sin of the Corinthians consisted not in the mere adoption of eminent names, but in the party spirit which attaches more importance to them than to the great cause which all good men have in common. Even the sacred name of Christ may thus be desecrated; and as the apostle rebukes those who said, “I am of Christ,” no less than those who said “I am of Paul,” &c., so our Lord refused to take the title of “good” (Luke 18:19), and “baptized not, but His disciples” (John 4:2). If the holiest Name can thus be made a party watchword, if Christianity itself can thus be turned to the purposes of a faction, much more may any of its subordinate manifestations. The character of our Lord is distinguished from all others by the fact that it rises far above any local or temporary influences, and also that it has, for the most part, escaped, even in thought, from any association with them. So the character of the apostle, although in a lower measure, vindicates itself in this passage from any identification with the party which called itself after his name; and is a true example of the possibility of performing a great work, and labouring earnestly for great truths, without losing sight of the common ground of Christianity, or becoming the centre of a factious and worldly spirit.

3. It is by catching a glimpse of the wild dissentions which raged around the apostolic writings that we can best appreciate the unity and response of those writings themselves: it is by seeing how completely the dissentions have been obliterated, that we can best understand how marked was the difference between their results and those of analogous divisions in other history. We know how the names of Plato and Aristotle, of Francis and Dominic, of Luther and Calvin, have continued as the rallying point of rival schools; but the schools of Paul and Apollos and Cephas, which once waged so bitter a warfare against each other, were extinguished almost before ecclesiastical history had begun. Partly this arose from the nature of the case. The apostles could not have become founders of systems, even if they would. Their power was not their own, but another’s. “What had they that they had not received?” If once they claimed an independent authority their authority was gone. Great philosophers, conquerors, heresiarchs leave their names even in spite of themselves. But such the apostles could not be without ceasing to be what they were; and the total extinction of the parties which were called after them is in fact a testimony to the Divinity of their mission. And it is difficult not to believe that in the great work of reconciliation of which the outward volume of the Sacred Canon is the chief monument, they were themselves not merely passive instruments, but active agents; that a lesson is still to be derived from the record they have left of their own resistance to the claims of the factions which vainly endeavoured to divide what God had joined together. (Dean Stanley.)

Sects and parties

I. Their manifold variety occasioned--

1. By the peculiarities of human nature in general.

2. National differences.

3. Personal differences.

4. Attachment to individuals, as in the text.

II. Their unity still possible, there should be--

1. One language, one mind.

2. One judgment on fundamental principle.

3. Especially one faith in the crucified Jesus.

4. And one baptism into His name. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The dissensions of the early Church

I. How they originated.

1. In the disputes of the Jewish and Gentile Christians.

2. Hence one was of Peter and another of Paul--those of Christ and of Apollos appear to have been modifications of these.

II. Who were the promoters of them?

1. Not Paul or Peter, &c.

2. Not the peaceably disposed, or those who loved Christ above all things.

3. But--

III. What was the effect?

1. Christ was divided.

2. His claims forgotten.

3. Some human idol exalted in His place. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Every one of you saith, I am of Paul … and I of Christ.--

The factious affecting one pastor above another

We may, and must, give a Benjamin’s portion of respect to those who excel in age, pains, parts, and piety; but the lavishing by wholesale all honour on one, and scarce retailing out any respect to the other, is what Paul reproves.

I. The mischiefs that arise from this practice.

1. Dissention betwixt ministers. As the Grecians (Acts 6:1) murmured against Abe Hebrews, so ministers feel aggrieved that people pass them by unregarded. Perchance the matter may fly so high as it did betwixt Moses and Aaron (Numbers 12:2). It will anger not only Saul, a mere carnal man, but even those that have degrees of grace to say, “He hath converted his thousands, but such an one his ten thousands.”

2. Dissension amongst people. Like the women that pleaded before Solomon (1 Kings 3:22), they contend “The living minister is mine; he that hath spirit and activity: but the dead minister is thine; he cometh not to the quick, he toucheth not the conscience.” “Nay,” saith the other, “my minister is the living minister, and thine is the dead one. Thy pastor is full of the fire, of ill tempered and undiscreet zeal; ‘but the Lord was not in the fire’: whilst my minister is like to a ‘still voice’; staunching the bleeding-hearted penitent, and dropping the oil of the gospel into the wounded conscience.”

3. Rejoicing to wicked men, to whose ears our discords are the sweetest harmony. Let not the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot fall out, whilst the Canaanites are yet in the land.

4. Great dishonour to God Himself. Here is such looking on the ambassador that there is no notice taken of the king.

II. To prevent these mischiefs, both pastors and people must lend their helping hands.

1. I begin with the pastors.

(a) Let them not pride themselves with the bubble of popular applause, often as carelessly gotten as undeservedly lost. Have we not seen those who have preferred lungs before brains, and sounding of a voice before soundness of matter? Let princes count the credit of their kingdoms to consist in the multitude of their subjects: far be it from a preacher to glory when his congregation swells by the consumption of the audience of his neighbour.

(b) Let them discourage immoderate admiration. When St. John would have worshipped the angel, “See thou do it not,” saith he: “worship God.” Know thou who lovest to glut thyself with people’s applause, it shall prove at the last pricks in thy eyes and thorns in thy side--because sacrilegiously thou hast robbed God of His honour.

(c) Let them labour also to ingratiate every deserving pastor with his own congregation. It was the boon Saul begged of Samuel, “Honour me before my people.” And surely it is but reason we should seek to grace the shepherd in the presence of his flock.

2. By this time, methinks, I hear the people saying, as the soldiers to John Baptist, “But what shall we do?”

Sects and parties

I. How far are they right? As far as they--

1. Stand upon the common foundations of Christ.

2. Busy themselves to save souls and not to make proselytes.

3. Esteem, love, and help each other.

4. Exhibit a holy emulation in exalting Christ.

II. When are they wrong?

1. When they exalt party names and differences above Christ.

2. When they are slavishly attached to their party, and make it the great object of their zeal.

3. When they note and despise others and exclude them from their fellowship.

4. When they seek to glorify their party above all others. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Is Christ divided? or

“Is the Christ made a share?”

Is He not a whole, but only a part co-ordinate with three others? Is He no longer the complete circle around which is assembled in its oneness the Corinthian Church, regarding Him from all sides as the One Saviour? but is He reduced to a single quadrant of that circle, the other quadrants being Paul, Apollos, and Cephas? If this be true the startling inference is that Christ, being a Saviour to His own, the other three leaders are subordinate saviours, each to his own adherents; and so I ask you, while I shrink from the thought (such is the force of the Greek), was Paul (to take as an instance the first named of the three heads) crucified for you? Or were ye baptized? &c. And yet this is the conclusion, absurd as it is monstrous, nay, blasphemous, to which you are drifting on the waves of party opinions and professions. Wherefore I beseech you, by that Name which is above every name, the Name of Him who is our Lord, who is the Christ, the one Saviour of all, that divisions die among you, and that union and harmony revive in the pure atmosphere of sameness of view and purpose, leading to sameness of confession. Another translation slightly diverging from the above, but finally converging with it in the same logical connexion is this--“Apportioned is Christ?” Assigned as a portion is He? The word “portion” here denotes relation rather to its own claimant or appropriator than to other co-ordinate parts. The claimant of Christ as its own portion exclusively is in this instance, of course, the last-named party of Christ. If this be the more correct rendering, an underlink of connection between “Apportioned is Christ?” and “Was Paul crucified for you?” must be mentally supplied; an intermediate flash of thought so obvious that time would have been wasted in wording it. This silent link is expressed by the clause in italics: if the Christ, the one Saviour, has become the heritage of one party, what is to become of the salvation of the other three? “Was Paul crucified for you,” &c. (Canon Evans.)

Is Christ divided in

1. His person.

2. His offices.

3. His salvation.

4. His Church. (W. W. Wythe.)

The differences among Christians no objection to Christianity

I. How it is that men come to differ in morals and religion. Almost every action, character, or doctrine, on which we are called upon to make up an opinion, is more or less complex; that is to say, has more than one side or aspect. It does not follow that one is true, and the other false: both may be true; that is, faithful representations of the same reality, only under different aspects. I am not aware of a single vicious action which was ever held as right, unless, in the circumstances, it really had a good or plausible side, on which alone, from some cause, it was contemplated, the whole action being judged by this one side. The same account is also to be given of the origin of most of our differences in religious doctrine when sincerely entertained. Take, for instance, what is perhaps the most fundamental difference of all, the different opinions which have prevailed respecting human nature. Who does not know that man actually appears under all these various aspects?--sometimes but little lower than the angels, and sometimes but little better than a fiend. Hence the most extreme and contradictory views on this subject are so far well founded as this, that they are faithful representations of real phases of human nature, the error consisting not in misconceiving some single phase, but in judging our whole nature by that alone. And so it follows, that what we call errors are not so much false as partial views of the reality.

II. Such being the origin and nature of most religious differences, it will next be in order to inquire on what grounds they can be regarded as a reason or occasion for sceptical, cynical, or desponding thoughts. In the first place, do they afford us any reason or pretext for denying the trustworthiness or competency of the human faculties? Certainly not. Could we be induced to regard the object under precisely the same lights and aspects, we should doubtless see it alike; and better still, could we be induced to regard the object under all lights and aspects, we should doubtless not only see it alike, but see it as it is. Accordingly, the differences among Christians are not to be construed into evidence of the incompetency of the human faculties in themselves considered, but only of their partial application. When we begin our inquiries respecting any subject, we must begin, of course, by looking at it on one side: our views must be partial at first; hut it does not follow that they must always continue so. What, indeed, is progress in any inquiry but the gradual enlargement of our views? And hence the acknowledged fact, that thought and study, and a more generous culture, tend to dissolve differences and bring men together. To those, therefore, who think to find arguments for scepticism or despair in the divisions of Christians, and who are ready to pronounce the partial views which prevail as worthless, and mutually destructive of each other, the answer is plain. First, even the most partial of these views are worth a great deal; for they are partial views of an all-important truth, and as such contain much that is enduring and eternal. Again, as the error of these views grows mainly out of their being partial, it is one which must be expected to pertain to the first stages of every inquiry, but gradually disappear as the inquiry goes on. Finally, though the time may never come on earth when the multitude of partial views will be lost in a single all-comprehensive view, still this knowing “in part,” and the trials and responsibilities which pertain to such a condition, may be essential to the discipline which is to fit us for that world, where “that which is in part shall be done away.” Admitting all this, however, I ask, then, what there is in controversy--I do not say to condemn, for, considering how they are often conducted, there is enough in them, Heaven knows, to condemn, but to excuse in lookers-on either indifference or unbelief? Certainly of themselves they do not argue indifference or unbelief, but the contrary. An age of controversy is pre-eminently an age of faith; a man is not likely to dispute earnestly unless he believes in something, and attaches importance to it. Besides, how is it in other things? Name, if you can, a single interesting subject of inquiry which has not given occasion to controversy. The world is as much divided and estranged on scientific and political and philanthropic questions as on religious questions. But do men hence infer that there is no such thing as truth in any of these matters, or that we have no faculties to discover it? God forbid! Obviously, therefore, it cannot be controversy, as such, that is objected to in this connection, but something peculiar to religious controversy. First, it is said that controversy is well enough where it really has the effect to help forward the truth, or to diffuse and establish it; but in religion it does neither, leaving every question just where it found it. I reply, that even if this were so, it would not be to the purpose: it would follow, indeed, that controversy is of no use in religion, and ought to be avoided; but it would not follow that religion itself is of no use, or that controversy has made it of less use or less certain. But the whole statement is erroneous. Who has yet to learn the invaluable services of discussion and controversy in settling the laws of evidence on which the genuineness and authenticity of the Sacred Books depend, and the laws of interpretation by which their import is determined? To discussion and controversy we also owe it, that the Christian doctrines generally have been unfolded, cleared up, and re-stated. Again, religious controversy is objected to because of its asperities and spirit of denunciation, which on such a subject are peculiarly odious, creating in some minds an invincible disgust for religion itself. That religious controversy, even among Christians, sometimes assumes the character here given to it, I confess; but it is easy to see that it is not because Christians are Christians, but because Christians are men, having the weaknesses and imperfections of men. Once more. A vague notion exists, I believe, in some minds that the honour of God is somehow compromised by the disgraceful altercations to which Christianity has given birth. The fact that He does not interfere to suppress them creates a feeling of uneasiness and distrust, as if the revelation were not in reality from Him. Such persons would do well to remember that God gives us truth, as He gives us everything else, not to our acceptance, but to our acquisition. Even the truths of revelation are expected to do us as much good by exercising our fairness of mind, and our love of truth, in the acceptance and interpretation of His Word, as by the light they give. To the question, then, Which among the various partial and discordant views you are to adopt, this is my answer--Adopt your own; hold fast your own. Allowing others to have their views, be faithful and just to your own view; endeavouring, of course, to enlarge it from day to day, but adhering to it, meanwhile, and reverencing it, as one view at least of truth, and of that side of truth which is turned towards you, and which, therefore, you must be presumed to be most concerned to know. Above all, remember that, though we are divided, Christ is not. (J. Walker, D. D.)

Was Paul crucified for you?--

Was Paul crucified?

I. The occasion of this question--the divided state of the Church at Corinth. Mark the peculiar ground of contention (verse 12). Paul was the founder of the Church; and some of the older members might naturally feel peculiarly attached to him. Apollos succeeded Paul--a man of more finished eloquence; and some, who joined the Church under his ministry, might, as naturally, become attached to him. Peter was especially the apostle to the Jews, and the Jewish converts would prefer him. Others affected to disparage all, and said, “We are of Christ.” Surely it was a most unhappy state of things to make one preacher clash with another, and to appear to make any of them clash with Christ. So Paul says, “Is there a separate Saviour for each of the four parties? for that is what you seem to mean”; then adds, “Was Paul crucified for you?”

II. The truth involved in the question.

1. Some one had been crucified for them. That was a fact which none of their divisions could pretend to deny. But who was this crucified One? Was it Paul? No! It was the Master, not the servant. And Christ was crucified for us! He had no guilt of His own to suffer for. The poor thief at His side made this acknowledgment, and prophecy had explained it 700 years before--“He was wounded for our transgressions,” &c.

2. And this was the most memorable fact in His history. To talk about the blood of Christ offends certain people’s taste, and is out of keeping with their theology. But what is the theology of the Bible? The tabernacle and the temple ran with blood; for “without shedding of blood there was no remission of sin.” So in the New Testament we read that our Lord “took the cup,” and said, “This is My blood,” &c. And Peter reminded his fellow-believers, “Ye were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ,” and John wrote, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” And the reason of all this is clearly given. Sin is a thing which a just and holy Ruler of the universe cannot pass by. It must be punished--if not in us, in another in our stead. And the grand message of the gospel is, that God has laid on Christ the iniquity of us all--so that “in Him we have redemption through His blood,” &c. Now if this be so, the most memorable thing in the history of Christ is--that He “was crucified for us!”

3. Such clearly is Paul’s teaching. Talk too much of the blood of Christ? (1 Corinthians 2:2). The theme distasteful and offensive? (Galatians 6:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:23).

III. The force of the question. What claim have I upon you compared with that of Christ? Notice the delicacy of the apostle’s mind, He might have asked the same with regard to Peter or Apollos.

1. Paul had some claim upon them, for it was he who first brought the gospel to them. And what Corinthian believer but was bound to bless the apostle’s name? And don’t you sometimes bless it, English believer? Have you not felt that the Apostle Paul has been one of your best friends?

2. But now I hear him saying, “Don’t talk of me--talk of nay Master. What claims have I upon you compared with His? It was not I that was your Substitute--I needed a substitute as much as you. You Corinthians talk of me and of Apollos as useful preachers. Who are we but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man. ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord,’” &c. And so you Englishmen talk of me as one whom you are bound to revere and love. But look up immensely higher! up, where angels bow before a Lamb as it had been slain! There’s your best Friend! Give Him your deepest reverence, your warmest love! “Was Paul crucified for you?”

3. The text is suitable, by way of warning, to these days when the tendency is to mingle Christ up with other famous teachers. And doubtless each of them has taught the world what had previously been forgotten. But can any Christian put them on a level with our Lord? I shudder at the thought! “Is Christ divided?” Is there one Saviour for the Chinese, and another for the Indian, and another for the Arab? Was Confucius crucified for sinners?--or Buddha?--or Mahommed? Nay, brethren! Stand fast in the faith. “There is none other name,” &c. “Other foundation can no man lay.” (F. Tucker, B. A.)

Jesus the only Saviour of men

This question was intended to startle Paul’s readers. They had been split up into separate groups, designated by names representing ideas which ought never to be separated, viz., Christian freedom, Christian philosophy, Church authority and organisation, and personal devotion to Christ. But these Greeks carried their old mental habits into the Church. For ages they had identified each shade of opinion in philosophy with the name of an individual teacher. It was natural for them to look at Christianity as an addition to the world’s thought, which admitted of being treated as other systems. Moreover, religion is differently apprehended and presented by different minds. The one Truth which Peter and Paul and Apollos preached was presented in different forms. The fault of the Corinthians lay in treating a difference in the way of presenting truth as if it were a difference in truth itself. To them Paul, &c., were the teachers of distinct religions. Nay, more, the holiest Name of all was bandied about among the names of His messengers. Hence the pain which finds vent in the question, “Was Paul crucified for you?” This question--

I. Suggests the difference between the debt which Christians owe to Christ and that which they owe to the most favoured of His servants.

1. It was no slight debt which the Corinthians owed to the apostle--their conversion, their Church, their knowledge about subjects of the highest interest to man; his nature, God’s nature and relations, and the eternal future. It was a debt which could never be repaid. But the apostle suggests its utter relative insignificance by his question, “Was Paul crucified for you?”

2. Not that St. Paul had taught the Corinthians the faith of Christ without suffering (1 Thessalonians 2:2; Acts 18:5-6; Acts 18:12-17). But all such sufferings had differed in kind from that which was glanced at by the question, “Was Paul crucified for you?”

3. His relation to Christ was altogether unlike that which existed between pupils and their Master, e.g., between Plato and Socrates. To St. Paul Christ was not merely the author of Christianity, but its subject and its substance. St. Paul was not indeed crucified; he was beheaded some years later, as a martyr for Christ. But excepting the testimony which he thus bore to the truth he preached, his death was without results to the world. He was beheaded for no one. And had he been crucified at Corinth, the sin of no single Corinthian would have been washed away by his blood. Do, teach, or suffer what he might, he was but a disciple.

II. Tells us what it was in the work of Christ which had the first claim on the gratitude of Christians.

1. Not His miracles. They were designed, no doubt, to make faith in His Divine mission natural and easy. They were more: frequently works of mercy than of power. They were acted parables. But others also have worked miracles. And the miracles of Christ have not touched the heart of the world more than His words.

2. Not His teaching. Certainly no human speech will ever say more to the conscience than did the Sermon on the Mount, or more to the heart than did the discourse in the supper-room. Yet He Himself implies that what He did would have greater claims on man than what He said.

3. Nor His triumph over death at His resurrection. Certainly that was the supreme certificate of His Divine mission. But the claim of the Resurrection upon our gratitude is so great, because it is intimately bound up with the tragedy which had preceded it.

4. But His Cross (verses 23, 24; 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14), on which He reminds us of our utter misery and helplessness until we are aided by His redeeming might (John 15:13; 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 1:5; Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Hebrews 2:17). To expand, connect, explain, justify these aspects of His atoning death is no doubt a labour of vast proportions. But in their simple form they meet every child who reads the New Testament, and they explain the hold of Christ crucified on the Christian heart. And we understand the pathos and the strength of the appeal, “Was Paul crucified for you?”

III. Enables us to measure the true worth of efforts for improving the condition of mankind.

1. We may well thank God that He has put it into so many hearts to support institutions and enterprises so rich in their practical benevolence. But when it is hinted that efforts of this kind satisfy all the needs of man, we are obliged to hesitate. The needs of the soul are at least as real as those of the body. The pain of the conscience is at least as torturing as that of the nerves. The invisible world is not less to be provided for than the world of sense and time. We are sometimes almost pressed, in view of the exaggerated claims of a secular philanthropy, to ask whether this or that benevolent person was crucified for the poor or the suffering.

2. In like manner, when Renan tells that we should all be much better if we would give increased time and thought to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, we naturally listen. That Marcus Aurelius was marked by eminent excellences must be frankly granted. But literary infidelity has done this man a wrong by the very excesses of his panegyric. For we cannot but ask whether his characteristic virtue was more than a social luxury; whether it had the slightest effect upon the degraded multitudes who lived close to his palace; whether it prevented him selecting as his colleague a worthless trifler, or from bequeathing his responsibilities to a profligate buffoon; whether it even suggested a scruple respecting his cruel persecutions of Christians. These are questions which history may be left to answer. And her judgment would make another question only more grotesque than profane--“Was Marcus Aurelius crucified for you?”

3. Yes; only One ever was crucified out of love to sinners, and with a will and power to save them. The faith which St. Paul preached protects society against dangers which are inseparable from human progress at certain stages. For this faith in Christ crucified addresses itself to each of those poles of society, which, when left to the ordinary selfish impulses of human nature, tend to become antagonistic. To the wealthy and the noble the figure of the crucified Saviour is a perpetual preacher of self-sacrifice for the sake of the poor and needy; and to the poor it is no less a perpetual lesson of the beauty, the majesty of entire resignation. Thus does the truth which is at the very heart of the Christian creed contribute most powerfully to the coherence and well-being of society; and we live in days when society is not able to dispense with its assistance. (Canon Liddon.)

I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius.--

Paul’s modesty

This is a beautiful trait of Paul’s character. Most preachers delight to take a prominent part in the public reception of their converts. But Paul saw the danger of this, as tending to exalt the preacher in men’s eyes. He therefore purposely (verse 15) and systematically placed himself on such occasions in the background (cf. Acts 10:48)
. This he could well afford to do because of the greater honour, given to him, of preaching the gospel and thus leading men to Christ. He wished men to think, not of the successful preacher, but of Him whose professed servants the baptized ones were. How different was the
aim of those who wrote Paul’s name on the banner of their party! Paul thanks God for his own conduct. For every good action is prompted by God, and enriches the actor. (Prof. Beet.)

Christian baptism

contains two things: something on the part of God, and something on the part of man. On God’s part it is an authoritative revelation of His paternity: on man’s part it is an acceptance of God’s covenant. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 St. Paul expresses the meaning of baptism as symbolising discipleship. When the Israelites passed through the Red Sea they cut themselves off for ever from Egypt, so that, figuratively speaking, in that immersion they were baptized unto Moses, for thereby they declared themselves his followers, and left all to go with him. And so, just as the soldier who receives the bounty money is thereby pledged to serve his sovereign, so he who has passed through the baptismal waters is pledged to fight under the Redeemer’s banner against sin, the world, and the devil. And so Paul argues thus: To whom were ye when baptized? To whom did you pledge yourselves in discipleship? If to Christ, why do ye name yourselves by the name of Paul? If all were baptized into that one Name, how is it that a few only have adopted it as their own? Upon this we make two remarks.

I. The valve and blessedness of the sacraments.

1. They are authoritative signs and symbols. There is very much contained in this idea; e.g., in some parts of the country it is the custom to give and receive a ring in token of betrothal; but that is very different from the marriage-ring. It is neither authoritative, nor has it the sanction of the Church. It would have been perfectly possible for man to have invented another symbol of the truth conveyed in baptism, and then it would not have been authoritative, and consequently it would have been weak and useless.

2. They serve as the epitomes of Christian truth. Antinomianism had crept into the Roman Church. Paul meets this by an appeal to baptism (Romans 6:1-4). And again, in reference to the Lord’s Supper, in the Church of Corinth that sacrament had become a feast of gluttony and a signal of division. This error he endeavours to correct by reference to the institution of the Supper itself: “The bread which we break, is it not the Communion of the body of Christ?” The single loaf, broken into many fragments, contains within it the symbolical truth, that the Church of Christ is one. Here, in the text, St. Paul makes the same appeal: he appeals to baptism against sectarianism, and so long as we retain it, it is an everlasting protest against every one who breaks the unity of the Church.

II. The peculiar meaning of the sacrament. There are those who believe and teach that men are born into the world children of the devil, and who hold that the instrument for their conversion into God’s children is baptism; and believe that there is given to the ministers of the Church the power of conveying in that sacrament the Holy Spirit, who effects this wondrous change. If a minister really believes he has this power, then it is only with fear and trembling that he should approach the font. But if this view be true, then the apostle thanked God that he had not regenerated any, that he had not conveyed the Spirit of God to any one but Crispus and Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)


Verses 17-31

1 Corinthians 1:17-31

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.

Paul’s preaching

I. It exalted the Cross of Christ as the central element of the gospel. The apostle does not teach that truths associated with the details of Christian belief and living are not proper themes for the pulpit; nor that ritualistic observances are of no importance; nor that he considered as naught the human wisdom seen both in logic and skill; what he meant was that the gospel as the means of salvation revealed by God was everywhere the burden of his message. Neither church observances nor creeds, nor man’s philosophy can become a substitute for this essential truth.

II. It made the agency of God essential in causing the Cross of Christ to have saving power.

1. Paul gives the reason of man its proper place in the apprehension of the truth, and the truth so apprehended its proper place as connected with regeneration; but he never teaches that the truth alone, however fully understood, will secure salvation. Being saved is not an intellectual process only, even though the sacrifice of Christ be the truth considered. Only when made the power of God through the attending influence of the Holy Ghost does it save.

2. Paul’s preaching insisted that this Divine agency can render the weak--

III. It declared that the result of the gospel’s proper presentation must be that God, and not men, will have all the glory (1 Corinthians 1:29; 1 Corinthians 1:31). Conclusion: Paul’s preaching declares--

1. That true salvation is the penitent and trustful acceptance of the crucified Christ.

2. That true religion is loyalty to God. (J. Exells, D. D.)

The true work of the preacher

Paul sought to teach that there were different functions which belonged to the officers of the Church. Some were to “serve tables,” some to administer the ordinances. He did not cast contempt on the ordinances, but declared that he had a special work appointed him.

I. The office of the preacher arose with the Saviour. There were instructors previously. The prophets were much more teachers than predictors. The Rabbis when Christ was upon earth were teachers. Christ’s method of teaching was utterly different. Outwardly it was the same--He went from place to place, He taught sitting, &c.; but the interior contents of His teaching were very different. Christ spake “with authority”; so does every man who speaks from the roots and fundamental elements of truth.

II. Preaching is teaching in a vitalising way ethical truths--truths which ally men to God and to each other. They must be taught so as to breathe the life of Him who teaches. They must carry personal power.

III. It is not to be thought that this function of the Christian Church has ceased even in liberally educated and cultivated sections of society. Let us look closely and ask, Is the function of the preacher temporary? Will it ever pass away? There is one element belonging distinctively to the preacher which will for ever give him a place and function which can never change: the bringing of the truth home to men in a living form. In the light of this observe the genius and the sphere of preaching--

1. From this sphere are excluded largely the higher forms of theological speculation, for it is not possible to bring these home to men in a living way. His distinctive business is to deal with those truths which he can take into his consciousness, and, having given to these a personal expression from himself, send them forth living truths. His proper sphere is ethical truth. That which men most need to know is how to love God and man perfectly. This is his whole duty. To teach this duty is the sphere of the preacher.

2. This includes every condition of mankind.

3. From this it appears that no man is a true preacher whose chief business is the organisation of worship, the conduct of Church affairs, or mere pastoral administration. The true preacher is the utterer of truth.

4. Then as no man can represent in himself every form of the human mind, or have a full conception of all truth, the preacher must necessarily be a partialist. The robin sings as a robin, bluebirds as bluebirds. One man has large power of imagination, another overflowing emotion, &c. All are fragmentary preachers. No man was ever built large enough to preach the whole of God.

5. Pride, vanity, and unspiritual life will effectually prevent the preacher becoming personally, experimentally, a presentation of the truth to the people. (H. W. Beecher.)

Preaching

I. It has been ordered by Divine wisdom that the gospel should, as much as possible, avail itself of the ordinary channels of communication and influence in spreading through the world.

II. The secret of the power of preaching.

1. It conveys far better than any other vehicle the affirmation of the whole man--his whole nature, his whole experience--to the matter which he desires to communicate.

2. It brings into play all the affinities, sympathies, and affections of the being, and is therefore a most powerful instrument in arriving at the truth.

3. So much is true of all preaching. But in the preaching of the gospel there is a source of special power--the principle of representation the power and right to speak to men in the name of God. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Paul’s preaching

1. Observe, Paul does not say “we preach Christ” as if the declaration of the personal dignity of the God-man were all. Neither does he emphasise the “crucified” as if the setting off of the death of Jesus as that of a martyr and for an example were enough. But he combines the two. The dignity of the Christ was needed to give efficacy to the sacrifice on the Cross, and the sacrifice on the Cross was required to complete the work of the Christ.

2. In the prosecution of his work Paul met with three classes, each of which treated his message in a peculiar fashion. The Jew and the Greek, without trying the gospel on themselves, rejected it--the one for its lack of power and the other for its lack of wisdom; but the third class, acting on the only true philosophical principle of proving the matter by personal experiment, found in it both the power of God and the wisdom of God. Nowadays it is sturdily insisted on that nothing shall be received save that which rests on the basis of observation and experiment, but that is all the gospel asks; and here we see that those who reject it are those who refuse to put it to the test. Which of the two classes is the more scientific? The Baconian philosophers should not hesitate as to the reply. Christ crucified is--

I. “The power of god.”

1. Yes, but this power is not physical like the might of an army; nor material, like that which is connected with a development of matter; nor mechanical, as derived from any sort of mechanism, but dynamical, as exerted by spirit upon spirit. It is “power unto salvation.” It is not therefore to be tested by material gauges, as one measures the pressure on a steam-boiler, or estimates the horse-power of an engine. We are to look for its operation in the human heart. Its trophics are in character, and its results are in life.

2. But are we quite sure that it is “the power of God”? Yes, for there are only two spiritual powers in the world--that of evil and that of good. Very evidently, therefore, a result like that of the conversion of a man, and the revolution of society, from evil to good, must be traced up to God. Man cannot do it for himself, for as water cannot rise above its level, so the soul cannot change its nature by its own efforts. And what one man cannot do for himself, the aggregate of men cannot do for the race. They had four thousand years given to them in which to make the experiment, and here (verse 21) is the result.

II. “The wisdom of God.”

1. Wisdom is manifested in the choice of such means as are best adapted to the production of the end. The problem to be solved in the salvation of men is, “How shall a sinner be forgiven without weakening the sanctions of morality and giving encouragement to evil?” Now the race vainly wrestled with that for four millenniums; but the despair of humanity is the opportunity of God, for in “Christ crucified” we are shown “a just God and a Saviour.”

2. Wisdom is seen in the securing of different ends by one and the same means. So salvation is not merely forgiveness; it is also regeneration and growth in holiness. Its highest result is character, and the renovation of that is produced by the Holy Ghost. Now the dispensation of the Holy Spirit would have been impossible save for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; while, again, the love of Christ, as manifested in His sacrifice on the Cross, is the great means used by the Spirit for the regeneration and sanctification of the believer. Conclusion: From all this four inferences follow. If Christ crucified is the power of God unto salvation, then--

1. Any sinner may be saved through faith in Him.

2. There is no other way of salvation.

3. When men are saved through this means the whole glory of their salvation is due to God.

4. If we would see such results from our preaching as those which followed Paul’s, we must preach the same gospel, “Christ crucified.” This is the gospel for our age, because it is the gospel for all the ages. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The gospel as preached by Paul

I. There is a gospel to be preached. Amid all the diversities of doctrine and ritual there are some things which must be found in all Christian preaching: that Christ alone can save men; that He can save any man and all men; that He saves men completely and for ever. No man can be said to preach the gospel who does not make these thoughts central and controlling. He may preach very important and helpful truth; but until he makes Christ the ground, the motive, and the end of his teaching, he is not a preacher of the gospel. The gospel is good news. It is not the publication of the moral law. It is not telling men what they ought to be and do. The ministry of Christ was not needed to teach that lesson. Conscience proclaims it, and universal experience confirms it. It is not equivalent to the affirmation of the eternal and universal Fatherhood of the Holy One. It implies this, but it is more. That consoling thought is imbedded in the Old Testament. Paul affirmed more than that. In his preaching the person of Christ assumes central and permanent prominence. In Him the law of God is fulfilled and honoured. In Him the love of God leaps from the heavens to the earth links itself with the burden and guilt of humanity, challenges the powers of darkness and the might of death, achieving a practical and eternal victory. Fear rules paganism, hope smiles in the Old Testament, assurance is the ringing keynote of the gospel. So much for the contents of the gospel. It is crowded into this sentence: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

II. But does the world need such a message? Can we not get along fairly well without it? That is the very question which Paul discussed in Romans 1:1-32. What does the world need? Righteousness. That secured and the millennium would be there. But the one thing most needed is the thing most difficult to create and promote. It cannot be said that there has been any lack of earnest attempts. Confucius, Sakya-Muni, Zoroaster, and Socrates, tried to supply the want. But the multitudes were deaf to their appeal; and Rome at the zenith of her culture was but a “veneered brutality.” And mightily endowed as Judiasm was it failed to achieve even its own reformation. The men who boasted in the law trampled upon it every day. A mightier hand than that of Socrates, or of Moses, was needed to save the world. A more than human hand, though nerved by an inspired heart, must smite the ranks of evil.

III. But granting that the world needs just the help which the gospel declares has been brought to it. “will even this secure the desired result? To this we can only answer, first, if it does not then God is clearly and hopelessly defeated, for a greater than Christ cannot, come to the rescue; and second, if Christ be what the gospel affirms Him to be, the triumph of righteousness is a foregone conclusion. Hence the tone of victory in the New Testament is always in the present tense. “Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory.” “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” This is our highest assurance. It receives impressive confirmation in the historical triumphs of Christianity. Its moral conquest of the civilisations of Rome and Greece are unquestioned. Its restraining and reorganising energy during the Middle Ages is freely admitted. Its profound and salutary influence upon modern life is beyond cavil; but there is a more direct and living proof of its power. Hundreds among you can bear testimony to the grace of salvation in Jesus Christ. What the gospel has done for you it can do for all. (A. J. F. Behrends, D. D.)

The gospel neither ritual nor philosophy

I. A large class of minds like to make a superstition out of their religion. Mere words addressed to the understanding and the heart appear too feeble, too immaterial. They long to be set in rapport with the superhuman in some realistic way. Establish some “sign.” Paul, generalising from what he saw before his eyes, calls this demand of human nature Jewish; but it is common everywhere. It has penetrated every religion from the days of the Chaldeans downwards. One after another Judaism, Buddhism, Parseeism, Mohammedanism, Christianity, have succumbed to this demand for material signs. Each of them has degenerated into a system of ceremonial and stooped to pander to the sensuous taste of its devotees.

II. There is in man a tendency, not So widespread, but nobler than the vulgar bent to superstition--after intellectual satisfaction and an exhaustive knowledge of truth.

1. No sooner had Christianity appeared than this appetite seized upon it, questioned it, thought to find in it what it had failed to find elsewhere. Generalising, again, Paul termed this the Greek habit of mind. “The Greek,” he says, “searches after philosophy”; but it is as little exclusively Greek as the bias to superstition is exclusively Jewish. In our day it is no less profound, unsuitable, or eager than it ever was. Men claim that it shall be as systematic, exhaustive, and demonstrable as a science; that it shall help to answer the unanswered problems of existence; that it shall abjure all pretensions to be supernatural; that every one of its facts be found explicable on natural grounds; and that its boasted virtue to save shall prove as intelligible as the action of any other truth upon human minds.

2. Follow out this conception of Christianity to its issues, and what have you? Not a genuine revelation from heaven; not the advent of a Divine power to save; but simply some very beautiful and elevating truths, discerned first by a certain Jew of Palestine and by him added to the world’s treasure-house of thought, yet competing with many discoveries of more modern times. Is it not to some such appraisement of the gospel that a great deal of modern discussion among the learned is tending? Nay, is there not a way of preaching and defending the gospel--such a way as Paul avoided in speculative Corinth--which actually invites men to rate its value as low as this among the rival systems of human wisdom?

3. Against such a misconception of the essence of the gospel, what is St. Paul’s protest? It is true, he seems to say, the gospel is a rational word, and not a magical rite. It is spoken truth, and it acts, like truth, through the misunderstandings of men. But, for all that, it is not a philosophy. With abstract truth it has little to do; but it proclaims Jesus the Messiah, and proclaims Him as crucified for the sins of men. Its real character is this--it is a, testimony from God which we are not called upon to discuss so much as to credit. It is in this, accordingly, that its power lies. For power it unquestionably possesses. Only not the mere power of wisdom, but the quiet personal power of the Speaker’s authority and the Speaker’s love. Speculate about this and it may seem in your sagacious eyes folly. But cease to criticise and be humble enough to believe it, to surrender yourself to Him who speaks; then it will prove itself to be Divinely wise and strong in your experience. It will work in you as no human wisdom works; it will save you as no intellectual system saves.

4. On this side also I think a faithful Church needs just now to speak out in clear tones. It is not the first time in the history of our faith that the gospel has been like to lose its characteristic spirit by evaporation. Treat it as you treat an ordinary system of thought, and you end (as Paul feared to end) by making the Cross of Christ “of none effect.” You miss its very essence as a gospel. For what makes it to be a gospel? Just this, that it is God’s own record of His peculiar way of having mercy upon sinners. It is a plain, practical, personal appeal from our reconciling Father to each wandered soul among us; or it is nothing. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

The foolishness of preaching

As Paul repudiates the idea that he had given any countenance to the founding of a Pauline party, it occurs to him that some may say, True enough, he did not baptize; but his preaching may more effectually have won partisans than even baptizing them into his own name could have done. And so Paul goes on to show that his preaching was not that of a demagogue or party-leader, but was a bare statement of fact, garnished by absolutely nothing which could divert attention from the fact either to the speaker or to his style. Paul explains to the Corinthians--

I. The style of preaching he had adopted while with them

1. His time in Corinth, he assures them, had been spent, not in propagating a system of truth which might have been identified with his name, but in presenting the Cross of Christ. In approaching them he had necessarily weighed in his own mind the comparative merits of various modes of presenting the gospel, and he well knew that a new philosophy clothed in elegant language was likely to secure a number of disciples. And it was quite in Paul’s power to present the gospel as a philosophy; but he “determined not to know anything among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

2. Paul then deliberately trusted to the bare statement of facts and not to any theory about these facts. In preaching to audiences with whom the facts are familiar, it is perfectly justifiable to draw inferences from them and to theorise about them. Paul himself spoke “wisdom among them that were perfect.” But what is to be noted is that for doing the work proper to the gospel, for making men Christians, it is not theory or explanation, but fact, that is effective. It is the presentation of Christ as He is presented in the Gospels which stands in the first rank of efficiency as a means of evangelising the world. The actor does not instruct his audience how they should be affected by the play; he so presents the scene that they instinctively smile or find their eyes fill. Those onlookers at the crucifixion who beat their breasts were not told that they should feel compunction; it was enough that they saw the Crucified. So it is always; it is the direct vision of the Cross, and not anything which is said about it, which is most effective in producing penitence and faith.

3. The very fact that it was a Person, not a system of philosophy, that Paul proclaimed Was sufficient proof that he was not anxious to become the founder of a school or the head of a party. And that which permanently distinguishes Christianity from all philosophies is that it presents to men, not a system of truth to be understood, but a Person to be relied upon. Christianity is for all men and not for the select, highly educated few; and it depends therefore not on exceptional ability to see truth, but on the universal human emotions of love and trust.

II. Why he had adopted this style.

1. Because God had changed His method (verse 21).

2. Paul appeals to the elements of which the Church was actually composed.

3. Paul avers that had he used “enticing words of man’s wisdom” the hearers might have been unduly influenced by the mere guise in which the gospel was presented and too little influenced by the essence of it. He feared to adorn the simple tale lest the attention of his audience might be diverted from the substance of his message. He was resolved that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Here again things have changed since Paul’s day. The assailants of Christianity have put it on its defence, and its apologists have been compelled to show that it is in harmony with the soundest philosophy. It was inevitable that this should be done; but Paul considered that the only sound and trustworthy faith was produced by direct personal contact with the Cross. And this remains for ever true. (M. Dods, D. D.)

The true minister of Christ

I. His commission.

II. His paramount work.

1. Not to baptize, much less busy himself with a thousand other things.

2. But to preach the gospel.

III. His prescribed methods.

1. Not with wisdom of words.

2. But simply, plainly, pointedly.

IV. His motive.

1. That nothing might hinder.

2. But everything promote the effect of the Cross of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The aim of the ministry

In a village church in one of the Tyrolese valleys, we saw upon the pulpit an outstretched arm, carved in wood, the hand of which held forth a cross. We noted the emblem as full of instruction as to what all true ministry should be, and must be--a holding forth of the Cross of Christ to the multitude as the only trust of sinners. Jesus Christ must be set forth evidently crucified among them. Lord, make this the aim and habit of all our ministers. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

The Cross of Christ of none effect

I. “The cross of christ” is an instrument intended and adapted to produce a certain “effect.” So far as man had to do with it it was intended to abase a prophet whom many honoured, to kill as a malefactor a Man whose great fault was that He had no fault at all. So far as God had to do with it, it was intended to be a Divine force. The Cross of Christ is to be a Divine force with an “effect” retrospective, aspective, and prospective.

