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1 Corinthians 1:4-9

4. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

4. Gratias ago Deo meo semper de vobis propter gratiam Dei, quae data vobis est in Christo Jesu.

5. That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

5. Quia in onmibus ditati estis in ipso, in omni sermone, 4444     “Parole,” ou “eloquence;” — “Utterance,” or “eloquence.” et in omni cognitione.

6. Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

6. Quemadmodum testimonium Christi confirmatum fuit in vobis.

7. So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

7. Ut nullo in dono destituamini, exspectantes revelationem Domini nostri Jesu Christi.

8. Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

8. Qui etiam confirmabit vos usque in finem inculpatos, in diem Domini nostri Jesu Christi.

9. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

9. Fidelis Deus, per quem vocati estis in communionem Filii ipsius Jesu Christi Domini nostri.

 

4. I give thanks to my God. Having in the salutation secured for himself authority from the station assigned him, he now endeavors to procure favor for his doctrine, by expressing his affection for them. In this way he soothes their minds beforehand, that they may listen patiently to his reproofs. 4545     The same view of Paul’s design here is given by Theodoret: “Μέλλων κατηγορεῖν προθεραπεύει την ἀκοὴν ὥστε δεκτὴν γενέσθαι τὴν ιατρείαν;” — “As he is about to censure them, he soothes beforehand the organ of hearing, that the remedy to be applied may be the more favorably received.” — Ed He persuades them of his affection for them by the following tokens — his discovering as much joy in the benefits bestowed upon them, as if they had been conferred upon himself; and his declaring that he entertains a favorable opinion of them, and has good hopes of them as to the future. Farther, he qualifies his congratulations in such a way as to give them no occasion to be puffed up, as he traces up to God all the benefits that they possessed, that the entire praise may redound to him, inasmuch as they are the fruits of his grace. It is as though he had said — “I congratulate you indeed, but it is in such a way as to ascribe the praise to God.” His meaning, when he calls God his God, I have explained in my Commentary upon the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:8.) As Paul was not prepared to flatter the Corinthians, so neither has he commended them on false grounds. For although all were not worthy of such commendations, and though they corrupted many excellent gifts of God by ambition, yet the gifts themselves it became him not to despise, because they were, in themselves, deserving of commendation. Farther, as the gifts of the Spirit are conferred for the edification of all, it is with good reason that he enumerates them as gifts common to the whole Church. 4646     “Que chacun ha en son endroit;” — “Which every one has severally.” But let us see what he commends in them.

For the grace, etc. This is a general term, for it comprehends blessings of every kind that they had obtained through means of the gospel. For the term grace denotes here not the favor of God, but by metonymy 4747     A figure of speech, by which one term is put for another — the cause for the effect, the effect for the cause, etc. — Ed. (μετωνυμικῶς), the gifts that he bestows upon men gratuitously. He immediately proceeds to specify particular instances, when he says that they are enriched in all things, and specifies what those all things are — the doctrine and word of God. For in these riches it becomes Christians to abound; and they ought also to be esteemed by us the more, and regarded by us as so much the more valuable, in proportion as they are ordinarily slighted. The phrase in ipso (in him) I have preferred to retain, rather than render it per ipsum (by him,) because it has in my opinion more expressiveness and force. For we are enriched in Christ, inasmuch as we are members of his body, and are engrafted into him: nay more, being made one with him, he makes us share with him in everything that he has received from the Father.

6. Even as the testimony, etc. Erasmus gives a different rendering, to this effect, “that by these things the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them;” that is, by knowledge and by the word. The words, however, convey another meaning, and if they are not wrested, the meaning is easy — that God has sealed the truth of his gospel among the Corinthians, for the purpose of confirming it. Now, this might be done in two ways, either by miracles, or by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. Chrysostom seems to understand it of miracles, but I take it in a larger sense; and, first of all, it is certain, that the gospel is properly confirmed in our experience by faith, because it is only when we receive it by faith that we “set to our seal that God is true” (John 3:33.) And though I admit that miracles ought to have weight for the confirmation of it, yet we must go higher in search of the origin, namely this, that the Spirit of God is the earnest and seal. Accordingly, I explain these words in this manner — that the Corinthians excelled in knowledge, inasmuch as God had from the beginning given efficacy to his gospel among them, and that not in one way merely, but had done so both by the internal influence of the Spirit, and by excellence and variety of gifts, by miracles, and by all other helps. He calls the gospel the testimony of Christ, or respecting Christ, because the entire sum of it tends to discover Christ to us,

“In whom all the treasures of knowledge are hid” (Colossians 2:3.)

