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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 2
Introductory Notes Continued from Verse 1...... (At end of Introduction See Verse Notes for Verses 1 and 2 of 1st Corinthians, Chapter 1)
V..—DIVISlONS OF THE EPISTLE
THE divisions of this epistle, as of the other books of the Bible, into chapters and verses, is arbitrary, and often not happily made. See the Introduction to the Notes on the Gospels. Various divisions of the epistle have been proposed, in order to present a proper analysis to the mind. The division which is submitted here is one that arises from the previous statement of the scope and design of the epistle, and will famish the basis of my analysis. According to this view, the body of this epistle may be divided into three parts, viz.:
I. The discussion of irregularities and abuses prevailing in the church at Corinth, of which the apostle had incidentally learned by report, chap. i.—vi.
II. The discussion of various subjects which had been submitted to him in a letter from the church, and of points which grew out of those inquiries, chap. vii.—xiv.
III. The discussion of the great doctrine of the resurrection of Christ —the foundation of the hope of man—and the demonstration arising from that that the Christian religion is true, and the hopes of Christians well founded, chap. xv. (See the "Analysis" prefixed to the Notes.)
VI.—THE MESSENGERS BY WHOM THIS EPISTLE WAS SENT TO THE CHURCH AT
CORINTH, AND ITS SUCCESS
IT is evident that Paul felt the deepest solicitude in regard to the state of things in the church at Corinth. Apparently as soon as he had heard of their irregularities and disorders through the members of the family of Chloe, (chap. i., ii.,) he had sent Timothy to them, if possible, to repress the growing dissensions and irregularities, (1 Co 4:17.) In the mean time the church at Corinth wrote to him to ascertain his views on certain matters submitted to him, 1 Co 7:1; and the reception of this letter gave him occasion to enter at length into the subject of their disorders and difficulties. Yet he wrote the letter under the deepest solicitude about the manner of its reception, and its effect on the church: 2 Co 2:4, "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears," etc. Paul had another object in view which was dear to his heart, and which he was labouring with all diligence to promote, which was the collection which he proposed to take up for the poor and afflicted saints at Jerusalem. See Barnes "Ro 15:25".
This object he wished to press at this time on the church at Corinth, 1 Co 16:1-4. In order, therefore, to insure the success of his letter, and to facilitate the collection, he sent Titus with the letter to the church at Corinth, with instructions to have the collection ready, (2 Co 7:7,8,13,15.
) This collection Titus was requested to finish, (2 Co 8:6.) With Titus, Paul sent another brother, perhaps a member of the church at Ephesus, 2 Co 12:18, a man whose praise, Paul says, was in all the churches, and who had been already designated by the churches to bear the contribution to Jerusalem, 2 Co 8:18,19. By turning to Ac 21:29, we find it incidentally mentioned that "Trophimus an Ephesian" was with Paul in Jerusalem, and undoubtedly this was the person here designated. This is one of the undesigned coincidences between Paul's epistle and the Acts of the Apostles, of which Dr. Paley has made so much use in his Horae Paulinae in proving the genuineness of these writings. Paul did not deem it necessary or prudent for him to go himself to Corinth, but chose to remain in Ephesus. The letter to Paul 1 Co 7:1 had been brought to him by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, 1 Co 16:17; and it is probable that they accompanied Titus and the other brother with him who bore Paul's reply to their inquiries.
The success of this letter was all that Paul could desire. It had the effect to repress their growing strifes, to restrain their disorders, to produce true repentance, and to remove the person who had been guilty of incest in the church. The whole church was deeply affected with his reproofs, and engaged in hearty zeal in the work of reform, 2 Co 7:9-11. The authority of the apostle was recognised, and his epistle read with fear and trembling, 2 Co 7:15. The act of discipline which he had required on the incestuous person was inflicted by the whole church, 2 Co 2:6. The collection which he had desired, 1 Co 16:1-4, and in regard to which he had boasted of their liberality to others, and expressed the utmost confidence that it would be liberal, 2 Co 9:2,3, was taken up agreeably to his wishes, and their disposition on the subject was such as to furnish the highest satisfaction to his mind, 2 Co 7:13,14. Of the success of his letter, however, and of their disposition to take up the collection, Paul was not apprized until he had gone into Macedonia, where Titus came to him, and gave him information of the happy state of things in the church at Corinth, 2 Co 7:4-7,13. Never was a letter more effectual than this was, and never was authority in discipline exercised in a more happy and successful way.