1. The Cross fulfilled the first promise; it was the “good thing” of which the sacrifices were a shadow; it was the event toward which the course of all events had tended.

2. The Cross cast a long, deep shadow upon the Holy Land; its peculiar people; its priesthood, temple, and ritual; a night-of-death shadow to cover a time of change in which old things would pass away and all things become new.

3. The Cross shed light into the darkness of the world, and indicated those stirrings of the Divine mercy which terminated in the proclamation of salvation to the world. As matter of history, since the Cross of Christ has begun to take effect, it has caused religious systems hoary with age, and rooted by ten thousand fibres in the hearts of the people to be laid aside as worn-out garments. It has spread civilisation over many nations; it has been a key to unlock the treasures of all useful knowledge; it has elevated art, widened commerce, removed the fetters from the slave; it has founded hospitals and schools, checked the harsh government of rulers, quelled the anarchy of subjects, restored woman to her primitive position, imparted peace and joy to the home, exalted nations, and is now both the light and leaven of the world. The Cross of Christ alone saves.

II. Paul speaks of the cross being “made of none effect.”

1. To make the sun of none effect would send our world back to chaos, but this ruin would be--

2. Small compared with negativing the Cross of Christ. And Paul tells us that if he had exhibited the Cross with “wisdom of words,” it would have been powerless in his hands. He cannot mean intelligible and acceptable words; for without such the Cross could not be manifested at all. By “wisdom of words” is meant the artifices of rhetoric, &c. If the Cross were a jewel to be hoarded and hid I would make its bed in wool; but as it is a gem to be used let me see it as it is. If the Cross were an inferior gem I might add to its worth and beauty by the setting; but as its value is beyond price, let its surroundings be as simple as possible. The question is not, however, one of taste, but of utility. Shall we mingle with our daily bread that which will deprive us of its nutritive effect?

3. The Cross is made of none effect when--

Conclusion:

1. What is the effect of the Cross of Christ upon yourselves?

2. What is the effect of the Cross in your hands? We more than fear that Christians and Churches of Christ have done much to make the Cross of Christ of none effect. (S. Martin.)

The world’s greatest blessing and its greatest evil

I. The greatest blessing in the world--“the Cross of Christ.” By “the Cross of Christ” the apostle did not mean of course the timber on which Christ was crucified, or any imitation of that in wood, &c. He uses the word as a symbol, as we use the words Crown, Court, Bench, &c. He meant the eternal principles of which the Cross of Christ was at once the effect, the evidence, and the expression--i.e., all that we mean by the gospel. And this is the greatest blessing in the world to-day. Look at it

1. As a revealer. All true theological doctrine and ethical science come to us through the Cross. It is the moral light of the world.

2. As an educator. The Cross is to the human soul what the vernal sunbeam is to the seed; it penetrates, warms, quickens, and brings all its latent powers out to perfection.

3. As a deliverer. The Cross bears a pen to cancel the sentence, a balm to heal the wound, a weapon to break the fettering chain. Such, and infinitely more, is the Cross. What would human life be without it? A voyage without a compass, chart, or star.

II. The greatest evil in the world. Making this Cross of “none effect,” i.e., so far as its grand mission is concerned. Some effect it must have; it will deepen the damnation where it does not save. “We are unto God a sweet savour,” &c. This tremendous evil is--

1. Painfully manifest. Intellectually, socially, politically, it has confessedly done wonders for mankind; but morally, how little! How little genuine holiness, disinterested philanthropy, self-sacrificing devotion to truth and God, Christliness of life!

2. Easily explained. The apostle indicates one way, viz., by “wisdom of words,” i.e., gorgeous rhetoric. The Church has done it by

3. Terribly criminal. It is wonderful that man has the power thus to pervert Divine institutions and blessings; but such power he has. He forges metals into weapons for murder, he turns breadcorn into liquids to damn the reason and the souls of men. A greater crime you cannot conceive. Were you to turf, all bread into poison, make the flowing rivers pestiferous, quench the light of the sun, mantle the stars in sackcloth, you would not penetrate an evil half so enormous as that of making the Cross of Christ of “none effect.” Conclusion:

1. What is the spiritual influence of the Cross on us? Has it crucified unto us the world?

2. What are we doing with the Cross? Are we abusing it or rightly employing it? (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The Cross neutralised by theories about it

The force of κενὸς (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14; Romans 4:14) may be conveyed by the words “empty of content, unreal, not having objective existence, consisting only of opinions, sentiment speculation.” The Cross of Christ is a real cause in the moral order of things. To substitute a system of notions, however true and ennobling, for the fact of Christ’s death, is like confounding the theory of gravitation with gravitation itself. (Principal Edwards.)

The preaching which the apostle condemns as ineffective

I. Scholastic preaching, which--

1. Aims only at the intellect, not at the heart.

2. Gives no satisfaction on the main point--religion.

3. Deals with philosophical speculations which injure rather than edify.

II. Rhetorical preaching.

1. Which proceeds not from a zeal for the truth, but from a desire to please.

2. This unworthy mode of dealing with Divine truth robs the Cross of its effect, because it diverts the attention from the truth to the speaker and distracts the heart--because it excites a craving for merely intellectual gratification--because the impression produced is referred to the ability of the preacher and not to the truth itself. (J. Lyth, D. D.)


Verses 17-31

1 Corinthians 1:17-31

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.

Paul’s preaching

I. It exalted the Cross of Christ as the central element of the gospel. The apostle does not teach that truths associated with the details of Christian belief and living are not proper themes for the pulpit; nor that ritualistic observances are of no importance; nor that he considered as naught the human wisdom seen both in logic and skill; what he meant was that the gospel as the means of salvation revealed by God was everywhere the burden of his message. Neither church observances nor creeds, nor man’s philosophy can become a substitute for this essential truth.

II. It made the agency of God essential in causing the Cross of Christ to have saving power.

1. Paul gives the reason of man its proper place in the apprehension of the truth, and the truth so apprehended its proper place as connected with regeneration; but he never teaches that the truth alone, however fully understood, will secure salvation. Being saved is not an intellectual process only, even though the sacrifice of Christ be the truth considered. Only when made the power of God through the attending influence of the Holy Ghost does it save.

2. Paul’s preaching insisted that this Divine agency can render the weak--

III. It declared that the result of the gospel’s proper presentation must be that God, and not men, will have all the glory (1 Corinthians 1:29; 1 Corinthians 1:31). Conclusion: Paul’s preaching declares--

1. That true salvation is the penitent and trustful acceptance of the crucified Christ.

2. That true religion is loyalty to God. (J. Exells, D. D.)

The true work of the preacher

Paul sought to teach that there were different functions which belonged to the officers of the Church. Some were to “serve tables,” some to administer the ordinances. He did not cast contempt on the ordinances, but declared that he had a special work appointed him.

I. The office of the preacher arose with the Saviour. There were instructors previously. The prophets were much more teachers than predictors. The Rabbis when Christ was upon earth were teachers. Christ’s method of teaching was utterly different. Outwardly it was the same--He went from place to place, He taught sitting, &c.; but the interior contents of His teaching were very different. Christ spake “with authority”; so does every man who speaks from the roots and fundamental elements of truth.

II. Preaching is teaching in a vitalising way ethical truths--truths which ally men to God and to each other. They must be taught so as to breathe the life of Him who teaches. They must carry personal power.

III. It is not to be thought that this function of the Christian Church has ceased even in liberally educated and cultivated sections of society. Let us look closely and ask, Is the function of the preacher temporary? Will it ever pass away? There is one element belonging distinctively to the preacher which will for ever give him a place and function which can never change: the bringing of the truth home to men in a living form. In the light of this observe the genius and the sphere of preaching--

1. From this sphere are excluded largely the higher forms of theological speculation, for it is not possible to bring these home to men in a living way. His distinctive business is to deal with those truths which he can take into his consciousness, and, having given to these a personal expression from himself, send them forth living truths. His proper sphere is ethical truth. That which men most need to know is how to love God and man perfectly. This is his whole duty. To teach this duty is the sphere of the preacher.

2. This includes every condition of mankind.

3. From this it appears that no man is a true preacher whose chief business is the organisation of worship, the conduct of Church affairs, or mere pastoral administration. The true preacher is the utterer of truth.

4. Then as no man can represent in himself every form of the human mind, or have a full conception of all truth, the preacher must necessarily be a partialist. The robin sings as a robin, bluebirds as bluebirds. One man has large power of imagination, another overflowing emotion, &c. All are fragmentary preachers. No man was ever built large enough to preach the whole of God.

5. Pride, vanity, and unspiritual life will effectually prevent the preacher becoming personally, experimentally, a presentation of the truth to the people. (H. W. Beecher.)

Preaching

I. It has been ordered by Divine wisdom that the gospel should, as much as possible, avail itself of the ordinary channels of communication and influence in spreading through the world.

II. The secret of the power of preaching.

1. It conveys far better than any other vehicle the affirmation of the whole man--his whole nature, his whole experience--to the matter which he desires to communicate.

2. It brings into play all the affinities, sympathies, and affections of the being, and is therefore a most powerful instrument in arriving at the truth.

3. So much is true of all preaching. But in the preaching of the gospel there is a source of special power--the principle of representation the power and right to speak to men in the name of God. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Paul’s preaching

1. Observe, Paul does not say “we preach Christ” as if the declaration of the personal dignity of the God-man were all. Neither does he emphasise the “crucified” as if the setting off of the death of Jesus as that of a martyr and for an example were enough. But he combines the two. The dignity of the Christ was needed to give efficacy to the sacrifice on the Cross, and the sacrifice on the Cross was required to complete the work of the Christ.

2. In the prosecution of his work Paul met with three classes, each of which treated his message in a peculiar fashion. The Jew and the Greek, without trying the gospel on themselves, rejected it--the one for its lack of power and the other for its lack of wisdom; but the third class, acting on the only true philosophical principle of proving the matter by personal experiment, found in it both the power of God and the wisdom of God. Nowadays it is sturdily insisted on that nothing shall be received save that which rests on the basis of observation and experiment, but that is all the gospel asks; and here we see that those who reject it are those who refuse to put it to the test. Which of the two classes is the more scientific? The Baconian philosophers should not hesitate as to the reply. Christ crucified is--

I. “The power of god.”

1. Yes, but this power is not physical like the might of an army; nor material, like that which is connected with a development of matter; nor mechanical, as derived from any sort of mechanism, but dynamical, as exerted by spirit upon spirit. It is “power unto salvation.” It is not therefore to be tested by material gauges, as one measures the pressure on a steam-boiler, or estimates the horse-power of an engine. We are to look for its operation in the human heart. Its trophics are in character, and its results are in life.

2. But are we quite sure that it is “the power of God”? Yes, for there are only two spiritual powers in the world--that of evil and that of good. Very evidently, therefore, a result like that of the conversion of a man, and the revolution of society, from evil to good, must be traced up to God. Man cannot do it for himself, for as water cannot rise above its level, so the soul cannot change its nature by its own efforts. And what one man cannot do for himself, the aggregate of men cannot do for the race. They had four thousand years given to them in which to make the experiment, and here (verse 21) is the result.

II. “The wisdom of God.”

1. Wisdom is manifested in the choice of such means as are best adapted to the production of the end. The problem to be solved in the salvation of men is, “How shall a sinner be forgiven without weakening the sanctions of morality and giving encouragement to evil?” Now the race vainly wrestled with that for four millenniums; but the despair of humanity is the opportunity of God, for in “Christ crucified” we are shown “a just God and a Saviour.”

2. Wisdom is seen in the securing of different ends by one and the same means. So salvation is not merely forgiveness; it is also regeneration and growth in holiness. Its highest result is character, and the renovation of that is produced by the Holy Ghost. Now the dispensation of the Holy Spirit would have been impossible save for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; while, again, the love of Christ, as manifested in His sacrifice on the Cross, is the great means used by the Spirit for the regeneration and sanctification of the believer. Conclusion: From all this four inferences follow. If Christ crucified is the power of God unto salvation, then--

1. Any sinner may be saved through faith in Him.

2. There is no other way of salvation.

3. When men are saved through this means the whole glory of their salvation is due to God.

4. If we would see such results from our preaching as those which followed Paul’s, we must preach the same gospel, “Christ crucified.” This is the gospel for our age, because it is the gospel for all the ages. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The gospel as preached by Paul

I. There is a gospel to be preached. Amid all the diversities of doctrine and ritual there are some things which must be found in all Christian preaching: that Christ alone can save men; that He can save any man and all men; that He saves men completely and for ever. No man can be said to preach the gospel who does not make these thoughts central and controlling. He may preach very important and helpful truth; but until he makes Christ the ground, the motive, and the end of his teaching, he is not a preacher of the gospel. The gospel is good news. It is not the publication of the moral law. It is not telling men what they ought to be and do. The ministry of Christ was not needed to teach that lesson. Conscience proclaims it, and universal experience confirms it. It is not equivalent to the affirmation of the eternal and universal Fatherhood of the Holy One. It implies this, but it is more. That consoling thought is imbedded in the Old Testament. Paul affirmed more than that. In his preaching the person of Christ assumes central and permanent prominence. In Him the law of God is fulfilled and honoured. In Him the love of God leaps from the heavens to the earth links itself with the burden and guilt of humanity, challenges the powers of darkness and the might of death, achieving a practical and eternal victory. Fear rules paganism, hope smiles in the Old Testament, assurance is the ringing keynote of the gospel. So much for the contents of the gospel. It is crowded into this sentence: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

II. But does the world need such a message? Can we not get along fairly well without it? That is the very question which Paul discussed in Romans 1:1-32. What does the world need? Righteousness. That secured and the millennium would be there. But the one thing most needed is the thing most difficult to create and promote. It cannot be said that there has been any lack of earnest attempts. Confucius, Sakya-Muni, Zoroaster, and Socrates, tried to supply the want. But the multitudes were deaf to their appeal; and Rome at the zenith of her culture was but a “veneered brutality.” And mightily endowed as Judiasm was it failed to achieve even its own reformation. The men who boasted in the law trampled upon it every day. A mightier hand than that of Socrates, or of Moses, was needed to save the world. A more than human hand, though nerved by an inspired heart, must smite the ranks of evil.

III. But granting that the world needs just the help which the gospel declares has been brought to it. “will even this secure the desired result? To this we can only answer, first, if it does not then God is clearly and hopelessly defeated, for a greater than Christ cannot, come to the rescue; and second, if Christ be what the gospel affirms Him to be, the triumph of righteousness is a foregone conclusion. Hence the tone of victory in the New Testament is always in the present tense. “Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory.” “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” This is our highest assurance. It receives impressive confirmation in the historical triumphs of Christianity. Its moral conquest of the civilisations of Rome and Greece are unquestioned. Its restraining and reorganising energy during the Middle Ages is freely admitted. Its profound and salutary influence upon modern life is beyond cavil; but there is a more direct and living proof of its power. Hundreds among you can bear testimony to the grace of salvation in Jesus Christ. What the gospel has done for you it can do for all. (A. J. F. Behrends, D. D.)

The gospel neither ritual nor philosophy

I. A large class of minds like to make a superstition out of their religion. Mere words addressed to the understanding and the heart appear too feeble, too immaterial. They long to be set in rapport with the superhuman in some realistic way. Establish some “sign.” Paul, generalising from what he saw before his eyes, calls this demand of human nature Jewish; but it is common everywhere. It has penetrated every religion from the days of the Chaldeans downwards. One after another Judaism, Buddhism, Parseeism, Mohammedanism, Christianity, have succumbed to this demand for material signs. Each of them has degenerated into a system of ceremonial and stooped to pander to the sensuous taste of its devotees.

II. There is in man a tendency, not So widespread, but nobler than the vulgar bent to superstition--after intellectual satisfaction and an exhaustive knowledge of truth.

1. No sooner had Christianity appeared than this appetite seized upon it, questioned it, thought to find in it what it had failed to find elsewhere. Generalising, again, Paul termed this the Greek habit of mind. “The Greek,” he says, “searches after philosophy”; but it is as little exclusively Greek as the bias to superstition is exclusively Jewish. In our day it is no less profound, unsuitable, or eager than it ever was. Men claim that it shall be as systematic, exhaustive, and demonstrable as a science; that it shall help to answer the unanswered problems of existence; that it shall abjure all pretensions to be supernatural; that every one of its facts be found explicable on natural grounds; and that its boasted virtue to save shall prove as intelligible as the action of any other truth upon human minds.

2. Follow out this conception of Christianity to its issues, and what have you? Not a genuine revelation from heaven; not the advent of a Divine power to save; but simply some very beautiful and elevating truths, discerned first by a certain Jew of Palestine and by him added to the world’s treasure-house of thought, yet competing with many discoveries of more modern times. Is it not to some such appraisement of the gospel that a great deal of modern discussion among the learned is tending? Nay, is there not a way of preaching and defending the gospel--such a way as Paul avoided in speculative Corinth--which actually invites men to rate its value as low as this among the rival systems of human wisdom?

3. Against such a misconception of the essence of the gospel, what is St. Paul’s protest? It is true, he seems to say, the gospel is a rational word, and not a magical rite. It is spoken truth, and it acts, like truth, through the misunderstandings of men. But, for all that, it is not a philosophy. With abstract truth it has little to do; but it proclaims Jesus the Messiah, and proclaims Him as crucified for the sins of men. Its real character is this--it is a, testimony from God which we are not called upon to discuss so much as to credit. It is in this, accordingly, that its power lies. For power it unquestionably possesses. Only not the mere power of wisdom, but the quiet personal power of the Speaker’s authority and the Speaker’s love. Speculate about this and it may seem in your sagacious eyes folly. But cease to criticise and be humble enough to believe it, to surrender yourself to Him who speaks; then it will prove itself to be Divinely wise and strong in your experience. It will work in you as no human wisdom works; it will save you as no intellectual system saves.

4. On this side also I think a faithful Church needs just now to speak out in clear tones. It is not the first time in the history of our faith that the gospel has been like to lose its characteristic spirit by evaporation. Treat it as you treat an ordinary system of thought, and you end (as Paul feared to end) by making the Cross of Christ “of none effect.” You miss its very essence as a gospel. For what makes it to be a gospel? Just this, that it is God’s own record of His peculiar way of having mercy upon sinners. It is a plain, practical, personal appeal from our reconciling Father to each wandered soul among us; or it is nothing. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

The foolishness of preaching

As Paul repudiates the idea that he had given any countenance to the founding of a Pauline party, it occurs to him that some may say, True enough, he did not baptize; but his preaching may more effectually have won partisans than even baptizing them into his own name could have done. And so Paul goes on to show that his preaching was not that of a demagogue or party-leader, but was a bare statement of fact, garnished by absolutely nothing which could divert attention from the fact either to the speaker or to his style. Paul explains to the Corinthians--

I. The style of preaching he had adopted while with them

1. His time in Corinth, he assures them, had been spent, not in propagating a system of truth which might have been identified with his name, but in presenting the Cross of Christ. In approaching them he had necessarily weighed in his own mind the comparative merits of various modes of presenting the gospel, and he well knew that a new philosophy clothed in elegant language was likely to secure a number of disciples. And it was quite in Paul’s power to present the gospel as a philosophy; but he “determined not to know anything among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

2. Paul then deliberately trusted to the bare statement of facts and not to any theory about these facts. In preaching to audiences with whom the facts are familiar, it is perfectly justifiable to draw inferences from them and to theorise about them. Paul himself spoke “wisdom among them that were perfect.” But what is to be noted is that for doing the work proper to the gospel, for making men Christians, it is not theory or explanation, but fact, that is effective. It is the presentation of Christ as He is presented in the Gospels which stands in the first rank of efficiency as a means of evangelising the world. The actor does not instruct his audience how they should be affected by the play; he so presents the scene that they instinctively smile or find their eyes fill. Those onlookers at the crucifixion who beat their breasts were not told that they should feel compunction; it was enough that they saw the Crucified. So it is always; it is the direct vision of the Cross, and not anything which is said about it, which is most effective in producing penitence and faith.

3. The very fact that it was a Person, not a system of philosophy, that Paul proclaimed Was sufficient proof that he was not anxious to become the founder of a school or the head of a party. And that which permanently distinguishes Christianity from all philosophies is that it presents to men, not a system of truth to be understood, but a Person to be relied upon. Christianity is for all men and not for the select, highly educated few; and it depends therefore not on exceptional ability to see truth, but on the universal human emotions of love and trust.

II. Why he had adopted this style.

1. Because God had changed His method (verse 21).

2. Paul appeals to the elements of which the Church was actually composed.

3. Paul avers that had he used “enticing words of man’s wisdom” the hearers might have been unduly influenced by the mere guise in which the gospel was presented and too little influenced by the essence of it. He feared to adorn the simple tale lest the attention of his audience might be diverted from the substance of his message. He was resolved that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Here again things have changed since Paul’s day. The assailants of Christianity have put it on its defence, and its apologists have been compelled to show that it is in harmony with the soundest philosophy. It was inevitable that this should be done; but Paul considered that the only sound and trustworthy faith was produced by direct personal contact with the Cross. And this remains for ever true. (M. Dods, D. D.)

The true minister of Christ

I. His commission.

II. His paramount work.

1. Not to baptize, much less busy himself with a thousand other things.

2. But to preach the gospel.

III. His prescribed methods.

1. Not with wisdom of words.

2. But simply, plainly, pointedly.

IV. His motive.

1. That nothing might hinder.

2. But everything promote the effect of the Cross of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The aim of the ministry

In a village church in one of the Tyrolese valleys, we saw upon the pulpit an outstretched arm, carved in wood, the hand of which held forth a cross. We noted the emblem as full of instruction as to what all true ministry should be, and must be--a holding forth of the Cross of Christ to the multitude as the only trust of sinners. Jesus Christ must be set forth evidently crucified among them. Lord, make this the aim and habit of all our ministers. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

The Cross of Christ of none effect

I. “The cross of christ” is an instrument intended and adapted to produce a certain “effect.” So far as man had to do with it it was intended to abase a prophet whom many honoured, to kill as a malefactor a Man whose great fault was that He had no fault at all. So far as God had to do with it, it was intended to be a Divine force. The Cross of Christ is to be a Divine force with an “effect” retrospective, aspective, and prospective.

1. The Cross fulfilled the first promise; it was the “good thing” of which the sacrifices were a shadow; it was the event toward which the course of all events had tended.

2. The Cross cast a long, deep shadow upon the Holy Land; its peculiar people; its priesthood, temple, and ritual; a night-of-death shadow to cover a time of change in which old things would pass away and all things become new.

3. The Cross shed light into the darkness of the world, and indicated those stirrings of the Divine mercy which terminated in the proclamation of salvation to the world. As matter of history, since the Cross of Christ has begun to take effect, it has caused religious systems hoary with age, and rooted by ten thousand fibres in the hearts of the people to be laid aside as worn-out garments. It has spread civilisation over many nations; it has been a key to unlock the treasures of all useful knowledge; it has elevated art, widened commerce, removed the fetters from the slave; it has founded hospitals and schools, checked the harsh government of rulers, quelled the anarchy of subjects, restored woman to her primitive position, imparted peace and joy to the home, exalted nations, and is now both the light and leaven of the world. The Cross of Christ alone saves.

II. Paul speaks of the cross being “made of none effect.”

1. To make the sun of none effect would send our world back to chaos, but this ruin would be--

2. Small compared with negativing the Cross of Christ. And Paul tells us that if he had exhibited the Cross with “wisdom of words,” it would have been powerless in his hands. He cannot mean intelligible and acceptable words; for without such the Cross could not be manifested at all. By “wisdom of words” is meant the artifices of rhetoric, &c. If the Cross were a jewel to be hoarded and hid I would make its bed in wool; but as it is a gem to be used let me see it as it is. If the Cross were an inferior gem I might add to its worth and beauty by the setting; but as its value is beyond price, let its surroundings be as simple as possible. The question is not, however, one of taste, but of utility. Shall we mingle with our daily bread that which will deprive us of its nutritive effect?

3. The Cross is made of none effect when--

Conclusion:

1. What is the effect of the Cross of Christ upon yourselves?

2. What is the effect of the Cross in your hands? We more than fear that Christians and Churches of Christ have done much to make the Cross of Christ of none effect. (S. Martin.)

The world’s greatest blessing and its greatest evil

I. The greatest blessing in the world--“the Cross of Christ.” By “the Cross of Christ” the apostle did not mean of course the timber on which Christ was crucified, or any imitation of that in wood, &c. He uses the word as a symbol, as we use the words Crown, Court, Bench, &c. He meant the eternal principles of which the Cross of Christ was at once the effect, the evidence, and the expression--i.e., all that we mean by the gospel. And this is the greatest blessing in the world to-day. Look at it

1. As a revealer. All true theological doctrine and ethical science come to us through the Cross. It is the moral light of the world.

2. As an educator. The Cross is to the human soul what the vernal sunbeam is to the seed; it penetrates, warms, quickens, and brings all its latent powers out to perfection.

3. As a deliverer. The Cross bears a pen to cancel the sentence, a balm to heal the wound, a weapon to break the fettering chain. Such, and infinitely more, is the Cross. What would human life be without it? A voyage without a compass, chart, or star.

II. The greatest evil in the world. Making this Cross of “none effect,” i.e., so far as its grand mission is concerned. Some effect it must have; it will deepen the damnation where it does not save. “We are unto God a sweet savour,” &c. This tremendous evil is--

1. Painfully manifest. Intellectually, socially, politically, it has confessedly done wonders for mankind; but morally, how little! How little genuine holiness, disinterested philanthropy, self-sacrificing devotion to truth and God, Christliness of life!

2. Easily explained. The apostle indicates one way, viz., by “wisdom of words,” i.e., gorgeous rhetoric. The Church has done it by

3. Terribly criminal. It is wonderful that man has the power thus to pervert Divine institutions and blessings; but such power he has. He forges metals into weapons for murder, he turns breadcorn into liquids to damn the reason and the souls of men. A greater crime you cannot conceive. Were you to turf, all bread into poison, make the flowing rivers pestiferous, quench the light of the sun, mantle the stars in sackcloth, you would not penetrate an evil half so enormous as that of making the Cross of Christ of “none effect.” Conclusion:

1. What is the spiritual influence of the Cross on us? Has it crucified unto us the world?

2. What are we doing with the Cross? Are we abusing it or rightly employing it? (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The Cross neutralised by theories about it

The force of κενὸς (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14; Romans 4:14) may be conveyed by the words “empty of content, unreal, not having objective existence, consisting only of opinions, sentiment speculation.” The Cross of Christ is a real cause in the moral order of things. To substitute a system of notions, however true and ennobling, for the fact of Christ’s death, is like confounding the theory of gravitation with gravitation itself. (Principal Edwards.)

The preaching which the apostle condemns as ineffective

I. Scholastic preaching, which--

1. Aims only at the intellect, not at the heart.

2. Gives no satisfaction on the main point--religion.

3. Deals with philosophical speculations which injure rather than edify.

II. Rhetorical preaching.

1. Which proceeds not from a zeal for the truth, but from a desire to please.

2. This unworthy mode of dealing with Divine truth robs the Cross of its effect, because it diverts the attention from the truth to the speaker and distracts the heart--because it excites a craving for merely intellectual gratification--because the impression produced is referred to the ability of the preacher and not to the truth itself. (J. Lyth, D. D.)


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

The preaching of the Cross

I. Its character.

1. Simple in its facts.

2. Humiliating in its doctrines.

3. Startling in its announcements.

II. The result.

1. Foolishness to them that perish.

2. The power of God unto them that are saved. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The word of the Cross

In 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul had renounced the “wisdom of words.” It is clear, therefore, that there is an eloquence which would deprive the gospel of its due effect. This “wisdom of words”--

1. Veils the truth which ought to be set forth in the clearest possible manner.

2. Explains the gospel away. It is possible to refine a doctrine till the very soul of it is gone. Under pretence of winning the cultured intellects of the age, it has gradually landed us in a denial of those first principles for which the martyrs died.

3. Is frequently used with the intent of making the gospel appear more beautiful. They would paint the rose and enamel the lily, add whiteness to the snow and brightness to the sun. With their wretched candles they would help us to see the stars. To adorn the Cross is to dishonour it, One of the old masters found that certain vases which he had depicted upon the sacramental table attracted more notice than the Lord Himself, and therefore he struck them out at once: let us do the same whenever anything of ours withdraws the mind from Jesus.

4. Is employed to augment the power of the gospel. Paul says it makes it of none effect (see 1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Having cleared our way of the wisdom of words, we now come to the word of wisdom.

I. “The word of the cross” (R. V.).

This is exactly what the gospel is. From which I gather that the Cross--

1. Has one uniform teaching. There are not two gospels any more than there are two Gods: there are not two atonements any more than there are two Saviours (1 Corinthians 3:11; Galatians 1:8-9).

2. Is one word in contradistinction from many other words which are constantly being uttered. Christ’s voice from the Cross is, “Look unto Me and be ye saved”; but another voice cries aloud, “This do and thou shalt live.” The doctrine of salvation by works, or feelings, is not the word of the Cross. Much less is the word of ceremonialism and priestcraft.

3. Should be allowed to speak for itself. It cries, let us hear this word of the Cross, for in effect my text says, “Let the Cross speak for itself.”

II. The word of its despisers.

1. They call the doctrine of the atonement “foolishness.”

2. These gentlemen--

III. The word of those who believe. What do they say of the Cross? They call it power, the power of God.

1. The phenomenon of conversion is a fact. Men and women are totally changed, and the whole manner of their life is altered. The word of the Cross has delivered us from--

2. The power with which God created and sustains the world is no greater than the power with which He made us new men in Christ, and by which He sustains His people under trial; and even the raising of the dead will be no greater display of it than the raising of dead souls out of their spiritual graves. Conclusion: Believe in the power of the Cross for the conversion of those around you. Do not say of any man that he cannot be saved. The blood of Jesus is omnipotent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Two classes of gospel hearers

I. The one is perishing, the other is being saved. The perishing and the saving are gradual.

1. There is a class gradually losing sensibility--contracting fresh guilt, &c. They are not damned at once.

2. There is a class gradually being saved. Salvation in its fullest extent is not an instantaneous thing, as some suppose.

II. To the one class the gospel is foolishness, to the other the power of God.

1. It is foolishness to them that are perishing, because it has no meaning, no reality.

2. It is a Divine power to them that are being saved. Enlightening, renovating, purifying, ennobling. The power of God stands in contrust with mere human philosophy and eloquence. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The dispensation of the gospel and its effects

I. Its theme--the Cross.

II. Its dispensation by preaching.

III. Its reception--

1. To them that believe not, both the subject and the means are foolishness, because they humble human pride, discountenance merit, oppose the wisdom of this world.

2. To them that believe it is the power of God in the conscience, the heart, the life.

IV. The issue--those perish--these are saved. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The gospel the power of God

I. By the “preaching of the Cross” we understand the preaching of the gospel. There are two circumstances which may have led to the use of this name.

1. The apostle did not so preach the gospel as to conceal the Cross. This has sometimes been done. The Roman Catholic missionaries that went out to the East held back the fact that the great Saviour had died in ignominy upon the Cross, and told their hearers only of those facts concerning Him which had a glorious appearance, such as His resurrection and ascension. And the first disciples may have sympathised in such a feeling. The Cross tended to attach dishonour to Christ and to His gospel. But the apostles did not do so; they told the whole story.

2. The crucifixion supplied, and was the whole origin of, the great topics which their preaching of the gospel contained. It would have been nothing for Paul to have preached the resurrection, &c., if he had not preached His death. These facts have no evangelical glory or meaning if you separate them from the Cross. Take away the Cross, and you take away the very life and soul of the gospel itself.

II. This gospel is perverted.

1. By those who say that it derives its power not so much from the death of Christ, but mainly from His life. Now I do not mean to depreciate the life of Christ, which was superlatively grand and striking in all respects. But the presenting to the world of a life of virtue will not in any degree be influential in its regeneration, and as for presenting an aspect of the benignity of God this is infinitely exceeded in the death of Christ. What Paul preached was not Christ’s life, but Christ’s death.

2. By those who say that the death of Christ has an influence, but that it is not an atonement. What is it then? It is a “way of speaking”! To this I would say--

III. The gospel is a power in that it presents a set of topics and considerations intended to work upon men’s hearts and consciences. If the atoning death of Christ be a fact--

1. What a fact must sin itself be! He is God making a vast provision by the humiliating death of His own Son for the expiation of the sin of the world. What a proof it is of the lost state of man!

2. What a fact is God’s justice! The sinner says, “Well, I have sinned, but God is merciful.” Well, now, come again with me to the Cross. See a dying Saviour; there is God’s vengeance against man’s representative.

3. How great the love of God to a rebellious world. See to what an expense He has gone to save you.

4. What a fact is the foundation of a sinner’s hope. None need despair; whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved.

5. What a fact is a believer’s obligation to devotedness and love. If we have been bought at such a price, we are no more our own, but our Purchaser’s.

6. What a fact is the guarantee of a believer’s faith! “He that spared not His own Son,” &c.

Conclusion:

1. How wonderful it is that God should be pleased thus to deal with men!

2. What a thought it is for ungodly men that there is a Divine power in the gospel, and that in it God puts forth all His powers of persuasion.

3. And it is for us to remember that the gospel is a power for all the exigencies of the Christian life. (J. H. Hinton, M. A.)

Salvation and destruction continuous processes

A slight variation of rendering, which will be found in the Revised Version, brings out the true meaning of these words. Instead of reading “them that perish” and “us which are saved,” we ought to read “them that are perishing,” and “us which are being saved.” That is to say, the apostle represents the two contrasted conditions, not so much as fixed states, either present or future, but rather as processes which are going on, and are manifestly, in the present, incomplete. That opens some very solemn and practical considerations. Then I may further note that this antithesis includes the whole of the persons to whom the gospel is preached. In one or other of these two classes they all stand. Further, we have to observe that the consideration which determines the class to which men belong is the attitude which they respectively take to the preaching of the Cross.

I. I desire, first, to look at the two contrasted conditions, “perishing” and “being saved.” We shall best understand the force of the darker of these two terms if we first ask what is the force of the brighter and more radiant. If we understand what the apostle means by “saving” and “salvation,” we shall understand, also, what he means by “perishing.” If, then, we turn for a moment to Scripture analogy and teaching, we find that well-worn word “salvation” starts from a double metaphorical meaning. It is used for both being healed or being made safe. In the one sense it is often employed in the gospel narratives of our Lord’s miracles. It involves the metaphor of a sick man and his cure; in the other it involves the metaphor of a man in peril and his deliverance and security. The sickness of soul and the perils that threaten life flow from the central fact of sin. And salvation consists, negatively, in the sweeping away of all these, whether the sin itself, or the fatal facility with which we yield to it, or the desolation and perversion which it brings into all the faculties and susceptibilities or the perversion of relation to God, and the consequent evils, here and hereafter, which throng around the evil-doer. The sick man is healed, and the man in peril is set in safety. But, besides that, there is a great deal more. The cure is incomplete till the full tide of health follows convalescence. When God saves He does not only bar up the iron gate through which the hosts of evil rush out upon the defenceless soul, but He flings wide the golden gate through which the glad troops of blessings and of graces flock around the delivered spirit, and enrich it with all joys and with all beauties. So the positive side of salvation is the investiture of the saved man with throbbing health through all his veins, and the strength that comes from a Divine life. It is the bestowal upon the delivered man of everything that he needs for blessedness and for duty. This, then, being the one side, what about the other? If salvation be the cure of the sickness, perishing is the fatal end of the unchecked disease. If salvation be the deliverance from the outstretched claws of the harpy evils that crowd about the trembling soul, then perishing is the fixing of their poisoned talons into their prey, and their rending of it into fragments.

II. Now note, secondly, the progressiveness of both members of the alternative. All states of heart or mind tend to increase, by the very fact of continuance. Look, then, at this thought of the process by which these two conditions become more and more confirmed and complete. Salvation is a progressive thing. In the New Testament we have that great idea looked at from three points of view. Sometimes it is spoken of as having been accomplished in the past in the case of every believing soul--“Ye have been saved” is said more than once. Sometimes it is spoken of as being accomplished in the present--“Ye are saved” is said more than once. And sometimes it is relegated to the future--“Now is your salvation nearer than when ye believed,” and the like. But there are a number of New Testament passages which coincide with this text in regarding salvation as, not the work of any one moment, but as a continuous operation running through life. As, for instance, “The Lord added to the Church daily those that were being saved.” By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are being sanctified. So the process of being saved is going on as long as a Christian man lives in this world. Ah I that notion of a progressive salvation, at work in all true Christians, has all but faded away out of the beliefs, as it has all but disappeared from the experience, of hosts of you that call yourselves Christ’s followers, and are not a bit further on than you were ten years ago; are no more healed of your corruptions (perhaps less, for relapses are dangerous) than you were then. Growing Christians--may I venture to say?--are not the majority of professing Christians. And, on the other side, as certainly, there is progressive deterioration and approximation to disintegration and ruin. I am sure that there are people in this place this morning who were far better, and far happier, when they were poor and young, and could still thrill with generous emotion and tremble at the Word of God, than they are to-day. Now, notice, the apostle treats these two classes as covering the whole ground of the hearers of the Word, and as alternatives. If not in the one class, we are in the other. If you are not more saved, you arc less saved. Further, note what a light such considerations as these, that salvation and perishing are vital processes--“going on all the time”--throw upon the future. Clearly the two processes are incomplete here. You get the direction of the line, but not its natural termination. And thus a heaven and a hell are demanded by the phenomena of growing goodness and of growing badness which we see round about us.

III. And now, lastly, notice the determining attitude to the Cross which settles the class to which we belong. So there are two thoughts suggested which sound as if they were illogically combined, but which yet are both true. It is true that men perish, or are saved, because the Cross is to them respectively “foolishness,” or “the power of God.” And the other thing is true, that the Cross is to them “foolishness,” or “the power of God,” because respectively they are perishing or being saved. That is not putting the cart before the horse, but both aspects of the truth are true. If you see nothing in Jesus Christ, and His death for us all, except “foolishness,” something unfit to do you any good, and unnecessary to be taken into account in your lives, that is the condemnation of your eyes, and not of the thing you look at. It a man, gazing on the sun at twelve o’clock on a June day, says to me, “It is not bright,” the only thing I have to say to him is, “Friend, you had better go to an oculist.” And if to us the Cross is “foolishness,” it is because already a process of “perishing” has gone so far that it has attacked our capacity of recognising the wisdom and love of God when we see it. But, on the other hand, if we clasp that Cross in simple trust, we find that it is the power which saves us out of all sins, sorrows, and dangers, and “shall save us,” at last, “into His heavenly kingdom.” That message leaves no man exactly as it found him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The gospel not a wisdom

This the apostle demonstrates--

1. By the irrational character of the central fact of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

2. By the mode of gaining members to, and the composition of the Church (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

3. By the attitude taken in the midst of them by the preacher of the gospel. (Prof. Godet, D. D.)

The triumph of the gospel over the wisdom of this world

Look at--

I. The means--the simple preaching of the Cross--which--

1. Is foolishness to the wise.

2. Yet triumphs over human wisdom.

3. Effects what the wisdom of this world has failed to do.

4. And in spite of the opposition of the Jew and the philosophy of the Greek demonstrates Christ the wisdom and the power of God.

II. The agents--“not many wise, not many noble are called.”

1. God has chosen the most unlikely instrumentalities.

2. And made them successful through Christ.

3. That no flesh might glory in His presence. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The divinity of the gospel is demonstrated--

I. In them that perish--they deem it foolish--yet it confounds their wisdom--succeeds where it has failed.

II. In them that are saved--because it conquers their opposition--and becomes in them the power of God and the wisdom of God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)


Verses 19-21

1 Corinthians 1:19-21

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.

True wisdom

The discovery of what is true, and the practice of that which is good, are the two most important objects of philosophy. (Voltaire.)

Human wisdom

I. Its character.

1. Presumptuous in its attempts.

2. Proud in its assumptions.

3. Unsatisfactory in its conclusions.

II. Its destruction--effected--

1. By time.

2. By revelation.

3. By the Divine Spirit.

4. By the appearing of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The vanity of the wisdom of this world

I. God puts it to shame.

1. It often blunders in its theories.

2. Always in relation to Divine things.

3. Generally leads to practical error.

II. It has utterly failed to regenerate the world. Instead of mending it it has made worse--witness the philosophy of the Greeks and the “age of reason.”

III. It is fully exposed by Christianity, which--

1. Succeeds where it fails.

2. Triumphs over it.

3. Will ultimately destroy it. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The gospel ministry--its superiority over human methods

We have here--

I. The inference drawn from the effects of the gospel upon those who had received it.

1. It had accomplished that which the wisdom of the world had failed to do (1 Corinthians 1:20-21). The wise, the scribe, the disputer, include respectively the thinker, the writer, and the speaker. Thought and its two mediums of expression were the great agents in the world’s education, and had succeeded in creating a literature which remains unparalleled. But what had they done towards the regeneration of mankind? Nothing. “Where is the wise?” &c. In the world of philosophy, of poetry, of art, I can see their work; but in the realm of the spiritual they have left the world as they found it. God turns the tables upon those boastful wise ones. They call His plan “foolishness,” but its effectiveness proves the folly to be with them. And Christianity is not alone in its frustration of the predictions of the wise. When Fulton constructed a steamship to cross the Atlantic they cried, “There goes Fulton’s Folly.” Subsequent history has, however, proved them to be the fools, and Fulton the wise man. So when Christianity was starting on its grand voyage, laden with salvation to a sin-afflicted world, the wise called it “foolishness.” But how strangely has history proved their own infatuated folly.

