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Bible Dictionaries

Morrish Bible Dictionary

Corinthians, Epistles to the

Some three years after Paul's first visit to Corinth he heard that there were divisions among them, 1 Corinthians 1:11,12; that there was allowed evil in their midst, 1 Corinthians 1:1; and that there were some among them who said that there was no resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:12 . These things, and the fact that he had received a letter of inquiry from them (1 Corinthians 7:1 ) called forth the First Epistle. Its contents may in short be said to be the internal ordering of the church, with collateral subjects.

THE FIRST EPISTLE. It must be noted that this epistle, though written to the church of God at Corinth is also addressed to "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord." This accounts for the language employed in some places, all who make a profession being addressed in their responsibility to the Lord.

After the introduction the apostle at once enters upon the subject of, and condemns, the divisions among them. "Is Christ divided?" Paul would not be the head of one of their schools. When he came to them he preached Christ crucified, and determined, because they were boasting so much in man, to know nothing among them except that which expressed God's judgement of the first man. Any glorying must be 'in the Lord'. The wisdom of this world was nothing.

The revelation given to the apostles was not of man, but of God. By them it had been received, not by the spirit of man, but by the Spirit of God, and it was spoken in words taught by Him. Such a revelation could not be apprehended by the natural man; it was spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 3 : The apostle could not speak unto them as unto spiritual but as to fleshly-minded Christians, who needed to be fed with the simplest food. He placed the ministry of himself and Apollos in its true light: they were fellow-labourers in God's husbandry. Paul, as architect, had laid the foundation, which was Jesus Christ, and others were warned as to what they built thereon. The fire of judgement would try the work, and if it would not bear the testing it would all be burned up, and the workman would lose his reward. If any defiled the temple of God, as for instance, by denying foundation truth, he would be destroyed. The saints were the temple of God, and that temple was holy. None were to glory in men.

1 Corinthians 4 : The apostles were stewards of the mysteries of God, not to be judicially examined by the Corinthians or of man's day, but by the Lord. All the Lord's servants being for the saints, they were not to set up this one or that as against another. The Corinthians were reigning as kings (as though the gospel were intended to make men prosperous in this world), while the apostles were in affliction and dishonour, yet rendering blessing for railing. As their father in Christ he entreats them to be his imitators.

1 Corinthians 5 : This refers to the flagrant case of sin in their midst. Paul judged the case as present in spirit to deliver the guilty one to Satan; but they themselves must put away the wicked person.

1 Corinthians 6 : Paul reproves them for their litigation before the world, and their defrauding one another. He exhorts them to holiness. Each one was a temple of the Holy Spirit, in distinction from 1 Corinthians 3:16 , where collectively they were the temple of God.

1 Corinthians 7 : The apostle answers their questions as to marriage. It was an institution of God, but Paul gave it as his judgement, for the time of distress (1 Corinthians 7:26 ), that it was better when persons had the power to remain unmarried.

1 Corinthians 8 : This refers to things offered to idols, a question which could only arise in the same way in a heathen country, though the principle of regarding the conscience of a weak brother is always true.

1 Corinthians 9 : Paul asserts his apostleship, which some among them were setting at naught. He was made all things to all that he might save some. Christians were as runners in a race, each seeking to obtain a crown. He kept under his body, lest he should be rejected, as the Israelites were, many of whom, he proceeds to show in the next chapter, had never reached Canaan.

1 Corinthians 10 : The failings of Israel are dwelt upon, and held up as a warning to the Corinthians. Their fellowship with the death of Christ at the Lord's table is introduced, showing that it signifies communion with the body and blood of Christ (as in the Peace Offering, in which part was burnt on the altar; part eaten by the priest; and part by the offerer): hence they could not also have communion with idolatry.

1 Corinthians 11 : The fact of Christ being the head of every man, and man being the head of the woman, indicated that the head should be covered by the woman, and uncovered by the men, that the angels might not see God's order in creation set aside in those who were of the house of God. The actual coming together of the assembly to eat the Lord's supper is introduced, in connection with which great disorder had supervened. On this account, in the Lord's dealings with them many were weak and sickly, and many had died. In chapter 10 there is the responsibility of those who have fellowship with the Lord's death, and in this chapter the privilege of remembering the Lord.

