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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 9

Verse 9. I wrote unto you. I have written. egraqa. This word may either refer to this epistle, or to some former epistle. It simply denotes that he had written to them; but whether in the former part of this, or in some former epistle which is now lost, cannot be determined by the use of this word.

In an epistle, en th epistolh. There has been considerable diversity of opinion in regard to this expression. A large number of commentators—as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, most of the Latin commentators, and nearly all the Dutch commentators—suppose that this refers to the same epistle, and that the apostle means to say that in the former part of this epistle 1 Co 5:2 he had given them this direction. And in support of this interpretation they say that th, here, is used for tauth, and appeal to the kindred passages in Ro 16:2; Col 4:6; 1 Th 5:27; 2 Th 3:3,4.

Many others—as Grotius, Doddridge, Rosenmuller, etc.—suppose it to refer to some other epistle which is now lost, and which had been sent to them before their messengers had reached him. This epistle might have been very brief, and might have contained little more than this direction. That this is the correct opinion, may appear from the following considerations, viz.:

(1.) It is the natural and obvious interpretation —one that would strike the great mass of men. It is just such an expression as Paul would have used on the supposition that he had written a previous epistle.

(2.) It is the very expression which he uses in 2 Co 7:8, where he is referring to this epistle as one which he had sent to them.

(3.) It is not true that Paul had in any former part of this epistle given this direction. He had commanded them to remove an incestuous person, and such a command might seem to imply that they ought not to keep company with such a person; but it was not a general command not to have intercourse with them.

(4.) It is altogether probable that Paul would write more letters than we have preserved. We have but fourteen of his remaining. Yet he laboured many years; founded many churches; and had frequent occasion to write to them.

(5.) We know that a number of books have been lost which were either inspired or which were regarded as of authority by inspired men. Thus the books of Jasher, of Iddo the seer, etc., are referred to in the Old Testament; and there is no improbability that similar instances may have occurred in regard to the writers of the New Testament.

(6.) In 1 Co 5:11, he expressly makes a distinction between the epistle which he was then writing and the former one. "But now," i.e., in this epistle, "I have written egraqa to you," etc., an expression which he would not use if 1 Co 5:9 referred to the same epistle. These considerations seem to me to be unanswerable, and to prove that Paul had sent another epistle to them in which he had given this direction.

(7.) This opinion accords with that of a very large number of commentators. As an instance, Calvin says, "The epistle of which he here speaks is not now extant. Nor is it to be doubted that many others have perished; but it is sufficient that these survive to us which the Lord saw to be needful." If it be objected that this may affect the doctrine of the inspiration of the New Testament, since it is not to be supposed that God would suffer the writings of inspired men to be lost, we may reply,

(a.) that there is no evidence that these writings were inspired. Paul often makes a distinction in regard to his own words and doctrines, as inspired or uninspired, see 1 Co 7; and the same thing may have occurred in his writings.

(b.) This does not affect the inspiration of the books which remain, even on the supposition that those which were lost were inspired. It does not prove that these are not from God. If a man loses a guinea, it does not prove that those which he has not lost are counterfeit or worthless.

(c.) If inspired, they may have answered the purpose which was designed by their inspirations and then have been suffered to be lost—as all inspired books will be destroyed at the end of the world.

(d.) It is to be remembered that a large part of the discourses of the inspired apostles, and even the Saviour himself, Joh 21:25, have been lost. And why should it be deemed any more wonderful that inspired books should be lost, than inspired oral teaching? Why more wonderful that a brief letter of Paul should be destroyed, than that numerous discourses of Him "who spake as never man spake" should be lost to the world?

(e.) We should be thankful for the books that remain, and we may be assured that all the truth that is needful for our salvation has been preserved, and is in our hands. That any inspired books have been preserved amidst the efforts which have been made to destroy them all, is more a matter of wonder than that a few have been lost; and should rather lead us to gratitude that we have them, than to grief that a few, probably relating to local and comparatively unimportant matters, have been destroyed.

Not to company, etc. Not to associate with. See Eph 5:11; 2 Th 3:14. This, it seems, was a general direction on the subject. It referred to all who had this character. But the direction which he now 1 Co 5:11 proceeds to give, relates to a different matter —the proper degree of intercourse with those who were in the church.

{c} "epistle" Eph 5:11 {*} "fornicators" "The impure"

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