2. This glorious result the gospel achieved whilst disregarding men’s preconceived notions and prejudices (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). The Jews and the Greeks had their own theories of what ought to be the character of any religious message that might be addressed to them. The Jew, from the standpoint of his expectation of an all-conquering political Messiah, heralded by supernatural marvels, looked for a sign. The Greek, from his standpoint of intellectual culture, sought for wisdom. Of these, however, the apostle took no cognisance, but interpreting correctly the spirit of Christianity, boldly preached “Christ crucified.” There is something sublimely unique and grand in this attitude. Other religions seek to accommodate themselves to the thoughts and ways of those whom they seek to win.

II. But notwithstanding its bold defiance of cherished preferences, the gospel, being the power and wisdom of God, supplied in their highest form the very things which its rejectors desiderated.

1. It was the “power,” i.e., the miracle “of God” corresponding with the “sign” which the Jews sought. The ordinary operations of nature, though the expressions of His power, yet are never called the “power of God.” But the gospel is such a transcendent revelation of God’s love, such an extraordinary interruption of the ordinary course of dealing with sin, that it may well be called a miracle; and its moral effects upon those who come within the scope of its influence are so wonderful, as to render it a moral miracle far beyond any physical miracle.

2. It is “the wisdom of God.” Wisdom to the Greek meant learning and knowledge, but mostly only ingenuity in the use of dialectics. But that which is deserving of the name is “the use of the best means for attaining the best ends.” And the Cross proposes the best end within the entire scope of Divine benevolence to conceive of deliverance from sin, and forms the best means for attaining it.

III. The gospel exerted such power on the consciences of men because it was divine. If it be foolishness, still it is the foolishness of God; and the foolishness of “God must be wiser than men. If it be weakness, still it is the weakness of God; and the weakness of God must be stronger than men. Thus is the success of the gospel assured by the simple fact of its relation to God.

IV. The thoughts forming the burden of the argument.

1. The comparative value of the Cross and human culture in the moral regeneration of men. The apostle shows that it is not a question of degree of efficacy, but of absolute failure in the one case, and of transcendent success in the other. Culture has its mission, and a most important one in its own proper sphere. But the human heart, with its sin and guilt, has needs which the highest culture cannot meet in the remotest degree. The moral history of those communities that have attained to the highest degree of cultivation testifies most unmistakably to this. The only remedy for sin is Christ crucified. The faith of some still is, that “the sweetness of light,” of intellectual discipline and refinement, will dissipate the gross moral darkness in which men lie. A little of any of the salts of sodium introduced into the flame of a gas lamp gives that flame the power of imparting to every coloured object a greenish yellow tint; but any black in that object remains still black. The sodium flame has no power of affecting this sombre hue. Just so is it with education in relation to sin.

2. The simple method of preaching as against the rhetorical. The apostle sets against the “wisdom of words,” so esteemed by the Corinthians, his own customary “plainness of speech.” He seems peculiarly apprehensive lest anything should stand between the truth and the conscience it is intended to influence. The more the mind is charmed by the style of the message, the less likely it is that the conscience will be pricked by its truth. Religion is so much a thing of the heart, that its truths come into the soul much more through spiritual insight and quickened sympathy than by logical processes. At one of the Westminster Industrial Exhibitions a workman exhibited two beautiful metal violins. The highest prize, however, was not awarded to him, for the reason that the instrument made of such material did not realise the purpose of a violin. The superior metal looked pretty, but the coarser material gave forth by far the sweeter sound. So high scholarly attainments may produce sermons, but they will, like the metal violin, fail in their purpose, while the discourses of the less polished preacher give forth music, often more capable of touching the heart. The cultured genius of Milton produced “Paradise Lost,” but the uncultured mother-wit of Bunyan produced “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” The refined acumen of Butler produced the “Analysis,” but it was the untutored fervour of Whitefield aroused the heart of England from its spiritual torpor. (J. A. Parry.)

Where is the wise? where is the scribe?--Where!

1. What have they not attempted?

2. What have they not promised?

3. What have they achieved?

4. How are they brought to nought? (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Philosophy and the gospel

The “wise” refers specially to the sages of Greece. They were called at first “wise men,” and afterwards assumed a more modest title, “lovers of wisdom,” “philosophers.” The “scribe” refers to the learned among the Jews. The appeal of the text, therefore, is to the wisdom or the philosophy of the world, including that of the Greek or Jew. Here we have philosophy--

I. Challenged by the gospel. The apostle here challenges the wise men of the world to accomplish the end which the gospel had in view. That end was the impartation to men of the saving knowledge of God. Where, unaided, had it ever succeeded in accomplishing this? Who amongst the wise will come forward to give one single instance.

II. Confounded by the gospel. “Hath not God made foolish?” &c.

1. By doing what philosophy could not. “The world by wisdom knew not God.” Though the pages of nature lay open to the eye, with God’s signature in every line, man failed to discover Him (see Romans 1:1-32.).

2. By doing, by the simplest instrumentality, what philosophy could not do. The proclamation of the history of Jesus of Nazareth, and that by a few simple men regarded as the off-scouring of all things, did the work. Hath not God in this way “made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

III. Superseded by the gospel. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The preaching is not foolish in itself, only in the estimation of the would-be wise men. The great want of men is salvation--the restoration of the soul to the knowledge, the likeness, the fellowship of God. This want philosophy cannot supply, but the gospel does. It has done so, it is doing so, and it will continue to do so. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The coronation of nescience

Our vaunted knowledge largely consists of shrewd guesses concerning surface appearances. The last result of culture is the coronation of nescience. Its proudest achievement is fixing the limits of thought. The most sinewy brain cannot scale those adamantine barriers that convert reason’s highway into a “no thoroughfare.” (Dr. Howard Duffield.)

The failure of worldly philosophy

Lessing, after toiling at the task of establishing a morality which should be independent of revelation, confesses his failure in this plaintive cry: “If any one can convince me that Christianity is true he will confer on me the greatest benefit that one can offer to another.”

Insufficiency of philosophy

Philosophy, in the night of Paganism, was like the firefly of the tropics making itself visible, but not irradiating the darkness. But Christianity, revealing the sun of righteousness, sheds more than the full sunlight of those tropics on all that we need to see, whether for time or eternity. (Coleridge.)

Christ the wisdom of God

Justin Martyr wanders in search of the highest wisdom, the knowledge of God. He tries a stoic, who tells him his search is in vain. He turns to a second philosopher, whose mercenary tone quenches any hope of assistance from him. He appeals to a third, who requires the preliminary knowledge of music, astronomy, and geometry. Just think of a soul thirsting after God and pardon and peace being told, You cannot enter the palace and have access to the fountain until you have mastered music, astronomy, and geometry. What a weary climb for most! what a sheer inaccessible precipice for many of us! In his helplessness he applies to a follower of Plato, under whose guidance he does begin to cherish some hope that the road leading to the desired summit may some day be struck. But in a memorable hour, when earnestly groping after the path, he is met by a nameless old man, who discourses to him about Jesus the Christ. Without any more ado, he is at the end of his quest. “Straightway,” says Justin, “a flame was kindled in my soul.”

Pride, the antagonist of the gospel of Christ

I. In the meeting of St. Paul and the old heathendom at Corinth there was everything to stir each to the very inmost of its depths.

1. Every element of society here burst, as the whirlwind breaks on the giant of the forest, upon his whole intellectual, moral, and spiritual nature. In no city of the ancient paganism was the spirit of the world stronger. The grand families of the Bacchiadae, and even the descendants of the later dynasties of Cypselus and Periander, with their humanising ancestral recollections, had all perished by the sword of Mummius. A century later the discerning eye of Julius Caesar fixed on Corinth as the site of a colony; and it grew up marked by the unelastic hardness of the old soldier, and the elated baseness of the children of slaves. But, planted where it was, it could not but grow rich and prosperous. New Corinth gathered to itself the traders of the world, who multiplied at once its wickedness and its wealth. Many causes combined to promote the demoralisation of such a society. The wholesome lessons of ordinary labour were untaught within it. The barren soil of the Isthmus discouraged agriculture. Manufacture it had none. Trade, stained deeply by all the pollutions of heathendom, was everything in Corinth. Men met there to grow rich by all means, or to spend their acquired wealth in the most unrestrained sensuality. Religion amongst other powers ministered to their exaltation and amusement. The disputers of this world would speculate on Egyptian mysteries, mock at Jewish superstitions, trifle with Greek mythology, and be learned in Roman auguries. Each man took to himself his share of this distinction, and so believing himself wise, he in very deed became a fool. Into such a society the apostle cast himself with the doctrine of the Cross of Christ.

2. If the meeting moved to its lowest deep his mighty spirit, not less disturbing was it to every existing element of Corinthian society: not greater--if the sinewy arm of their fancied progenitor had cast one of their own hills into the blue waves which slept around their isthmus--not greater would have been the tumult of those riven waves, than was the shock to the moral stagnation of their sensual life by the casting in amongst them of the marvellous doctrine which the apostle preached. We may mark its effects in the brief record of the Acts, and yet more in the two Epistles. In them we may trace the intense sharpness of the gospel conflict with the schismatic habits bred of a fierce democracy, with the gross sensuality of heathen voluptuaries, with the speculating temper of a false and unreal philosophy, with the cold scorn of abundant wealth which shut the rich and noble out of the heavenly election.

II. But we may discern throughout the conflict as the foundation and protecting barrier of all, other forms of evil, a self-elating pride.

1. With this the apostle not darkly connects an outbreak within the new community of more than Gentile licentiousness; whilst everywhere outside the Church he speaks of it as the most insurmountable hindrance to the reception of the truth. “Where?”--looking round upon the gathered company with the saddened gaze of that discerning eye--he asks, “is the wise?” &c. Not one, he intimates, has listened to the gospel call.

2. It is not difficult to see why he thus treated this spirit of pride as his master antagonist. It was not merely because he ever remembered the guilty consequences of his own Jewish haughtiness, or because every circumstance of his own conversion was ever before his eyes; but it was pre-eminently a thorough insight into man’s nature, and of the relations to it of the gospel which he preached.

3. For that nature does, indeed, bear its witness to the absolute need of humility as a prerequisite to all true learning. He who would learn the common truths of a business or an art, must, if that learning is to be successful, submit to take this posture of humility. As the truths to be mastered become more difficult of discovery, the need of humility increases. Upon almost every matter, some bias, preconception, assumption, troubles the course of discovery; and it needs a great humility of spirit to lay these down, and follow patiently the unlooked-for course. Yet without doing so progress is almost impossible. The history of philosophical discovery strikingly illustrates all this. Of old, man had gazed into the mystery of nature round him, and sought to impose upon it as laws the guesses of his own, often impatient, intellect. He came to it an unhumbled reasoner, and he learned nothing from it. Science was not, until man consented humbly to abandon theories, to be content to accumulate facts, and to let those facts teach him by degrees their often darkly intimated lesson. One of the greatest advancers of physiological knowledge in this land has been known to make ten thousand dissections whilst, setting experiment after experiment aside without gaining the clue he wanted, he followed fact after fact with humble conscientiousness, until at last the revelation which he longed for gladdened his heart. The greatest English discoverer of mathematical science records that he differed from others only in the greater largeness of his patience. Beyond, moreover, the humility of the mere waiting there must be humility in seeing old prepossessions swept away. No physician over forty, when Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, ever received the new-found truth. The sacrifice of old opinions was too severe a trial of the humility of the learner.

4. But if in these comparatively cold and colourless inquiries humility must prepare the learner’s mind, how vastly greater must be the need of it to him who would receive in their simplicity the secrets of moral and spiritual truth; for against these are arrayed not merely foregone intellectual conclusions, and the impatience which the spirit feels at their removal, and its weary shrinking from the labour of a troublesome and passionless inquiry, but also the restless and impetuous forces of the appetites and particular affections which resent the imposition of a new law of restraint, which is absolutely inconsistent with their habitual or uncontradicted enjoyments. Then the gospel required of men, who proudly deemed themselves the traditional possessors of that wonderful mythology which genius, art, language, scenery, and climate had conspired to make so beautiful, to cast it all aside; to receive, from what they deemed dull Jewish hands, a teaching which trampled on all these wonderful creations of the natural imagination; which, moreover, was not only exclusive, but unspeakably real; which claimed the whole man, his body and mind, his soul and spirit; which was not to be speculated on or disputed about, but was to be lived; which revealed to him such depths of corruption, guilt, and helplessness within himself, that he was altogether hopeless of pardon, unless the Eternal Son had died for him; and powerless for any good, unless the Blessed Spirit breathed into him the breath of a new life. Surely, then, we may see why in rich, self-exalted, trading, sensual Corinth, the preaching of that blessed gospel, in which was all the power of God, must have been “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”

III. The application of all this to ourselves is a most direct one. We, too, must be converted and become as little children, or we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven; and there is much within us and around us leading us to resist the call. The trial is indeed largely various to men of different tempers, but to every one it is real, urgent, inevitable. To one the humiliation lies in the receiving simply the dogmas of the faith as the truth of God, instead of treating them as intellectual playthings, and so dissolving their reality in the fleeting colours of passing speculations, or developing from some supposed internal consciousness their supplements, or corrections, or substitutes. To another the trial is the curbing the appetites of the body and the particular affections of the mind by the law of the new kingdom. To another it is the yielding up the life to the one will of God. To another the receiving in its simplicity the atonement wrought for us by our Master’s death, and craving meekly for the inpouring of His Spirit. To another it is the being led along, as the apostle speaks, with such lowly things as outward rules and institutions, whether it be of the Church or the particular society into which God’s providence has cast us. How real is this trial, how inevitable are its issues!

Conclusion:

1. Seek from God a special gift of His regenerating Spirit, a special sign of predestination unto life.

2. Set ever before your eyes the pattern of our Lord’s humility. If the pathway be hard, His steps have trodden it.

3. Keep watch over thine heart with diligence and wisdom. Beware of the many wiles of the proud deceiving spirit. Seek to be, not to seem humble, No pride is deadlier in its working than the pride of being humble. (Bp. S. Wilberforce.)

Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?--

The folly of atheism

1. The wisdom of the world and the foolishness of the Cross are represented as rivals engaged in the regeneration of the race. By the “wisdom of this world” is meant all speculations begotten of antipathy to the conception of God, and intended to supersede its authority, including the labours and the spirit of those who do not like to retain God in their knowledge. Now, in this account of the wisdom of the world we cannot include science, or its discoveries, or literature. The most exalted work of God with which we are acquainted is the human mind. Even in partial eclipse, it is about the brightest of the known creations--and when the Scriptures refer to it it is always in language of respect. It is not intellectual labour honestly pursued, nor the discoveries and conduct which are the prizes of its success, that provoke the denunciations of Scripture. It is the mind that insists upon teaching everybody, but will not condescend to be taught by anybody. It is the mind that pursues as its chief end the distinctions, the worship of inferior minds, and allows itself to be flattered into delusions of greatness and authority until it acknowledges no other God but its own conceit. Now, the Bible has no mercy on men of this class; and for the very plain reason: in every age these men are the enemies of faith; and, whether they allow it or not, they are equally the enemies of morality. They are exposed in every book of the Scriptures.

2. And now let me ask, What is the pre-eminent virtue according to our adversaries, of learning and speculation? The votaries of these powers profess, while they have their accomplishments in refining taste and furnishing elegant occupation for leisure hours, that their chief mission is to raise the standard of life--to encourage its struggles against vice, and indolence, and want; to refine and multiply its fiery motions; to increase personal worth, and fit the entire community for great things. I agree with that. But here I differ from them. The wisdom which would make the human mind, thus cultivated, the ultimate authority on all moral questions, and make the training of the human faculties the source of moral power--has been stultified by God because it has universally failed. In endeavouring to cure the sickness of humanity the wisdom of man has not touched the roots of the disease. It has salved the surface, but never probed the wound.

3. If man were a mere animal we might look for a type of the family which has been formed under the most favourable conditions, and try to spread those conditions abroad. But man is not an animal. I grant that where climate is kind, and territorial selection happy, the tribe becomes a people, and the people a mighty nation. But I deny that this progress necessarily means the distinctive greatness of man. If I look at the Pyramids of Egypt, or the Colosseum at Rome, I see an impressive image of greatness. But, then, greatness itself is really the ascendency of moral intelligence--intelligence that grows righteousness. The wisdom of the world in its higher moods confesses this. But where is the people amongst whom the wisdom of the world has grown to righteousness? I confess that anything more sickly than the history of civilisation--as it is called--I cannot imagine. I visited Italy not long ago and I studied in its noble and pathetic remains the wisdom of Rome. In that city the man who wrote my text spent two years of his life. He was a man of taste, and he saw its beautiful palaces, its exquisite provision for the artificial productions of luxury, its triumphal arches, its amphitheatres, and he read its literature and saw its great men; and this was his opinion of its philosophy, and his analysis of it. “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,” &c., and the deeds that philosophy dared not rebuke, and was utterly helpless to arrest, are darkly shadowed forth in another verse, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, for it is a shame to speak of those things that are done of them in secret.” He writes with a large and grateful appreciation of good wherever he may find it. He says, “Whatsoever things are true,” &c. Oh! ponder the moral condition of Rome when Paul was there--there, where the accomplishments of men--where the wisdom of the world in every department in which that wisdom is concerned--had exhausted its resources, morality was not to be found (see Romans 1:1-32.).

4. At all costs the folly, the wickedness of the atheistic spirit must be made flagrant. And they were made flagrant. The atheistic spirit in the interests of humanity has been from the beginning a universal and an unqualified failure. It has done nothing for humanity; it has left behind it nothing but disaster. It has befooled the worshipper, betrayed the legislator, ruined the people, and but for the fact that God has put a testimony into your very mind to controvert this atheism--a testimony which sceptical habits long continued cannot subdue, which the most violent lusts cannot intimidate, a testimony confirmed by nature around us, and by the striking providence of God--but for that, I believe that the race would have perished outright. The man who impugns my verdict is bound to point out, if he can, in the vast wilderness upon which atheism has been working all these ages past--to point out one single acre reclaimed from the desert and made to blossom like the rose.

5. The apostle cries out with pardonable triumph, “Where is the wise?” And we may take up the parable, and ask where are they? Where are the problems which they say they have made their own? I will tell you.

6. What is the doctrine of the Cross doing to-day? Changing the world. I was thinking the other day whether I could find out one single force acting for the benefit of the human race that had not its origin from the Cross. I cannot find one. Who discovered the interior world of Africa? Missionaries. Who solved the problem of preaching liberty to the women of India? Missionaries and their wives. Who first brought into modern geography the hidden ]ands and rivers of China--unsealed for inspection the scholarship and opened for the enrichment of commerce the greatest empire of the East? Missionaries. Who first dared the cannibal regions, and converted wolves into a nation? Missionaries. To come nearer home. Who are those in Europe who are now lifting up their voices against war, that horrible perversion of the intellect and of the soul of man? Who are devoting their means and influence against vice in the high places and low, and against the infliction of wrong upon the defenceless? Who are those whose example of righteousness and purity and gentleness conforms with their own spirit the legislation of governments and the sentiments of society? The followers of the Nazarene. (E. E. Jenkins, LL. D.)


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 1:21

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God.

Wisdom and salvation

I. Paul meant that men had tried to know God in His wisdom, not in His righteousness, not in His love, and had failed.

1. The wisdom of God is revealed in the universe, in man and in history--revealed but hidden. Wise men have endeavoured to construct a philosophy of the universe, and to reach God by reaching His thought as it underlies the universal order. They have not succeeded. In our times the endeavour to master the laws of Nature has achieved a brilliant success; but this is science, not philosophy. Philosophy attempts to discover what lies behind and above all the laws. It asks whence and where the universe came, and is not satisfied with learning its present structure or its history. It attempts to reduce all things to unity--to determine the relation of man to all things, to verify the certainty of the real value of human knowledge, and to discover the truth about destiny. If it had been successful it would have reached the thought of God, and so, in a measure, God Himself.

2. But Paul declares that in this great adventure human wisdom had failed; God, in His wisdom, remained unknown to the wisest. The task of philosophy had proved to be beyond human strength. School after school had risen in Greece, and the supreme question remained unsolved. There was a feeling of exhaustion, and there was a last desperate attempt to reach the object by means of transcendent speculation, ascetic mortification and ecstasy. But Neo-Platonism failed, and ancient philosophy sank in complete exhaustion.

3. The Corinthians, many of them, were seeking God in the old way; and when Paul came, they expected him to satisfy their desire for wisdom and explain everything. When he spoke of Christ, and of His death as a propitiation, they passed at once with a certain impatience from the fact, and wanted some new and deeper speculation about sin, some discussion about the nature of eternal life; some account of the reason why the death of Christ should be connected with these great things. Paul refused to listen to their demands. God had not given him a philosophy to make known to men of intellectual activity, but a series of facts within the reach of the least intelligent. They said, Let us know the philosophy of your message. No, said Paul, for you I have only the fact. You say it explains nothing, and that it is a foolish thing. Granted; but seeing that the world, in its wisdom, knew not God in His wisdom--

III. It was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believed. Paul does not mean to say that it pleases God to save men by foolish preaching. There is nothing to save men in intellectual feebleness and folly. This Epistle on the very next page says, “We speak wisdom among the perfect.” When a man has received the Divine life, and that life has reached a certain maturity, he is capable of moving into regions of thought even sublimer than those which are familiar to the loftiest philosophy, and in the light of the Spirit of God the thought of God becomes known to him. But at first, while he is dealing with those who have not yet received Christ, Paul will not theorise or philosophise. It is not the theory that holds the planets in their orbits, but the force which the theory attempts to explain. And if that force ceased to act you might have the most perfect understanding of the theory, but you would all fly off into space. Here are the facts--this is Paul’s position--resting on the testimony of the apostles; facts which have witnessed their own reality to millions of hearts. The Eternal Son of God became man, died for the sins of men, rose again, and has not forsaken the world that He came to save. How do we know? Why, age after age men have spoken to Him and He has answered; they have brought to Him the burden of guilt, and at the touch of His hand the burden has gone. Weak, in the presence of duty, they have appealed to Him for strength and have become strong. That was the foolishness of Paul’s preaching, and this has proved to age after age wiser than all the wisdom of man, for through this men have actually found God, and through this they have actually been able to translate the will of God into life and conduct. The Incarnation is the basis of a philosophy of the universe, the death of Christ for sin contains a philosophy of human nature; and of the Divine order of the moral universe, the resurrection of Christ contributes new elements to the philosophy of human life. Yes; on these great facts a majestic philosophy may rest; but between the facts and our philosophy there is a difference as wide as between all other facts and our theories about them; and if you must be persuaded to receive the facts by the theories that are constructed in relation to them, your faith, to use Paul’s words, will stand in the wisdom of man, and mot in the power of God. We must begin with the facts and pass to the philosophy. (R. W. Dale, D. D.)

The insufficiency of worldly wisdom

In this verse we have two general parts especially considerable of us. First, the world’s misimprovement and neglect of the opportunities of knowledge, which sometimes were afforded unto them. Secondly, the supply of this neglect by a new kind of dispensation to them. The former we have in these words, “the world by wisdom knew not God”; the latter we have in these: “After that … it pleased God by the foolishness,” &c. We begin first of all with the former. First, the wisdom of God. What is the meaning of this? The wisdom of God is variously taken in Scripture. First, it is taken for an essential attribute of God (Job 12:13; Proverbs 8:14). But this is not that wisdom which is meant here in this place. Secondly, the wisdom of God is sometimes taken for Christ Himself, who is the wisdom of the Father: thus here in this very text (1 Corinthians 1:24), “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Thirdly, the wisdom of God is taken for that wisdom which is in us, participative, and by derivation from God. Thus the wisdom of Solomon is called the wisdom of God (1 Kings 3:28). To Joseph it is said, “The Spirit of God was in him” in regard of his wisdom (Genesis 41:38-39); and Daniel, it is said of him that he was a man “in whom the Spirit of the holy gods, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him” (Daniel 5:11). Fourthly, the wisdom of God is sometimes taken for the Scripture and Word of God, as Luke 11:49. Fifthly, the wisdom of God is taken more restrainedly for the doctrine of the gospel, and the great mysteries which are contained in that (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:10). Lastly, the wisdom of God is taken for the creation of the world; that wisdom which does shine forth in the creature, and the works of God in that respect. And so it is particularly to be understood here in this place. When it is said that “the world knew not God in the wisdom of God,” the meaning is this, that they did not so improve that advantage for the knowledge of God by the creation, as indeed it became them to do so. This work of the creation is fitly called the wisdom of God, because the wisdom of God does therein very much appear to all such persons as will take notice of it (Romans 1:20; Psalms 104:24). The second is, what is meant by the world. And surely here, as in the first term, was understood the world for the frame of it, so also in this second term is understood the world for the inhabitants of it. That world which is opposed to the Church, these are the world which the apostle Paul points here unto in sundry respects.

1. Because they are most of the world in regard of their number.

2. Most in the world in regard of their interest.

3. Most in regard of their affections.

The third is, what is meant by wisdom, “the world by wisdom”; surely that is the wisdom of the world, as the other was the wisdom of God. Well, but what now do ye call that here in this place? We may reduce it to two branches, either first of all, the wisdom of parts and natural wit and sagacity; or secondly, the wisdom of study and industry, learning and philosophy; their wisdom which consisted in knowledge of natural things. First, they knew Him confusedly, but not distinctly; they knew Him in the general, but not in reference to the right person. Secondly, they knew God imperfectly, and according to some weak and slender apprehensions which they had of Him in their minds, but they knew Him not in the latitude of those excellences which are to be found in Him. Thirdly, they knew God notionally, and in the speculation; they had some apprehensions of Him in their Understanding. But they did not know Him practically and in the effects, so as this knowledge had any influence upon their hearts for the ordering of their lives and conversations. Fourthly, they knew God essentially, as considered in His own nature, but they knew Him not dispensatively and representatively, as exhibited in Christ. I come now in the next place to the proposition itself thus explained as it lies in the text, that “in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God,” which affords us this observation, as the moral of all, that the greatest wits of the, world having no more but the common light of nature, are oftentimes exceedingly to seek in the spiritual and saving knowledge of God. And I shall endeavour to make it good by a threefold consideration, and that founded upon the words of the text. First, the insufficiency of the medium, and that is the glory of God shining forth in the creatures, which is here called the wisdom of God. This of itself is insufficient to the producing of such a kind of knowledge as this is. There is not the least spire of grass, but it presents a god to our thoughts, much more the whole body of the creation. This does exhibit God a great deal more fully. But yet God as He is laid open in the gospel, and as He is made known in the preaching of the Word, this the creature does ‘not show, nor is able to do it. Secondly, from the weakness of the faculty, the world by wisdom knew not God; that is, by its own wisdom, and that wisdom which is within the compass of itself, so it knew Him not. The wisdom of the world is insufficient alone of itself to bring any people to the saving knowledge of God: this is clear out of sundry places of Scripture (Matthew 16:17). So that we see how men may much abound in worldly wisdom, and yet fall short of evangelical knowledge. First, because this mystery of the gospel is a thing which is merely dependent upon the will and counsel of God Himself. Again it is said to be hid in God (Ephesians 3:9), that is, in the secret of His own purpose and eternal counsel. Secondly, as it is hid in God, so it is also hid by God; and that of purpose, oftentimes, from those which are otherwise the wisest men in the world (Matthew 11:25). Thirdly, the world by the strength of natural wisdom is not able to know God in Christ, in regard of the disproportion betwixt the faculty and the object, the knowledge of Christ being of a far different and contrary nature and condition hereunto. We know that no faculty can act beyond its own sphere, nor reach an object which is above itself. As bodily eyes cannot see spiritual substances, no more can wit and natural sagacity be able to reach the knowledge of God in Christ, which is an object transcendent unto it. The improvement of this point to ourselves is not (as some would make it to be) from hence to cast a reproach and disparagement upon wit and human learning. There is a threefold disparagement especially which we do justly cast upon human learning and the wisdom of the world. First, comparative and exclusive, we do disparage it and diminish from it so. Human learning, if we compare it with Divine, and worldly wisdom with the wisdom from above; here it is as good as nothing (Philippians 3:8). Secondly, we do disparage human wisdom, as a ground or argument of pride and boasting and carnal confidence. Thirdly, and more principally to our present purpose, we do disparage human wisdom in reference to such an effect as this, which is to bring those that have it to the saving knowledge of God in Christ. Here the wisdom of the world is too weak, and of small or no effect; it cannot do this. Go to now, let us see then in what sense we do disparage this wisdom of the world; namely, as in another case we seem likewise to disparage good works; this is not simply considered in themselves, but in order to justification and merit. The third is, from the perverseness of the subjects; namely, those persons in which this wisdom was, they did not do their duty to this purpose as they should, and from hence it comes to pass oftentimes that they are as they are. The world by wisdom might have known Him more than they did, if they had given themselves to it. But there was a manifold obstruction upon them, which is a great hindrance hereunto. At first, their non-attendancy, that they did mot heed nor apply their minds to these things. A scholar that looks off his book will never learn his letters, let them be written or printed before him in never so fair and elegant a character. Secondly, it proceeds from idleness and want of taking some pains with ourselves to dive into these things. A scholar must not only read but study, that will improve in any knowledge. A third obstruction to this knowledge is pride and scornfulness of spirit, because men think themselves too good to be taught or learn anything. Well, to close up all now with a brief word of application, let us consider what does result from these truths for our own use. And first let us here take notice of the corrupt nature which is in man, to be abased and humbled for it. Secondly, seeing the world by wisdom knew not God, let us then labour to find somewhat more in us than worldly wisdom. Thirdly, let those who know God and have this worldly wisdom, see what cause they have to bless God and to acknowledge His goodness to them. And again, for those who desire this wisdom, let them learn hence to veil and cover the other, and lay it down in order to the other, where it makes any opposition and resistance. Yet to conclude, let me add one thing more, and that is this, that though human wit does not give grace of itself, yet it does sometimes forward the means of grace, and accordingly is to be improved by us; as the star occasionally led the wise men to Christ. Again, though parts make us not good at first, yet when we are good they are good helps to make us better and more useful in the exercise of piety; and so likewise are we conscionably to use them. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

Philosophy and the gospel

I. The failure of philosophy.

1. Exhibited in ignorance of God.

2. Occasioned by wisdom.

3. The conformity with the wisdom of God.

II. The success of the gospel. Though the scorn of man it is--

1. The salvation of believers.

2. The pleasure of God. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God’s plan of salvation a remedy for man’s ignorance

To each man his highest welfare is entrusted as a most solemn charge. The question is, By what method can he obtain salvation? To know what his duties are, he must be acquainted with his Ruler. A true knowledge of God is therefore indispensable. Let us consider the assertions of the text.

I. A true knowledge of God not reached by man’s wisdom. Consider--

1. The admissions of the wisest men of old. The lament of Plato was that it was so hard to discover the Father of the universe, and he never seems to have reached the conception of God as a self-conscious, living, personal Being. Socrates deemed it the greatest happiness to know the will of the gods; but how this knowledge was to be obtained he could not say; perhaps by a resort to divination.

2. The low morality of heathenism at its brightest periods. Vices tolerated which now are reprobated. The mythologies are disgraceful. All this shows practical ignorance of God.

3. The assertions of modern philosophy--that it has dislodged theology from its lofty pedestal, and made it only a curious speculation. The world by wisdom now knows not God, nor seems likely to. It refuses the appointed organ of knowledge, and resembles a man attempting to learn the meaning of sounds by the eye instead of the ear.

II. God’s remedy for man’s ignorance is foolishness in the eyes of the world. The remedy is “preaching,” including the thing preached and the act of preaching. This preaching is to the wisdom of man foolishness, for--

1. It simply states facts, not theories and reasonings. The apostles came simply to “bear witness” to Christ.

2. It states facts likely to excite contempt. The Jew didn’t want a suffering Messiah; the Greek could not understand a crucified God,

3. It makes salvation depend on faith, not on wisdom. “To save them that believe.”

III. The conspicuous manifestation afforded of the wisdom of God. Wisdom is discoverable--

1. In the whole plan, in that man was first taught his weakness. A wise teacher lets his pupil flounder a little that he may learn a lesson of humility. So the centuries before Christ are a standing rebuke to man, reminding him of his impotence. Hence no flesh can “glory in the presence of God.” The saint cannot, for all he knows was taught him; the preacher cannot, since the “treasure” does not depend on the “earthen vessel” for its value; the facts he has to deliver are successful not from his eloquence, or thought, or exposition.

2. In the plan of proclamation, in that it enables all Christians to be preachers. He has only to testify what he has seen, tasted, and felt.

3. In making salvation depend on faith, in that it makes salvation possible to all. (S. R. Aldridge, B. A.)

God’s interposition for the world

I. Its condition--ignorant of God; consequently

1. Alienated.

2. Guilty.

3. Depraved.

4. Miserable.

II. Its helplessness--unalleviated by--

1. Philosophy.

2. Art.

3. Legislation.

4. Religious systems--infidelity.

III. Its belief--by the foolishness of preaching--exemplified in--

1. The preacher.

2. The subject.

3. The condition.

4. The result. (J. Burnet.)

God’s procedure with the world

I. His wisdom.

1. In delaying the revelation of the gospel.

2. In affording man ample opportunity to test the insufficiency of reason.

3. And by his worldly wisdom to work out his own misery.

II. His pleasure.

1. In the discovery of His mercy.

2. In its free dispensation by the foolishness of preaching--to all that believe. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The world’s need and God’s remedy

I. The state of the then heathen world.

1. It “knew not God.” It was in no barbarous age that the apostle bore this testimony; but in the evening of the Augustan age, when man’s intellect had been developed to the utmost. It was not on the Arab’s tent, nor the Indian’s wigwam, that these words were inscribed; but it was on the polished marbles of Athens and on the proud walls of imperial Rome. And not only was it of that particular age he spoke; but he seems to look back to the very earliest ages, “After that,” &c. After four thousand years had rolled by, looking back to the place where science was born and cradled, to Egypt with its reptile gods, to Babylon where science was nourished and cherished, and whither the Grecian sages went to light their lamps.

2. It was in a perishing condition. Men would not have needed to be saved if they were not lost.

II. The method of belief which God provided. “It pleased God.” Here is something in which the Lord delighted. And what was it that “pleased God”? It was that which man despised. Beware how you say a word against preaching, and extol or depreciate it in favour of sacraments. But what is this preaching? Heralding, the calling of the rebel to submission, the exhibition of the lawful Sovereign, the proclamation of mercy from the “King of kings,” &c. And what is the substance of this preaching? Christ, in all the glories of His person; in all the sufficiency of His offices, and in all the riches of His grace. But this is not all. There is peculiar character in this preaching, by the foolishness of preaching the apostle means its simplicity. It is possible so to preach Christ and His gospel as to strip it of its power. Conceal it in the tangled web of human sophistry; garnish it with the flowers of human eloquence; obscure it with the dusky mantle of antiquity; dress it up in the gorgeous dish; and what do you? You destroy its hidden power. You may attract the eye of man from the precious pearl to the gorgeous setting of it; and what do you then? It is “an uncertain sound” which the trumpet gives, and none will “prepare them for the battle.” It is only plain, affectionate, scriptural declarations of God’s truth, unreserved, full, free, from the heart, and in the power and demonstration of the Spirit, that can save them that believe.

III. The result of the application of this remedy. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save--whom? all the world? every creature? No; “them that, believe.” The effect of early evangelising efforts at best what is it? “And it came to pass, that some believed, and some believed not.” It was nearly three centuries before the civilised world became Christian. But in all cases preaching did “save them that believed”; and there is the important truth to fix the mind upon. Look at the converts; whether they were in Jewry, or in Corinth, or in Athens; wherever it might be the effect which followed the preaching of the gospel was the same. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God,” &c. Lions became lambs; licentious men pure; impious men became pious. These were the effects which uniformly followed in them that believed. (Dean Close.)

Divine wisdom displayed in the gospel

I. The christian religion is a supernatural science. “The world by wisdom knew not God.” Genuine religion is a subject of pure revelation, and cannot be discovered by human reason, in its most perfect state. It “s a spiritual science, and can only be comprehended by faith, and realised through the operations of the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 2:14).

II. The gospel is a full development of the method of salvation. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Thus, the gospel is not only a revelation of the scheme of salvation, but also an instrument of its accomplishment in the believer (Romans 1:16).

III. The gospel is a glorious display of infinite wisdom. “In the wisdom of God,” &c. The Divine Being always acts according to infinite wisdom and eternal truth. In the dispensation of grace, the Lord has proposed the best possible ends, and accomplishes them by the best possible means. It is not only a display of the wisdom of God, but is the medium of all Christian knowledge.

IV. The gospel is a clear manifestation of Divine benevolence and love. “It pleased God,” &c.

V. The gospel enjoins faith as an essential principle of salvation. “It pleased God to save them that believe.” (Sketches of Sermon.)

Sense, reason, and faith

Here we have three kinds of evidence referred to--the sign looked for by the Jews; the philosophy sought after by the Greeks; and the wisdom and power of God. This leads to observations on--

I. The domain of sense. The present age is one in which sense knowledge is unduly exalted. This arises partly from the vast advancement of physical science, and partly from the development of commerce which leaves small time or inclination for the study of spiritual things.

1. But sense knowledge is--

2. Christianity is based upon as much sense knowledge as will suffice to prove its truth. Christ’s resurrection is the greatest fact in history; and at the first its appeal was made directly to the senses. To us it is a matter of testimony; but the testimony is irresistible. If, like the Jew, therefore, we would demand a sign, it is forthcoming.

II. The province of reason.

1. This province is also very limited. A correct process of ratiocination by no means ensures the accuracy of the conclusion arrived at, for the premises may be incorrect. Butler has well remarked, that “the unsatisfactory nature of the evidence, with which we are obliged to take up in the daily course of life, is scarcely to be expressed.” Reason, of herself, is incompetent to inform man of some of the most important facts which appear to lie completely in her own domain. She cannot describe the essence either of matter or of mind. The freedom of the will she has proved herself utterly incompetent to deal with. Reason is by no means perfect in her own domain, for--

2. Man is not left to the guidance of reason alone. Impulse, enthusiasm, feeling, passion, love, and faith are independent of reason, and often lead to higher results.

3. Christianity is supported by reason as far as their powers coincide. The evidences of the Divine authority of Christ’s religion are conclusive if judged of by reason. Those, therefore, who seek after philosophy, like the Greeks, can find it here.

4. Many Christian truths are higher than reason, but not opposed to it. Christianity leads into a region where reason cannot follow. There are mysteries in religion, as there are also in nature. Man is surrounded by mystery, and is himself the greatest mystery of all. And mystery deepens as knowledge increases.

III. The region of faith. This belongs peculiarly to religion. Here we can discuss the conscience, the soul, and man’s relation to God. Reason might discover the existence of Deity, but it could never tell us of His relationship, to man. Modern science puts God, when it admits Him, at the end of the universe. Revelation places Him at the beginning. Scientific men do not hesitate again to proclaim the unknown God, thus taking us back two thousand years in history. There is a tendency in this age to decry faith, yet society could not exist a week without it. Christ is described as--

1. The wisdom of God. Everything seen in His light is clear. By Him we read the riddle of the universe. The purpose of God in creation is seen in Him, and nowhere else.

2. The power of God. His influence on the ages is greater than that of all other systems combined. And He alone can save the soul.

3. Christ is the “wisdom of God and the power of God” only to those who believe. They become one with Him, and receive out of the fulness of His grace. (G. Sexton, LL. D.)

It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.--

The foolishness of preaching

God’s “folly” is the highest wisdom; man’s highest “wisdom” is but folly. The foolishness of preaching is here contrasted with the wisdom of human teaching.

I. Wherein does the “foolishness of preaching” consist?

1. God chooses and uses the simplest means to save men, which human philosophers would have scorned. It is the proclamation of a message. God’s plan is, first of all, to tell men the good news of a free, full salvation. After they have believed and accepted the gift of God, they are to be taught more fully the whole range of Christ’s commands. But, at the beginning, it is only pointing to the Lamb of God, and crying, Behold!

2. God takes the most humble and unlettered believers as His heralds.

3. God makes no heavy demands on the souls to whom the gospel comes. It is only “Hear, believe, confess.” Salvation is thus put within reach of all--even the feeblest mind and greatest sinner (Romans 10:1-21.).

II. In employing this method--

1. God discarded the aid of all human wisdom in saving men: “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” Not a feature of His redemptive plan was borrowed from the philosophies of men. The utter failure of human philosophy is one of the marked facts of history. It culminated in Pantheism, Atheism, Materialism, Rationalism, Agnosticism, or in a refined selfishness, like Stoicism and Epieureanism. God not only discarded, but contradicted, the teachings of man’s philosophy.

2. God discarded all human merit. The gospel not only humbles the proud intellect, but the prouder heart. A free salvation is the “offence of the Cross?’

III. In all this the wisdom of god appears. For--

1. God makes it possible for all sinners to be saved. Whoever can sin can understand salvation. All philosophies were addressed to an elect few: witness Plato’s few disciples, and Pythagoras, with his exoteric and esoteric schools.

2. God makes possible for all believers to be preachers of the gospel and winners of souls.

3. God abolishes invidious distinctions between sinners and believers. All are on a level, as guilty, condemned, and helpless; all on a level, as saved by grace without works.