If any one prefers to take it in an active sense, on the ground that Christ is the primary author of the gospel, so that the Apostles were nothing but secondary or inferior witnesses, I shall not much oppose it. I feel better satisfied, however, with the former exposition. It is true that a little afterwards (1 Corinthians 2:1) the testimony of God must, beyond all controversy, be taken in an active sense, as a passive signification would not be at all suitable. Here, however, the case is different, and, what is more, that passage strengthens my view, as he immediately subjoins what it is 4848     “Quel est ce tesmoignage;” — “What this testimony is.” to know nothing but Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:2.)

7. So that ye come behind in no gift ̔Υστερεισθαι means to be in want of what you would otherwise stand in need of. 4949     The word is used in this sense in the following passages: Luke 15:14; 2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 4:12; and Hebrews 11:37. The proper meaning is — to come too late for a thing, and so miss of it. Xenophon uses it in this sense. Αβροκόμας ὑστερησε τὢς μάχης: — “Abrocomas came too late for the battle.” The word occurs in the same sense in Hebews 4:1 and Hebews 12:15. — Ed He means, therefore, that the Corinthians abound in all the gifts of God, so as not to be in want of anything, as if he had said, “The Lord has not merely honored you with the light of the gospel, but has eminently endowed you with all those graces that may be of service to the saints for helping them forward in the way of salvation.” For he gives the name of gifts (χαρίσματα) to those spiritual graces that are, as it were, means of salvation to the saints. But it is objected, on the other hand, that the saints are never in such abundance as not to feel in want of graces to some extent, so that they must always of necessity be “hungering and thirsting” (Matthew 5:6.) For where is the man that does not come far short of perfection? I answer, “As they are sufficiently endowed with needful gifts, and are never in such destitution but that the Lord seasonably relieves their need; Paul on this ground ascribes to them such wealth.” For the same reason he adds: waiting for the manifestation, meaning, that he does not ascribe to them such abundance as to leave nothing to be desired; but merely as much as will suffice, until they shall have arrived at perfection. The participle waiting I understand in this sense, “In the meantime while you are waiting.” Thus the meaning will be, “So that ye are in want of no gift in the meantime while you are waiting for the day of perfected revelation, by which Christ our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30) will be fully manifested.”

8. Who will also confirm you. The relative here refers not to Christ, but to God, though the word God is the remoter antecedent. For the Apostle is going on with his congratulation, and as he has told them previously what he thought of them, so he now lets them know what hope he has of them as to the future, and this partly for the purpose of assuring them still farther of his affection for them, and partly that he may exhort them by his own example to cherish the same hope. It is as if he had said — Though the expectation of a salvation to come keeps you still in suspense, you ought nevertheless to feel assured that the Lord will never forsake you, but will on the contrary increase what he has begun in you, that when that day comes on which

“we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,”
(2 Corinthians 5:10,)

we may be found there blameless.

Blameless In his Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians (Ephesians 1:4, and Colossians 1:22) he teaches that this is the end of our calling — that we may appear pure and unreproachable in the presence of Christ. It is, however, to be observed, that this glorious purity is not in the first instance perfected in us; nay, rather, it goes well with us if we are every day making progress in penitence, and are being purged from the sins (2 Peter 1:9) that expose us to the displeasure of God, until at length we put off, along with the mortal body, all the offscourings of sin. Of the day of the Lord we shall have occasion to speak when we come to the fourth chapter.