VII.—GENERAL CHARACTER AND STRUCTURE OF THE EPISTLE
THE general style and character of this epistle is the same as in the other writings of Paul. See Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans. It evinces the same strong and manly style of argument and language, the same structure of sentences, the same rapidity of conception, the same overpowering force of language and thought, and the same characteristics of temper and spirit in the author. The main difference between the style and manner of this epistle, and the other epistles of Paul, arises from the scope and design of the argument. In the epistle to the Romans, his object led him to pursue a close and connected train of argumentation. In this, a large portion of the epistle is occupied with reproof, and it gives occasion for calling into view at once the authority of an apostle, and the spirit and manner in which reproof is to be administered. The reader of this epistle cannot but be struck with the fact, that it was no part of Paul's character to show indulgence to sin; that he had no design to flatter; that he neither "cloaked nor concealed transgression;" that in the most open, firm, and manly manner possible, it was his purpose to rebuke them for their disorders, and to repress their growing irregularities. At the same time, however, there is full opportunity for the display of tenderness, kindness, love, charity, and for Christian instruction—an opportunity for pouring forth the deepest feelings of the human heart—an opportunity which Paul never allowed to escape unimproved. Amidst all the severity of reproof, there is the love of friendship; amidst the rebukes of an apostle, the entreaties and tears of a father. And we here contemplate Paul, not merely as the profound reasoner, not simply as a man of high intellectual endowments, but as evincing the feelings of the man, and the sympathies of the Christian.
Perhaps there is less difficulty in understanding this epistle than the epistle to the Romans. A few passages indeed have perplexed all commentators, and are to this day not understood. See 1 Co 5:9; 11:10; 15:29.
But the general meaning of the epistle has been much less the subject of difference of interpretation. The reasons have probably been the following:
(1.) The subjects here are more numerous, and the discussions more brief. There is, therefore, less difficulty in following the author than where the discussion is protracted, and the manner of his reasoning more complicated.
(2.) The subjects themselves are far less abstruse and profound than those introduced into the epistle to the Romans. There is, therefore, less liability to misconception.
(3.) The epistle has never been made the subject of theological warfare. No system of theology has been built on it, and no attempt made to press it into the service of abstract dogmas. It is mostly of a practical character; and there has been, therefore, less room for contention in regard to its meaning.
(4.) No false and unfounded theories of philosophy have been attached to this epistle, as have been to the epistle to the Romans. Its simple sense, therefore, has been more obvious; and no small part of the difficulties in the interpretation of that epistle are wanting in this.
(5.) The apostle's design has somewhat varied his style. There are fewer complicated sentences, and fewer parentheses—less that is abrupt and broken, and elliptical—less that is rapid, mighty, and over-powering in argument. We see the point of a reproof at once, but we are often greatly embarrassed in a complicated argument. The fifteenth chapter, however, for closeness and strength of argumentation, for beauty of diction, for tenderness of pathos, and for commanding and overpowering eloquence, is probably unsurpassed by any other part of the writings of Paul, and unequalled by any other composition.
(6.) It may be added, that there is less in this epistle that opposes the native feelings of the human heart, and that humbles the pride of the human intellect, than in the epistle to the Romans. One great difficulty in interpreting that epistle has been that the doctrines relate to those high subjects that rebuke the pride of man, demand prostration before his Sovereign, require the submission of the understanding and the heart to God's high claims, and throw down every form of self-righteousness. While substantially the same features will be found in all the writings of Paul, yet his purpose in this epistle led him less to dwell on those topics than in the epistle to the Romans. The result is, that the heart more readily acquiesces in these doctrines and reproofs, and the general strain of this epistle; and as the heart of man has usually more agency in the interpretation of the Bible than the understanding, the obstacles in the way of a correct exposition of this epistle are proportionably fewer than in the epistle to the Romans.
The same spirit, however, which is requisite in understanding the epistle to the Romans, is demanded here. In all Paul's epistles, as in all the Bible, a spirit of candour, humility, prayer, and industry, is required. The knowledge of God's truth is to be acquired only by toil and candid investigation. The mind that is filled with prejudices is rarely enlightened. The proud, unhumbled spirit seldom receives benefit from reading the Bible, or any other book. He acquires the most complete, and the most profound knowledge of the doctrines of Paul, and of the Book of God in general, who comes to the work of interpretation with the most humble heart, and the deepest sense of his dependence in the aid of that Spirit by whom originally the Bible was inspired. For "the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way," Ps 25:9.
Through the will of God. Not by human appointment, or authority; but in accordance with the will of God, and his command. That will was made known to him by the special revelation granted to him at his conversion, and call to the apostleship, Ac 9. Paul often refers to the fact that he had received a direct commission from God, and that he did not act on his own authority. Compare Ga 1:11,12; 1 Co 9:1-6; 2 Co 11:22-33; 2 Co 12:1-12. There was a special reason why he commenced this epistle by referring to the fact that he was divinely called to the apostleship. It arose from the fact that his apostolic authority had been called in question by the false teachers at Corinth. That this was the case is apparent from the general strain of the epistle, from some particular expressions, 2 Co 10:8-10, and from the fact that he is at so much pains throughout the two epistles to establish his Divine commission.