4. God presents a faith so grandly superior to all human teaching that there is no risk of confounding it with man’s philosophy, or mistaking it for a human invention.

5. God reserves to Himself all the glory. Man has no ground for boasting or self-complacency, &c.

6. God teaches men implicit submission and obedience. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

The wisdom of God by preaching

First, the order of working, After that, &c. Secondly, the affection to the work, “It pleased God.” Thirdly, the means by which the work is wrought, “the foolishness of preaching”; and fourthly, the work or design itself, “To save them that believe.” We begin with the first, viz., the order of working, “After that,” where we must note that this word “after,” it carries a double force and emphasis with it, either first of all as a restraining word; “after,” that is, not before: or secondly, as a resolving word, “after,” i.e., to be sure then. First, take it in the restraining sense. First, that so by this means He might the more fully and palpably convince the world of their neglect; let them first alone and see what they will do of their own accord, and then come in upon their miscarriage. Secondly, that He might the more discover the insufficiency of mere natural and carnal wisdom, which did not yet reach to the knowledge of God. Thirdly, that He might gain to Himself the greater glory. He that does anything after another which misses, he has from hence so much the more honour to himself; especially if he that misses be one that pretends to any great matters, as here it was. The second is the affection to the work, “It pleased God.” And this again carries a twofold intimation in it. First, it is a word of freedom and spontaneity, it pleased God, that is, He did it of His own accord and inclination, being not moved thereunto by anything out of Himself. Secondly, it is a word of delight and complacency, “it pleased God,” that is, it was very acceptable to Him; He took a great deal of pleasure and contentment and satisfaction in the doing of it, as in nothing more. The third is the means by which the work is wrought, and that is here expressed to us to be by the foolishness of preaching. Where again there are two particulars considerable of us. First, the means itself considered in its own nature, and that is preaching, by preaching to save believers. Secondly, the qualification of this means as the denomination which is put upon it, and that is mean and contemptible. It is here called the foolishness of preaching. We will begin first of all with the second, to wit, the means in its denomination, the foolishness of preaching, blot as it is, indeed, but as it is rather in men’s apprehension. Now there is a double account which may be given hereof unto us. First, occasionally from others in regard of their carriage: for truly as many men order the business, it is the foolishness of preaching indeed; there are some kind of persons in the world which have a great deal to answer to God for the offence which they give in this respect, and the scandal and ill report which they bring upon God’s own ordinance by their unworthy managing of it. But then again secondly, there is an occasion given to think preaching foolishness from too much niceness and affectation. When we shall make preaching a mere business of wit, and a thing to tickle the fancy, an airy and empty discourse, carried with some high-flown language, but never touching or coming near the heart, nor uttering anything which may be profitable to the soul. Secondly, originally from themselves in regard of their own perverse reasonings. And here there are sundry things which they falsely reason upon. At first, they think meanly of preaching, from the nature and condition of the instruments which are employed and improved in it; poor, frail, and weak men like themselves. If an angel might be the dispenser of it, then it may be they would have some high thoughts of it. Secondly, in regard of the matter of it, and the subject which it is conversant about. And that is, Christ crucified, this is the foolishness of preaching, that is not only the ordinance, but the doctrine; and not only the preaching, but the thing preached about. And so not only in the narrative, but in the hortatory part of it; when it persuades men to deny themselves, to cross their sweetest lusts. Thirdly, in regard of the manner of it, and way of proceeding in it. That it comes not so much with reason and demonstration, as rather simple propositions. Fourth, from defect mingled with pride. And so much of that first, viz., the denomination of the ordinance, as it is here styled, the foolishness of preaching. The second is the means and ordinance itself simply considered, and that is preaching; this is the means of working salvation; God saves believers by preaching. First, by preaching He makes them believers; and then being believers, He bestows salvation upon them. This is the order and method that God uses. That poor and mean ordinance which the world thinks so scornfully of, and counts no better than foolishness; yet it has this excellency that it is a means to bring men to heaven; and God is pleased to use it to this purpose. If it be foolishness, it is a saving foolishness, and that’s a great deal better than a destructive wisdom. For the better handling of this present point, there are two particulars which may here profitably be considered by us. For the first, what preaching is: it is not merely to speak somewhat of religion, to make a rambling and roving discourse, and nothing to the purpose. But preaching is a ministerial and authoritative improvement of the truths and doctrines of the Scriptures, to the good and benefit of men’s souls, and the procurement of their eternal salvation. The showing men of their misery by nature, and the benefit which they may have by Christ, with the appurtenances thereunto, this in a word is preaching, blow further, for the efficacy of this ordinance, and whence it comes to be thus powerful, this is merely from the ordinance of God. As it is His institution who has ordained and appointed it to be so. “It pleased Him,” there is an account of the business indeed. Alas! preaching considered in itself is a poor and empty voice, and were able to do no great matter at all. It is not the gifts of the preacher, it is not the nature of the argument, it is not the strength of the matter, it is not the sweetness of the expression, it is none of all these things in themselves which makes preaching so powerful a conveyance; no, but the ordinance of God which has appointed to work by these means, and the Spirit of God who is pleased to concur with it in working. The improvement of this point to ourselves for application may be twofold. First, as it concerns ministers, there is a very good item for them to quicken us and encourage us in our work, and the conscionable discharge of it without fainting and giving out. Again, let us also hence learn so much the more faithfully to discharge, and make that our chief end in undertaking it, which was God’s chief end in ordaining it. Secondly, here is somewhat also for the people, and that is so much the more carefully to attend upon this ordinance of preaching, and to take heed of the despising of it as a weak and foolish thing; they which despise preaching, they do in effect despise believing. And further let this teach us with what affections to come to the ordinances, the preaching and hearing of the Word, namely, as those which expect and desire salvation from it as the end whereunto it is intended. Let us not come to a sermon as to a prize, or a mere trial of wits. Now the fourth is the work or design itself which we have in the last words--“To save them that believe.” Where among many other things which might be profitably observed by us concerning salvation, in the nature of it, and the causes of it, and the means of it, and the like, I shall at this time only fasten upon that which is here especially presented unto us, and that is the subjects of it--believers. And here there are two things again which this restraint does extend itself to. First, here is a restraint of the benefit of preaching to faith. And secondly, here is a restraint of the benefit of salvation to faith. There are none which have benefit by preaching any further than they believe; and there are none which do partake of salvation, but those only which do believe neither. And for saving faith has it here attributed to itself. First, as the radical and fundamental grace, and that which puts a life and vigour into all the rest. Secondly, faith has it attributed to it, because it is that whereby we please God (Hebrews 6:6). Thirdly, it is faith which lays hold upon Christ, who is the Author of eternal salvation (Galatians 2:20). Fourthly, it is faith which gives most glory to God (Romans 4:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:10). Fifthly, faith is that which does most conquer temptations, and subdue all the enemies of our salvation (Ephesians 6:16). Lastly, faith is said to save as the condition which God requires and will have in them which shall be saved; and this were enough, though nothing else, to give account of it. In all these respects is salvation attributed hereunto. But what is this faith which we speak of all this while, and wherein does it consist? Sure it is not a mere assent to the truth revealed; though that be somewhat which belongs thereunto, yet this is not all. But saving faith is quieting faith too: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1-21.). For the rise of faith, it comes by preaching, and is suitable to the doctrine of the Word. Those who contemn the ordinance, they have none of the grace. For the fruits of it, it works by love.

1. It makes us afraid to displease God.

2. It makes us courageous for God.

3. It makes us love the children of God.

4. It quite changes and alters our converse from evil to good. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The foolishness and excellence of preaching

God frequently employs instrumentality in the accomplishment of His purposes so inadequate, as to make it manifest that the excellency of the power is of Himself. It was before the blast of rams’ horns that the walls of Jericho fell down, &c.; and it is by the foolishness of preaching that souls are saved. Note--

I. The apparent foolishness of preaching.

1. How inadequate is the means itself to accomplish much! How little has human eloquence been able in other fields to achieve? True; once an orator’s audience, wrought up by his invective, exclaimed, “Let us march against our foe!” But that effect soon passed away. And in the ordinary intercourse of mankind; look at the effect of mere persuasion, when it comes in collision with men’s passions, interests, and tastes.

2. But the inadequacy of the instrumentality will be still more apparent when we remember that the first preachers of the gospel were not highly gifted, and had no advantage of rank, or influence. They were unlettered fishermen, who had no excellency of speech; and taking the mass of ministers in all ages, how few have had any pretensions to transcendant powers of persuasion!

3. But if we pass on to regard the grand theme of preaching the foolishness of preaching will be still more obvious. The Cross of Christ has ever been to the Jew a stumbling-block and to the Greek foolishness.

4. And yet more will the foolishness of preaching strike us if we regard how contrary to the natural bias is that effect at which preaching aims. It aims at getting men to “deny themselves,” to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts; to live for eternity and not for time.

II. Its real wisdom and excellency.

1. It is an ordinance of Almighty God. Judaism was propagated by ceremonies and types; false religions have usually been propagated by the sword; but it is the preeminent peculiarity of the religion of Jesus, that by the simple appeal of truth to the conscience and the heart, it has its potency and its triumph. Omniscience could only devise, and infinite grace must have prompted the best of all machinery.

2. It is the ministration of the Spirit of God. We are under the dispensation of the Spirit, and the Spirit communicates Himself mainly and most frequently through preaching.

3. The theme at which the Jews stumbled, and which the Greeks esteemed foolishness is to them that are called “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

4. It is attended with great and gracious results. Why are we not gathered, as our forefathers were, under the oak-tree, to go through our dark orgies of impiety and blood? Why have we the arts, and sciences, and literature, and all that marks out a civilised people? These are the external triumphs of Christianity. But they are nothing compared with its internal, its everlasting triumphs. What multitudes has it made to pass from death to life, from darkness to light, from the bondage of Satan, to the glorious liberty of the Son of God.

Conclusion: If, on the one hand, preaching appears so foolish, and, on the other, it is so wise and powerful--

1. Do not fall into the false notion of the day, that education is to be the grand regenerator of mankind.

2. How faulty must many of you be when you go to hear the preaching of the Word much as the world goes to the theatre; when you go to hear the words of man instead of the Word of God.

3. How much does it behove the Christians of this country to multiply that machinery which is God’s great ordinance, to promote that righteousness which exalteth a nation. (Canon Stowell.)

The preaching of the gospel

The chief means by which the blessings of this revelation have been communicated to mankind, is the preaching of the Word--a means of instruction which, in the time of St. Paul, was in a great measure new to the world. It had been employed, indeed, in the Jewish synagogue, at the reading of the law and the prophets; but that employment of it was very limited, both in respect of the subjects which it embraced, and of the persons to whom it was addressed: and throughout the whole extent of the heathen nations, the practice was altogether unknown. In Greece, by far the most celebrated of these nations for learning and refinement, there were magnificent temples, in which many splendid ceremonies were observed in honour of the gods, and a variety of officers consecrated to the services of devotion; but there was no institution like that of preaching, for explaining to the people the principles of their religious system. Hence, when the apostles of Christ went forth preaching the kingdom of God, and unfolding clearly its doctrines and its objects, their plan of conduct excited surprise. By the Greeks in particular it was derided as foolishness--as a scheme of reformation unskilfully devised, and on account of the simplicity and weakness of those who engaged in it, incapable of answering any valuable end.

I. The preaching of the gospel has contributed in a remarkable degree to improve the intellectual capacities of human nature, and to disseminate, through a wider sphere, the principles of useful knowledge. It threw into the circulation of human thought a new stock of most interesting principles--principles well established themselves, fruitful in important consequences, and fitted to exercise all the higher faculties of the understanding. It trained a numerous order of men, and forced them, by the very nature of their employment, to cultivate their intellectual talents, to cherish habits of regular thought, and to study the most effectual method of elucidating and confirming the doctrines which they taught. This order of men it mingled with the mass of the people, and placed them in a situation, where their example and instructions could not fail to draw forth and improve the reasoning powers of their hearers. This institution furnishes, besides--

II. A rich inexhaustible treasure of consolation to every individual who employs it with proper dispositions. Numerous are the evils to which we are subjected in the course of our earthly pilgrimage. In the sanctuary of God we see the plan of Providence unveiled, and, through the ministry of the Word, discover order and beauty rising from the darkness. The train of thought which is there presented to us, and rendered habitual by its frequent recurrence, has a direct and powerful tendency to calm the agitations of a troubled heart, and to re-establish our confidence in God. We there learn that God is good to all; that, through Christ, He is reconcilable even to the guilty; that His government of the universe is free from defect; that the apparent disorder around us is essential to the nature of our probationary state, and productive of good; that even afflictions are frequently messengers of His love. But the doctrines which the preaching of the gospel preserves, and diffuses through all orders of the people, tend not only to enlighten the understandings of men and to alleviate the ills of life. They are also--

III. Powerful means of our moral improvement. The system of duty which the gospel contains is most perfect in itself, and most wisely adapted to the exigencies of human nature. It reaches to the thoughts and intents of the heart; it prescribes with a minuteness and accuracy which leaves no room for misconception, the conduct proper for all the situations in which we may be called to act; and it enforces its precepts by motives the most awful and the most interesting which can operate on the mind. (James Finlayson, D. D.)


Verses 22-24

1 Corinthians 1:22-24

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.

Christianity viewed in three aspects

I. As associated with a great fact. “Christ crucified.” This maybe looked at--

1. Historically. As an historical fact it is the most--

2. Theologically

3. Morally. It is fraught with suggestion the most--

II. As associated with popular opinion. It had not sufficient of the gorgeous philosophical ritualism for the speculative and pedantic Greek, nor sufficient of the gorgeous religious ritualism for the sensuous and bigoted Jew. And now to millions it is nothing. To the sceptic it is a fable; to the formalist a creed or a ceremony.

III. As associated with Christian consciousness. “But unto them that are called,” &c. The Christian sees the highest wisdom in a system which, in saving a sinner--

1. Manifests the righteousness of an insulted sovereign.

2. Augments the influence of moral government.

3. Maintains intact all the principles of moral freedom.

4. Develops, strengthens, and perfects all the powers of the soul. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Jew, Greek, and Christian

The Christian of to-day can but ill-understand the Christian of the year 50. Perhaps if he did, he might feel much more as did the Greek or the Jew, than as did the Christian.

1. Think of Paul in Corinth.

2. Here you have the reminiscence of the older time, and that reminiscence comes out in three series of antitheses.

I. The Jew. Illustrious was his ancestry, and he could feel that he was in the face of people that were of yesterday and of earth, while he was of eternity and of God. His founder was Abraham, friend of God, greatest of faithful men; his lawgiver was Moses, author of a law straight come from God. The literature of Greece and Rome was of the earth; his was a book God made. Nay, they worshipped idols; he worshipped the one Creator. And so, proud man was the Jew, proudest for this reason--he owned God rather than God owned him. He so owned God, that he determined the very terms on which God was to be held and known by other men. And so he said, when he stood before the new gospel, “Show me a sign”: but by the very terms no miracle was possible. The Jew said, “I am God’s great work; a greater than I is not in the world: I am the sign; show me a greater.”

2. Ah, Jew! if thou hadst been able to see the Christ, thou hadst seen a greater. Think of Him; child He is of thine own proud race, yet lowly in heart, giving rest unto the soul, Thou hast cause for pride, O Jew! yet greater still for humiliation. Out of thy loins He sprung; yet for Him thou only hadst the Cross. See how He “broke His birth’s invidious bar”; see how, breaking it, He became no local, narrow Jew, but Son of Man, yet Son of God. See how, through Him, God became the new Being for man--Father. He stands manifest God, witness to this--that man’s sin is God’s sorrow, man’s saving God’s suffering. From millions the cry has risen for the Father. Out of heaven the Father stoops to seek the sons. Here, through His Son, he comes to create a great family of God, and a Greek and Jew become brothers; Roman forgets empire and Hindoo colour; negro loses slavery, male ceases to be man, female ceases to be woman--all become one in Christ. Miracle ye claim and seek, O Jew! to you a miracle I bring!

II. The greek.

1. He, too, had his illustrious ancestry. He made this great discovery: freedom, manhood through freedom. Read the inscriptions of Assyrian kings that tell you how they vanquished empires, but tell you not of the armies they lost and the armies they destroyed without pity or regret. Read the records of Egyptian monuments, and they will tell how a great king, to preserve his very dust, builds a mighty pyramid, throwing thousands of men away in the building of it. The Greek, in creating a free state, created the very idea of manhood. Man free is man reasonable, ordered, a social, joyous, complete life. He, too, discovered for all time art and beauty. Take those colossal figures standing by the Nile--cold, impassive; take those great Assyrian monarchs--massive, insensible to pity, sensible only of power; or look at the Hindoo, with his god--many-headed, many-armed, many-breasted, hideous symbol of a race without beauty; take the Greek discovering the human form is Divine. Can you tell hew much the good man owes to the race that discovered beauty in men? Look at poetry. Pithy speech for deepest emotion. Think, too, what philosophy means--the passion for the true, the search for the good. We owe that to the Greek; but when you spoke to him of Christ, he turned away and said, “Where is the wisdom? He is a barbarian, and uses speech that cannot with grace or truth be called language. Think of Him, too, as your later artist pictured Him, crowned with thorns. We love the gracious and we love the great; we love not this.”

2. But, O Greek! hast thou thought of the meaning of that Christ? You love freedom--you made it; but see how you bind man still in passion that makes him a very slave. This Christ can take the man bound in the bondage of sin, make him a free man who loves the law of God and loves to obey it, and make him a citizen of an eternal kingdom. You made art; hut think of the beauty that is in Christ--how radiant the goodness that makes Him alone “the altogether lovely.” He creates the rarer art of holy being, of holy living. You think your poetry is great; but, see, He has made all time, all the universe--nay, the very eternity itself, poetical. Has He not filled every life that is lived with poetic meaning, by bringing Deity into humanity, by lifting humanity into Deity. And is it thy wisdom, O Greek! that thou lovest? See, then, in this Christ is the great mystery of being--God that made the world, the end to which God made it, the means by which He is to reach His end, the glorious method by which the scattered and multitudinous creatures who have estranged themselves from Him may yet, through holy concord, and beautiful love, and perfect devotion, be brought into a saved society in Him. O Greek! in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge; in Him thou hast all things.

III. The Christian. It is said, “If thou wouldst know a poet, go and live in the poet’s land.” So, if you would know Christ, make your appeal to Christian experience. Two things are in Him--power, casual, creative; wisdom, adaptive, constructive. Christ brings to the re-making of men power that can take the lost and re-make it until it becomes the holiest; wisdom to take what He has re-made, and shape, develop, guide it, until its early promise becomes richest performance. There is power in Christ, for He is able to save to the uttermost; there is wisdom in Christ, for Christ can sanctify what He has saved. Now you are face to face with the evil and the need of men; what other way can you cure it? You may call to your aid philosophy. Philosophy will make a select and cultured class, scornful of the multitude, and growing cynical through the sense of its own pre-eminence. Call in social theory, that argues that new conditions must be created that men may be made happy and perfect. You may invoke the Act of Parliament; and yet all these together fail to do that which Christ has achieved. (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

Offensiveness of the gospel to human pride

1. It comes in the form of preaching, and offers its blessings only to faith.

2. It describes the crucified Jesus as the power and wisdom of God.

3. It pronounces all this, which seems to men to be folly and weakness, to be wiser and stronger than all the wisdom and power of the world. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The causes of the rejection of the gospel

I. The Jewish craving for--

1. The ostentatious.

2. The miraculous.

II. The gentile love for--

1. The intellectual.

2. The aesthetic.

III. In both the pride that will not submit to the simplicity of faith. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The gospel and its opponents

Observe--

I. The great hindrances of the gospel in apostolic times.

1. Jewish prejudice.

2. Gentile philosophy.

II. These are general types of human error--e.g., Pharisaism and Sadduceeism; Epicureanism and Stoicism; Ritualism and Rationalism; self-righteousness and self-conceit.

III. Their utter incompatibility with the gospel.

1. The gospel requires humility; these are the offspring of pride.

2. The gospel insists on faith. These demand demonstration. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

How the gospel triumphed

I. Its theme. Christ crucified. His Divinity, sacrifice, offices, redeeming power, universal government.

II. Its difficulties.

1. Jewish prejudice.

2. Gentile wisdom.

III. Its triumphs in them which are called,

1. Christ the power of God--

2. Christ the power of God in--

The Jews require a sign, the Greeks seek wisdom

In this verse the apostle illustrates and confirms that expression which had passed from him in the verse before, concerning the foolishness of preaching. First, in the demand of the Jews; and secondly in the pursuit of the Gentiles. The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. First, we will speak of them jointly, as they agree in one notion, and then severally in what is proper to each. First, jointly, where we must know thus much, the demand of the Jews, “The Jews require a sign.” Here was an error in both, as concerning their receiving the gospel of Christ: whence we may observe in general then, first this: that the corruption of nature does act and improve itself differently in different ranks and conditions of persons. Here are Jews and Gentiles both, people of a several temper and frame, yet both of them have their censure; the one in the requiring of a sign, and the other in the seeking after wisdom; both of them in a several kind of nature had their weaknesses and failings. This various working of corruption according to the subject wherein it is, may be variously accounted unto us as proceeding from various causes. As first, sometimes from the difference of age and constitution of body: there are some sins which are more proper to one age and temper, and others which are more proper to another. Again, secondly, sometimes it proceeds from a difference of assault and temptation; as there are several tempers and constitutions in regard of men themselves, so there are several drawing out of these constitutions in regard of Satan’s improving of them. Thirdly, it proceeds from a difference of employment and education, and particular calling, wherein men are set. First, that we should not from hence at any time be secure and presumptuous in ourselves from our freedom from any particular sin or infirmity whatsoever; though thou art not guilty of such a sin, yet it may be thou mayest be guilty of another, which in its kind may be as bad. Again, secondly, observe this: that all men by nature have some quarrel or exception or other against the Word of God, and some pretence to put it off from them. “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom”; neither of them were every way right, and so as they should be. This is that which has always been in all ages and times of the Church. Thirdly, observe in general this: that it is a great matter for the entertainment of any ministry what people have been formerly used and accustomed unto; that has commonly a great sway with them. For see here in this present Scripture how it was now with these two sorts of people, the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews, they had been used to signs heretofore under Moses and the prophets, and therefore nothing would serve their turn now but signs still. And the Gentiles, they had been used to their philosophy and rhetoric. This shows us what cause we have therefore, as to be careful of what principles we admit at any time of ourselves, so to bless God that He has any time in His providence heretofore so well ordered it to us. I come now to them more distinctly in particular, to look upon them in their several propositions, to wit, the demand of the Jews by itself, and the pursuit of the Gentiles again by itself. First, for the demand of the Jews--“The Jews require a sign.” This the apostle speaks of as some kind of weakness and viciousness in them: and so indeed it was, as may appear in these particulars. First, it does denote unto us that sottishness and stupidity which was in them. A sign it is a thing which is accommodated to the outward sense, and ordained for the teaching of those which are of low understandings, and which cannot attain to the spirituality of Divine mysteries; now thus it was here with these Jews. And this is the disposition of most men else by nature to be thus affected in themselves. Thus it was with the apostle Thomas at Christ’s resurrection (John 20:25). That the more carnal any people are, the more they are carried away after such matters, and do not rest themselves satisfied in that evidence which the Scripture holds out unto them; and it proceeds from hence, because they have not their senses exercised to discern of things that differ. Secondly, here was also their infidelity and unbelief, that is likewise implied in this, that they asked a sign. Signs, says the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 14:22) they are not for them that believe, but for them which believe not; and accordingly they have been still used (as we shall find) upon such occasions as these are, either to begin faith where it has been wanting, or to strengthen it where it has been weak; they are an argument of unbelief where they are given, but especially they are so where they are required. Whilst the Jews demand a sign, they show their infidelity indeed, that they are as yet in a state of unbelieving (John 1:11), “He came to His own, and His own received Him not.” Thus it was with this people: and if we would know whence it came to be so, the apostle tells us, “Because the god of this world had blinded their eyes, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Well, let it teach us all for our particulars to take heed “lest there be in any of us an heart of unbelief to depart from the living God”; yea, let us take heed of admitting any scruples and doubts in the main points of Christianity; for if we begin once, we shall never have done. And that is the second evil in this demand of the Jews in asking for a sign, to wit, their infidelity. The third is their hypocrisy; there was a great deal of false-heartedness and double-dealing in this request of theirs; for why, they intended no such thing as to receive the truth. This is the manner of hypocrites to pretend an unsatisfiableness in the means when they do not relish the thing; when they favour not the conclusion, they call in question the argument. Fourthly, here was their insolency and unworthy behaviour in the laying of this demand; and that as expressing itself also in sundry particulars, which we may briefly take notice of. As first, here was their preposterousness and presumption, in that they would prescribe and limit God to a way of their own--they ask a sign. But here was the miscarriage in these Jews, that they would teach God, and set Him a rule, and point which they would determine Him unto; that when as He would have it done by preaching, they would have it done by miracle. And when the apostles brought them a sermon, they would needs have a sign. This is a sure rule--that in the things of God especially, as in all other things, we must be ruled by God Himself. To ask a sign was here a presumption. Again, as there may be a fault in asking one, so there may be a fault likewise in refusing one, when God offers one to us: observe that this was the miscarriage of Ahaz (Isaiah 7:11). But now where God sets up a sign, there they pull the sign, down. As for example now in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Here they throw the sign away. Thus those which are so much for signs at another time, as with the Jews themselves, to require them when themselves please; here, when God offers one to them, they will not have one. Secondly, here was their peremptoriness and importunity, they require a sign; that is, there is no remedy, but have one they must in all haste. If they had asked it modestly and soberly, though they had asked it, there might not perhaps have been so much in it: there have been those of the servants of God which have asked signs, and they have not been blamed for it; Gideon asked one and had it in his wet and dry fleece ( 6:37). Hezekiah, again, asked one (2 Kings 20:8-9). Thirdly, here was their malice and perverseness, “they require a sign,” as if hitherto they had never had any. The Jews had signs of Christ exhibited unto them, both by Himself in His own particular Person, and likewise in His servants the apostles; they had wonders in heaven above, and they had signs in the earth beneath; as it is in Acts 2:19, and in verse 22 of the same chapter--“Ye men of Israel hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did by Him in the midst of you,” &c. And again (verse 43), “Many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” And (Mark 16:20), “The Lord confirmed the Word by signs following.” So we see then they wanted not signs, and yet as if they had been altogether destitute, they here require them; this was now an horrible perverseness and maliciousness in them, and a slighting both of the power and goodness of God Himself. The second is the inquiry or pursuit of the Gentiles, “The Greeks seek after wisdom.” By Greeks here we are to understand all other nations besides the Jews. Now the great learning and eloquence of the Greeks was occasionally and accidently through their corruption, not in the nature of the thing itself, a great hindrance to them for their embracing of the saving knowledge of Christ; they were so taken with the conceits and apprehensions of their own wit and excellent parts, that the preaching of the Cross it seemed no better than foolishness to them; they would believe nothing now in religion without an argument and a demonstration. In brief, there are two things especially which are here by this passage of the apostles prohibited to us. First, a restraining of the truths and doctrines of religion to the apprehensions of carnal reason, the wisdom of the flesh. This was the fault of these Greeks, and we are to take heed it be not ours. And the reason of it is this, because indeed religion is a mystery, and the things which are propounded in the gospel they are above the reach of human wit. Why but then must we lay aside all kind of reason in matters of religion? is Christianity an unreasonable business? and does the gospel deprive us of our wits and ordinary understandings? No, no such matter; religion it is not against reason but it is above it. The sum of all is this, that reason it may be improved in religion, but religion is not to be limited to reason; faith and right reason do not cross, though indeed they do not always meet; nay, indeed, religion is upon the point the greatest reason and wisdom of all, because it is the reason and wisdom of God Himself, who is the highest intelligence. And that is the first thing which was here taxed in these Greeks in the text, their seeking after wisdom, namely, the wisdom of the flesh, in restraining religion to reason, which is a thing here prohibited to us. The second is, the wisdom of words in adulterating the ordinance of preaching with the affectation of human eloquence; this is not to be done by us neither, either in preachers or hearers. This was another thing in these Greeks seeking after wisdom, they refused the doctrine of Christ, because it was not brought to them with the excellency of speech and human wisdom, which the Apostle Paul did of purpose decline, as he tells us (1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:1). For the right understanding of this point, that we may not be mistaken, we do not here prohibit all use of human learning or eloquence in reference to preaching; but--First, that this be not the chief business which is intended by us: we may use these things by the by, but this is not the main to be looked after by us, like children that more regard the cover of the book than they do that which is contained in it. Secondly, we must consider the nature of this eloquence and wisdom, what it is; there is a comeliness of expression suitable to the nature of the matter and argument which is spoken unto, which may very well become a preacher of the gospel; but strong lines and bombast is such as is very uncomely and improper. Thirdly, for the measure of doing it, it must be done very sparingly and moderately; I mean the mixture of wit and human learning in preaching; as sauce, but not as meat. Lastly, a regard is to be had to the nature of the auditory itself, which we have to deal withal, that they be such as are capable of it, and where it may serve as an advantage to the conveyance of the doctrine itself. With these and the like explications there may be a good use of human eloquence and speech; but otherwise in the excess and failing in the manner of it, it is very dangerous and inconvenient. And that especially, as first, it oftentimes takes off the efficacy of the ordinances and makes the Word of God of none effect. Secondly, besides this, it is that which is not so acceptable for the most part to a spiritual heart. Thirdly, God Himself does not commonly so work by them--“By the foolishness of preaching He saves them that believe.” (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The reasonableness of the gospel

Evil exists, is the result of sin, which is a want of affection for God, and its cure is by Christ crucified. God is limited in His mode of cure by the capacities and endowments of human nature.

I. The gospel cannot be a system of force. It must be one of motive.

II. Love cannot be transferred at will from one object to another. God must become man to secure man’s affection.

III. Hate in the human heart can only be conquered and overcome by manifested self-denying love. God’s first work is to teach men their sinfulness and need of salvation. Without faith it is impossible to please God. There is no other avenue to the human heart than that which God has tried.

IV. The duties and prohibitions of the gospel are demanded by our natures. Social scientists admit this. Prayer, praise, worship, are as necessary to soul-growth as food, exercise, and rest for bodily powers.

V. The rewards and penalties of the gospel are in accordance with nature, with reason, with those principles upon which we act in daily life. This wisdom of God is perfectly adapted to man’s wants, and meets man’s necessities. (Bp. Fellowes.)

But we preach Christ crucified.--

An orthodox preacher

I. The leaning theme of Paul’s ministry.

1. The Person declared in his ministry. Christ, not the patriarchs, prophets, &c. Men of renown in history must not supplant Jesus.

2. The atonement proclaimed in his ministry. We have to speak to the masses--not science, philosophy, &c., but a crucified Lord.

II. The great difficulties in Paul’s ministry.

1. The superstition of the Jews. They spurned the gospel because it appealed to their spiritual nature. They did not want a suffering Messiah. If we are seeking signs, we are superstitious. We are rejecting the tidings of “Christ crucified.”

2. The scepticism of the Greeks. A crucified Christ appeared to them a fable. Many in spirit are still doing the same.

III. The Divine character of Paul’s ministry.

1. The universality of the gospel. The glorious gospel is for all mankind.

2. The powerfulness of the gospel. The death of the Cross is the greatest manifestation of the power of God.

3. The knowledge of the gospel. Christ displays God’s highest wisdom. None can instruct us aright but Christ, and we shall never learn the wisdom of God unless we sit at the foot of the Cross.

Conclusion:

1. There is no other way of salvation but what is revealed in the gospel of a crucified Saviour.

2. May we never be of the class who reject and despise God’s method of redemption.

3. Between the conflict of power and wisdom, Christ is the living embodiment of the greatest force in the world.

4. We must believe the gospel before we can experience its saving influence. (A. Buckley.)

Our preaching

I. Its great subject. Christ crucified. We--

1. Declare the nature of His death.

2. Exhibit its benefits.

3. Persuade men to seek an interest in it.

II. Its reception.

1. Some reject it with contempt.

2. Some receive it with respect and advantage. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

St. Paul’s preaching at Corinth

I. What St. Paul preached. “Christ crucified”--i.e., not so much the sufferings of Christ on the Cross as the doctrines connected with the Cross and all the benefits which are secured to us by it. He preached--

1. The dignity of Him who suffered.

2. His humiliation.

3. His willingness.

4. The shamefulness of His death.

5. The intensity of His sufferings. His death was lingering, not sudden. He suffered from men, from devils, from God.

II. Some reasons for his so preaching. There were--

1. Personal reasons. A dispensation was committed unto him. St. Paul preached thus because he was commanded. “Woe is unto me,” &c.

2. Doctrinal reasons. He preached Christ crucified because by the Cross--

(I) God’s wrath is appeased. God was willing to be appeased; but God’s justice could not be appeased except by the death of Christ.

Conclusion: We hence see the duty of ministers, viz., to walk in the steps of Paul.

1. He was emphatically a preacher. We, too, who are ministers, should aim to be preachers. Our Lord’s commission ran, “Go ye into all the world and preach.” “Christ sent me,” says Paul, “not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” Others, uninspired men, have said the same. Latimer said, “Take away preaching, take away salvation.” St. Chrysostom affirms, “My whole priesthood is to teach and preach the gospel. This is my sacrifice.”

2. But what are we to preach? Christ crucified. The Socinians preach Christ, but only as a bright example, not as a vacarious sacrifice. But we, like St. Paul, preach Christ crucified, because we know that this is the only preaching which God the Holy Ghost will honour. As Cecil says, “A philosopher may philosophise his hearers, but the preaching of Christ will alone convert them. Men may preach Christ ignorantly, blunderingly, absurdly, yet God will give that preaching efficacy, because He is determined to magnify His own ordinance.” (C. Clayton, M. A.)

Apostolic preaching

I. Its matter. The apostle opposes his theme, on the one hand, to Judaising teachers, who taught converts that they must be circumcised, and keep the laws of Moses; and, on the other hand, to Gentile philosophers, who spent much time in eloquently haranguing on the beauty of virtue and the deformity of vice; but who, with all their arts of rhetoric, never could guide one soul to heaven.

II. Its manner They exhibited the Cross of Christ--

1. As the end of the law for righteousness.

2. As the only foundation of a secure hope of acceptance with God.

3. As the only legitimate object of a Christian’s glory.

4. As the most powerful incentive to obedience.

Conclusion: Let me ask--

1. What think you of Christ?

2. What influence has the subject had on you? (J. Hooper.)

Apostolic preaching

I. Its grand subject. The apostles set forth--

1. The dignity of our Saviour’s person as the true Messiah of God.

2. The perfection of His atonement. Having laid the foundation in His Divinity, this naturally followed.

3. The plenitude of His redemption. Christ died for all men, and we are therefore enabled to offer salvation to every man. This is a blessing which leads to all others.

II. The reception which this doctrine met with.

1. “To the Jews it was a stumbling-block.”

2. To the Greeks it was foolishness.

3. “Unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” These perfections are admirably discovered if we consider--

Apostolic preaching: its theme and effects

I. The great theme of apostolic preaching. The crucifixion of our Lord was the great centre of their preaching, but its range was much wider. They preached Christ in--

1. The Divinity of His person.

2. The perfection of His atonement.

3. The variety of His offices.

4. The blessings of His redemption.

5. The universality of His government.

II. The diversity of the effects which attend the publication of this gospel.

1. To the Jews it was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; “to them that are called”--

(a) The wonderful method by which the difficulties were removed which stood in the way of the restoration of fallen man.

(b) The perfect adaptation of the means which it supplies for the attainment of human salvation. First, the sacrifice of Christ. Second, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.

(c) Its direct tendency to counteract one of the most evident manifestations of human depravity--viz., pride.

(d) In the selection of the instruments who were ordained to propagate it.

(e) The period appointed for its proclamation.

(f) The facility of those terms on which the benefits are conferred.

(a) The various acts by which the stupendous scheme was accomplished.

(b) The Divine influence which attended the publication of this doctrine.

(c) The triumphant progress which the gospel has made against every opposition.

(d) Its influence on man’s present and eternal destinies. (J. Bowers.)

Preaching Christ crucified

1. Preaching is an agency previously unknown, which Christianity has created for itself, and just as the gospel has been truly apprehended has it sought; expression purely through this form. Rationslise it into a philosophy, and the pulpit becomes a tribune to lecture from; mistake it for a magical mystery, and the pulpit is deserted for the altar. But Christianity is neither “a wisdom” for “Greeks,” nor “a sign” for “Jews”; it is a Divine message for which preaching must ever be the appropriate vehicle.

2. When we set our modern pulpit alongside that of apostolic men there is a pretty wide divergence. Theirs was simple, direct, historic; built itself up on a few facts which clung around a central Person. Ours is elaborate, discursive, theoretical. To some extent such difference is not only natural, but proper. For the apostles were missionary preachers, addressing men to whom everything was new. We who minister among a people moulded by the truths which we preach must traverse an ampler field and cannot decline to use what the Christian past has brought to illustrate or confirm the old message. In accessory helps the pulpit grows yearly richer; yet through this very embarrassing wealth, the preacher is in danger of being beguiled too far from his appointed work.

I. The great pulpit theme.

1. The gospel offers itself as a plan of restoration; and opens with an event which lifts the scheme above parallel--the descent into our race of God Himself. At no other point does creation touch Divinity in such strange fellowship.

2. If we estimate the singular moment of this fact we shall not wonder to find the whole course both of nature and of providence looking towards it.

3. If the Christian scheme of salvation through incarnate God is thus the world’s centre of gravity, then its own centre of gravity is the Cross. Modern thought is strong because it recognises the Incarnation; but it is weak because it fails to see the necessary issue of the Advent in the Cross. The event of Golgotha came to complete and to explain the event of Bethlehem. Christ took our nature in order to redeem our souls; was born that He might die. Thus we reach the heart of Christianity. That is a nerveless gospel which glozes over the fact of atonement with vague phrases; that which ignores or denies it is another gospel altogether.

4. But on these facts what is the message which rests? Not merely that the man Jesus was actually the Son of God and become one of our own race; nor that He many centuries ago suffered generously, and for our sakes died; but that the God-Man, who did once at Jerusalem cancel guilt and win deliverance, is here, and able, therefore, to save all who trust Him. He has a pardon which He won as man, yet bestows as God. This acting Christ with His direct access to and contact with men, we must preach. We preach a Christ who, because He was crucified once, is dead no more; but is even now and always breathing power and life into human hearts; and from this central power of Christ to give the Holy Ghost as the fruit of His bitter tree, there branch spiritual works manifold as the miracles of His earthly ministry.

II. The considerations which ought to regulate its delivery from every pulpit. Pentecost gave tongues to the disciples. That was the birthday of preaching. The new message brought new utterance; and times of religious awakening have been signalised by a fresh development of preaching gifts. So it was at the revival of the thirteenth century, of the fifteenth, of the eighteenth. What, then, is this novel voice which Christ’s gospel has found for itself?

1. As to matter, nothing which is quite foreign can be admitted, and everything which is cognate has a right to be here only in so far as it can serve the preacher’s main drift, and illustrate or commend his message. This is no rule of narrow exclusion; for there is hardly a department of human thought or knowledge out of connection with Jesus Christ. But the rule is of constant value nevertheless. What ponderous piles of sacred learning have sometimes buried the simple message! What wire-spun theological niceties have perplexed the hearer! The gospel has been more often discussed than preached. Nothing has any right to be in a sermon except because it contributes to the clearness and effect of the message about Christ.