1 Corinthians 12 : Spiritual manifestations are referred to. There were different gifts, but one Spirit; different administrations, but one Lord; different operations, but one God, who worketh all things in all. Then follows a list of the gifts. In the power of the Spirit believers are all baptised into one body, in which each has his appointed place. It is the living organisation of the body on earth, as divinely ordered, that we have here.

1 Corinthians 13 : The character and workings of love. It is the great mainspring of practical Christianity, the very nature of God, without which a person, however gifted, is nothing.

1 Corinthians 14 : Here we get the practical working of the organisation of chapter 12 when actually in assembly, love being the spring, and the edification of the saints the result. All had been confusion at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 15 : Speculations having arisen as to the resurrection, the subject is discussed. Resurrection is a fact essential in the gospel. Here the resurrection of the just is specially contemplated. Adam and Christ are the two heads. All under the first head die: all under the second shall be made alive. A mystery is revealed as to the dead being raised and the living being changed at the coming of Christ.

1 Corinthians 16 : Speaks of the collection for the poor saints. Certain labourers are mentioned, and the salutations close the epistle.

THE SECOND EPISTLE. Paul was exceedingly anxious as to the reception given to the First Epistle. He was at Troas, where there was a door open for the gospel, but he had no rest in his spirit because Titus had not reached him. He therefore proceeded to meet him in Macedonia. When Titus arrived, Paul was greatly consoled by the tidings that the First Epistle had been well received, and the wicked man had been put away.

In this Second Epistle he desires to comfort them with the consolation he had received from God. He had been in great danger (probably referring to the uproar at Ephesus, Acts 19 ), but the God of resurrection had delivered him. He was still concerned for the spiritual well-being of the Corinthians, but refers to his own authority with tenderness. As the man who had been put away was repentant, Paul exhorts them to forgive and restore him.

2 Corinthians 3 : Paul enters on the subject of his ministry, the authority of which had been much shaken by the devices of Satan at Corinth. Paul was a competent new covenant minister, as Moses had been of the old covenant. The contrast between the two ministries is now given. The one ministered death and condemnation, the other the Spirit (which quickens) and righteousness. There is no veil on the Lord's face, and in result the privilege of Christians under this ministry is to behold the Lord's glory (the delight of God resting in a man, all His attributes being glorified) without a veil, and to be changed into the same image from glory to glory.

2 Corinthians 4 : Paul shows how the gospel of the glory of Christ was set forth in himself as the vessel of it, so that, if veiled, it was in those that were lost, not in him. God had shone in his heart for the shining forth of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. But the vessel was but an earthen one, nothing in itself, that the surpassing nature of the power might be of God. Paul always bore about in the body the dying of Jesus, and was always being delivered to death. The outcome of it was life in the Corinthians. He contrasts the temporal things with the eternal. He walked in view of the latter.

2 Corinthians 5 : Enlarging on this subject he refers to the house from heaven with which the believer is to be clothed in the eternal state. He introduces the solemn truth of the judgement-seat of Christ, before which all must be manifested, and then passes on to the new creation, where all is of God. A man in Christ is already of this new creation. The ministry of reconciliation is then touched upon, showing the terms on which Christians are privileged to be with God, as the ministry of the new covenant had shown the terms on which God was with them. It is based on the One who knew no sin, having been made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 6 : He shows how he and his fellow-labourers commended themselves in everything as God's ministers. His heart being enlarged towards the Corinthians, he entreats them to be wholly separated from the world and every pollution of the flesh and spirit, so that, as regards their testimony, the grace of God might not be received in vain.

2 Corinthians 7 : Paul continues his appeal, setting forth all the deep exercises he had passed through as to them.

2 Corinthians 8 - 9: Contributions for the poor saints and exhortations to liberality.

2 Corinthians 10 - 12: The apostleship of Paul is maintained in contrast to the false teachers who were counteracting his influence at Corinth. He feared that there might be some among them who had sinned and had not repented.

2 Corinthians 13 : Paul tells them to examine themselves; if they were Christians, was not that a proof that Christ had been speaking in Paul? A few exhortations follow, and the epistle closes without any being greeted by name.

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Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Corinthians, Epistles to the'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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