9. God is faithful When the Scripture speaks of God as faithful the meaning in many cases is, that in God there is steadfastness and evenness of tenor, so that what he begins he prosecutes to the end, 5050     Calvin probably refers to the following (among other) passagess: — 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23. as Paul himself says elsewhere, that the calling of God is without repentance (Romans 11:29.) Hence, in my opinion, the meaning of this passage is, that God is steadfast in what he purposes. This being the case, he consequently does not make sport as to his calling, but will unceasingly take care of his work. 5151     “La vocation done qu’il fait d’un chacun des siens, n’est point un jeu, et en les appellant il ne se mocque point, ainsi il entretiendra et pour suyura son ceuvre perpetuellement;” — “The calling, therefore, that he makes of each of his own, is not mere play; and in calling them he does not make sport, but will unceasingly maintain and prosecute his work.” From God’s past benefits we ought always to hope well as to the future. Paul, however, has something higher in view, for he argues that the Corinthians cannot be cast off, having been once called by the Lord into Christ’s fellowship. To apprehend fully, however, the force of this argument, let us observe first of all, that every one ought to regard his calling as a token of his election. Farther, although one cannot judge with the same certainty as to another’s election, yet we must always in the judgment of charity conclude that all that are called are called to salvation; I mean efficaciously and fruitfully. Paul, however, directed his discourse to those in whom the word of the Lord had taken root, and in whom some fruits of it had been produced.

Should any one object that many who have once received the word afterwards fall away, I answer that the Spirit alone is to every one a faithful and sure witness of his election, upon which perseverance depends. This, however, did not stand in the way of Paul’s being persuaded, in the judgment of charity, that the calling of the Corinthians would prove firm and immovable, as being persons in whom he saw the tokens of God’s fatherly benevolence. These things, however, do not by any means tend to beget carnal security, to divest us of which the Scriptures frequently remind us of our weakness, but simply to confirm our confidence in the Lord. Now this was needful, in order that their minds might not be disheartened on discovering so many faults, as he comes afterwards to present before their view. The sum of all this may be stated thus, — that it is the part of Christian candor to hope well of all who have entered on the right way of salvation, and are still persevering in that course, notwithstanding that they are at the same time still beset with really distempers. Every one of us, too, from the time of his being illuminated (Hebrews 10:32) by the Spirit of God in the knowledge of Christ, ought to conclude with certainty from this that he has been adopted by the Lord to an inheritance of eternal life. For effectual calling ought to be to believers an evidence of divine adoption; yet in the meantime we must all walk with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12.) On this point I shall touch again to some extent when we come to the tenth chapter.

Into the fellowship. Instead of this rendering Erasmus translates it into partnership The old interpreter renders it society I have preferred, however, to render it fellowship, as bringing out better the force of the Greek word κοινωνιας 5252     Calvin in his Institutes, (volume 2,) after speaking of Christ’s being represented by Paul as “offered to us in the gospel with all the abundance of heavenly blessings, with all his merits, all his righteousness, wisdom, and grace, without exception,” remarks — “And what is meant by the fellowship κοινωνια of Christ, which, according to the same apostle (1 Corinthians 1:9) is offered to us in the gospel, all believers know.” — Ed For this is the design of the gospel, that Christ may become ours, and that we may be engrafted into his body. Now when the Father gives him to us in possession, he also communicates himself to us in him; and hence arises a participation in every benefit. Paul’s argument, then, is this — “Since you have, by means of the gospel which you have received by faith, been called into the fellowship of Christ, you have no reason to dread the danger of death, 5353     “La mort et perdition;” — “Death and perdition.” having been made partakers of him (Hebrews 3:14) who rose a conqueror over death.” In fine, when the Christian looks to himself he finds only occasion for trembling, or rather for despair; but having been called into the fellowship of Christ, he ought, in so far as assurance of salvation is concerned, to think of himself no otherwise than as a member of Christ, so as to reckon all Christ’s benefits his own. Thus he will obtain an unwavering hope of final perseverance, (as it is called,) if he reckons himself a member of him who is beyond all hazard of falling away.


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