2. As to the form of the message, it must be in the main declarative. If true to its nature it cannot be anything else. It admits, indeed, of embodiment in a creed; it has given to philosophy its richest, deepest principles; before it there goes out the only law of ethics: yet these are none of them the gospel. In its naked essence it is a salvation offered in the person of a Saviour. As such it is to be published. This declarative form implies two subordinate elements. We found wrapped up in the object of preaching two things, a person and a fact. Now these should give to preaching at once a historical and a personal complexion. That Christianity is rooted in the past, and had a birthplace which ties it to one spot of history. All that concerns the life of Christ, with its foreshadowings, its self-manifestations, and each recorded step which conducted to the achievement of redemption--must be prominent in the Christian pulpit. Yet the historical is to be blended with the personal element; and that ministry is best which leads straight to the living helping Saviour. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

Christ crucified

First, the apostle’s carriage, as concerning the ordering of his ministry; and secondly, the apostle’s doctrine, as concerning the nature of those points and truths which were delivered in it. First, for his carriage; this is very much hinted unto us in the adversative particle “but,” where there are these things further considerable: first, his contrariety of spirit; we see plainly that Paul and the rest of the apostles with him went a quite contrary way to that which was both required by Jews and Gentiles; the one required a sign, and the other sought after wisdom; but they accommodated neither, but instead they preach Christ crucified. What do we learn from hence? That it is the duty and wisdom of a minister to cross men’s carnal humours; when people shall affect such kind of preaching as is unprofitable for them, especially to make them fail of their expectation. Physicians, when their patients are immoderate in thirsting after drink, keep it from them the rather. And the reason of it is this, because satisfying of such humours feeds them, and adds strength unto them. This then meets with all such whose carriage is quite contrary hereunto, who make not their hearers’ necessities, but their affections, to be the rule of their teaching; and if there be any crotchet or humour more than other, which does prevail and abound in them, they will be sure to apply themselves to that in the course of their ministry. Secondly, we have here in this passage the apostle’s humility and self-denial, in that he did here lay aside those things wherein he might otherwise have gloried and set out himself; he here denied his own wisdom, and learning, and eloquence, and such accomplishments as these are, that so he might the better advance the gospel of Christ. Paul had been caught up into paradise, and been made partaker of such admirable mysteries as were there revealed unto him, that he now should condescend to the preaching of such familiar points, and that after such a familiar manner, as he does here intimate unto us. This I say was a business which was very much to be taken notice of in him. “We preach Christ crucified.” There was a great matter in that, for such poor creatures as we are. What does this now teach us but this much, that plain and familiar kind of teaching and laying down the mysteries of religion in an easy and perspicuous manner, is that which may well become the greatest and learnedest that are; it is no shame nor disparagement for any teacher. And truly why not, if indeed we consider all? for first, there is a great deal more of art and skill sometimes in it, than otherwise; to preach Christ crucified, and such fundamental truths of religion as these are, and in that manner as they ought to be preached, requires a great deal more of wisdom as belonging unto it than many other points besides, which it may be to some vain kind of minds seem far above them. It is an easier matter to preach fancies and notions, than it is to preach solid truths; it is an easier matter to preach in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, than to preach in the powerful evidence and demonstration of the Spirit of God. Secondly, as there is more skill in it, so there is likewise more modesty, and less temptation and danger of miscarriage; the venting of strange speculations, and the preaching plausibly to men’s humours and affections in this respect, is not without some hazard of pride and self-applause in those that shall do it. Thirdly, there is also profit and advantage hereby to our hearers, as concerning the good of their souls. Besides, if we speak of human learning and eloquence itself, we must know that this does not cross nor contradict plain kind of preaching. There may be a great deal of learning sometimes in a plain sermon, and in the opening of a plain truth in that sermon. Thirdly, here is his faithfulness and impartiality to either part in the indefiniteness of the subjects which this his doctrine extends unto, to Jew and Gentile both alike; he preaches Christ crucified to either, as a doctrine which might well fit them both. And in particular not only the Jews, which were a people of more low capacities, but likewise as well to the Greeks, which were a people of more raised apprehensions. And a minister does not wrong his hearers with such points whosoever they are. First, because they are such points which are indeed of a very deep reach in religion. Secondly, the wisest and learnedest that are, such points as these may very well become them, forasmuch as they are necessary points, and such as tend to salvation itself. If wise men will be saved they must be glad to hear of saving truths: there being but one way to salvation for them, and all others besides. Those who have the greatest skill in physic, they are glad to take the same potions for their health which others take. Thirdly, again, there is this besides considerable in it, that there is an infinite depth in these matters, which we can never sufficiently reach, or dive into, and those that knew never so much of them, yet they are still capable of knowing more. Besides, further, that we need affections even there where we need not information. This is a special ground for the preaching of plain truths to great wits, thereby to work upon their hearts, and to draw their love and affection to them. Let us not disdain the common doctrines of religion, nor think them too low for us; which as no man is too good to preach of, so no man is too good to hear, nor to have imparted and communicated unto them. Fourthly, there is here one thing more in his practice, and that is this, namely, his wisdom and discretion in the course which he here took for the curing and removing of the distempers of these Jews and Gentiles in reference to preaching; and that is by the very exercise of preaching itself. They counted it the foolishness of preaching. Well, how does the apostle now go about to free them from this mistake? why, he does it no other way than indeed by preaching to them. And this there is good cause for: first, because a great occasion of people’s prejudice against preaching is because indeed they are unacquainted with it. Secondly, because there is an authority in preaching, and an efficacy which goes along with it, which does command respect unto it. But so much of the first particular, viz., the apostle’s carriage as concerning the ordering of his ministry, which we have seen in four several instances. The second is the apostle’s doctrine for the points delivered by him, and that is Christ crucified. This was the string which the apostle here harped upon, and the lesson which he principally taught; from whence we may observe this much, that Christ crucified is the main object and matter of our preaching. But why Christ crucified, rather than Christ exhibited in some other consideration? why not rather Christ incarnate, forasmuch as that was the first news of Him? or why not Christ risen again, or Christ ascended, which was a great deal more glorious? Surely there is very good reason to be given for it: first, because he would give them the worst of Christ at first, that he might show he was not ashamed of Him, nor of that gospel which made Him known, but that hereby he might the better prepare them for other truths, and make them the welcomer to them. Christ’s Cross is the first letter of all in a Christian’s alphabet. God’s beginnings with us are commonly most tedious. His conclusions and closings are for the most part very sweet and comfortable. Secondly, because Christ crucified, it is virtually and implicitly all the rest; for why was Christ incarnate? it was for this end that He might be crucified. Thirdly, this was that mystery which did most concern us for the good and benefit which comes by it; His death was that which pacified God’s wrath, and paid the debt which was due for our sins. Lastly, Christ crucified, because this was that which these people had a particular hand in as instrumental hereunto; they had been active in the crucifying of Christ themselves. Therefore accordingly we shall find that this was the practice of the apostles in the whole course and way of their ministry. And so it is that which is the chief work of ours, it is the doctrine which is to be chiefly preached by us; and that upon these following considerations. First, as it is a doctrine of the greatest humiliation, it is an humbling and convincing doctrine. If we ask how this is done, I answer by an act of reflection and special consideration to this purpose, namely, as from hence taking notice of this grievous and odious nature of sin; those which make nothing of sin, they may here see what it is now, in the price which was paid for it, and the pain which was endured to expiate it in Christ crucified. This doctrine of Christ’s Passion, it is thus in this way of proceeding a doctrine of humiliation, and therefore fittest to be urged in the course of our ministry. And that because this is a main part of our ministry, to humble men and convince them of sin. Secondly, this doctrine of Christ crucified, as it has cause to be the chief work of our ministry, forasmuch as it is an humbling doctrine; so it has cause likewise to be so too, because it is a comforting doctrine, and a doctrine of the greatest comfort that can be. First, as Christ’s death keeps us from the wrath of God and purchases peace to us with God the Father; for that it does, as we may see in Colossians 1:19-20. Secondly, it obtains to us peace with angels, and all other creatures besides, whether in heaven or earth. Thirdly, it frees us from the power and dominion of sin. Fourthly, it frees us from the power and tyranny of Satan (Colossians 2:15). Fifthly, from bondage and thraldom to the ceremonial law, Christ crucified flees us from hence (Colossians 2:14). Sixthly, it frees us from the inordinate fears of death and final dissolution (1 Corinthians 15:55; Hebrews 2:14). Now this doctrine containing so much sweetness and comfortableness in it, what does from hence follow, but that accordingly it should be a principal part of our ministry to dispense it. Thirdly, as it is a doctrine of the richest and most abundant grace; for it contains in it the exceeding love of God towards mankind, and the height of His mercy towards us. In Christ crucified there is a combination of all the riches and mysteries of the gospel: it was His love to be incarnate, to be tempted, to be persecuted for us; yea, but His Passion it was the accomplishment and perfection of all the rest (John 15:13). What is it then to preach Christ crucified? For answer hereunto, we must know thus much, that the meaning hereof is not this, that we should preach of no other subject but only of the death of Christ; for there are many other points besides which it is necessary for a minister to speak of, and for a Christian likewise to hear of. First, for the matter of our preaching, that we are to preach this principally, and to make people sensible of this point more especially above any other, because the hinge of the gospel turns upon this point, and we are ministers of the gospel. Secondly, for the order of our preaching, to do all in reference to this; then we preach Christ crucified, not only when we discourse of this argument for the particular subject of it, but likewise when we preach of such points as are introductive and preparatory hereunto, or which are superstructed and founded hereupon. Thirdly, for the manner of our preaching, we then preach Christ crucified, when we preach Christ and the doctrine of Christ in a grave and sober fashion; this is clear by the opposition which the apostle Paul himself there sets (1 Corinthians 2:2), where he sets this preaching of Christ crucified as opposite to the excellency of human speech. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

Preaching Christ

The expression means--

I. To preach his doctrines. If I say that Newton is taught in our universities, I mean his doctrines are taught; and to preach Christ crucified is to preach His doctrines (Acts 15:21). For example, the world says, Resent an injury; Christ says, Forgive your enemies. If, therefore, we preach forgiveness, are we not thereby preaching Christ, even though no distinct mention may be made of His Divinity, or of the doctrine of the Atonement? The world says, Indulge your inclinations; Christ says, Be pure in the last recesses of your mind. He, then, who lives a pure life is teaching Christ, even though he may not on every occasion name Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Epistle of St. James, there is not one word respecting the Atonement; hut if we work out the truths contained in them we preach Christ.

II. Preaching truth in connection with a person; it is not merely purity, but the Pure One; not merely goodness, but the Good One, that we worship. Observe the advantages of this mode of preaching.

1. It makes religion practical.

2. It gives us something to adore, for we can adore a person, but we cannot adore principles.

III. Preaching surrender to the will of God. St. Paul would not preach Christ the conqueror, but Christ the crucified, Christ the humble. You may know a man when once you know what it is he worships. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Preaching Christ and preaching the times

Archbishop Leighton was once publicly reprimanded for not “preaching up the times.” “Who,” he asked, “does preach up the times?” It was answered that all the brethren did. “Then,” he rejoined, “if all of you preach up the times, you may surely allow one poor brother to preach up Christ and eternity.” (Principal Edwards.)

Christ crucified

We have here--

I. A gospel rejected.

1. By the Jew. A respectable man the Jew was in his day; all formal religion was concentrated in his person. To him the fact that Jesus was the carpenter of Nazareth was proof positive that He was not the Messiah. He bow to the Nazarine! Accordingly, he turned a deaf ear to Paul. Farewell, old Jew. Alas! that Christ who was thy stumbling block shall be thy Judge. But I am going to find out the Jew here. You, too, have a religion which you love--so far as the outside goes. When I tell you that all your going to the house of God, your singing and praying, all pass for nothing if your heart is not right with God, the Cross becomes a stumbling block. Another specimen of the Jew is thoroughly orthodox; he thinks nothing of forms and ceremonies. Here, up in this dark attic of the head, his religion has taken up its abode; he has a best parlour down in his heart, but his religion never goes there. He has money in there, worldliness, self-love, pride; and accordingly when once you begin to strike home, and let him see what he is by nature, and what he must become by grace, the man cannot stand that.

2. By the Greek. He is a person of quite a different exterior to the Jew. He does not care for the forms of religion. He appreciates eloquence; He admires a smart saying; he likes to read the last new book; and to him the gospel is foolishness. He is thoroughly wise. Ask him anything, and he knows it. If you are a Mahomedan he will hear you very patiently. But if you talk to him of Christ, “Stop your cant,” he says, “I don’t want to hear anything about that.” This Greek gentleman believes all philosophy except the true one; he studies all wisdom except the wisdom of God. Once when I saw him, he told me he did not believe in any religion at all; and that it was best to live as nature dictated. Another time he spoke welt of all religions, and believed they were all right in their place; and that if a man were sincere, he would be all right at last. I told him I did not think so, and he said I was a bigot. Another time I discussed with him a little about faith. He said, “Right; that is true Protestant doctrine.” But presently I hinted something about free grace; but that was to him foolishness. Ah, wise man, thy wisdom will stand thee here, but what wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan?

II. The gospel triumphant. “Unto us who are called” &c. Yonder man rejects the gospel, despises grace, and laughs at it as a delusion. Here is another who laughed at it too; but God brought him to his knees. The Jew and the Greek shall never depopulate heaven. The choirs of glory shall not lose a single songster by all the opposition of Jews and Greeks. John Bunyan says, “The hen has two calls, the common cluck, which she gives hourly, and the special one which she means for her little chickens.” So there is a general call to every man; the other is the children’s call. You know how the bell sounds over the workshop to call the men to work--that is a general call. The father goes to the door and calls out, “John, it is dinner-time!”--that is the special call. The call which saves, is like that of Jesus, when He said, “Mary,” and she said unto Him, “Rabboni”; when He said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” and “Zaccheus, come down.” I cannot give the special call; God alone can give it, and I leave it with Him.

III. The gospel admired; unto us who are called of God, it is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. This must be a matter of pure experience. If you are called of God this morning, you will know it. I do not understand how a man can be killed and then made alive again and not know it.

1. The gospel is to the true believer a thing of power. What is it that makes the young man devote himself as a missionary to the cause of God? What is it that constrains yonder minister, in the midst of the cholera, to stand by the bed of one who has that dire disease? And what emboldens that timid female to go through that den of thieves? It is the power of the gospel. But I behold another scene. A martyr is hurried to the stake; the flame is lighted up. What makes him stand unmoved in the flames? The power of the Cross. Behold another scene. There is no crowd there; it is a silent room. There is a poor pallet, and a young girl lying on it, her face blanched by consumption. Joan of Are was not half so mighty as that girl. Hear her sing: “Jesus! lover of my soul,” &c., as she shuts her eye on earth, and opens it in heaven. What enables her to die like that? The power of Jesus crucified.

2. To a believer the gospel is the perfection of wisdom, and if it appear not so to the ungodly, it is because of the perversion of their judgment. It has been the custom to talk of infidels as men of great intellect. But this is a mistake; for the gospel is the sum of wisdom; a treasure-house of truth. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind. It confers wisdom on its students. A man who is a lover of the truth, as it is in Jesus, is in a right place to follow with advantage any other branch of science. Once when I read books, I put all my knowledge together in confusion; but ever since I put Christ in the centre, each science has revolved round it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ crucified

The Cross is the preacher’s theme. In all ages and lands this theme of the apostle has lent to the preacher’s voice the most thrilling tones, and to his spirit the deepest earnestness. Preaching is man’s wisdom as well as God’s. It is the simplest, wisest, most natural, and most effectual way of lodging our beliefs in the hearts and consciences of men. But among all preachers in all ages the preachers of the Cross stand pre-eminent. The Cross stirs the heart, chains the spirit, as no other theme in this universe can do.

I. “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” “Jews and Greeks.” These are not names of the past. The world still divides itself thus in its moral aspects.

1. The Jews require a sign. Two thoughts were ever clashing in the Jewish mind. The earlier splendours of their national history, and their present bondage and shame. The restorer of the kingdom of Israel was the national description of the expected deliverer; but when they saw that the only empire Christ cared for was over the hearts and consciences of men--that there was no chance of a national restoration, they turned from Him. But He knew how little earth would be helped by the establishment of such a society as the Jews were dreaming of. There is many a man in a popular tumult who will throw up his cap and shout “Liberty!” whose notion of liberty is the grossest licentiousness or the sternest tyranny. And many a Jew would attend a triumphal progress, and rend the air with Hosannas, who, when he heard of an inward moral reformation as the first act of obedience, would change his cry to “Crucify Him!” I take the Jewish “seeking for a sign” as the representative of that seeking for an outward regeneration of society which has lived in the hearts of the men of this world in all ages. Socialism is its most modern manifestation. The hope that if society were rearranged, property redivided, and a fair start given to all, man would be blessed. “The difficulty lies not there,” say the preachers of the gospel: “your hearts need the cure, not your circumstances.” The Jews “sought a sign,” a hint even, that Jesus was anything like what their fancies pictured; and when He gave no sign but His shameful Cross, they shouted, “Better Caesar than He.” And the world is full of sign-seekers. Men looking for redemption, but misconceiving utterly its nature. French republics, New Jerusalems, all mean the same thing. Men expect that God will begin from without instead of from within.

2. The Greeks seek after wisdom. The Greeks represent those who try by searching to find out God. Greek intellect was hopelessly baffled in the search. Blank atheism was the result of it in all the philosophic schools. An altar to the unknown God kept up the memory of the effort in the mind of the populace; but every thinker on earth had been brought, in the absence of revelation, to the bewildered question of Pilate “What is truth?” Some said, “There is such a thing, but man can have no hope of finding it.” Some said, “Tush! there is no such thing in the universe at all.” That a tale of a crucified man in an obscure and dishonoured country should be what they had been fruitlessly seeking for ages was an insult to their understandings. In them was the same radical indisposition to accept a gospel which demanded an inward and spiritual change. It was only after long battles that intellect, with broken wing, fell bleeding on the bosom of revelation, and healed her wounds and renewed her life at the once hated symbol of the Cross. But intellect is essentially restless. In every age the battle is renewed, and has to be fought out with varying success. And in this age the wisdom-seekers are rampant, proclaiming that not from God, but from man must be asked the question, “What must I do?”--that our own nature, honestly treated, will supply all that is needful; that the Cross is an insult to the wisdom and benignity of the Father; that Jesus is the first of men--an admirable pattern, but that they dream who say, “He is made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Far easier, far pleasanter to the eye is it, to seek after wisdom than to seek after holiness.

II. We preach Christ crucified. Read Romans 3:21; Romans 5:1-11; Romans 6:3-11; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Corinthians 15:45-57. In Christ crucified the following facts are set forth as the gospel--

1. The love of the Father in the sacrifice of the Son. Philip had a much deeper meaning than he was perhaps conscious of when he said, “Show us the Father.” None of the gods of heathendom contented heathendom, for they could not show the Father, they did not know what fatherhood meant; but those men had a mighty gospel who could say, “God so loved the world,” &c. We tell you not what God ought to be or do, or may be expected to do, but what God has done. “Behold Christ Jesus and Him crucified!” There God unveils His character--reveals His heart. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” Jew seeking after a sign, Greek groping after wisdom, turn hither--“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.” Is this truth folly or wisdom? Is it weakness or power? Is life worth less to the man who knows that the Father loveth him, or is it worth more? And the world, is it better or worse for the belief that God loves it, and will, by love’s sure purpose, redeem it to Himself? Get that belief into the heart of the world, your dream is fulfilled--your golden age is restored!

2. The redemption wrought by the work of the Son. The picture of humanity which God beholds is that of bondsmen, bound to an alien and usurping power. The evidence of this condition, it meets us everywhere. Sin had entered into the world, sin had mastered it; God entered into it to break the bonds of sin and restore the world to itself and to Him. Is it nothing that the preachers of this gospel should cry to souls hopeless of victory, Liberty! a man has conquered, a man has lived free from sin; a man whose spirit can so chain your spirit by its living attraction as to ensure to you the victory too? The public justice of the universe is satisfied, its law illustrated and magnified, and the sinner, conscience-stricken, but beginning to cherish the hope of restoration, is satisfied that a God of holiness, of justice, will still be honoured, while he, the guilty, is saved! Men laughed, and called it folly; but hell trembled, Satan cowered, for they understood the attraction of the Cross. Satan’s Conqueror cried out, “It is finished,” and committed to such hands as Paul’s the standard of the Cross, who cried, “I preach Christ crucified,” &c.

3. The glory won by the suffering and Cross of Jesus, which is to illumine heaven eternally (Philippians 2:6-11). The sun is the centre of the world of nature; the Cross, of the world of spirit. But here is a strange contradiction. The sun is the most glorious object in creation, it fills all heaven with its splendour; but the Cross is to all men naturally an object of dread and aversion, and is associated with shame, agony, and death. But just as the sun has for ages proved itself the centre of our world of nature, the Cross has proved itself the centre of the world of spirit, has chained the most mighty and onward spirits to its orbit (Revelation 5:6-10). Here, mark you, is the most splendid picture of heaven which is anywhere painted; yet this must mean that the Cross, far from fading from sight when the veil falls over earth’s sad history, remains the object of interest, the centre of attraction through eternity. That this must be so will appear to us if we consider--

1. The Cross must remain for ever the manifestation of the depth, the tenderness, the mightiness of the love of God.

2. While the Cross shall be to the saints for ever the bond of fellowship with their risen and glorified Lord, the Lord Himself, while He remembers the Cross as the instrument of His agony, beholds it as the fountain of glory and of bliss. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Christ crucified

I. The doctrine. Christ crucified.

1. The light.

2. The hope.

3. The law of the world.

II. Its offensiveness.

1. A stumbling block.

2. Foolishness.

III. Its triumphs--in them that believe.

1. The power of God.

2. The wisdom of God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christ crucified

It is a very strange conjunction of words--the Anointed of God crucified. Yet for this very purpose He was anointed, and our preaching is the preaching of “Christ,” that is the glory of His Person; but it is “Christ crucified” that is in the ignominy and shame of His suffering. In dividing the text we will take each word.

I. A word of position--“But.”

1. It is not everybody that does this; others have other things to do.

2. The “but” seems to suggest opposition, viz., the contentions which prevailed at Corinth. What are we to do when we find people quarrelling? If we are wise we shall let them alone, and say through it all, “But we preach Christ crucified.” I have known a Church divided into as many divisions as there were members, and there has come a warm-hearted Christian man who has just preached Christ crucified, and somehow before they knew it the members melted into one.

3. The “but” seems to me, however, to have reference to the very wise people to whom the Cross was foolishness. They were “abreast of the times,” they “kept pace with progress,” so they preached Christ so improved that it was no longer the gospel, but “another gospel.” I like Paul’s grand way of teaching the Gnostics, or the knowers; he joined the “know-nothings,” for he says, “I determined not to know anything among you save Christ and Him crucified.” “Let these Gnostics preach what they like, but we preach Christ crucified.”

4. We know some brethren whose religion consists always in mending the religion of others. You may be preaching niceties of doctrine, of theories, of prophecy, &c., while what is wanted is the cure for the souls of men who are perishing for lack of knowledge, and the knowledge that they want is wrapped up in these two words, “Christ crucified.”

5. And had Paul been here he would have made some remark about the superstitions of this age, for there be some that seem to think God is best honoured by buildings of gorgeous architecture, and by sumptuous services. Our friend has built a reredos, has decorated a holy table, has prepared the chancel, and thinks he has brought back mediaeval Christianity; but we preach Christ crucified.

II. A word of personality--“We.” Why do we do it? Because--

1. He saved us. We cannot help preaching this, because every day it is the rest and refuge, the joy and the delight of our souls.

2. He inspires us. We preach Christ crucified, because years ago He laid His hand upon us, and said, “Go, preach My gospel.”

3. It seems the masterpiece of God. Heaven and earth are full of His majesty, and both in nature and providence we learn to adore the ever-present and eternal One. But in Immanuel, God with us, there is most of God.

4. We are fools, as the enemy says.

III. A word of action “We preach,” or proclaim as heralds. We are trumpeters for Christ, we go before Him to prepare His way. Hence, some have said the preacher ought to preach principally the second Advent. Undoubtedly; but first he should be able to say, “we preach Christ crucified,” not “we preach Christ glorified.” Because to preach means to proclaim, therefore we proclaim Christ as King. Submit yourselves unto Him. It is not a matter of choice with you. It is not “Will you elect some king?” but “He is King; submit to Him.” Neither are we called upon to adorn Christ crucified. I think we are getting into great mistakes about sermons sometimes. Gild gold, and lay your colours on the lily, but let Christ alone, and if you cannot do anything but just tell simply the story of the love of God in providing an atonement, do tell it and leave those fine words at home.

IV. The two last words--“Christ crucified.”

1. Preach all of Christ. When Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified,” he seems to me to say, “We preach the most objectionable part of Christ.” I like a Christian man that preaches all he believes. “Now, Paul, this is very unwise of you. There is a Jewish gentleman, a man of large means; if we could get him into the Church he might very likely build a chapel, and you preached Christ. And then there was a Greek gentleman. Now, why did you not preach Christ in His glory, or say little about Him? We cannot expect to get these Jewish and Greek friends converted to us, if we will stiffly remain by the old orthodoxy. The whole current of thought leads you to believe that there is a great deal in Mahomedanism and Brahminism, and it is a great pity to push these distinctive points so very far.” I fancy I hear anybody saying that to Paul! Did we come here to please men? I charge you never needlessly offend anybody; but if the truth offend anybody, let them be offended; for it is much better to offend all the world than to offend your Master.

2. As we preach all of Christ, so this is all. But we have some other doctrines. Yes; but they are all relating to this. When you have said that, you have said everything.

3. We preach Him as all. That is all. If you are converted, all your salvation lies in Christ crucified. “Oh, but I want a new heart.” Go to Him for it. “Oh, but I want to feel my need.” He gives you this, as well as all the rest.

4. We will all preach Christ. “But we are not all ministers,” saith one. I hope you all preach Christ, you that are not ministers. A minister once said, “Now all of you must teach Jesus, and try to bring others to Christ; you must all tell what you know.” There was a black man in the gallery called out, “Dat will I do.” But his minister stopped, for Sam was the most ignorant member of the Church, and he said, “Sam, I do not mean you; because you do not know more than your A B C.” “Dat’s right, sar,” said he; “dere be some niggers don’t know A B C--Sam teach them dat.” You young converts that do not know much about Christ, you know something other sinners do not know. Go and tell that, and each bit you get go and tell them. You will learn it all the better by teaching it yourself.

5. We preach Christ crucified to all. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ crucified

I. We preach, i.e., proclaim, herald. Commonly, however, in the N.T., voice, in contradistinction to other agencies, is usually intended. “Faith cometh by hearing.” There are additional instrumentalities which have been greatly honoured. For instance, the gospel is printed. The press is a mighty power for good. Again, the gospel may be painted. Sermons have proceeded from studios as well as from studies, and the picture-gallery has illustrated impressively the glorious work of grace. Zinzendorf traced back his deepest convictions to the effect produced upon him by a representation of the crucified Saviour. And this is not marvellous. Look at the “Last Supper” of Leonardo; the “Transfiguration” of Raphael; or, the “Light of the World” by Holman Hunt. Are you unmoved by them? Nevertheless, it is chiefly by speech that the mind is reached and the heart touched. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” An experienced missionary has remarked, “I have never seen a Chinaman weep over a book; but I have seen a Chinaman weep under a sermon.” We have the sermons of George Whitfield and the orations of Edward Irving, and the reason why you are not affected as others were is because they heard, whereas you only read.

II. We preach christ--Paul habitually called the attention of his hearers to a Person. “We preach Christ”: Christ as He was, the one perfect and finished offering for human sin: Christ as He is, the Mediator between God and man; Christ as He will be, the Judge of every creature. In adopting such a course the apostles followed the Master Himself. Christ preached Christ. “I say,” “I am,” “I do,” “I will”: how often did these words fall from His lips! No prophet dared to speak as He spoke. The power of this Christian ministry is in the presentation, not simply of great truths, but of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.

III. We preach Christ crucified. Because--

1. Christ crucified reveals God. “Hereby perceive we the love of God.” Write the biography of Columbus and say nothing of America, speak of Caxton and be silent about printing, allude to Wyckliffe and ignore the Reformation, then may we preach Christ and forget Christ crucified.

2. Christ crucified restores man. So Paul found. He spoke from experience. A North-American Indian was asked the means by which he and his brethren became Christians. The answer was: “A preacher came once, and desiring to instruct us, began by proving that there was a God. On which we said to him, ‘Well! and dost thou think that we are ignorant of that? Now go again whence thou earnest.’ Another preacher appeared and said, ‘Ye must not steal, ye must not lie,’ &c. We answered him, ‘Dost thou think that we do not know that? Go and learn it first thyself, and teach the people that thou belongest to not to do these things.’ Some time after this, Christian Henry, one of the brethren, came to me in my hut, and sat down by me and said: ‘I come to thee in the name of the Lord of heaven and earth. He acquaints thee that He would gladly save thee, and rescue thee from the miserable state in which thou liest. To this end He became Man, hath given His life for mankind, and shed His blood for them!’ Upon this he lay down on a board in my hut, and fell asleep, being fatigued with his journey. I thought what manner of man is this? There he lies and sleeps so sweetly. I might kill him immediately, and throw him out into the forest, and who would care for it? But he is unconcerned. However, I could not get rid of his words; and though I went to sleep I dreamed of the blood which Christ had shed for us. Thus, through the grace of God, the awakening among us took place.” What a lesson to all Christian workers! Behold the secret of power. Christ crucified is the world’s hope. (T. R. Stevenson.)

The crucifixion of Christ

I. Was most bitter and painful.

II. Was most vile and shameful. Never by the Romans legally inflicted upon freemen, but only upon slaves. There is in man’s nature an abhorrency of disgraceful abuse no less strong than are the little antipathies to pain. Whence it is not marvellous that as a transcendently good man, Christ was affected by those occurrences so mightily, according to that ejaculation in the Greek liturgies--“By Thy unknown sufferings, O Christ, have mercy on us.”

III. Had in it some particular advantages conducing to the accomplishment of our Lord’s principal design.

1. Its being very notorious and lasting a competent time. For if He had been privately made away, or suddenly despatched, no such great notice would have been taken of it, nor would it have been so fully proved to the confirmation of our faith and conviction of infidelity; nor would His excellent deportment under such affliction have so illustriously shone forth; wherefore Divine providence did so manage, that as the course of His life, so also the manner of His death should be most conspicuous and remarkable.

2. By this kind of suffering the nature of that kingdom which He intended to erect was evidently signified--a kingdom purely spiritual, consisting in she government of men’s hearts. No other kingdom could He be presumed to design, who submitted to this way of suffering.

3. By such a death God’s special providence was discovered, and His glory illustrated in the propagation of the gospel. Thereby “the excellency” of Divine power and wisdom was much glorified: by so impotent and improbable means, accomplishing so great effects.

4. This kind of suffering to the devout fathers did seem in many ways significant, or full of instructive and admonitive emblems.

IV. Corresponded to the prophecies and types foreshadowing it.

V. As applicable to our practice. No contemplation is more efficacious towards the sanctification of our hearts and lives than this; for what good affection may not the meditation on it kindle? what virtue may it not breed and cherish in us?

Since there he such excellent uses and fruits of the Cross borne by our blessed Saviour, we can have no reason to be offended at it or ashamed of it. (I. Barrow, D. D.)

The Cross of Christ

Note--

I. Its simplicity.

1. It was characteristic of the Jews to demand signs or portents. The especial sign which they sought was that of some manifestation of the Shekinah to encompass the Messiah. But the tendency was more general: it was the craving for the marvellous which still characterises Oriental nations, which appears in the licence of Arabian invention and credulity, and which among the Jews reached its highest pitch in the extravagant fictions of Rabbinical writers. The proverb “Credat Judaeus” shows the character which they had obtained amongst the Romans for readiness to accept the wildest absurdities; and this disposition to seek for signs is expressly commended in the Mishna. To a certain extent this tendency is met by the gospel miracles (John 2:11; Acts 2:22). Yet on the whole it was discouraged (Matthew 16:4; John 4:48). And what is thus intimated in the Gospels is here followed out by the apostle. In answer to the demand for signs, he produced the least dazzling, the least miraculous part of Christ’s career. The more ample we suppose the evidence for the Gospel miracles, or the more portentous their nature, so much more striking is the testimony of Christ and His apostles to the truth that it is not on them that the main structure is to be built.

2. This simplicity was also a rebuke to the intellectual demands of the Greek. The subtlety of discussion which had appeared in the numerous schools of Greek speculation, and which appeared afterwards in the theological divisions of the fourth and fifth centuries, needed not now, as in the time of Socrates, to be put down by a truer philosophy, but by something which should give men fact instead of speculation, flesh and blood instead of words and theories. Such a new starting point was provided by the apostle’s constant representation of the crucifixion. Its outward form was familiar to them; it was for them now to discover its inward application to themselves.

II. Its humiliation. In order to enter into the force of this, we must picture a state of feeling which, in part from the effect produced on the world by this very passage and the spirit which it describes, is entirely removed from our present experience. Not only is the outward symbol of the Cross glorified in our eyes by the truth of the religion which it represents, but the very fact of the connection between Christianity and humiliation is one of the proofs of its Divine excellence. But at its first propagation, as now in parts of the world external to Christendom, it was far otherwise. The crucifixion was and is a “scandal” to the Jews as a dishonour to the Messiah. Christ has been called by them in derision “Toldi,” “the man who was hanged”; and Christians, “the servants of him who was hanged.” And in the Koran, the supposed ignominy of the crucifixion is evaded by the story that the Jews, in a judicial blindness, crucified Judas instead of Christ, who ascended from their hands into heaven. The same objection was felt by the educated Greeks and Romans; encumbered as Christianity then was in their eyes with associations so low. Nothing shows the confidence of the apostle more strongly than the prominence he gives to a teaching so unpopular. Philippians 2:5-8 contains the prophecy of the triumph of Christianity not only in spite, but by means of this great obstacle. And now the Cross is enshrined in our most famous works of art, in our greatest historical recollections, in our deepest feelings of devotion. The society which consisted almost exclusively in the first instance of the lower orders, has now embraced within it all the civilisation of the world. (Dean Stanley.)

The Atonement adapted to all

There is a want in the human mind which nothing but the Atonement can satisfy, though it may he a stumbling block to the Jew, and foolishness to the Greek. In the words of Henry Rogers: “It is adapted to human nature, as a hitter medicine may be to a patient. Those who have taken it, tried its efficacy, and recovered spiritual health, gladly proclaim its value. But to those who have not, and will not try it, it is an unpalatable potion still.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

En touto nika

The foolishness of God? The weakness of God? Can God be weak? Can God be foolish? No, says St. Paul. For so strong is God that His very weakness, if He seems weak, is stronger than all mankind. So wise is God, that His very foolishness, if He seems foolish, is wiser than all mankind. Why, then, talk of the weakness of God, of the foolishness of God, if He be neither weak nor foolish? St. Paul did not say these ugly words for himself. The Jews, who sought after a sign, the Greeks, who sought after wisdom, said them. There are men who say them now. Now, how is this?

I. The jews required a sign; a sign from heaven; a sign of God’s power. Thunder and earthquakes, armies of angels, taking vengeance on the heathen; these were the signs of Christ which they expected. And all that St. Paul gave them was a sign of Christ’s weakness. Then said the Jews--This is no Christ for us. Then answered St. Paul--Weak? I tell you that what seems to you weakness is the very power of God. Weak, shamed, despised, dying, He is still Conqueror; and He will at last draw all men to Himself. What seems to you weakness is the very power of God;” the power of suffering all things, that He may do good: and that that will conquer the world, when riches and glory, and armies, aye, the very thunder and the earthquake, have failed utterly.

II. The greeks sought after wisdom. They expected Paul to argue with them on cunning points of philosophy; and all he gave them seemed mere foolishness. He could have argued with these Greeks, for he was a great scholar and a true philosopher, but he would not. What you need, and what they need, is not philosophy, but a new heart and a right spirit. Then know this, that God so loved you that He condescended to become man, and to give Himself up to death, even the death of the Cross, that He might save you from your sins. And to that, those proud Greeks answered--The cross? Tell your tale to slaves, not to us. To give Himself up to the death of the cross is foolishness, and not the wisdom which we want. Then answered St. Paul, True, the cross is a slave’s and a wretch’s death; and therefore slaves and wretches will hear me, though you will not (verses 26-31). You Greeks, with all your philosophy, have been trying for hundreds of years to find out the laws of heaven and earth, and to set the world right by them; and you have not done it. You have not even set your own hearts and lives right. But what your seeming wisdom cannot do, the seeming foolishness of Christ on His Cross will do. That what seems to you foolishness is the very wisdom of God. Know, that when all your arguments and philosophies have failed to teach men what they ought to do, one earnest, penitent look at Christ upon His Cross will teach them. And out of them shall spring that Church of Christ, which shall reign over all the world, when you and your philosophies have crumbled into dust. Conclusion:

1. Let us learn--

2. Do you wish to be powerful? Then look at Christ upon His Cross; at what seems to men His weakness; and learn from Him how to be strong. Do you wish to be wise? Then look at Christ upon the Cross; and at what seemed to men His folly; and learn from Him how to be wise. For sooner or later, I hope and trust, you will find that true which St. Buonaventura (wise and strong himself) used to say, That all the learning in the world had never taught.him so much as the sight of Christ upon the Cross. (G. Kingsley, M. A.)


Verse 24

1 Corinthians 1:24

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

The offence and success of the Cross

God will always so ordain it in His providence that some shall at all times welcome His gospel. First, for the accomplishment of His own elect. Secondly, God will also have it for the honour of His own truth, and the doctrine itself which is delivered. Thirdly, for the encouragement of the labours of His own servants and ministers which are employed in preaching the gospel. This observation should accordingly be improved by those which are ministers to quicken them in their work; forasmuch as there where God calls them, He will more or less be assistant to them. Secondly, observe this, that a minister for the success of his doctrine is especially to consider how it takes with those which are most godly and religious; thus does the apostle Paul here, he does not so much trouble himself to think how it was accepted of those Jews and Greeks, but how it was to them which were “called.” The ground hereof is this: First, because such as these they have best skill and judgment in the work; every one studies rather to approve himself in any business which he undertakes to workmen rather than to bunglers. Secondly, such as these they come to the Word freest from prejudice and carnal affection. A drunkard will never like that preacher that presses sobriety, nor an adulterer him that preaches for chastity. Thirdly, those which are godly and effectually called are most to be regarded for their entertainment of the work, because they are most intended in the work itself. This condemns the contrary disposition and practice of many who more consider how their doctrine takes and is accepted of those which are great and wise and mighty in the world, than how it takes with those which are good and pious. We come now to the words more closely in themselves, “But unto them which are called,” &c., where we have these two parts chiefly considerable. First, the success of the gospel considered simply in itself, “Christ the power of God,” &c. Secondly, the parties to whom it is thus laid down two manner of ways. First, in their personal qualification, “To them which are called.” Secondly, in their national qualification, “both Jews and Greeks.” To these it is thus effectual and successful. We begin first of all with the parties; and that first of all in their personal qualifications. “To them which are called.” For the further opening of it to you there are these three things especially considerable of us in it. First, the Author of it who it is that calls. That is no other than God himself. Thus in 1 Corinthians 1:9 of this present chapter, “God is faithful by whom ye were called,” &c, And 2 Thessalonians 2:14 --“Whereunto He called you by our gospel,” speaking of God. And 2 Peter 1:3 --“Through the knowledge of Him that hath called us”; he speaks of God still. It is God and He alone that is the Author of our effectual calling. Therefore let us learn to give Him the praise and glory of all, “and show forth the virtues of Him that hath called us.” And let us look upon His call as the spring and fountain of all the good which comes from us. First, freely of His own accord, none moving or persuading Him hereunto. And secondly, sweetly in the preservation of the natural liberty of the will in the exercise of it. And thirdly, yet strongly in an irresistible drawing of the heart to the embracing of His heavenly motions. Secondly, for the subjects of this calling, who they are which are called; this we have from God to be only the elect (Romans 8:30). This now accordingly takes it off from any personal qualification in ourselves as to be the original and cause hereof unto us. And this for the subjects of this calling, who they are; for the general, they are the elect. The third is the terms from whence, and to which. This the Scripture sets forth unto us in sundry expressions, as first from darkness to light (Colossians 1:12-13). From the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). From the world to the fellowship of Christ and the saints (1 Corinthians 1:9). From a state of hell, and wrath, and death, to a state of life, and peace, and salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). These are the terms from whence and to which. And this sets forth unto us the excellency and dignity of our calling considered in itself. I come now to them in the second place, in their natural qualification both Jews and Greeks; this must be taken in connection with the former reference. The apostle had in the verse before laid a disparagement upon such, as concerning their rejection and ill entertainment of the gospel, affirming it to be to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness. Now that he might not be here mistaken as condemning these whole nations at large, he here qualifies this censure. “But unto them which are called both Jews and Greeks,” &c. In the laying of censures at any time upon a community of persons, whether nations or societies of men, we must take heed while we find fault with some, that we do not indefinitely condemn all. This restriction is requisite, first, to prevent discouragement in the condemned, that so we may not trouble the minds of those which are innocent. Not break the bruised reed, &c. Secondly, to prevent scandal in the standers by, and that others may not be offended at them for it. Thirdly, to prevent injustice in ourselves, and that we may not give wrong judgment. This does, therefore, meet with the rashness or malice of many persons in this particular; ye shall have some people so to condemn an whole company, as that they spare none at all in it. But to speak more particularly to the words, “To them which are called both Jews and Greeks.” We see here that God has His numbers, and portion, more or less in all people and nations without any difference. This may be made good unto us from these considerations. First, both Jew and Gentiles they are the subjects of God’s election. Secondly, Christ died for both. They have both alike interest in Christ. Thirdly, they have both alike interest in the gospel and means of salvation; this was cleared by Peter’s going to Cornelius (Acts 11:17-18). The consideration of this present point is thus far useful unto us, as it teaches us two things--First, to pray for the calling and conversion of the Jews. And secondly, to pray for the accomplishment and fulness of the Gentiles. But then again a little further, these words may be here taken, not only in an historical sense, but in a moral; not only as spoken particularly of these two nations, the Jews and the Greeks, but likewise as spoken of such persons as were noted either for simplicity or wisdom--the Jews being notorious for their stupidity, and the Greeks famous for their learning. And so there is this in it, that God has His lot and portion amongst learned and unlearned both; there is no exception in point of conversion. The ground hereof still is this, the good pleasure and will of God, who is no respecter of persons. Therefore let those which are unlearned not here excuse themselves. Again for those which are learned, let them not rest themselves in their human learning. Now the second is the success of this preaching itself, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”; where we may observe how as the apostle crossed these Jews and Greeks in what they desired, so also he did in a sort comply with them. Christ is to them which are called both the wisdom and power of God. First, He is so absolutely, and considered simply in Himself in the whole office of His mediatorship. For the power of God, first, this showed itself--First, in His incarnation, when He was born of a pure virgin. Secondly, in His crucifixion and death. Thirdly, in His resurrection (Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 13:4). Fourthly, in His ascension and coming to judgment (Mark 14:62; Matthew 24:30). Lastly, as in that which was done upon Him, so also which was done by Him (Matthew 28:18). Thus was Christ the power of God. Secondly, He was the wisdom of God; as God in Him did show forth His wisdom, and as in Him were hid all the treasures both of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). And here Christ was the wisdom of God in divers explications. As--First, in choosing such a fit and accommodate means for the reconciling of His justice and mercy both. Secondly, in choosing such an unlikely and unexpected means, and thereby confounding the wisdom of the world. Thirdly, in furnishing of Christ with all such gifts as were fitting Him to perform that office which He had laid upon Him. And thus was Christ both God’s power and wisdom considered absolutely in His own office. Secondly, He was so also relatively, in order and reference to believers, “To them which were called” He was the power and wisdom of God. First, I say He was so estimatively, in the apprehensions and opinions which they had of Him; they counted Him to be both the wisdom and the power of God. The reason of this is this, because that now after conversion men have a new understanding put into them, and see things with other eyes than they did before. Secondly, He is so to them which are called effectively, in that He has an answerable influence upon their persons, and that in each particular. First, He is the power of God to them (2 Corinthians 13:3), “Mighty in you.” And that again in sundry respects. First, in His death, the mortifying of their lusts (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6). Secondly, in His resurrection, for the raising them up again. First, corporally in their bodies (1 Corinthians 6:14). Secondly, spiritually in their souls (Colossians 2:12). Thirdly, Christ is powerful in believers for the conquering and overcoming of temptations, and fighting against principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:10-11). Fourthly, in enduring of afflictions, which without this power they could never sustain. Lastly, in final perseverance (1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:24). Thus is Christ the power of God to them. Secondly, He is the wisdom of God to them also in sundry respects likewise. First, in revealing to them the mind and will of God in those things which concern their salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30). Secondly, in giving them discretion to walk worthy of their heavenly calling, and to honour religion by their conversation. Thirdly, in giving them a spirit of discerning, to judge aright of persons, and times, and things. Lastly, in teaching them to number their days, and to consider their latter end (Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalms 90:12). (T. Horton, D. D.)