And Sosthanes, Sosthenes is mentioned in Ac 18:17, as "the chief ruler of the synagogue" at Corinth. He is there said to have been beaten by the Greeks before the judgment-seat of Gallio because he was a Jew, and because he had joined with the other Jews in arraigning Paul, and had thus produced disturbance in the city. See Barnes "Ac 18:17".
It is evident that at that time he was not a Christian. When he was converted, or why he left Corinth and was now with Paul at Ephesus, is unknown. Why Paul associated him with himself in writing this epistle is not known. It is evident that Sosthenes was not an apostle, nor is there any reason to think that he was inspired. Some circumstances are known to have existed respecting Paul's manner of writing to the churches, which may explain it.
(1.) He was accustomed to employ an amanuensis or scribe in writing his epistles, and the amanuensis frequently expressed his concurrence or approbation in what the apostle had indicted. See Barnes "Ro 16:22".
(2.) Paul not unfrequently associated others with himself in writing his letters to the churches, himself claiming authority as an apostle; and the others expressing their concurrence, 2 Co 1:1. Thus in Ga 1:2, "All the brethren" which were with him, are mentioned as united with him in addressing the churches of Galatia, Php 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Th 1:1.
(3.) Sosthenes was well known at Corinth. He had been the chief ruler of the synagogue there. His conversion would, therefore, excite a deep interest; and it is not improbable that he had been conspicuous as a preacher. All these circumstances would render it proper that Paul should associate him with himself in writing this letter. It would be bringing in the testimony of one well known as concurring with the views of the apostle, and tend much to conciliate those who were disaffected towards him.
The church is called "the church of God," because it has been founded by his agency, and was devoted to his service. It is worthy of remark, that although great disorders had been introduced into that church; that there were separations and erroneous doctrines; though there were some who gave evidence that they were not sincere Christians, yet the apostle had no hesitation in applying to them the name of a church God.
To them that are sanctified. To those who are made holy. This does not refer to the profession of holiness, but implies that they were in fact holy. The word means that they were separated from the mass of heathens around them, and devoted to God and his cause. Though the word used here hgiasmenoiv has this idea of separation from the mass around them, yet it is separation on account of their being in fact, and not in profession merely, different from others, and truly devoted to God. See Barnes "Ro 1:7".
In Christ Jesus. That is, by en the agency of Christ. It was by his authority, his power, and his Spirit, that they had been separated from the mass of heathens around them, and devoted to God. Comp. Joh 17:19.
Called to be saints. The word saints does not differ materially from the word sanctified in the former part of the verse. It means those who are separated from the world, and set apart to God as holy. The idea which Paul introduces here is, that they became such because they were called to be such. The idea in the former part of the verse is, that this was done "by Christ Jesus;" here he says, that it was because they were called to this privilege. He doubtless means to say, that it was not by any native tendency in themselves to holiness, but because God had called them to it. And this calling does not refer merely to an external invitation, but it was that which was made effectual in their case, or that on which the fact of their being saints could be predicated. Comp. 1 Co 1:9. See 2 Ti 1:9: "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace," etc.; 1 Pe 1:15; See Barnes "Ro 1:6, See Barnes "Ro 1:7; See Barnes "Ro 8:28"; See Barnes "Eph 4:1"; See Barnes "1 Ti 6:12"; See Barnes "1 Pe 2:9".
With all, etc. This expression shows,
(1.) that Paul had the same feelings of attachment to all Christians in every place; and,
(2.) that he expected that this epistle would be read, not only by the church at Corinth, but also by other churches. That this was the uniform intention of the apostle in regard to his epistles, is apparent from other places. Comp. 1 Th 5:27: "I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." Col 4:16: "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans." It is evident that Paul expected that his epistles would obtain circulation among the churches; and it was morally certain that they would be soon transcribed, and be extensively read. The ardent feelings of Paul embraced all Christians in every nation. He knew nothing of the narrowness of exclusive attachment to sect. His heart was full of love; and he loved, as we should, all who bore the Christian name, and who evinced the Christian spirit.
The expression, "to call upon the name," epikaloumenoiv, to invoke the name, implies worship and prayer; and proves,
(1.) that the Lord Jesus is an object of worship; and
(2.) that one characteristic of the early Christians, by which they were known and distinguished, was their calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus, or their offering worship to him. That it implies worship, See Barnes "Ac 7:59"; and that the early Christians called on Christ by prayer, and were distinguished by that, See Barnes "Ac 7:59, and compare See Barnes "Ac 1:24"; See Barnes "Ac 2:21"; See Barnes "Ac 9:14"; See Barnes "Ac 22:16"; See Barnes "2 Ti 2:22".
Both their's and our's. The Lord of all—both Jews and Gentiles—of all who profess themselves Christians, of whatever country or name they might have originally been. Difference of nation or birth gives no pre-eminence in the kingdom of Christ, but all are on a level, having a common Lord and Saviour. Comp. Eph 4:5.
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