The power of God and wisdom of God

What was it in Christianity which mainly incensed the scribes and Pharisees? They disliked its simplicity, which contrasted with their ceremonial; its purity, which frowned on their dissoluteness; but what they above all detested was the Cross. Nor could the ignominy and agony which Jesus underwent of themselves be fascinating to any one. What was it, then, which induced so many to acknowledge in Christ crucified “the power of God and the wisdom of God”? I reply--

I. The humiliation of Christ was judicial. So His enemies professed to regard it. But they were not consistent in their accusations, and the sentence of Pilate has not been confirmed by man’s sense of justice. And yet justice was maintained in His death; and this maintenance of justice commends and endears His death to indebted followers. He was cut off, but not for Himself. But how can the sinless justly suffer for the sinful? As a matter of fact the effects of iniquity often fall upon the blameless. But is substitution so utterly excluded from our own forensic proceedings, that the very idea of it should be scoffed at? An established mode of punishment is by fine, but fines are often paid by proxy. If a culprit were languishing in a dungeon from inability to pay the sum demanded, and a friend paid it for him, the feeling would not be that righteousness had been outraged, but that law had been upheld while generosity was manifested and misery relieved. The clear doctrine of Scripture is that Christ’s sufferings were sacrificial (Hebrews 9:26). Here is a pathway for pardon in which justice itself shines resplendent, and is more honoured in clemency than by countless retributions. Here is a road for the sinful ascending to heaven, yet such as to discourage sin and render it infinitely detestable. And if such be the character and influence of the Saviour’s suffering, is not Christ crucified “the power of God and the wisdom of God”?

II. The humiliation of Christ was accompanied with manifestations of His dignity. Certainly His abasement was profound. And yet all this humiliation was suitable to dignity. His was that dignity that was often attacked, but never impaired: a dignity which appears, like a majestic edifice or sublime promontory seen at night, more vast and imposing for the gloom with which it is surrounded. And we never find the Son in circumstances of special abasement without some accompanying seal or token of Paternal acknowledgment and favour. Note the attendant circumstances of His birth, baptism, death, &c.

III. The humiliation of Christ, in its spirit and objects, infinitely transcends all other exhibitions of moral excellence and glory. View it--

1. In relation to the Sufferer. What filial obedience when He said, “The cup that My Father hath given Me shall I not drink it?” What fulfilment of righteousness when He met the claims of a broken law, and, contemplating it in all its magnitude, could say in expiring, “It is finished.” What friendship to sinners when He died for them to gain them admission into His glory.

2. In relation to our race. In this respect it is the grand manifestation of God’s love to man (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

3. In relation to its effects. Who can dispute their prodigious influence? They have visibly changed the aspect of the world. See the power of this love manifested in the apostle of the Gentiles. And this was but a single instance illustrative of countless multitudes. (D. King, LL. D.)

Christ--the power and wisdom of God

I. Personally. Christ considered as God and man is--

1. The power of God.

2. The wisdom of God.

II. In His gospel. That gospel is--

1. A thing of Divine power.

2. The wisdom of God. The intellects of Locke and Newton submitted to receive the truth of inspiration. What a vast amount of literature must be lost if the gospel be not true. No book was ever so suggestive as the Bible.

III. In the heart.

1. The power of God--

2. The wisdom of God. If you want to be a thoroughly learned man the best place to begin is to begin at the Bible, to begin at Christ. But wisdom is not knowledge, but the right use of knowledge; and Christ’s gospel helps us by teaching us the right use of knowledge. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christianity, the wisdom and power of God

The wisdom of any scheme is evinced by the excellency of its effects, and the simplicity and fitness of the means by which they are produced. Power is seen in the sure and easy overcoming of obstacles which lie in the way of success. Applying these tests to the scheme of redemption, by means of the atoning death of Christ, we shall see enough to satisfy us that in it we have a transcendent manifestation of the power of God and the wisdom of God. Consider the influence of Christianity upon--

I. The world at large.

1. The wisdom of God is seen in--

(a) If fraud or force, e.g., be used on its behalf, an injury and not a benefit is conferred upon it; for, being a religion of truth and love, it would be self-contradictory to suppose it capable of being aided either by falsehood or tyranny.

(b) As its aim is to regulate man’s whole being by spiritual principles and motives it can only interfere with this to mix up its appeals with anything which addresses itself to man’s carnal and earthly nature.

(c) As its great design is to erect in man’s soul an undivided empire for God, it is necessary that he shall be made to feel that it is not on the ground of eloquence or science, but on the ground of God’s word to him that his hopes of pardon and grace must rest.

(d) Who, then, does not see in the means employed an agency most wisely adapted to attain this end and no other? Had the apostles come working no miracles, the proof of their Divine commission would have been defective; had they wrought miracles more frequently, they would have incurred the risk of attaching to them a multitude who were attracted by their power, but had no real love for their doctrine. Had they been men of splendid abilities, they might have rested so much upon these as to hide from the people the purely Divine character of their doctrine and mission. Had they put themselves under the protection or sought to advance their cause by the resources of human power, the empire which they would have founded would not have rested simply on the basis of inherent worth of the doctrine they taught.

2. The power of God is seen in the obstacles it has overcome. These obstacles were of a kind which might well have discouraged any but men who felt that they were sustained by Omnipotence. When we think how hard it is to effect even a slight reform in some long established and corrupt system; how interest, fashion, and prejudice, and even sometimes the better feelings of our nature rise up against any attempts to displace time-honoured errors or usages: we may well admire the boldness of the apostles who went forth to overthrow all the religions that then enjoyed the homage of the race. And when we consider their fewness, illiteracy, and poverty, the unpretending character of their machinery and the repulsiveness to human pride of their doctrines; when we see all the learning, wealth, and power of the world forbidding their progress; when we see the kindling of the fires of persecution; and when we see how to meet all this they had no weapons but words, we may well stand in wonder at the courage which led the apostles of Christ to descend into the arena to do battle in His cause. But they knew perfectly what they were about. They knew that however humble the instrument, he becomes irresistible when the agent is the Almighty (verses 27, 28).

II. Upon individuals.

1. Here is a man who was once afar from God, resting on His righteous displeasure. Behold him now! He has been brought nigh to God; he has found the pardon of all his sin; and he waits but the summons of the Judge to enter His presence with a good hope of a triumphant acquittal at His bar. How transcendent the change in that man’s condition and character and prospects! And how simply has it all been brought about--by the mere reception and realisation of the truth concerning Christ and Him crucified! And in spite of what tremendous obstacles has this been achieved--obstacles from old habits of evil, and the strong tide of custom and fashion, and the incessant assaults of him who goeth about seeking whom he may deceive and destroy! Who can refuse to see in such things a supernatural agency?

2. In judging of this subject we should not forget that the redemption of the sinner is the raising of him to a higher state of being and of blessedness than that from which Adam fell. By the work of the gospel on his soul man is brought nearer to God; he is placed under higher motives to love and serve God; and he draws from the Divine favour restored a depth of joy which those who have never lost that favour cannot reach. How wonderful is this! Who can refuse to behold here the working of Him whose attribute it is “from seeming evil” to be “still educing good”--of Him who is “excellent in counsel” as well as “wonderful in working”? (W. L. Alexander, D. D.)

Preaching the Cross

An air of singular antithesis will be observed to pervade this passage, and the verses with which it is connected. The wisdom of the world is contrasted with the inscrutable wisdom of God; and its vaunted science with its own palpable folly, as evinced in an unnatural but universal ignorance of God. The things which it accounts to be foolishness are placed in honourable competition with those which it falsely reverences as wise. Again, the blind infatuation of the Jews is set over against the unprofitable curiosity of the Greeks; the prejudice of the one against the insolent derision of the other. By the text itself our attention is invited to a brief but most comprehensive delineation of the character and great subject of the apostolic ministry. It was the preaching of “Christ ,crucified.” And its subject was, net the truths of natural religion, not the precepts of moral virtue, but the work and glory of the Saviour, as inseparably associated with His own sufferings and death. Let us consider--

I. That aspect of repulsiveness and folly which the gospel has in every age presented to the greater portion of mankind. The attestations demanded for the establishment of a new religious system must obviously vary with the condition of those to whom they are presented. The greatest force of argument may be expended in vain if it comport not, in its form and bearing, with our habitudes of thought. There are two comprehensive classes into which human minds may, with reference to this design, be advantageously divided: such as are susceptible of being wrought on through the medium of external objects, and such as are affected chiefly by the force of abstract reason. Now, to these great classes there are specific forms of proof respectively adapted. There is the evidence we are accustomed to denominate external, consisting of accrediting signals and actual events--and that also which we call internal, namely, the reasonableness, congruity, utility, and moral fitness of systems, considered in themselves. Neither of these should be wanting in a religion that assumes to be Divine. The demand, therefore, referred to by the apostle, if made with intelligence and candour, could not have been disregarded. It was natural, and could not be wrong, that they should call, in the one case, for a sign, to show that an institute, in all its parts so singular, had truly the impress of divinity; and in the other for the manifestations of celestial wisdom, to evince that what was alleged to be revelation was beyond the reach of artifice and the power of falsehood. Their fault lay only in this. It was with perverted sentiments and obstinate preconceptions this demand was accompanied. Yet both these forms of evidence were amply and unitedly supplied. They who, with a mind open to conviction, had beheld the Saviour’s miracles, were awed by the revelation of His power. “We know,” said they, “that Thou art a Teacher sent from God; for no man can do those miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.” They who had listened candidly to His discourses were astonished at the discoveries of His superhuman wisdom, exclaiming, “Never man spake like this man.” In different instances, indeed, it would appear that each of these kinds of evidence alternately prevailed. It was probably the healing of the impotent man, rather than the preaching of Paul, which constrained the multitude at Lystra to exclaim, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” Yet in ordinary cases the internal evidence was inseparably linked with the external, and an answer equally provided for the satisfaction, or the silencing, whether of those who demanded a sign, or of those who sought after wisdom. Let us observe, further, the force of the term here employed to describe the method adopted in their publication of the gospel--“We preach”--proclaim, announce, in the manner of a herald, Him who was crucified at Jerusalem. We require of all men allegiance in His name; and, denouncing all rival pretensions, ascribe to Him an absolute dominion. We present these claims, not as subjects of debate, but of testimony. Our appeal is less to reason than to conscience, and more to the actual subjugation of the soul than either. And yet, as if the meanness of His outward circumstances had not been sufficiently opposed to all Jewish expectations, it was emphatically as “the Crucified” that they proclaimed Him. However easily they might have cast this fact into comparative obscurity, by dwelling on His inflexible constancy, His unparalleled benevolence, His heroic self-devotement, His resurrection; yet, disdaining all such evasions, they exultingly pointed to His crucifixion, now as a sacrifice, now as a triumph, and thus appeared to invite the united scorn and hatred of mankind. It is not easy adequately to conceive what amount of impulsive and imperious conviction must have been required, in that earlier age, to proclaim in this manner, as the Christ, one that had been crucified. To avow that belief, in the face of universal contempt, to defend it when its bare annunciation would seem an outrage on the very name of reason, must have demanded, I do not say a grandeur of moral heroism, but a strength and fixedness of persuasion, such as the world has rarely witnessed. But such as the gospel appeared to the Jews and Greeks of the first ages, such is still essentially its aspect, when viewed in its primitive and unsophisticated character, to multitudes in every country. They hate or they despise it for the same reasons. It presents to some of them a cause of offence and irritation; to others one of ridicule or proud neglect. There are the superstitious, who loathe its simplicity, and the speculative, who repel its practical requirements. As to the one class, it is too spiritual for their reliance on external ordinances, and far too humbling to flatter or confirm their self-dependence. As to the other, it is originally derived from a source unknown to all their wisdom, established by proofs not apprehensible by their investigations and experiments, and enforced by sanctions destructive of their vaunted freedom, recommended by inducements which appeal not to reason, but to faith. They may both conspire to acknowledge somewhat which they call by its name, but ,which has as little either of its native features, or its inherent energy. Elsewhere, though its doctrines are professed, its spirit is evaporated. In opposition, therefore, to all such attempts to modify or to disguise its character, we fearlessly allege the conduct of the first disciples. For it should never be forgotten that such as was the strength of their conviction, such, too, must have been the fulness of that proof by which it was sustained; and thus the measure of their confidence is the measure also of the credibility of the whole frame and fabric of the gospel. Thus, what was evidence to them will become, in a twofold manner, evidence to us; while we see, not only the belief in which it issued, but that actual and living character which belief, thus generated, was found in practice to create. Nor was their confidence misplaced. The gospel proved itself equal to every emergency, and adapted to every design. By this consideration we are led to examine--

II. Those transcendent manifestations of the Divine power and wisdom with which the gospel has been ever seen to be accompanied, by all who have rightly understood its principles, or imbibed its spirit. Let us endeavour, therefore, to form definite conceptions of the sense wherein the apostle intends to characterise the excellency of the gospel, when he calls it “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It is plain that there are two acceptations chiefly, wherein this statement may be understood, either as denoting that that gospel, and the great events which it makes known, constitute an eminent manifestation of God’s power and wisdom, or else that they are an instrument by which His power and wisdom are eminently found to operate. According as we determine on the one or the other of these applications, the great mediatorial scheme will be naturally brought into comparison with different portions of the Divine workmanship, to which it will be seen to possess different, though not incongruous, affinities; and the analogy of which to itself may aid us more precisely to apprehend, and more impressively to feel its import. If we select the former, the labour of human redemption will demand to be compared with those manifestations of the Creator’s agency presented in the structure of the physical universe, or else with those more exalted essences formed by His word out of nothing, angels and the spirits of men. If the latter, then we shall be taught to compare the doctrine of redemption, in its practical effects, with the inexhaustible energies of nature, and its numberless and nameless influences, in quickening, renewing, beautifying that wondrous frame, whether of sentient or material things, with which we are surrounded. By the one, our attention is directed to the work and process of redemption; by the other, to the tidings which proclaim it. It is the Saviour Himself on the Cross that, in the one, shines forth with all the glory of omnipotence, bearing the burdens of a guilty world; and in the other, it is His gospel, realising, through the grace of His Spirit, the sublime purpose of its renovation. Perhaps it is not necessary wholly to separate these references, or to decide so rigorously between them, as that either should be excluded in the observations that follow. If we think of the design which was effected and the objects attained upon the Cross, how jarring claims were readjusted in the Divine administration, how infernal principalities were overthrown, and evils were decisively suppressed; if we advert to the honour which was thus insured to the great Ruler, and the benefit acquired to His dominions, to the progress of His righteousness and mercy; if we see the curse that had blasted the earth, now arrested, we are ready to take up the language of the text in its first and simplest application, and to speak of the crucifixion of Messiah as the last and greatest of those wonders which are for ever revealed in the wisdom and the power of God. Or, if we examine the actual effects flowing from the proclamation of the gospel, and permanently signalising it as an instrument for the renewal of mankind, we shall be equally prepared to adopt, though in another sense, the sentiment before us. We speak not of its efficiency to ameliorate men’s secular condition. Our present reference is to consequences of a higher character; it is to those spiritual transformations, of which the gospel has ever, from the first ages, been everywhere productive. For the altars of: heathenism sank not alone; but the strongholds of sin within the soul were equally demolished. The night of falsehood was dissipated, and the phantoms of error” fled. The slumber of conscience was broken. The captivity of the affections was unloosed, and the imprisoned soul was invited to cast away her chains. The world was renewed around her. With the utmost justice, therefore, not less than with the utmost magnificence, may this doctrine of redemption be described under the appellations here employed; and it is not without reason that so eminent a place-is assigned it, when the apostle calls it by the names of those two great attributes which stand foremost in the array of the Divine perfections--wisdom and power. And it must be so; for without consummate wisdom a being of unlimited power would be most inapt to the control of numberless free and accountable agents; but without power equal to His intelligence, a being of infinite wisdom, baffled by His own designs, and lost in the immensity of His own purposes, would be supremely and infinitely miserable. Their combination in equal measure, therefore, as it is inseparable from His nature, is required alike in order to His rectitude and His felicity. Each has its own sphere of action, and each its standard of independent excellence, It is power which brings out of nothing; wisdom which arrays and beautifies. Power is the source of elements; wisdom, of affinities; power, of innate forces and undirected energies; wisdom, of useful adaptation s and beneficial results. Power might create a chaos; wisdom must fabricate a world. His power finds its witnesses in the lightning and the whirlwind; His wisdom, in those delicate and just proportions which fit the most destructive of elements to sustain and nourish life. Perhaps it is power which most astonishes us in the productions of nature; wisdom, which excites our greatest admiration in the disposals of providence; but the union of both, which we behold, with the sublimest ravishment, in the mystery of redemption. It is a high and sovereign exercise of power to pardon sin, but an arrangement of profoundest wisdom to make that pardon consistent with the honour of the Lawgiver, and the security of His dominion. Power might rescue; wisdom would redeem. We behold almighty power raising up from amongst the nations the ancestry of the Messiah, preserving His lineage unbroken through so many ages, and fulfilling, by continued miracle, what had once been uttered by an unalterable decree: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to Him shall the gathering of the people be.” But we discern not less of wisdom, so ordering all things by the cooperation of natural causes, that, when the long-looked-for Messiah actually came, the state, both of the world and of His own people, should be such as to insure His rejection, and to issue even in His death; and yet to make the consequences of His ministry the most extensively effectual, causing their tidings to spread and their influence to be experienced with the greatest speed and certainty, over every land. How illustriously is the agency of omnipotence revealed, when at length, though lifted up upon a Cross, He becomes the Conqueror of death, the Spoiler of the grave, the Deliverer of captive souls, and the Emancipator of an enslaved world! And yet, conspicuous as are these discoveries, the features of unerring and awful wisdom are at least equally discernible. It is the part of such wisdom to attain the greatest ends without profuse or ineffective expenditure; to restrain the premature disclosure of its objects; to provide, infallibly, against emergent occasions and contingent events; to neutralise opposition and hindrance; or to convert opponent forces into auxiliaries and useful allies; and thus to secure its results, in manner exempt from complication or embarrassment, as well as from ostentatious or unmeaning display. Now, in each of these is revealed “the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” in the process of redeeming mercy. We select but one further discovery of the union of these attributes as exhibited in the gospel, viz., in the practical effect of all upon the hearts and conduct of men. When God had created the matter of the globe, and was about to put the stupendous mass first into motion, there remained one problem as yet unresolved, on which its welfare and permanency were essentially dependent. It was this: What was that specific direction in which an impulse might be given which should originate, by the same act, those complicated yet inseparable movements which insure the perpetuity of its place in the general system, and the regularity of those changes which are demanded for its own immediate service? Here, then, was an occasion for the combined and equal manifestation both of power and wisdom. Neither could accomplish the purpose, separately from its fellow. Hence followed the sweet interchange of day and night, the grateful vicissitude of seasons, the admirable diversity of climate, soil, and temperature, the perpetual freshness of the air and ocean, the inexhaustible plenitude of life, its constant renovation, and its numberless diversity. All was secured in a moment, but destined to continue, without interruption or rest, until the same hand should interpose to stay its progress or to change its course. Such is the analogous phenomenon, but presented on a sublimer scale and in connection with more awful elements, in the world, not of matter, but mind, and in relation, not to the physical events of nature, but the destiny of the imperishable soul. The problem here was to determine what was that mighty impulse which, in one act, should combine all that was essential to its separate happiness with all that was necessary to the order of the moral universe; what that mysterious movement which, once impressed upon it, should for ever continue unexpended, securing the completeness of its nature, together with the perpetuity of its relations; how the energy of duty could be united with the calm of dependence; rectitude of action, with simplicity of trust; quenchless aspirations, with unresisting submission; the consciousness of perfect liberty, with the necessity of unceasing obedience. That impulse could be imparted only through the agency of love. All was effected by the Cross. And oh! what marvellous transformations attest the greatness of that one and all-commanding impulse! What beneficial consequences are insured through the whole compass of our spiritual existence! What rich and happy productions spring up together, to reveal both its energy and its design! Hence it is that love derives her flame, adoration her incense, gratitude her song, hope her fairest visions, fear her most purifying terrors, humility and patience their most permanent motives and firmest support. Reason here finds the loftiest inquiry, contemplation the sublimest object, memory the sweetest recollections. And thus the power of the Cross prevails to sanctify the whole character both of thought and action; just as the same sap which supplies the root with moisture becomes verdure in the foliage, fragrance and beauty in the flower. Sin is hence made, not so much to be shunned because it is dangerous as to be hated because it is unholy; while the performance of duty is secured rather by its congeniality with the tendencies of a renewed nature, than by its mere connection with the acquisition of happiness. And the manner in which these results are wrought out is one equally applicable to every order of intellect and every condition of society. Besides, the just and practical belief of these truths is far from being limited by the boundaries of their strictly intellectual revelation. They operate to save and purify, not because they are rational or beautiful, but because they are Divine; being in harmony with our whole spiritual nature, and proceeding from the same hand which has fashioned the constitution of our being. Many a voyager is therefore guided by these lights from heaven, by whom the wonders of their mechanism were never penetrated; and their “sweet influences” are often realised where their mystic glories are unknown. And now behold it in its not less wonderful effects upon our social affinities and conduct, and on the relation of the individual to the good of the whole. To soften barbarian ferocity, to refine the habits of the civilised, to strengthen the bands of human sympathy, and to entwine more firmly the links of universal brotherhood; these are the methods by which it insures an unrestricted diffusion, and an ever-widening control. Let us now attempt to deduce and apply to practical purposes.

III. The Reflections Which This Review Is, In Both Its Portions, Fitted To Supply.

1. It cannot, I think, be doubted that a sanguine calculator, judging from the rapidity and number of the first triumphs of the gospel, would have expected, before this period, its far more wide and unobstructed diffusion. “Such,” he might say, “were its effects when it began to be proclaimed among the nations. Why have those effects in so large a measure disappeared? But the calculation would be made in ignorance both of the gospel and of human nature. Behold what it is really accomplishing wherever it is faithfully and simply preached. Or let its results be estimated in their more essential character. The experience of twenty centuries has borne uniform testimony to this truth, that no other apparatus is adapted to the momentous work of human renovation; and that even where this is employed its efficacy depends, to a very large extent, on its application being unencumbered and alone.

2. It is natural to inquire, Has the Church been at all times duly considerate of the method in which only it might anticipate prosperity, in its efforts for the diffusion of the gospel, and how it might legitimately commend it to approbation and confidence? As a matter of Divine revelation, we should surely present it without addition or retrenchment. Even in its external accompaniments and the circumstances attendant on its ministration, we should preserve the same subordination of all things to the discovery of its native greatness. The stateliness of sumptuous buildings, and the splendours of a gorgeous ritual, are little in harmony with the religion of the Cross. The effulgent beauty of the gospel requires not, and its majesty forbids, such enhancements.

3. We cannot but admire the method adopted by the first advocates of Christianity to secure the diffusion of their principles, and thus learn in what manner to pursue the same object for ourselves. They presented them, as we have seen, with the directness of an unwavering and solemn proclamation. Must man be wooed into acquiescence, or enticed into belief, when it is not speculative principles, but stupendous facts, on which his redemption is suspended? Or must the gate of life be set open with the pomp of ceremony and the voice of music, before the outcast will condescend to enter it, though the avenger of blood is behind him and the sword of justice is already flaming and unsheathed? Besides, if we are to judge what might have been the result of such accommodation by its effect in modern times, the expedient is one presenting little claim to have been employed at such a period, or by instructors so prepared.

4. How powerful is the inducement, and how plain the directory, to seek for ourselves an interest in the blessings of this great salvation! If it be the production of such wisdom and power our hope can never be disappointed.

5. What a test is supplied in this description to ascertain whether we have truly received the spirit of the gospel! If it be adjusted by infinite wisdom and armed with infinite power, then what should have been its effects, and what have they actually been? Has it conquered our vices, eradicated our evil propensities, humbled our presumption? Again, is it unresisted and absolute? Is one evil not supplanted by another, but all, increasingly, by this new element of good? Is the effect of Christian principle consistent and uniform? Does it pervade our total conduct and impart its character to all our actions? If not, what is our religion but a whited sepulchre, beautiful without, but full of death within? Let us never, then, rest satisfied with dubious or inoperative principles.

6. We are taught how to count on the future progress and final triumphs of the gospel. Thus organised and thus sustained, it might appear to guarantee even its own perpetuity. What need have we to shrink because of the ravings of blasphemy, the surmises of false wisdom, the sorceries of perverted genius, the sneers of wit, the antipathies of taste, the caprice of passion, the assaults of unbelief? Has not the gospel already encountered enemies at least as formidable? Finally, we cannot fail to be reminded how great must be the glory wherein all shall issue. What the consummation when this scene of wonders shall be perfectly unfolded! (R. S. McAll, D. D.)

Christ the power of God

1. To redeem a world.

2. To save sinners.

3. To subdue sin and Satan.

4. To establish His kingdom.

5. To remove the curse and make all new. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The power of God in self-sacrifice

I. Is God a being passible or impassible?

1. It would seem to follow from the infinitude of His creatively-efficient power and the immensity of His nature that He must be impassible. Besides, He is spirit only, and what we call force cannot touch Him.

2. But after all there must be some kind of passibleness in God, else there could be no genuine character in Him. A cast-iron Deity could not command our love and reverence. The beauty of God is that He feels appropriately toward everything; that He feels badness as badness, and goodness as goodness--pained by one, pleased by the other. A very large share of all the virtues have, in fact, an element of passibility in them, and without that element they could not exist. Indeed, greatness of character culminates in the right proportion and co-ordination of these passive elements. And God is great as being great in feeling.

3. We raise a distinction between what we call the active and the passive virtues. If I impart a charity, that is my active virtue; if I receive an insult without wishing to revenge it, that is my passive virtue. And without this in its varieties we should be only no-characters, dry logs of wood instead of Christian men. Or, if we kept on acting still, we should only be active machines; for what better is the active giving of a charity if there be no fellow-feeling or pitying passion with it to make it a charity? Now God must have these passive virtues as truly as men. How, then, shall we conceive Him to have them when He is, in fact, impassible? The salvation is here; God, being physically impassible, is yet morally passible, i.e., He is a Being whose very perfection it is that He feels the moral significance of things. Be can feel ingratitude when He cannot feel a blow. He can loathe impurity when He cannot be injured by any assault. He is pleased and gratified by acts of sacrifice when He could not be comforted or enriched by benevolence. A thermometer is not more exactly and delicately passive to heat than He is to the merit and demerit of all actions. This, accordingly, is the representation given of Him in the Scriptures. Thus He is blessed according to the merit and beauty of whatever is done that is right. He smelled a sweet savour in Noah’s sacrifice. He has pleasure in them that hope in His mercy. He is tender to the obedient, pitying them that fear Him as a father pitieth his children. On the other hand, by how many pains of feeling does He suffer in His relation to scenes of human wrong. The sighing of the prisoner comes before Him to command His sympathy. In all the afflictions of His people He is afflicted Himself. And, in the same manner, He is said to be exercised by all manner of unpleasant sentiments in relation to all manner of evil doings; sore displeased, wroth, &c.

4. But this painful feeling in regard to evil--what is this but to assume the unhappiness, or, at least, the diminished happiness of God? How, then, shall we save His infinite blessedness? By just dropping out our calculations of arithmetic and looking at facts. It seems to be good arithmetic that, if any subtraction is made from God’s infinite happiness, He cannot be infinitely happy. No, on the contrary, He may even be the more blessed because f the subtraction, for to see that He feels rightly towards evil, despite of the pain suffered from it, to know that He is pouring the fulness of His love upon it, to be studying now, in conscious sacrifice, a saving mercy--out of this springs up a joy deeper than the pain, and, by a fixed law of holy compensation, the sea of His blessedness is kept continually full. All moral natures exist under this law of compensation. To receive evil rightly is to master it, to be rightly pained by it is to be kept in sovereign joy.

II. Thus far I have spoken of God’s passive virtue, principally as concerned in feeling towards what is moral just according to its quality. But there is a moral passivity vastly higher and reaching further, viz., a passivity of mercy or sacrifice.

1. In this a good or perfect being not only feels toward good or evil according to what it is, but willingly endures evil, to make it what it is not--to recover and heal it. No extraordinary purity is necessary to make any one sensible of disgust in the contemplation of what is vile, but to submit one’s ease to the endurance of wickedness, in order to recover and subdue it, requires what is far more difficult.

2. Just here, then, we begin to open upon the true meaning of “Christ the power of God.” There is no so great power even among men as that which conquers evil by enduring evil. Just here evil becomes insupportable to itself. It can argue against everything but suffering patience: this disarms it. All its fire is spent. Christ crucified is the power of God, because He shows God in self-sacrifice, because He brings out and makes historical in the world God’s passive virtue. By this it is that He opens our human feeling, bad and blind as it is, pouring Himself into its deepest recesses and bathing it with His cleansing, new-creating influence. There is the highest efficiency in it for it is moral power, not physical force. Hence it is that so much is said of Christ as a new-discovered power--the power of God unto salvation: the Son of God with power; the power of Christ. The power is conceived to be such that Christ is really our new Creator. We are His workmanship created unto good works.

3. But how does it appear that so great efficacy is added to the known character of God by the life and death of Christ? Was not everything shown to us in His death explicitly revealed in the Old Testament? God was represented there as being duly affected by all evil according to its true nature; displeased, abhorrent, &c. But to have these things ascribed formally to God is one thing, and a very different to have them lived and acted historically in the world. Perfections that are set before us in mere epithets have little significance; but perfections lived and acted before the senses, under social conditions, have quite another grade of meaning. And if this be true respecting God’s mere passivities of sensibility to right and wrong, how much truer is it when we speak of Him in sacrifice. No such impression or conception of God was ever drawn out, as a truth positive, from any of the epithets we have cited. And nature gives it no complexion of evidence. We could almost as soon look for sacrifice in a steam-engine as in nature. How necessary, original, powerful, then, is the God of sacrifice--He that endures evil and takes it as a burden to bear--when we see Him struggling under the load. Somewhere there is a wondrous power hid in the Cross! And the suffering is physical--a suffering under force.

III. If, then, God is physically impassible, how does it appear that He is any way expressed in the passion of Christ? how does the passion present Him as in sacrifice?

1. By the physical impassibility of God is not meant that He cannot suffer by consent or self-subjection, but only that He cannot be subjected involuntarily. To deny His liberty to exist under assumed conditions whenever there are any sufficient reasons for so doing might even be a greater infringement of His power than to maintain His natural passibility.

2. We can clearly enough see that there is no difficulty in the Passion of Christ which does not also exist in the Incarnation itself. How can the Infinite Being God exist under finite conditions? How (for that is only another form of the same question) can the Impassible suffer? And yet it would be a most severe assumption to say that God cannot, to express Himself and forward His negotiation with sin, subject Himself, in some way mysteriously qualified, to just these impossible conditions.

3. Be this all as it may, there are ways of knowing that are shorter and wiser than the processes of the head. In this Passion of Jesus it must be enough that I look on the travail of a Divine feeling, and behold the spectacle of God in sacrifice. This I see and nothing less. He is visibly not a man. I feel a divinity in Him. He floods me with a sense of God, such as I receive not from all God’s works and worlds beside. And when I stand by His Cross I want no logical endorsement; enough that I can see the heart of God, and in all this wondrous Passion know Him as enduring the contradiction of sinners. Why should I debate the matter in my heart when I have the God of sacrifice in my heart? He that endures me so, subdues me, and I yield.

O Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world! what Thou didst bear in Thy blessed hands and feet I cannot bear. Take it all away. Hide me in the depths of Thy suffering love. Conclusion:

1. Here let us learn to conceive more fitly the greatness of God. His greatness culminates in sacrifice. If He were only wise, omnipotent, eternal, just; even that would present Him as an object worthy of profoundest reverence, but in the Passion of Jesus He is more. There His power is force; here it is sacrifice. There He astonishes the eye; here He touches and transforms the heart. The God of mere amplitude will do to amuse the fancy of the ingenious--the God of sacrifice only can approve Himself to a sinner.

2. And here it is that our gospel comes to be so great a power. It is not, on one hand, the power of omnipotence falling in secretly regenerative blows. Neither is it, on the other, any mere appeal of gratitude drawing the soul to God by the consideration of what He has done. No; this wonderful power is God in sacrifice. This is the power that has new-created and sent home, as trophies, in all the past ages, its uncounted myriads of believing, new-created, glorified souls.

3. And you that have known this dawning of the Lord, what a certification have you in this sacrifice of God’s sympathy! How intensely personal He is to you! Go to Him in your every trouble. When the loads of conscious sin are heaviest on yon, and you seem even to be sinking in its mires, address Him as the God of sacrifice. Have it also as your lesson, that you yourself will be most in power when readiest in the enduring of evil; that you will bear fruit and be strong, not by your force, not by your address, not by your words, but only when you are with Christ in sacrifice. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)

The mystery of power

I. The cross represents three great ideas which sum up what is needed by us all for the fulfilment of vocation.

1. The idea of Duty. In the moral mystery of the Passion we see this special characteristic in the Representative Man. He perfectly subordinated every sinless desire of ease, or wish for deliverance, to the fulfilment of the infinite claim of duty, though it drove Him to His death.

2. The idea of Love. I am assured in the gloom of the Passion that “God is Love.” And this force of the Passion has strength to attract the soul to the Redeemer with infinite desire. Love implies generosity of service; “loved me, gave Himself for me,” rouses the generous answer “love for love.” Now this is a spiritual power of the Passion drawing and enabling me to love God.

3. The idea of Holiness. Thus we name that perfect loveliness which is the sum of the moral glory of God. Now to the creature there is a possibility of the grasp and apprehension of the heavenly beauty. The fact was seen in Jesus crucified, and by the infinite merits of the Passion is guaranteed to man a share in the grace, in the life of the Man of men. Jesus crucified is the source, the promise of this power.

II. In the cross there is Divine power.

1. I have watched the wild waves of an Atlantic storm. The wind was screaming to a pitch of tempest, the clouds rolled mass on mass of inky blackness, only relieved by a glow of vivid fire. The waves towered high, then sank again in restless mountains and unstable valleys of seething sea. A splendid spectacle! the spectacle of nature in exercise of unrestrained tremendous power!

2. I have watched the great engines in Chicago pumping up with steady unabated beat their three hundred million gallons hour by hour from the central depths of Michigan, for the use of that strangest city of the New World.

3. I have started turning into the Scuola di San Rocco at Venice, brought suddenly face to face with that grand and pathetic picture of the Crucified, displayed there these centuries in living colour from the genius of Tintoretto.

4. Nature, Mechanical Invention, Art--each show the mystery of power. But the power that consoles the sunken spirit, kindles the heart’s best affections, changes and invigorates the stern or failing will, and transforms the corrupted soul to the likeness of the Divine ideal--a power moral, spiritual, supernatural--that is the greatest of all. Ah! that is found in the Crucified; it becomes the possession of the creature by union with Christ.

III. In the Cross is the power of God unto salvation.

1. What is it to be saved? Is it to make a satisfactory investment in insurance against final punishment, when here in our mortal pilgrimage we have, so to speak, “taken our fling,” and passion and ambition have had their unrestricted play? Certainly not.

2. Can this be ours? Thou hast answered, “It can,” O my Jesus! my Redeemer! The lesson of it comes from the Crucified; its power, its possibility from the precious blood. (Canon Knox-Little.)

Christianity’s Divine power

Note three preliminary considerations.

1. Christianity is the only historical religion. Buddhism, Brahminism, and Mahomedanism have a history, but Christianity alone is founded upon a history. It could not have arisen anywhere else than where it did. It was the outgrowth of Judaism, and the realisation of the Messianic idea. Christianity is historical, too, because it is founded upon the history of Jesus. You cannot separate Christianity from Christ. Its doctrines are simply the interpretation of Christ’s history.

2. There was a preparation everywhere for the spread of Christianity, if it could prove its truth. The civilised world was then under the rule of Rome. The old religions were losing their hold, so there was a disposition to listen to a new religious claimant. There was also peace throughout the empire. There was in providence “the fulness of time.” But these favouring circumstances would not have availed if the Christian preachers could not have vindicated the truth of the history on which it rested.

3. While Christianity had strong passions, selfish interests and prejudices to overcome, it had yet, in man’s moral and spiritual necessities, wants which it professed to meet. And now, let us proceed to consider the conflicts which Christianity had to wage, and in which it showed its power and attested its truth.

I. The conflict with a corrupt Judaism. With the Judaism of Moses and the prophets Christianity could have no conflict. “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets,” &c.

1. But that a contest with contemporary Judaism was inevitable will be seen in the study of its leading features. Note--

2. When the Messiah came, where, they asked, was His kingly splendour? Where was the national restoration His coming was to bring? But the apostles taught the kingship of Jesus; that salvation was only by believing in Him; that the sacrificial worship was to cease; that salvation was for Gentiles as well as Jews. How would you expect this religion to be received by the Jews? Just as we find it was received, with a contempt and hatred which soon took form in a bitter persecution. But in spite of the whole power of the hierarchy, and the prejudices and persecutions of the people, Christianity did root itself in Jerusalem. The bitter opposition encountered here was met wherever the apostles found Jews. But by and by the new faith conquered; the Church supplanted the synagogue.

II. The conflict with philosophy to the Gentile world. When Christ came, the literary activity in the Roman empire was great; and in the main centres of population there were schools, or colleges, which were crowded with students.

1. Let us look, then, at the teaching of these schools, and we shall see what Christianity had to encounter. The Stoics, while holding that God was the soul of the world, were yet virtually pantheists. In morals, they were distinguished by their austerity. They considered that a man had reached perfection when he was indifferent alike to pleasure and pain. The Epicureans, on the contrary, were practically atheistic. Having nothing either to hope or fear from death, they set themselves to extract from this world all its pleasure. Their maxim was: “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”

2. Now where was the likelihood of Christianity commending itself to Stoic or Epicurean, if beneath its doctrine there had not been the solid ground of incontestable fact? The idea of Greek philosophers accepting a Jew as their teacher, and a crucified Jew as their Saviour! Nor were they more conciliated when they had a fuller exposition of Christian truth and duty, and came to see how much was demanded of them in the crucifixion of all the lusts of the flesh. And Paul was not blind to this. But Christianity triumphed. The philosophers could not controvert its facts; and humbling though its teaching was to their pride, and opposed to their passions, it yet won its way. And before many years went by, some of the ablest and most cultured of them were found among the defenders of Christianity.

III. The conflict with pagan religions.

1. These were in doctrine and worship directly opposed to Christianity. The heathen were surrounded with gods, and their whole public and private life was interwoven with the service of these gods. The old pagan religion had entwined itself round the entire man. And then the ceremonial of heathen worship was most imposing. It had its magnificent temples. Moreover, this old religion was patronised and upheld by the State.

2. Now the very claim of Christianity was fitted to arouse the votaries of this idolatry against it. It declared that there is no god but the God who is in Jesus Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Here it would tolerate no compromise, would allow of no divided homage. And then Christianity had neither splendid temple, nor imposing service. It came recommended neither by the worldly greatness of its founder, nor that of its apostles. It demanded an entire revolution of their life, a revolution which could only have the effect of impoverishing tens of thousands who were fattening on the revenues of idolatry. Had the gospel history not been true, no attempt could have been more hopeless than to overthrow the old idolatry. But mighty although the forces opposed to Christianity were, yet it overthrew them.

IV. The conflict with the licentious spirit of the age. Under the old pagan religions, a man might be held to be religious without being moral. But under Christ morality is a part of religion. Christianity threw its light on the evil of sin, disclosed its awful doom, and called on men as they valued their eternal peace to yield to that Divine Saviour who had died for them and risen again, and in simple faith to give their hearts to be ruled by Him, to be made holy by Him. It was no cheap attachment which it sought. Now, could the apostles ever have gained converts from the degraded masses if they had not been able to show them that the gospel history was true; and if the people had not felt that there was that in it which spake as nothing else had done to their conscience and their heart? Conclusion:

1. The success of Christianity in the face of these forces is thus a conclusive proof that it is from God. But that that conclusion may be confirmed, we must look at the rapidity with which Christianity spread. Hardly had the third century closed, when the Emperor Maximinus--one of the bitterest enemies--was constrained to say, in one of his edicts, that almost all “had abandoned the worship of their ancestors for the new sect.”

2. And what has been its history since? A chequered but most instructive one. Other religions, like those of Buddhism and Mahomedanism, have risen and spread widely; but they have shown that they have no reviving power. Wherever they have decayed, they have never been restored. But Christianity has in it a power of revival which causes it to send forth new branches. Yes, while the old religions are dead or dying, Christianity is living and extending.

3. And this progress is precisely what was predicted. When a reformer, who is inflamed with enthusiasm, begins his work, he usually anticipates a speedy triumph. But Jesus buoyed up His people with no such hopes. He told them that they would have tribulation in the world, but assured them that ultimately His kingdom would triumph. And the result has been in accordance with the prophecy. (A. Oliver, B. A.)

Christ the wisdom of God

1. In His eternal nature.

2. In His incarnation.

3. In His mediation.

4. In His exaltation.

5. In the application of the gospel.

6. In its glorious results. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christ the wisdom of God

I. In the mysterious constitution of His person. He is styled, by one of the prophets, “the Wonderful.” The more we gaze upon Him, the higher the wonder of His person will rise. But the wisdom of God became eminently conspicuous in the constitution of Christ as a propitiation for sin. Two natures were required, a suffering and a satisfying sacrifice. Suffering would not do without satisfaction; satisfaction could not be made without suffering.

1. An infinite satisfaction was required, consequently there was but one nature that could present it. And here is that foundation on which the Divinity of Jesus rests.

2. But another nature was requisite for suffering; for Deity, abstractly considered, cannot suffer. And not only was suffering required, but human suffering; the penalty attached to the transgression of the law was suited to a human nature. But it was necessary that this human nature should be pure. A “holy thing” was required: the lamb was to be without blemish and without spot.

3. It was, moreover, necessary that these two natures should be constituted one person; and the union of the two natures was as perfect as the infinite wisdom of God required; for there was no change or confusion of the natures. The Deity, with all its ineffable glory was not deteriorated by its union with humanity. I know that there is wisdom displayed in every evolution of the Divine character; and great as it was to make man, it was greater to make God-man.

II. In the glorious results of His atonement.

1. The consummation of God’s great purpose to redeem man. The great redeeming plan commenced with the Father, who “so loved the world,” &c. And here is the difficulty--God is an infinitely righteous Being. God saw the fearful havoc which sin had wrought, and how was He to repair it? Justice required the execution of the penalty. There were but two modes of proceeding. The wisdom of God might have been displayed in destruction. But, oh, how much more illustriously does His wisdom shine in the recovery of maul

2. The manifestation of the Divine attributes in their perfect and harmonised glory. Here you behold justice, truth, goodness, love; but they are altogether. When did we ever behold such a spectacle? The attributes of the Divine Being had been displayed in angelic history--all His amiable attributes, in reference to those who kept their first estate, and all His fearful attributes in the history of those who rebelled; but there were two separate and distinct theatres for these revelations. Nor does the human history furnish a parallel. The path of providence has occasionally exhibited one attribute and then another. Sometimes justice, as in the deluge, or in the overthrow of the cities of the plain; sometimes truth, as in the emancipation of the Hebrews; at one time, stern justice, and then at another, smiling mercy; but it was reserved for the gospel to exhibit them in combined and harmonious lustre; and when Jesus came to redeem our world, all God’s attributes came rejoicingly with Him: “Justice and mercy met together--righteousness and peace embraced each other.”

3. The triumphant manner in which our Lord conquered His enemies. Christ met Satan in His own way--the Cross was Satan’s own weapon. But by that very Cross was the illustrious seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head, and destroying the powers of darkness; and it was by the Cross that Christ spoiled and triumphed over principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, and held them up to angelic scorn.

4. The firmer establishment of the Divine government. The Divine government is a government of motive, and all other kinds of government are coercive and irrational. Was there ever such a revelation of God’s love as that which beamed on the Cross? And does not love beget love? Where much is forgiven, much is loved; and such a view of God attaches all spirits to Him.

III. In the practical dispensation of His gospel. The Church, you know, is the theatre by which the wisdom of God is made known to principalities and powers. Angels are our fellow-students, and what do they see? First of all the agents--poor Galileans, with nothing to offer to the learned, nothing to the commercial man, nothing to the politician. If the first preachers of the gospel had been invested with all the attractive learning of the schools, the most splendid truths of the gospel would have been obscured by human greatness; but the less there was of man, the more there was of God. And do you not perceive how strikingly the wisdom of God is manifested in the adaptation of the discoveries of Himself to our conceptions? There sits a poor fatherless child, there a poor widow, yonder a desolate orphan; and the gospel proffers them all that consolation which God only can impart. But, besides this, there is the accompanying influence. To the mere eye of philosophy this is nothing; but a poor man comes in, and he gazes, and there is nothing to strike him; but by and by the scales fall from his eyes, by and by a new influence comes over the heart, and he exclaims, “God is in this place, and I knew it not!” Witness the poor publican, smiting on his breast, groaning out the sinner’s only plea, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (T. Lessey.)

The gospel is the sum of wisdom;

an epitome of knowledge; a treasure-house of truth; and a revelation of mysterious secrets. Ah, dear friends! if ye seek wisdom, ye shall see it displayed in all its greatness; not in the balancing of the clouds, nor the firmness of earth’s foundations; not in the measured march of the armies of the sky, nor in the perpetual motions of the waves of the sea; not in vegetation with all its fairy forms of beauty, nor in the animal with its marvellous tissue of nerve, and vein, and sinew; nor even in man, that last and loftiest work of the Creator. But turn aside and see this great sight! an incarnate God upon the Cross; a substitute atoning for mortal guilt; a sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of heaven, and delivering the rebellious sinner. Here is essential wisdom; enthroned, crowned, glorified. Admire, ye men of earth, if ye be not blind; and ye who glory in your learning, bend your heads in reverence, and own that all your skill could not have devised a gospel at once so just to God, so safe to man. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Divine philosophy

1. Our age is eager in its pursuit of knowledge. It professes to be a truth-loving and a truth-seeking age. It has obtained a far insight into the dark processes of that which is called “nature.” “Wherever it has turned its steps, it has found stores of truth. In all this there is wisdom which we do well to study. Yet all these are but parts--a whole, of which nothing less than the infinity of Godhead is the measure. Hence it is that, while, in all the regions of creation, may be seen portions of this wisdom, only in the Son of God, in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the mighty whole contained. He, and He only, is “the wisdom of God.”

2. By the expression, “the wisdom of God,” thus applied to Christ, is not merely meant that He is infinitely wise. Suppose we have an able architect, and a goodly palace built by him, into which he has thrown his whole genius; we say of himself, he is skilful, but we say of his work, there is his skill, there is the outward personification of all that is in him, and without which you could not have known what is in him. Of other buildings erected by him we may say there is some skill; but only of his masterpiece should we say that it is the skill or the wisdom of the man. So with the poet and his magnum opus. Thus it is with regard to Christ. In the works of creation God has displayed fragments of His wisdom: but in Christ He has summed up and put forth the whole of it.

3. Wisdom is one of the last things which we are in the habit of connecting with the name of Christ. We connect with it salvation, pardon, life, righteousness, love. Yet it is wisdom that God so especially associates with Christ. “He, of God, is made unto us wisdom.” “In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” When God looks at Him, that which He especially sees in Him is wisdom.

4. The subject is a very wide one; we take up here only that section of it which relates to the person of the Christ.

The gospel adapted to the state and circumstances of man

I. That man, although endued with the capacity of receiving information, yet by his own unassisted efforts is totally unable to acquire the knowledge of those truths with which: it chiefly imports him to be acquainted.

II. That upon his being enlightened with the true knowledge of God and of his duty, he must necessarily be impressed with a deep sense of his own depravity and guilt.

III. That he has a consciousness of moral obligation, and ideas of moral excellence, which experience tells him he cannot by his own efforts fulfil and realise.

IV. That he is subjected to many afflictions, for which, upon the principles of reason, he cannot account, nor discover to what good purpose they tend.

V. That although he feels both presages of, and desires after a future state of being, yet, from the light of nature, he neither derives assurance of its existence, nor any certain information concerning it. (John Kemp.)

Christ is our wisdom

I. How are we to understand this?

1. Objectively. As He alone is the object about which all true wisdom is conversant (Colossians 2:3). Wisdom is either Divine or human, the wisdom of God or of men. He is the wisdom of God, as the power of God (chap. 1:24), because the Divine power and the Divine wisdom were never so manifest in anything that ever He did as they were in Christ, that is, in the great work of our redemption by Him. All His works are made in wisdom (Psalms 104:24; Proverbs 3:19). He governs the world in wisdom, wisely ordering all events to the great end of His own glory and His people’s good. But above all, in our redemption by Christ. In Ephesians 3:10 it is called the manifold wisdom of God, such as angels wonder at. He alone is the object of all our true wisdom. There are other things about which wisdom is conversant, but none like Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2; Philippians 3:7-8).

2. Effectively, as He is the author and finisher of all that in us which is true wisdom. Now, that is grace; grace is true wisdom, and nothing else is so. How is it said He is made unto us of God wisdom?

What are the special acts of this wisdom, by which it may appear whether we are so turned, so made wise?

II. The practical inferences. If Christ be made wisdom to those that are in Him, and only to those, then--

1. They that are not in Him are not wise. Nabal is their name, and folly is with them. Christless people are fools. I prove it by three arguments:

2. They that are sensible of their want of wisdom, and would be wise, may learn hence whither to go, and what to do, that they may attain it. The way is to apply thyself to the blessed Jesus, who is made unto us of God wisdom. And plead this text--Lord, art Thou not made unto us of God wisdom? What need is there of this plea? Universal need, every day, in everything. They that have most have need of more.

3. Here is matter of unspeakable comfort to all true believers, that Jesus Christ is made wisdom, that is, as some interpret it, that all that infinite wisdom that is in Him as God, and all that infused wisdom which He had as God-man wherein He grew (Luke 2:52), is all made over to us, to be employed for our good.

Apply it--


Verses 25-28

1 Corinthians 1:25-28

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God stronger than men.

The gospel as contemplated by man and employed by God

I. Its doctrine--is foolishness, yet wiser than men.

II. Its agencies--are weak, yet stronger than men. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

For ye see your calling, brethren.--

The Christian calling

1. The word “calling” means the great primary truth of religion, viz., that our erring life is governed by a will above it, and is capable of receiving influences of attraction from the Spirit of God. A man’s common employment, too, is spoken of as his “calling.” But this usage discovers the same origin; for it must have sprung up in days when it was verily believed that each man’s business in the world was a sacred appointment. A living faith not only justifies that view, but requires it; for it supposes that in the soul which has confessed its calling there is a power of holy consecration supreme over all the choices and pursuits of the mind.

2. The expression stirs some feeling of mystery. More is suggested than the understanding clearly grasps. But there is something here that is plain enough to common sense, and, to earnest moods at least, very welcome. How many weeks will any of us be able to live without coming to some spot where it will be felt as a rational comfort to believe that all our way was ordered for us by Him who sees the end from the beginning? If there is a “calling,” there is one who calls, and who when calling has a right to be heard. It follows that there is one object in existence so pre-eminent that to accomplish that is to fulfil the great purpose of our being, and to fail of that is to miss the chief end. It is only triflers who conceive of their life as without a plan, and have never heard the call of the Master, “Go, work to-day in My vineyard.” So true is this, that it has been observed of the most efficient and commanding men in the history of the world, that they were apt to represent themselves as led on by some Power beyond themselves--a demon, a genius, a destiny, or a Deity. But the apostle refers to something higher and holier than any dreamy sentiment like this. Standing on the verities of the gospel, speaking to those that have nominally assented to it, he summons them to a more solemn and searching sense of what it requires of them: “Ye see your calling, brethren.” The truth is clear; you see it. It is not of men, but of God, who calls. Christ has lived, and He asks living followers.

3. It is remarkable how perseveringly the New Testament clings to this particular conception of the Christian relation. Disciples are said to be “the called of Jesus,” “called out of darkness into marvellous light,” “called unto liberty,” “called to peace,” “called to eternal life,” “called” first, to be afterwards “justified and glorified,” “called to inherit a blessing,” “called in one body” and “one hope,” “called by God’s grace” to “holiness,” to “His kingdom and glory,” with “a holy calling,” “a heavenly calling.” The apostles are “called” from one place, work, suffering, joy, to another. To “walk worthy of the vocation” is made the business of a careful conscience. To make our “calling and election sure” is the victory of our warfare. The promise that subdues all anxiety as to the result is “Faithful is He which calleth you.” Notice the prominent teachings of this language.

I. That the business of a Christian life is something special--a “calling” by itself, to be distinguished from all other occupations. A Christian character springs from its own root, grows by its own laws, and bears its own peculiar fruit. It must have a beginning, which the New Testament everywhere speaks of as being born into a new life. Then there must be a growing into greater strength and goodness, without end. Here, therefore, is a new principle of conduct. It is a Divine calling. Paul speaks as if no pursuit were to be thought of in comparison with it.

II. That this idea of a “calling” individualises not only the Christian obligation, but the Christian person. Paul had no conception of a social Christianity apart from the personal righteousness of the men that make up society. It is your calling. It is quite vain for us to congratulate each other on a state of general integrity and order if we tolerate depravity in ourselves or the class to which we belong. If we have a community here of a thousand people, in which we want to see the Christian graces flourishing, our only way is to go to work and turn one and another of the thousand into a Christian person, each beginning with himself. How weary and indignant God must be at hearing the Pharisaic praises of a Christian religion, legislation, literature, country, from speakers and writers who allow Christianity to conquer no one of their propensities to pleasure or to pride! The vocation is an individual matter. Ye see it, each for himself. The work is for each. “Repent,” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” “Take up the cross and come after Me,” are for each. “Ye see your calling.”

III. That, notwithstanding all this, Christ’s truth is a matter, not of partial, but of universal application. The Christian spirit, revelation, privilege, and promises are not meant for a class of men culled out arbitrarily here and there; not for a few persons of special constitutional proclivities or whose circumstances happen to predispose them for a spiritual plane of being, making it easy for them to reach it. The Bible makes no such exceptions. “Whosoever will.” Nor is the Christian calling a whit the less universal and impartial for the reason that it is special, requiring a personal consecration. On the contrary, its speciality is the very ground of its universality. The more definite, important, and searching you make the Christian command to be, the more will the principles of its righteousness send their pressure into every department of life, and the spirit of its charity diffuse its fragrance into every nook and corner of the household of humanity. If there were any variations excusing men from this calling, they might be expected to exist either in their nature, their place, or their time. Yet how far these things are from constituting an apology for disregarding the duty of a disciple!

1. Take the inequalities of intellectual equipment. There is not much likelihood of men’s seeking a release from taking up the Christian work and cross on a plea of mental infirmity. More probably the plea of exemption will arise in the opposite quarter, and be a pretence of gifts or a culture superior to the need of faith, independent of the humiliating doctrines of the Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:20-24).

2. Take the excuse of unfavourable outward fortunes. What are those fortunes? Poverty and hardship? Unto the poor the gospel was first preached, and in every age it is with them that its simple and consoling truths have found their most cordial and fruitful reception. Wealth and station? But unto whom much is given, of them shall much be required. Or is it the busy and contented state of pecuniary mediocrity or a competency? Yet that is the very state which, of all others, a wise man is represented as praying for, and which common sense would pronounce most favourable to a useful and healthy piety. Indeed, the whole honest spirit of our religion disallows the evasive notion that any position can liberate the child of God from loving his Maker, serving his Saviour, and living in godly charity with his fellow-men.

3. The changing aspects of the times are just as powerless to acquit any single conscience of its accountability for a Christian walk and conversation. Principles do not change with periods. The Christ of whom it is written that He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, is not subject to fluctuation, either in the measure of His affection or in His demands for allegiance.

Conclusion: Ye see your calling--

1. Families. On every domestic sanctuary Christ lays She law of a consecrated and holy economy. Set thy house in order; for these earthly tabernacles are to be dissolved. And while they last they take in no calm, no abiding light, save through invisible windows that open upward into the unshadowed and undivided heaven.

2. Parents. To exercise your trust you will have to feel that the Christian character of every child committed to your charge is immeasurably the most urgent interest of your parental office.

3. Men of action. “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you.” (Bp. Huntington.)

Behold your calling

A concrete fact of faith. Our vague and vagrant life is attracted by a magnetism and swayed by a will superior to itself and supremely wise and good--the Spirit of God. Behold your calling--

I. Is of god. Supreme, authoritative, irreversible. The call of wisdom and love. “Faithful is He that calleth you.”

II. His glorious, comprehensive blessings. Called out of darkness into marvellous light--“unto liberty,” “to peace,” “to eternal life,” to “holiness,” to “His kingdom and glory.” It is “a heavenly calling,” “a holy calling.”

III. Is to special, distinctive mode of living.

IV. Is intensely personal.

V. Includes the whole man in all his relations in life. (Homiletic Monthly.)

How that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

Not many wise, &c., are called

I. The fact.

1. Undeniable.

2. Lamentable.

3. Worthy of consideration.

II. The reason. Not that God despises human wisdom, &c.

it is His gift--but that these gifts are perverted--

1. By pride, in judging the things of God which are beyond human understanding.

2. By unbelief which rejects salvation.

3. By moral blindness occasioning self-sufficiency and independence. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The few and the many

1. There is a great difference between a historical statement and a doctrinal one. The former tells you something which is true with reference to a particular place or time; the latter what is always and everywhere true. It must, therefore, often be a grave, often a most ridiculous blunder, to take the one for the other.

2. Now, here is a statement which has been often taken as if it were doctrinal, though it is, in fact, historical, with mischievous results; for if these classes are always to be reckoned unchristian and unbelieving--

3. On the other hand, consider the text as historical, and it is plain enough. We still sometimes hear explanations given of how it is that the learned and the great and the noble are not Christians, but--

4. Now if we glance at Corinth, it is easy to understand why the classes specified were more reluctant than others to embrace Christianity.

I. As regards the “wise men after the flesh.”

1. By these the apostle did not mean the great sages of antiquity. It would certainly not be anything to boast of if we had to suppose that Christianity rejected them or they it; for one could wish that the majority of Christians had attained to as lofty, as enlightened ideas as some in the golden age of Greek wisdom entertained and taught. But we have to do here with the men of a degenerate time--smatterers, would-be wise men, pretenders to universal knowledge, which is often largest and loudest where ignorance and frivolity divide between them the empire of the human mind.

2. Nor were they thinkers of our modern type.

II. As regards the mighty and the noble.

1. When Christianity was new it had all the disadvantages of novelty.

2. The gospel has no longer these disadvantages. When sons of nobles are ill-paid clergymen, and sovereigns and statesmen are gratuitous defenders of the faith, there is nothing to hinder the great and noble, any more than the poor and lowly, from professing Christianity. And, as regards the practice of Christianity, the case is not different. The mighty and the noble, as a matter of course, now accept, along with their honours and their privileges, a host of duties, public and social, which are enjoined rather by public opinion than by law. So much are things changed, property now has not only duties as well as rights, but has fewer rights than duties, and there are at least as many of these classes as of any other who exhibit the true spirit of Christianity in lives of faith towards God and charity towards men. (J. Service, D. D.)

The benefits arising from human learning to Christianity

1. Of all the apostles St. Paul was the one endued with the greatest natural powers, cultivated with the most assiduous care, and one would have expected him ever to have been the advocate of knowledge. Against this, however, the text is often quoted. But this admits of a double construction--either “that not many wise men after the flesh” were called to believe the gospel, or were called to preach the gospel. Now, that the former interpretation is erroneous will be apparent when we tell you that, although during Christ’s life the majority of the Pharisees and rulers did not believe on Him (John 7:48; comp. 12:42), immediately after the day of Pentecost a great company of the priests became obedient unto the faith (Acts 6:7), and also that “many of those who used curious arts at Ephesus brought their books together, and burned them before all men” (Acts 19:19-20). Since these two classes, converted to the faith, are to be reckoned amongst the wise and learned, with truth it cannot be said, “Not many wise men after the flesh are called” to become disciples of the Messiah. So we conclude that the text means that “not many wise men after the flesh,” &c., called the Corinthians into the gospel.

2. Should, however, the correctness of the present version be maintained, we still deny that it was written to warn us against the acquisition of human learning, for the use and abuse of knowledge are not identical, and the text thus understood could only apply to the Greeks, who preferred their wisdom to revelation, and to the Jews, who, having misinterpreted their Scriptures, required a sign to confirm that misinterpretation. The passage which was intended to apply to such as these can never be quoted to condemn that which only becomes reprehensible when it is not made subservient to the religion of our Lord. This is a conclusion worthy your attention, inasmuch as, if disproved, it would tend to cause the pious scholar to throw aside all the aids he might derive from history, criticism, and science in explaining and defending the oracles of God. That such a course would prove a serious detriment to religion the records of our race abundantly testify. Where ignorance has prevailed, there infidelity or superstition has abounded, whilst in the train of knowledge more accurate conceptions of the Deity and of social duties have ever followed. When Christianity was spreading many of the wise, indeed, rejected it, but the more obstinate were found among those whose prejudices in favour of their ancient faith remained unshaken, because their minds had not been trained by knowledge to estimate the value of those doctrines propounded for their acceptance. Note, then--

I. The advantages of knowledge to religion.

1. The annals of the Reformation speak an unmistakable language in favour of human acquirements.

2. It is from the arsenal of knowledge that the most formidable weapons have been taken wherewith to resist the assaults of infidelity.

3. The benefits of a knowledge of science, history, &c., to the missionary are simply incalculable.

4. The cultivation of learning greatly conduces to a right understanding of the Bible.

II. The opposition to knowledge commenced in primitive times. Whilst Origen and Clement recommended the study of literature, Tertullian declaimed against it as the source of those heresies which disturbed the peace of the Church. Because philosophers had erred philosophy was condemned; and yet, in defiance of the experience which has proved that there is no necessary connection between philosophy and infidelity, in spite of the fact that Newton and Bacon and Pascal and Boyle have submitted their powerful minds to the teaching of the gospel, the same objection and the same plea is boldly advanced.

III. The abuses to which it is liable.

1. Prior to the promulgation of the gospel (though there then existed minds as powerful as any which have since adorned the pages of history) the grossest immorality prevailed amongst the wise ones of the earth. Hence we deduce the fact that by itself “the wisdom of the world” now, as then, is unable to reform the morals of mankind. “The world by wisdom knew not God”; and the writings of infidels have confirmed the assertion of our apostle.

2. Knowledge is fatally abused when Scripture is wrested from its obvious meaning in order to make it coincide with some cherished theory or to advance some favourite doctrine. Suppose that by an induction of facts we arrive at a conclusion opposed to a certain portion of the Bible, our duty is to extend our observation till we obtain a result in accordance with that indicated in the Word of God. (D. H. Cotes, LL. B.)

God’s strange choice

Note--

I. The elector Some men are saved and some men are not saved. How is this difference caused? The reason why any sink to hell is their sin, and only their sin. But how is it that others are saved? The text answers the question three times--“God hath chosen.” This will be clear if we consider

1. The facts. God elected fallen man, but not the fallen angels; Abraham, the Jews, David, &c. God is a king. Men may set up a constitutional monarchy, and they are right in so doing; but if you could find a being who was perfection itself, an absolute form of government would be undeniably the best. The absolute position of God as king demands that, especially in the work of salvation, His will should be the great determining force.

2. The figures--

(a) A building. With whom does the architecture rest? With the building? Do the stones select themselves? No; the Architect alone disposes of His chosen materials according to His own will.

(b) Christ’s bride. Would any man here agree to have any person forced upon him as his bride?

II. The election itself. Now observe--

1. How strange is the choice He makes. “He hath not chosen many wise,” &c. If man had received the power of choosing, these are just the persons who would have been selected. “But God hath chosen,” &c. If man had governed the selection, these are the very persons who would have been left out.

2. It is directly contrary to human choice. Man chooses those who would be most helpful to him; God chooses those to whom He can be the most helpful. We select those who may give us the best return; God frequently selects those who most need His aid. We select those who are most deserving; He selects those who are least deserving, that so His choice may be more clearly seen to be an act of grace and not of merit.

3. It is very gracious. It is gracious even in its exclusion. It does not say, “Not any,” it only says, “Not many”; so that the great are not altogether shut out. Grace is proclaimed to the prince, and in heaven there are those who on earth wore coronets and prayed.

4. It is very encouraging. Some of us cannot boast of any pedigree; we have no great learning, we have no wealth, but He has been pleased to choose just such foolish, despised creatures as ourselves.

III. The elected. They are described--

1. Negatively.

2. Positively. “God hath chosen”--

IV. The reasons for the election.

1. The immediate reason.

2. The ultimate reason is “that no flesh may glory in His presence.” He does not say “that no man”; no, the text is in no humour to please anybody; it says, “that no flesh.” What a word! Here are Solon and Socrates, the wise men. God points at them with His finger and calls them “flesh.” There is Caesar, with his imperial purple; how the Praetorian guards shout, “Great is the Emperor! long may he live! Flesh,” saith God’s Word. Here are men whose sires were of royal lineage. “Flesh,” says God. “That no flesh may glory in His presence.” God puts this stamp upon us all, that we are nothing but flesh, and He chooses the poorest, the most foolish, and the weakest flesh, that all the other flesh that is only flesh and only grass may see that God pours contempt on it, and will have no flesh glory in His presence. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Weak things chosen

Luther says: “Next unto my just cause the small repute and mean aspect of my person gave the blow to the Pope; for when I began to preach and write the Pope scorned and contemned me. He thought, ‘Tis but one poor friar; what can he do against me?’ I have maintained and defended this doctrine in Popedom, against emperors, kings, and princes; what, then, shall this one man do?” We all know what the one man did, and we often see that weak ones who come in the name of the Lord of Hosts conquer where stronger ones have failed. The Lord often chooses weak things in order that we may more easily see that the victory is due to Him.

God’s choice of instruments

A native convert originally belonging to one of the lowest castes thus delivered himself in my hearing: “I am, by birth, of an insignificant and contemptible caste--so low that if a Brahmin should touch me he must go and bathe in the Ganges for purification; and yet God has called me, not merely to the knowledge of the gospel, but to the high office of teaching it to others. My friends, do you know the reason of God’s conduct? It is this: If God had selected one of you learned Brahmins, and made you the preacher, when you were successful in making converts bystanders would have said it was the amazing learning of the Brahmin and his great weight of character that were the cause; but now, when any one is converted by my instrumentality, no one thinks of ascribing any of the praise to me, and God, as is His due, has all the glory.” (H. Townley.)

The gospel ministry--its power exemplified in the Corinthians

In proof of the superiority of the gospel over human learning, the apostle points to their own knowledge of the working of the Divine power and wisdom. Two facts are adduced in proof.

I. The unfavourable condition in which the gospel found them, and how it made them the subjects of its power. The apostle divides society into two classes--

1. The one consisting of the wise, the mighty, and the well-born--the man of thought, the man of action, and the man of leisure. These three he further describes as those who “are” (1 Corinthians 1:28)--those who are deemed somebody, the recognised of the world; those for whose sole interest all things are deemed to exist--what would now be termed “society.”

2. The other class consists of the foolish, the weak, and the base, or despised, &c. Those forming this class are further described as those which “are not.” They were those who had no status, and were ignored by the world as things utterly beneath notice. Of this class were the bulk of the Corinthian believers. “For ye see your calling.” Thus it will be seen that the gospel chose as the subjects of its gracious operations

(l) Those whom the so-called wise, mighty, and noble utterly neglected, those who in the estimation of the world “are not.”

II. Its effects upon its subjects far transcends the world’s highest good and most desirable possessions. The world’s highest good are wisdom, might, and nobility, i.e., culture, prowess, and rank. But the gospel bestows upon its subjects far higher things (1 Corinthians 1:30).

1. “Things that are not,” i.e., without a status in the world, obtain one in Christ--one infinitely surpassing anything the world can boast of.

2. In Christ they are endowed with qualities far transcending the world’s best gifts. Has the world wisdom, might, and nobility? The gospel--

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.--

God’s choice of the weak and foolish to confound the wise and mighty

Dr. Vinton was a sceptical physician. A friend advised him to read “Butler’s Analogy,” which satisfied his reason. A short time after he was called to the dying bed of a little girl who whispered that she had something to say to him, that she hardly had the courage, as it was about his peace with God; but she added, “To-morrow morning, when I am stronger, I will tell you.” And on to-morrow morning she was dead. This led to Dr. Vinton’s conversion, and a grand life in the ministry was the result. Who shall deny that “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”? (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

God’s choice of feeble agencies

I. The fact.

1. God has chosen feeble agencies.

2. Has by them confounded the mighty.

II. The importance of it. It shows that Christianity--

1. Regards all men alike.

2. Is independent of human help.

3. Is sustained only by the power of God.

III. The lesson.

1. The humble should be thankful.

2. The proud humble. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

God destroying the conventionally great by the conventionally contemptible

I. Evils exist under conventionally respectable forms. In Corinth dangerous errors wore the costume of wisdom. Power was also on their side. Statesmen, wealth, and influence stood by them, and they appeared “mighty.” Here, as in Corinth, evils wear fine clothing, and pass under great names.

1. Infidelity writes and speaks in the stately formularies of philosophy and science. It is a “wise” thing of the world.

2. Licentiousness passes under the grand name of liberty. The vaunted religious liberty of England’s population means often only power to neglect sacred ordinances.

3. Social injustice does most of its fiendish work in the name of law.

4. Selfishness goes under the taking name of prudence.

5. Bigotry, superstition, fanaticism, wear the sacred name of religion.

6. War is called glory. Could we take from sin the mantle of respectability that society has thrown over it, we should do much towards its annihilation.

II. God is determined to overthrow evil by conventionally contemptible means.

1. Negatively. This language does not mean

(a) The character of the work: “Teaching men in all wisdom.”

(b) The character of the system. What a system it is to learn! What mines of truth lie beneath the surface of the letter! What digging is required to reach the golden ore! Simpletons call the gospel simple, but intelligence has ever found it of all subjects the most profound and difficult. The greatest thinkers of all ages have found the work no easy task.

(c) The character of society. Who exerts the most influence upon the real life of the men and women around him? The man of capacity, thought, sound judgment. If the gospel ministry is to influence men, it must be employed by men of the highest type of culture and ability.

(d) The spirit of the work. Humble, charitable, forbearing, reverent. Such a spirit as this comes only from deep thought and extensive knowledge. Ignorance generates a spirit of pride, bigotry, intolerance, and irreverence.

(e) The character of the apostles. Where can you find greater force of soul than Peter’s, a more searching sagacity than James’s, a more royal intellect than Paul’s, a finer intuitional nature than John’s? They were men of talent and men of thought. And more, they all understood Hebrew and Greek. We require a long college course for this, and then only very partially reach their linguistical attainments.

2. Positively. It means--

Conclusion: From this subject we may infer--

1. That so long as evils exist in the world great commotions are to be expected. God hath chosen this system to confound, to put to shame, and bring to nought things that are. “It will overturn, overturn, overturn,” the whole system of human things. The gospel, when it first enters a soul, confounds it. When it enters a country and begins its work it is revolutionary in its action. In the first ages it confounded the Jewish Sanhedrin, and the heathen priesthood, and the Gentile philosophy.

2. That the removal of evil from the world is, under God, to be effected through man as man. The gospel is to make its way, not by men invested with political power, scientific attainments, or brilliant oratory, but by men as men, endowed with the common powers of human nature, inspired and directed by the living gospel. Let no one say he is too poor or too obscure, too destitute of artificial endowments to minister the gospel to others; all that is wanted is the common sense, the common affection, and the common speech of man. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.--

The “things which are not”: God’s chosen instruments for advancing His kingdom

This clause is the last of a series of clauses, of which each that precedes it prepares the way for it, and by natural progress leads the mind toward it. The foolish and the weak, the base and the despised things--it is only natural that from the last and lowest of these the apostle should step to the things which are not; that is, which have no existence that is recognised by mankind; which arrest no thought, excite no fear, and are not prominent enough to be scorned. And these things, he says, the Lord hath chosen, to bring to nought the things that are; the great institutions, establishments, forces, which mark or mould the constitution of society. He hath chosen them for this purpose, to the end that His name may be magnified by their agency, and His glory be revealed in their ultimate triumph. That the “things which are,” at any time, in human society, however venerable, are always liable to be displaced by others which were not in existence, or were not of recognised importance when the former were established. These are facts familiar as any fact of nature, which impress immediately the most careless observer. “Things which are not,” so far as men’s earlier knowledge is concerned, which exist but in embryo, and are only to be developed by a keener observation, are yet usually superior to the things which precede them, and more replete with a vitalising energy; that thus each industrious community is likely to surpass in its later years the attainments of its earlier, and the race itself to be gradually enriched and elevated as the centuries proceed; these also are facts which modern history clearly illustrates. But these things of which the age knows not and dreams not are all the time present to the mind of the Most High; they are indeed His preordained instruments, not only for working the changes which shall come in the aspects or in the life of society, but for the grander purpose of establishing supremely His kingdom in the world. So here, as everywhere, does Christianity vindicate its origin in God’s mind, by placing us at once upon the highest levels of truth, and opening to our minds the widest range for reflection. Let us review the scenes amid which the text was written, and then the events which became its immediate and complete vindication. It was written from that delightful and populous city planted by the Ionian colony on the hills overlooking “the Asian meadows,” along the Cayster. In this city of Ephesus, important and peculiar, partly Greek but still more Oriental in its manners and spirit, the metropolis of a province, and with a commerce that drew to its wharves the representatives of all nations, in which schools of philosophy seem so much to have abounded that one of them was opened to Paul for his labours, yet in which the Eastern superstitions and magic haughtily confronted philosophy, and still had a power which they had not either at Athens or at Rome. In this city, where the East and the West were commingled, and within whose spacious walls and harbour was assembled so busy and so various a life, the apostle, coming westward from Antioch, abode for more than two years, and from thence wrote this Epistle. It was written to Corinth, that wealthier, more brilliant, and more luxurious town planted upon the celebrated Greek Isthmus, and by its position attracting the trade not only of Greece, but of all the countries whose shores were washed by either of the seas between whose almost meeting waves it fortunately stood. It is evident, then, at once, what were the institutions which Paul describes as “things that are”; the great established powers in society, which withstood, or at least did not harmonise with, the extension of Christianity. Foremost amongst them we must reckon, of course, that haughty Judaism, dogmatic and secular, into which the religion given by God to the people of His election had by degrees been transformed, and which now had the seat of its dominion in Palestine, but the outposts of its influence in many, cities of the empire. Ennobled and vitalised as it had been at the beginning, by the supreme truth of the being of God, eternal and holy, almighty and wise the Creator, moral Governor, and Judge of the universe, it received a practical impressiveness from the discoveries which it made of His presence and providence, and of His perfect law. Yet from this religion the nation had early and persistently swung away into grossest idolatries, reproducing in gold the Egyptian Apis beneath the very pavement of sapphire on which the feet of God were treading above the mount; in their subsequent history, polluting the hills which looked out upon Jerusalem with the fury and lust of sacrilegious observances. Second in order of these “things that are”--these powerful institutes of the day of the apostle, opposed to Christianity--must be reckoned of course the heathenism which prevailed outside of the Jews among all nations; which confronted Paul everywhere, ancient as man, but still vigorous in strength, imperial in place, and arrayed in universal opposition to the gospel. First of all it is to be recognised by us that this heathenism which so withstood Christianity was not an altogether artificial system in any nation; that it grew out of real and even deep motions in the general mind, and was not in its substance a matter of chance or a creature of contrivance, least of all an arbitrary and fabricated arrangement either of statecraft or of priestcraft; nay, that it had a certain real moral life in it, and was related not to depraved desire alone, to the lust and the pride which it never denied and too often deified, but related also, however insufficiently, to needs which the soul always feels to be inmost and knows to be abiding. Its answer was a vain one, but it sought to give an answer, to questions which never since the exile from Eden have ceased profoundly to agitate the race. Unconscious prophecies of better things lurked in many of its forms and in some of its traditions. Its sacrifices were efforts to staunch the flow from bleeding hearts. And while the popular mind acknowledged chiefly the hold of its ceremonies and shows, the thoughtful found also some solace or stimulus in its sublimated legends. Then further it must be noticed that as existing in any nation it took the form most germane to that people, to its genius and spirit, to its circumstances and habits; and that everywhere it allied itself with whatever was strongest, whatever most attracted men’s minds. Thus in Greece, from the first, it enshrined itself in art; made eloquence its advocate; was indebted for the memorable form which it assumed to the noble poetry in which its mythologies were melodiously uttered. In Rome the same power allied itself with politics, and became a military force. Still further we must remember that in no land was this recent; in none was it devoid of that dignity and authority which were derived from a high antiquity; while to all the peoples, in proportion to their advancement, it was associated with whatever was to them most renowned and inspiring in their history. It was dear to them as the bond which connected their life with heroic ages. There remains a third thing to be recognised as standing among the “things that are”--the powerful institutes and establishments of society, opposed to Christianity--when Paul was writing from Ephesus to Corinth. But this was also the most powerful of all; the most dangerous to assail, to human view the most inaccessible to change or decay; supreme over every force that could touch it, and comparing with them all as the Mediterranean with the restless streams which sought and sank into it. It was, of course, the authority and power of imperial Rome. It was hardly as yet at its uttermost height, this imperial power; for scores of years still slowly passed before that age of Trajan and the Antonines which marked its consummate might and splendour; while it was later even than this that Severus carried his victorious arms to Ctesiphon and Seleucia, transferred the entire legislative power from the senate to himself, and scattered the profuse memorial of his reign over Africa and the East. And so was this empire now exhibited to Paul, encircling the sea which was the centre of his thoughts, from Carthage to Alexandria, from Alexandria to Ephesus, and on to the very pillars of Hercules, with no sign of weakness. Considering its history, its growth, it seemed hardly so much a construction of man, this empire of Rome, as one of the preordained elements of nature; reaching in its exhaustive roots to the centres of history, and draining the earth to give it nutriment. So it stood before Paul, as at Ephesus he saw it, as everywhere he met it, as he knew and felt it environing the earth. And Paul knew that this mightiest establishment of government on the earth, this impregnable despotism which was touched by no fear, against which human power seemed vain, that this should also, in God’s own time, be wrecked and “brought to nought.” But how should it be done? By what agencies should each of these prophesied victories over Judaism, heathenism, and the terrible iron-limbed empire of Rome, be brought to pass? Not, he affirms, by the forces which already are at work in the world, and which may be still further multiplied, and made to bear on this new issue; not by armies revolting, or statesmen conspiring, or philosophers projecting new answers to heathenism; not by nations reclaiming their ravaged rights, or the still existing senate combining with the people to bury the haughty imperial prerogative in a cataclysm of revolution. The forces which God shall employ for this work, and to which He shall give a might irresistible, are simply thus far the “things which are not”; the things which He alone can bring out of the secrets of thought and life, and make triumphant on their mission. How utterly insignificant was Christianity in the beginnings before one temple had sprung toward heaven; before one treatise had wrought its principles into scientific statement, or clothed them in the grace and the majesty of letters; before any government had sought to incorporate its rules into statutes; before any one of all the great names now associated with it had become its bulwark in the popular confidence. In the simply spiritual elements it involved, it was set against this array which opposed it; and of all the auxiliaries which it afterward gained, not one had as yet appeared on the earth. How utterly insignificant seemed then its force! How incredibly inadequate to the end to be accomplished! The truths which had been taught the apostles, and afterward recalled to them and unfolded more fully by the witness of the Spirit, and which were to be enshrined in evangelical narratives, not one of which had yet been written--these were the primary instruments to be used, with the oral proclamation of their principles and laws, for the spread of God’s kingdom, and the overthrow of whatever withstood its advance. And these!--it seemed like binding the lightning in the meshes and knots of metaphysical argument. Epistles and talks in the synagogue against armies! The might that lay on letters and lips against the might that ruled from thrones! The publication of doctrines against establishments of power as rooted- as the hills! And yet these were the very agencies--these “things which were not” in every sense--which were not regarded, and which hitherto existed only in germ, these Gospels and Epistles which were still to be written, these teachings and preachings which had scarcely commenced, these Christian forces in life and character which hardly thus far had appeared on the earth--these were the forces which God had chosen to bring to nought the “things that were”--the ancient, immense, and impregnable institutions that stood in all their august might and tremendous effectiveness fronting the gospel. Not with energy only, but with an exact precision of speech, had Paul then described them. The philosopher thought of them, if he thought of them at all, with a contempt only greater than that which he gave to the most absurd or childish of fables. The soldier regarded them less than the mists which had hovered last year around the crests of the hills. To the Jew, in comparison of his august forms and world-challenging miracles, they seemed as frail and shadowy as dreams. The whole: wisdom of the world anticipated as little an impression from them as we that the tiny animalculae in the ocean, streaking its waves with phosphorescent glow, will arrest the revolution of shaft and wheel, and stay the steamship on its march. Those secondary forces, too, which were in time to be evolved by God’s plans, and confederated in effective alliance with these, although, of course, existing in embryo, they were, if possible, still more unrecognised, and even unrealised, when Paul was writing. The awakening spiritual longings under Judaism, at which his ministry to so large an extent was sympathetically aimed; the awakening moral instincts within heathenism, whose premonitions he must have felt, of which Plutarch soon afterward became so illustrious an example; the gradual progress of moral decline in all the systems that were rooted in error and maintained by force--all these were things which one by one came into development, each in its time, as the truths and the spirit of the gospel went forward, but which were as latent, when Paul looked forth from Ephesus on the sea, as were the germs of modern oaks. And those still additional procedures and events, also auxiliary to these more silent forces, already were purposed in the mind of the Most High; already He saw their seeds unfolding; but how vaguely, if at all, were they thus far foreshown even to Paul; how entirely unsuspected were they yet by the world! The destruction of Jerusalem by the arms of Titus, who seems to have felt himself but the instrument of a power which he could not comprehend and could not contravene, in his overthrow of the city; the consequent extinction of the Jewish nationality, the final obliteration of all distinctions between the tribes, and the scattering of their impoverished remnant to the ends of the earth--this was a fact lying still as hidden among God’s plans. Judaism was surpassed and terminated in a higher religion, more adequate to man’s wants, more illustrative of God’s glory. Heathenism was not only broken down, but it was made, thenceforth and for ever, the veriest outcast of civilisation. The Roman Empire was as finally extinguished as if the crust of the globe had been opened to swallow it up. And all was wrought within a few centuries by what; at the outset had appeared so unreal or so ineffectual. (B. S. Storrs, D. D.)


Verse 30

1 Corinthians 1:30

But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption

The life of the Christian from Christ

In using these words the apostle seems to have in mind the principal phases of Christ’s being.

I. Wisdom, by His life and teaching.

II. Righteousness, by His death and resurrection.

III. Sanctification, by His elevation to glory.

IV. Redemption, by His future return. (Prof. Godet.)

The union of the genuine disciple with his Master

This union is--

I. Most vital. “In Christ,” not merely in His school, dispensation, character, but in Himself, as branches are in the vine. He is their life.

II. Divinely formed. “Of Him”--Whom? God. It is the Eternal Spirit that brings the soul into vital connection with Christ. “My Father is the Husbandman.”

III. Blessedly productive.

1. Wisdom.

2. Righteousness.

3. Sanctification.

4. Redemption, come out of this union. What transcendent blessings are these!

IV. Exultingly adoring (1 Corinthians 1:31). It inspires the highest worship. It causes the soul to triumph to God Himself. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The connection of Christ with Christians

I. A most intimate connection exists between Christ and Christians. “In Christ.” The connection is--

1. Real. “Ye are in Christ Jesus.” Not imaginary; not theoretical; not prospective.

2. Vital. Not that of a sapless branch with a decayed root; not that of a pulseless arm with a lifeless head.

3. Essential to the continuance of spiritual life. Not merely a life like Christ’s, but a life that is a part of Christ’s life. The temperament of Christ pervades the whole body.

II. This connection has been formed by God. “Of Him.” Our Lord referred to Divine operation as well as supervision when He said, “My Father is the Husbandman” (Comp. Romans 11:17-24). Union with Christ is--

1. Not natural. Our natural condition is one of separation and alienation.

2. Not affected by human agency; neither our own, nor another’s.

3. Effected by Divine agency--

III. This connection has been productive of most advantageous results to Christians. These, as well as the connection, are of Divine ordination.

1. Observe the progression of thought.

2. Christ is--

(a) Effected by direct and indirect agency. Direct. The influence of Spirit upon spirit. “The Spirit dwelleth in you,” &c. Indirect. Christian ordinances and privileges, providential circumstances, social influences; every temptation resisted, trial endured, difficulty overcome, passion quelled, habit corrected; triumph over self, steadfast opposition to evil, loss suffered for the cause of Christ; manful exhibition of godliness, true-hearted adherence to principle.

(b) Invisible and indescribable. More mystery respecting the internal work of the Spirit than the external work of Christ. Facts perceived by the senses are more easily described than those perceived by consciousness.

(c) Sometimes prolonged. If immediacy may be regarded as a characteristic of justification, progressiveness is characteristic of sanctification. It is the work of our lifetime.

(d) Generally apparently incomplete. But we cannot unveil the spiritual world. What constitutes completeness? Enough for us to aim at her lofty attainment. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father,” &c.

IV. This connection and its results are designed to promote the glory of God (verses 29, 31). Not to glorify ourselves, but to live, in time and in eternity, to the glory of His grace, who “hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” (T. T. Waterman, B. A.)

The relation of Christ to His people

He is set forth as made unto us--

I. “Wisdom.” A controversy has been carried on as to the character of real wisdom from the days of Job (Job 28:20). But his definition is the only correct one (verse 18).

1. What is wisdom unconnected with Christ? It can elevate man’s mind by leading it up the pathway of science, it can help to the study of men and manners, it may solve some of the higher problems of morality. But its best efforts are only as the light of the taper compared with the sun. It cannot bestow peace or joy in the moment of trial, or in the day of death.

2. What is wisdom connected with Christ (James 3:17)?

II. “Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6; Romans 8:33).

III. “Sanctification.”

1. It is necessary to distinguish between justification and sanctification. They differ essentially--

2. Sanctification is a difficult work, so far as we are concerned in it.

3. But yet it is possible and easy; for Christ is made such unto us. How is this? It is simply to have Christ enter the lists with sin in us (Philippians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

IV. “Redemption.” Our present redemption is only partial. We have a privilege to come into God’s presence, &c. Nevertheless the “glorious liberty of the sons of God” yet remains to be enjoyed. Then every fetter shall be knocked off. The mind no longer shall be hindered in its investigations; the heart shall be deceitful no more; the body itself shall no more be weary. (G. F. Galaher, M. A.)

What is Christ to us

I. Our prophet to impart wisdom.

1. Anointing us with His Spirit.

2. Revealing Himself in us.

3. Giving us understanding to know Him as the only way to the Father.

II. Our high priest to impart righteousness.

1. Making atonement for us.

2. Pronouncing our absolution.

3. Constantly interceding for us at the right hand of God.

III. Our King to communicate holiness.

1. Pouring out His Spirit.

2. Ruling in our hearts.

3. Giving us dominion over sin.

IV. Our final deliverer from all evil. (E. Fraser.)

God’s device for the salvation of sinners

I. The whole of man’s salvation is from Christ. God has made or constituted Him the fountain of all salvation, from whom it must be conveyed to all that shall partake of it (Psalms 89:24).

1. Man is ignorant naturally of the way to true happiness; he has lost God, and knows not how to find Him again. For remedy of this Christ is made “wisdom” (Colossians 2:3), and He is constituted the grand Teacher of all that seek for eternal happiness.

2. Man is unrighteous, and cannot stand before a righteous God. Now, the natural man, for remedy of this, goes about to work out a righteousness of his own. But when it appears in the light of the holy law, it is nothing but as a moth-eaten garment, that cannot cover the soul before the Lord (Isaiah 64:7). For remedy of this Christ is made righteousness. He, by His obedience to the law’s commands, and suffering the wrath it threatened, hath brought in everlasting righteousness, which is a large garment, able to cover all that betake themselves to it.

3. Man is unholy, unfit for communion with a holy God here or hereafter. The natural man, to help himself in this point, calls together his natural powers, and endeavours to turn the stream of his life into the channel of the law. Some prevail this way to the reformation of their outward conversation; but there is as much difference betwixt true holiness and their attainment as between a living body and an embalmed corpse. Others find all their endeavours to no purpose, and so they come to despair of sanctification, and therefore even lay the reins on the necks of their lusts (Jeremiah 2:25). But for remedy in this, Christ is made sanctification. There is a fulness of the Spirit of holiness lodged in Him, to be communicated to the unholy; and to Him God sends the unholy sinner, that out of His fulness he may receive, and grace for grace.

4. Man by the fall is become liable to many bodily infirmities and miseries, and at length must go to the grave. Nature could find no remedy for this. But man’s salvation cannot be complete without a remedy; therefore Christ is made “redemption,” who will give in due time deliverance to His people from misery and death (Romans 8:23). And in this sense He calls Himself “the resurrection and the life.”

II. All who are saved must be saved by virtue of union with Christ. As the stock is stay, strength, and sap, to the branches, so is Christ wisdom, &c., to those who are united to Him. The sap of the stock is not conveyed to branches that are not in it; neither is Christ wisdom, &c., to any but those who are in Him. He is the Saviour of His body; and we must be partakers of His salvation as members of His body. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Adaptedness of Christianity to man’s spiritual necessities

This is a very strong evidence of its Divine character.

1. An individual is taken suddenly ill in the street. Persons gather round him, administering many things for his relief; but all is in vain. A stranger draws near, examines his symptoms, and from his case administers a medicine. Immediately he is relieved, and they all cry out, “He is a doctor!” His ability to make a correct diagnosis and to prescribe the proper medicine demonstrates his professional character.

2. We are all of us sinful, and suffering, and dying. Can any one provide a relief? Men have been experimenting ever since the days of Cain; the wisest and best have utterly failed. It follows, then, that if there be a provision by which we can be saved from sin, such provision must come from God.

3. We claim that in the gospel God has made such a provision, which is very comprehensively stated in our text. God is its author, Christ is its medium or agent, and wisdom, &c., are its benefits. Christ is made unto us--

I. Wisdom.

1. What is the first great need of mankind? Light; knowledge of God, of His law, of Christ, of the way of salvation, of duty and interest.

2. We have evidence of this in the general practice of Christian parents in seeking the spiritual welfare of their children, which is to impart instruction. And when our missionaries go to heathen countries, their first work is the same. And is it not a constant effort of the Church, both at home and abroad, to spread religious knowledge through the Sabbath school, the pulpit, and the religious press?

3. The gospel provides this light. Hence Jesus Christ is made unto us “wisdom,” by furnishing to us--

II. Righteousness.

1. Light, in its first revealings, does not always bring comfort and hope. When we see our moral condition we discover ourselves to be lost sinners; as absolutely helpless as was a poor man once upon the rock just above the falls of Niagara. Certainly he saw and felt that if he ever regained the shore and the home of his love, it must be through some agency other than his own. And when we discover our sinfulness and helplessness, how anxiously do we inquire where help may be found!

2. Righteousness is a conformity to law. If we observe the laws of the State there is no unrighteousness in us in relation to those laws. And if we could observe the law of God, there would be no unrighteousness in us in respect to His law. It is because we have transgressed that law that we are unrighteous.

3. Being thus under condemnation, Christ rendered a perfect obedience to that law, and having thus honoured it, He submitted to its penalties in our stead. Thus Christ has wrought out a righteousness for us; He has made it possible for us to obtain the remission of our sins.

4. But if this were the extent; of the atonement, it would leave us still unrighteous in character, unconformed to the law in our motives and spirit. It was, therefore, necessary that there should be “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost”; so that; Jesus Christ might work a real righteousness within us.

5. If the provision were to stop here it would still fail of meeting the whole case, because we are accountable to God, and our conduct subsequent to this great exercise of mercy toward us must be in conformity with the principles and spirit of His law. We consequently need the constant help of our Lord and of the Divine Spirit.

6. And even with these helps we are not able so fully to meet tile claims of this law that we do not need constantly to depend upon the atonement.

III. Sanctification. But the regenerate have still further spiritual needs.

1. The converted man hates sin; and when he finds it in his heart he is afflicted. To him there is nothing so lovely, so precious, as holiness. How he hungers and thirsts after it! He cannot be satisfied until he realises it, any more than a famishing man can be satisfied without; food and drink. His heart, his soul, cries out for the nature and image of God!

2. Can we realise this full salvation? Yes, for “He is able to do exceeding abundantly,” &c. “The blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin.” When we are thus brought to bear the image of the heavenly--

IV. Is there still anything further needed? Yes, we still need Christ as our redemption. To redeem is to deliver from some obligation, or embarrassment, or danger, or necessity, from which a person is unable to deliver himself.

1. We are subject to affliction, and we need the presence, and power, and comfort, of Christ to enable us to stand.

2. We have many duties to perform. Who of himself is competent to work the works of our Divine Master? None of us; but, through Christ strengthening us, we can do all things, meet all our obligations to our own souls, to our fellow-men, and to God.

3. And how about the dying hour? With the Captain of our salvation with us, we can meet death with joy, accounting it a gain. (Bp. Janes.)

Christ Jesus the believer’s wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption

Let us--

I. Explain the words. Christ is made unto us--

1. Wisdom.

2. Righteousness. “Christ is the end of the law of righteousness, to every one that believeth.”

3. Sanctification.

4. Redemption. The resurrection is called so--

II. Apply the words. If we be “made of God unto us wisdom.”

1. We see the state we are all in by nature. We see that we are destitute of all these things, and that, if ever we have them, we must obtain them from another.

2. We see the value and importance of the Lord Jesus.

3. We need not wonder that He should be the subject of the whole of revelation.

4. He ought to be the theme of every minister.

5. We see the wretched and dreadful state of unbelievers. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life,” hath not “wisdom,” &c.

6. What can be so worthy of our pursuit as to seek after union and communion with Him. This was the apostle’s conviction--“That I may win Christ, and be found in Him.”

7. We learn the happiness of all those who belong to Him--or rather to whom He belongs. (W. Jay.)

Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption derived from Christ

This is one of the most comprehensive texts in the Bible. It is a short but full inventory of the invaluable blessings of the gospel; enough to make a poor sinner rich, and a miserable sinner happy.

I. Wisdom

1. Wisdom chooses the best objects, and then pursues the best means of obtaining them.

2. All wisdom is from God; but there is a peculiar and superior kind of wisdom, viz., religion (Proverbs 28:28); and this St. Paul terms being “wise unto salvation,” and James, “the wisdom that is from above.”

3. Christ is the original fountain of wisdom. He is “wisdom” itself (Proverbs 8:1-36.; Colossians 2:3); so that whatever true wisdom is found in the world is derived from Him, even as the natural sun is the source of all the light of this world. Accordingly, we find Him, by His personal ministry, diffusing wonderful light, and when He ascended into heaven He committed this work to the Holy Spirit. “The natural man knoweth not the things of the Spirit of God”; but, by His gracious help, “they are spiritually discerned,” and believers learn “the mind of Christ.”

4. Other kinds of wisdom have their value; yet what do they avail? “I have spent my life,” said a great scholar on his dying bed, “I have spent my life in laborious trifling! “Compared with heavenly wisdom, all literary attainments will be as a grain of sand to a mountain, or a drop of water to the ocean.

II. Righteousness, i.e., perfect conformity to the will of God. The word signifies that which is full weight or measure, the standard being God’s holy law. And is there any man thus righteous? No; “there is not a just man upon earth”; that is, one “that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Yet, without a perfect righteousness, no man can be justified. But must we, then, despair? Yes; of making ourselves righteous; but not of becoming righteous by other means, for “Christ is made unto us righteousness” (Romans 4:24). But do any suppose that we may therefore become careless about good works? Let them attend to the declaration that Christ is made unto us--

III. Sanctification.

1. By this we mean the renewing of our nature in the image of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the mediation of Christ.

2. Sanctification differs from justification. Justification respects the state of man; sanctification respects His nature, disposition, conduct. A man may be tried for his life, and he may be acquitted; but if he have, at the same time, a mortal disease upon him, he will die. The province of a judge and a physician are very different. Justification is the act of God as a Judge; sanctification is the work of God the Spirit as the great Physician of souls; and we find both these works united in Psalms 103:3. It is also to be observed that our title to heaven is founded only on the righteousness of Christ, by which we are justified; but in sanctification consists our meetness for heaven.

3. Christ is made unto us sanctification.

IV. Redemption. If Christ be made unto us wisdom, we are delivered from the powers of darkness; if righteousness, we are redeemed from the curse of the law; if sanctification, we are delivered from the dominion of sin. In these things consists the redemption of the soul. But the “redemption of the body” seems to be intended; and this agrees with Romans 8:21. (G. Burder.)

Christ the believer’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption

I. I would point out to you the fountain from which all those blessings flow, that the elect of God partake of in Jesus, “who of God is made unto us,” the Father, He it is who is spoken of here. Not as though Jesus Christ was not God also; but God the Father is the fountain of the Deity.

II. I come to show what these blessings are which are here, through Christ, made over to the elect.

1. Christ is made to them “wisdom”; but wherein does true wisdom consist? Were I to ask some of you, perhaps you would say in indulging the lust of the flesh; but this is only the wisdom of brutes. Others would tell me true wisdom consisted in adding house to house; but this cannot be true wisdom, for riches often take to themselves wings, and fly away. But perhaps you despise riches and pleasure, and therefore place wisdom in the knowledge of books; but it is possible for you to tell the numbers of the stars, and call them all by their names, and yet be mere fools; learned men are not always wise. “Know thyself,” was a saying of one of the wise men of Greece; this is certainly true wisdom, and this is that wisdom spoken of in the text, and which Jesus Christ is made to all elect sinners. They see the necessity of closing with a Saviour, and behold the wisdom of God in appointing Him to be a Saviour; they are also made willing to accept of salvation upon our Lord’s own terms: thus Christ is made to them wisdom.

2. “Righteousness.” Christ’s whole personal righteousness is made over to, and accounted theirs.

3. Christ is not only made to them righteousness, but sanctification; by sanctification I do not mean a bare hypocritical attendance on outward ordinances, nor do I mean a bare outward reformation, and a few transient convictions, or a little legal sorrow; for all this an unsanctified man may have; but by sanctification I mean a total renovation of the whole man. Their understandings, which were before dark, now become light in the Lord; and their wills, before contrary to, now become one with the will of God; their affections are now set on things above; their memory is now filled with Divine things; their natural consciences are now enlightened; their members, which were before instruments of uncleanness, and of iniquity unto iniquity, are now instruments of righteousness and true holiness. But, before we enter upon the explanation and contemplation of this privilege

4. Let us now go on, and take a view of the other link, or rather the end, of the believer’s golden chain of privileges, “Redemption.” But we must look very high; for the top of it, like Jacob’s ladder, reaches heaven, where all believers will ascend, and be placed at the right hand of God. By the word redemption we are to understand, not only a complete deliverance from all evil, but also a full enjoyment of all good both in body and soul. (G. Whitfield, M. A.)

The fourfold treasure

I. Our spiritual existence.

1. Its origin, “Of Him,” i.e., as some think, “through Him.” Are you this day united to Christ--a stone in that building of which He is both foundation and topstone--a limb of that mystical body of which He is the head? Then you did not get there of yourself. “By the grace of God I am what I am.” He “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope.”

2. Its dignity. Being in Christ you are of God. God’s husbandry, people, children, beloved. Some have thought it a great thing to be of a prince’s household; but you are of the Divine family.

3. Its essence. We have no life except as we are “in Christ Jesus.” Out of Christ we abide in death.

II. Our spiritual wealth. Here are four things, and in the original the second and third have a peculiar connecting link. The wisdom stands alone, and the redemption, but the righteousness and sanctification have a special link, as though we should be taught that they always go together. Christ is made unto us--

1. Wisdom. The apostle had been speaking of some other wisdom which set itself up in opposition to the Cross. Now, instead of pointing to his own brain, or to the statue of Socrates or Solon, he says Christ is made of God unto us wisdom. There are those who will have it that the gospel such as was preached by Banyan, Whitefield, and Wesley, was very well for the dark times in which they lived; but that there is wanted in this intensely luminous century a more progressive theology. We are afraid that instead of bringing greater light, the advanced thinkers have made darkness worse. Christ makes us wise--

2. Righteousness. The doctrine of imputed righteousness is firmly established in the Word of God; yet it is possible to put too much stress upon “imputed,” and scarcely enough upon “righteousness.” Not only is Christ’s righteousness imputed to me, but it is mine actually, for Christ is mine.

3. Sanctification.

4. Redemption. Somebody says: “That ought to have come first; because redemption is the first blessing that we enjoy.” Ay, but it is the last as well. You are not yet redeemed altogether. By price you are--but you are not yet redeemed by power. In a measure you are set free by Divine power, but there are links of the old chains yet to be snapped from off, and there is a bondage still about you from which you are ere long to be delivered. You are “waiting for the adoption, to wit the redemption of the body.” Conclusion: If all this be the case, then let all our glory be unto Him. What insanity it is to boast in any but in our Lord Jesus! How foolish are they who are proud of their wisdom, of their wealth, &c. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the wisdom of believers

I. Because of those new and illustrious revelations which he has given to us of God. Christ is the great Teacher of God.

1. By declaration. In the course of His ministrations He did not reason concerning God. “No man hath seen God at any time.” Man, therefore, must darkly reason, and doubtfully infer. “The only-begotten Son, who lay in the bosom of the Father,” neither acquired nor made known this knowledge in that way. “He hath declared Him.” An instance of this declaratory mode of teaching we have in His conversation with the Samaritan woman (John 4:21-24). What instruction is here! What a contrast to the teachings of men!

2. By action. In His life, He was the visible image of God’s purity; in His works, of God’s power; in His condescending compassion, of God’s yearning goodness; in the freeness of His gifts, of God’s abundant grace and liberality; in His intercourse with His disciples, of God’s regard for pious humble souls; in His denunciations of judgment, of God’s justice; and in His death, the brightest and most awful demonstration was given of His holiness, justice, and love united.

II. By the views which He has given us of the moral condition of man. The sinfulness, helplessness, and danger of mankind have all been acknowledged and felt; but in what new and awful views are they placed by Christ! Sin is not a trifle. See the proof of this in the sufferings of thy Saviour. It is not in man to make atonement for sin. Behold, the Victim which God appointed was both God and man. The punishment of sin is not light. If the Substitute so suffered, what must the principal suffer, should he reject his Saviour? By those sufferings justice was satisfied, and God reconciled to man; and this light is thrown upon our condition, that, sinful, helpless, and endangered as it is, we are all invited to obtain mercy.

III. In the discoveries he has made of the nature, extent, and possibility of holiness. The foulest blot in creation is an unholy spirit. The brightest, the loveliest idea that can enter the human mind is that of moral order, and the purity of the heart. The nature of real holiness is explained to us by Christ. It is not a ceremonial holiness--the mistake of superstition. It is not merely a regulation of the heart and conduct--the mistake of philosophers. It is not a sentimental approval of what is fair and good--the mistake of men of imagination. It is the conversion of the heart to God; the renewal of the primitive image of God in man. The possibility of this is explained by Christ. Without hope there could be no effort. The agency exhibited by Christ in the accomplishment of our sanctification is equal to the effect. His Spirit is the sanctifier; and the whole process of our consecration to God is the mighty working of the Holy Ghost, with the means which He has appointed in order to that end. (R. Watson.)

Wisdom in Christ

Having Christ, believers have a key which unlocks the mysteries of God’s eternal purpose of mercy and of the present life; and knowing this eternal purpose and the eternal realities, they are able to choose their steps in life. (Prof. Beet.)

Union with Christ the only way to sanctification

Consider Romans 7:4; John 15:5; Galatians 2:20.

I. The holiness derived from Christ. It is that disposition of heart and course of life which is conformable to God’s holy law, and pleases Him.

1. True holiness is universal in respect of the commands of God (Psalms 119:6). A profane life is a sure evidence of a profane heart (Galatians 5:19, &c.).

2. True holiness is not only in external duties, but necessarily includes internal obedience of the soul to the will of God (Psalms 24:3).

3. In true holiness there is a bent, inclination, and propensity of heart to obedience. By Adam’s fall the hearts of men got a wrong set (Romans 8:7; Hosea 11:7). Now, in sanctification it is bent the other way, towards God and godliness (2 Thessalonians 3:5), that as the needle in the compass, touched with a good loadstone, turns towards the north, so the heart, touched by sanctifying grace, inclines Godward and Christward.

4. As the love of God is the great comprehensive duty of holiness, love is the fulfilling of the law; so love runs through all the duties of religion, to give them the tincture of holiness (Hebrews 6:10).

5. True holiness is influenced by the command of God. The will of God is not only the rule, but the reason of a holy life (John 5:30).

6. True holiness has for its chief end the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). He that is the first cause of all goodness must needs be the last end of it.

7. Lastly, true holiness is universal as regards man.

II. This holiness is derived from Christ, according to the grand device of infinite wisdom for the sanctifying of an unholy world.

1. God made the first Adam holy, and all mankind was so in Him (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

2. Adam, sinning, lost the image of God, so that all mankind are naturally dead in sin.

3. Man’s sanctification by himself thus being hopeless, it pleased God to constitute a Mediator, to be the head of sanctifying influences to all that should partake of them.

4. Though by the death and resurrection of Christ the sanctification of His people is infallibly insured, as the corruption of all mankind was by the fall of Adam; yet we cannot actually partake of Christ’s holiness till we have a spiritual being in Him, even as we partake not of Adam’s corruption till we have a natural being from him.

5. As Christ is the prime receptacle of the Spirit of holiness, as the head of all the saints; so the continual supplies of that Spirit are to be derived from Him for the saints’ progress in holiness, till they come to perfection. And faith is the great mean of communication betwixt Christ and us (Acts 15:9).

III. Uses.

1. Of information. This lets us see--

2. Of exhortation. Come then to Christ for sanctification, and note the following motives.

(a) While ye are out of Christ ye are under the curse; and is it possible for the cursed tree to bring forth the fruit of holiness?

(b) Can ye be holy without sanctifying influences, or can ye expect that these shall be conveyed to you otherwise than through a Mediator, by His Spirit?

(c) Ye have nothing wherewith to produce holiness. The most skilful musician cannot play unless his instrument be in tune. The lame man, if he were ever so willing, cannot run till he be cured. Ye are under an utter impotency, by reason of the corruption of your nature.

(d) If ye will come to Christ ye shall be made holy. There is a fulness of merit and spirit in Him for sanctification. Come then to the fountain of holiness. The worst of sinners may be sanctified this way (1 Corinthians 6:11). (T. Boston, D. D.)

Christ our righteousness

One day, as I was passing into the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, “Thy righteousness is in heaven”; and methought withal I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. There, I say, was my righteousness, so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, “He wants a righteousness,” for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame that made my righteousness better, nor my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, “The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and my irons; my temptations also fled away, so that from that time those dreadful Scriptures of God left off to trouble me. (John Bunyan.)

Christ is our sanctification

I. What is sanctification?

1. It is to be changed (2 Corinthians 3:18). Sanctification makes a great change; the judgment is changed, the disposition, the way, the company.

2. It is to be cured. Sin is the sickness of the soul. The only physician is our Lord Jesus Christ, raised up of God for that purpose; no hand but His can heal us.

3. It is to be cleansed. Sin is the pollution of the soul; and it is pollution in grain, such as nothing can wash us from but the fountain opened, and that fountain is Christ (Zechariah 13:1).

4. It is to be clothed. A sinful condition is a naked condition (Revelation 3:17). And what must poor naked souls do, but come to Christ, to His shop, and here buy of Him white raiment (Revelation 3:18; Zechariah 3:3-4). “I clothed thee also with broidered work,” &c. (Ezekiel 16:10-14). Grace is rich raiment, princely, priestly, comely clothing, that waxeth not old.

5. It is to be consecrated. Sanctifying is the same with consecrating, that is, setting apart from common and profane to holy and spiritual uses, as persons, places, vessels, times, were under the Old Testament.

II. How is Jesus Christ made all this to us?

1. Principally by the working of His Spirit and grace. The Spirit of Christ is the Sanctifier. When He comes into the heart to dwell there, He renews, and He regenerates, and He raises, and He reconciles. It is through Jesus Christ. If He had not satisfied and died, to make God friends with us, He would never have sent the Spirit, to make us friends with Him.

2. Instrumentally by the Word, “Sanctify them through Thy truth” (John 17:17). Error never sanctifies. Truth only doth that (James 1:17; Titus 1:1). The Word of truth begins, and the same carries on this good work.

III. The practical improvement.

1. Shall I propound one needful question to you? Are ye sanctified? is Jesus Christ made of God sanctification to you? It is a thing that may be known. There are three marks:

2. I shall suppose you now propounding to me another needful question. What may I do that Christ may be made to me sanctification?

3. What must they do to whom Christ is already made sanctification?

Christ is our redemption

That Jesus Christ is made of God unto all men that are in Him redemption.

I. What does this mean--“made redemption”? He is made of God redemption to us; that is, God hath ordained and appointed Him from all eternity, and in the fulness of time raised Him up, and sent Him, to be the author and procurer of redemption for us; or, which is all one, to be a redeemer to us (Luke 1:68). Now to redeem is, in general, to recover those that are in bondage out of bondage, as the Jews were released by Cyrus out of their captivity in Babylon. Redemption, viz.

1. By power; when those who kept us in bondage are conquered and overcome.

2. By exchange; when one prisoner is let go for another.

3. By price; when a sum of money is paid to buy off a prisoner, more or less, according as the quality of the prisoner is. Now this last is properly redemption, and this last is the way in which Jesus Christ hath made us free. To this purpose we are told of a covenant of redemption which was transacted from all eternity between the Father and the Son, the terms whereof were--That if the Son would come and be man and die, that dying of His should be accepted as the price or ransom of all the elect, how many soever there were. The Son accepted of this motion, did what was to be done, suffered what was to be suffered, and so became our redemption. See some footsteps of this covenant transaction in two Scriptures (Psalms 40:6-8 : Isaiah 49:2; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 49:9). But--

II. What find of redemption is this?

1. Needed redemption. It is the redemption that we needed. He came to supply all our needs. Now among other needs, being in bondage, we needed one to redeem us; not only one to clothe us, being naked; to feed us, being hungry; to wash us, being filthy; to heal us, being wounded; to cure us, being sick;--but to redeem us. If He had done all this for us in our bondage, and left us still in bondage, we had been miserable notwithstanding.

2. It is a nonsuch redemption, when compared with other redemption. Whether personal, as Joseph out of prison, or Peter (Acts 12:1-25.), or Daniel out of the lions’ den. Whether public, as from Egypt, from Babylon. It surpasses them all in number, way, and consequences.

3. Distinguishing redemption. It is denied to the angels that sinned. The commons are ransomed, the nobles left behind. He paid no price to redeem them.

4. It is divers, manifold redemption according to the manifold evils that we lay under. They are of three sorts--temporal, spiritual, eternal.

1. What those eternal evils are which redemption frees us from.

2. What there is that is positive in this redemption.

3. I shall show how Jesus Christ is made this to us, this future redemption. He is the purchaser of it; it was bought with His blood, bought back. We had mortgaged it for an apple, and must never have retrieved it, had not He died (Ephesians 1:14). He is our forerunner in it (Hebrews 6:20). He went thither as our attorney or proxy, to take possession of the purchase in our name and stead (John 14:1-2). It is He that Himself actually puts us into possession of it. At the resurrection it is His voice and trumpet that raises the dead; He is the resurrection. It is He Himself alone that is the sole object of all our future happiness; to be with Him, to see and enjoy Him, is our future redemption (Revelation 21:23).

III. The improvement.

1. Then it concerns us all, by all means, to give all diligence to make sure to ourselves our interest in this redemption.

2. If Jesus Christ be made of God this redemption to you, then, in God’s name, take the comfort of it. Lift up the head and hands that hang down; “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice.”

3. Then live as the redeemed of the Lord. (Philip Henry.)

Christ our sanctification

“I remember a short time ago, when I was conducting a service at Oxford, a working man came into the meeting. He was the first penitent that night, and he has frequently told me since that he had been most honestly and sincerely trying for twenty years to be a true Christian, but he had failed every day and almost given up in despair when he came by accident and heard this truth--that his failure was due to the fact that he had been trying to be a Christian in his own strength. He then went into the inquiry-room, trusted in Christ, and was united with Christ, shared the life of Christ, and from that day to this he has done what he could not do for twenty years before, although he was really trying, because he was strong in the life which he shared with Christ. Are not some of us in danger of supposing that we can make ourselves better Christians, more Christlike Christians, by our own resolution, and efforts, and rules, and discipline?” (Hugh Price Hughes, M. A.)


Verse 31

1 Corinthians 1:31

He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Glorying in the Lord

here is an irresistible tendency in us to glory in something or other. All classes of men glory. Good people have the tendency to glory, and sometimes they glory in unworthy objects, and therefore God has prepared a cure for it--not by repressing the instinct, but by giving it a worthy subject. The prevention or cure of glorying in men, in riches, and in self, is glorying in the Lord. Let us--

I. Glory only in the Lord. Because--

1. The theme is too great to admit of another. If God fills all in all, there can be no other god; and if the glory of God be infinite, then there can be no second glory.

2. Any other object highly provokes the Most High. He has said, “My glory will I not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.” Where the ark of the Lord is, Dagon must come down. God will be all, or nothing. Think of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Herod.

3. There is no other fit ground for glorying.

4. When we do so we shall be in accord with the true order of the universe.

II. Glory heartily in the Lord. Because of--

1. His love. Glory in--

2. His faithfulness. Whom once He loves He never leaves, but loves them to the end.

3. His holiness. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” and “All that is within me, bless”--His gracious name, is it? No. His loving name? No; but “His holy name,” because the whole includes all the parts, and the holiness, or the wholeness of God is a grander thing than any one of the distinct attributes which make up His character. Glory in the holiness of God, for there is none holy as the Lord. It is this which angels glory in, for as they veil their faces, they say, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.”

4. His all-sufficiency, and the liberality with which He distributes His mercies among His chosen. In Christ Jesus is not one good thing given to us, but every good thing. Do we need to be instructed? Christ is oar wisdom. Do we need to be clothed in the sight of God with a righteousness that shall render us acceptable? Christ is our righteousness. Do we need to be purified and cleansed? Christ is our sanctification. And do we need to be set free and delivered from all bondage? Christ is our redemption.

5. The nearness and dearness of the relationship which God holds to us. The mar, who can bow his knee, and say from his heart, “Our Father,” has more to glory in than the emperor of the grandest nations. Is Christ my Brother? I am ennobled by that relationship.

III. Glory in the Lord growingly. That is to say, we should glory in God in proportion as we learn more of Him, and receive more from Him. Glory growingly in the Lord as you know more of Him--

1. By revelation. And as you see more of Him, go and tell abroad more of Him, and let others know what a glorious God you serve.

2. By experience. Never let a special season pass without praising Him; and as answers to prayer increase, as grace is given to you in times of need, and as you see converting work going on in others glorify Him more. By and by, as time rolls on, we shall know more of the Lord, and get to be more like Him, and approach nearer to the glory itself. Beholding that glory, as in a glass, we are changed from glory to glory, as by the image of the Lord.

IV. Glory in the Lord practically.

1. By owning that you belong to Him. A man does not hide away that which he glories in. Charge a veteran with having been at Waterloo, and he will glory in it. Accuse an artist of being a Royal Academician, and he will own the charge. Abuse me for loving my wife and children, and I smile at you. Why, then, blush to be called a follower of Jesus?

2. By talking about Him on all fit occasions. We are too reticent in our piety. As the rose betrays itself by its perfume, and the glowworm by its shining, so should our glorying in the Lord discover us to all observers. A foreigner may speak English well, but he is known by his accent, and the accent of grace is quite as marked as that of nature.

3. By standing up for Him when He is opposed. If you hear the proud ones ridicule His gospel, and despise His people, put in a word for Jesus.

4. By being calm under your troubles.

5. By having a contempt for those things which others value so much. Do not be greedy after the world. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

True glorying

Man--

I. Loves to glory.

II. Has nothing in himself of which he can glory.

III. Should glory in the Lord--who--

1. Has given him all.

2. Redeemed all.

3. Is become his portion for ever. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

God exalted and creatures humbled by the gospel

That men are sinners I shall assume. If, then, there is any salvation for them, it must be by grace. And such a salvation cannot fail to exalt God and humble the sinner. None will deny that the world are proud. The tendency of the gospel to exalt God and humble the creature appears--

I. In its outward administration. This includes--

1. The humble appearance of Christ in our world. When we understand the reasons of this humble appearance of Christ, we see in it the wisdom of God; but had it been left to us beforehand, we should have assigned Him the most magnificent state. Thus did the wisdom of man pronounce. Indeed, the pride of man, showing itself in lofty pretensions to the omniscience of wisdom, was seen to be the most intrepid enemy which the religion of heaven had to encounter. It therefore was a main point in the outset to overwhelm this enemy with convictions of his own ignorance and folly and of the far superior wisdom of God. In all these proud pretensions reason aspires to a place for which it was never designed. It is not its province to penetrate the mysteries of the universe by its own ken, but to work up into judgments materials furnished by information. It is the eye, but it cannot see without, light. In no other science but that which relates to the incomprehensible God and to the interests and government of the universe, does reason attempt to build on its own independent discoveries. The anatomist does not presume to tell you how a man ought to be made, but with all submission proceeds to examine the animal system which God has exposed to his view. And why does man act so differently in this case from what he does in all others? Because in other sciences he wishes to obtain accurate knowledge; in this, relief to his conscience and fears and mortified pride. He does not like God, and wishes to modify Him after his own taste.

2. Another way in which the outward administration of the gospel took the pride of the world, was in the weakness of the instruments employed, the simplicity of their preaching, and their triumphant success. Instead of angels or Jewish doctors or Grecian philosophers, Christ chose fishermen.

II. The same tendency appears in the texture of the gospel. This is noticed in our text and the preceding verse. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, according as it is written, He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.”

1. Our wisdom. Instead of ignorant and prejudiced reason, on which the wise men of the world proudly rested for the discovery of God, Christ, the great Prophet of the world, was appointed to lay open the secrets of the eternal mind, and to bring “life and immortality to light”; “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”

2. Our righteousness. There is nothing to which men more strongly adhere than to the claims of their own merit. The whole texture of the gospel is fitted to put down this arrogant pretender, to annihilate the last lurking pride of man.

But the soul-humbling and God-exalting process is not yet ended. Not only are the atonement, obedience, and intercession of Christ thus provided, in a way to support the rights and claims and government of God, to condemn sin, and cover pride with eternal confusion; but no man is allowed to share in this salvation until, from the bottom of his heart, he has approved of all these measures and all their expressions; until he has taken back all his proud speeches against God, and bent his imperious head to his Maker’s feet. Even pardon itself buries the sinner still lower in the dust. This is none of that poverty of spirit which involves degradation. It is only viewing things according to truth.

III. The same tendency of the gospel appears in its application. Christ is made of God unto us sanctification, “that, according as it is written, He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.” As the race were condemned by the law to the curse of eternal abandonment, the Spirit could not come to men without the mediation of Christ. The heathen philosophers depended on the self-determining power of the will for all their personal virtue, and on their self-Caught ethics for the reformation of the world. In opposition to all these proud aspirations, the gospel casts the world fur sanctification on the Spirit of God and the purchase of Christ. Nor is this all. In their spiritual death it finds nothing in them to aid their resurrection, and ascribes to God, not only the whole power, but a conquering power, “the working of mighty power,” as great as that “which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” Thus every part of the gospel is calculated to abase the pride of man, to break and subdue and humble the sinner, to support the rights, the claims, the government of God, and to give all the glory to Him. “Whatever light or holiness or title to salvation we possess, comes from God through the Redeemer. Whatever brings out God to view, exalts Him, abases sinners, and humbles and blesses the creation. Let us, then, see what and how much of God is revealed in the plan of salvation. In the first place, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are brought out to view in their own proper and infinitely important characters; a distinction never whispered to the universe in any of His other works. In the next place, His inflexible resolution, at all hazards, to support His moral empire over the creation, comes out; disclosing His infinite attachment to all the principles of His law and to the happiness which it subserves, and thus manifesting His holiness, justice, and benevolence. In the next place, His amazing compassion and mercy and patience and condescension and accessibleness and truth are brought to light; His power, too, in subduing the carnal heart, in restraining, bounding, and defeating all the machinations of Satan. But the wisdom elicited is that on which I wish chiefly to dwell. This wonderful plan of the Incarnation was the forming of a connecting link between finite and infinite natures, and filling up the whole chasm between God and us. He confounded the wisdom of men by the triumphs of that very weakness which provoked their contempt, and by making, in various ways, the most unpromising means lead to the most splendid success. He so shaped the gospel, that, in every part, it should be at war with pride, and touch it in every tender spot, and call into the field every arm of that foe, and exhibit it before heaven and earth in the hideous attitude of warring against all the love and authority of the gospel. He pressed into the service of His cause all the agents in the wicked world; the policy of kings, the pride of philosophers, the craft of priests, and the very ferocity of bloody persecution. He defeated all the stratagems ,of Satan and effectually bruised the serpent’s head. Elect man is a gainer by his own ruin. His sin is made the occasion of higher advances in holiness; for to whom much is forgiven the same loveth much. His misery is made the occasion of his greater blessedness. And finally, the wisdom of God appears in that capital measure to vindicate His own impartiality, the appointment of the Friend and Brother of man to be his Judge. “The Father hath given Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of man.” Why should you think that this grandest of all the exhibitions of God will be shut up in the nut-shell of a single world? (E. D. Griffin,. D. D.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Corinthians 1:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-corinthians-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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