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1 Corinthians 11:17-22

17. Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

17. Hoc autem denuntians non laudo, quod non in melius, sed in peius convenitis.

18. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

18. Primum enim, convenientibus vobis in Ecclesiam, audio dissidia inter vos esse: et ex parte credo.

19. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

19. Oportet enim haereses quoque esse in vobis, ut qui probe sunt, manifesti fiant inter vos.

20. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

20. Convenientibus ergo vobis in unum, non est Dominicam coenamedere.

21. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

21. Unusquisque enim propriam coenam praesumit edendo: atque hic quidem esurit, ille autem ebrius est.

22. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

22. Numquid domos non habetis, ad edendum et bibendum, aut Ecclesiam Dei contemnitis, et pudore afficitis eos qui non habent? Quid vobis dicam? Laudabo vos in hoc? Non laudo.


His reproof of the fault previously noticed was but a mild and gentle admonition, because the Corinthians sinned in ignorance, so that it was proper that they should readily be forgiven. Paul, too, had praised them in the outset, because they had faithfully kept his enactments. (1 Corinthians 11:2.) Now he begins to reprove them more sharply, because they offended more grievously in some things, and not through ignorance.

17. But, in warning you as to this, I do not praise. 644644     “Or ie vous rememore ceci, non point eu louant. I1 y a au Grec mot; a mot. Or rememorant ie ne loue point;” — “But I put you in, mind of this, not praising you for it. It is literally in the Greek: But putting you in mind I do not praise.” For I translate it in this way, because Paul appears to have made the participle and the verb change places. 645645     In explanation of this remark, let it be observed that the reading in the Alexandrine MS. is as follows: Τοῦτο δε παραγγέλλω οὐκ ἐπαινῶν — But I warn you as to this, not praising. This reading is followed in the Latin and Syrian versions. In Wiclif (1380) the rendering is: “But this thing I comaunde, not preisynge.” In Rheims (1582) — “And this I commaund; not praising it.” — Ed I am also not satisfied with the interpretation of Erasmus, who takes παραγγέλλειν as meaning to command The verb to warn would suit better, but as to this I do not contend. There is an antithesis between this clause and the beginning of this chapter. “While I have praised you, do not think that it is unqualified commendation; for I have something to find fault with, as it is worthy of severe reproof.” This, however, in my opinion, does not refer exclusively to the Lord’s Supper, but also to other faults of which he makes mention. Let this then be taken as a general statement, that the Corinthians are reproved, because they came together not for the better but for the worse. Particular effects of this evil will be brought forward afterwards.

He finds fault with them, then, in the first place, because they come not together for the better, — and secondly, that they come together for the worse The second, it is true, is the more serious, but even the first is not to be endured, for if we consider what is transacted in the Church, there ought never to be a coming together without some fruit. There the doctrine of God is listened to, prayers are offered up, the Sacraments are administered. The fruit of the Word is, when confidence in God and fear of him are increased in us — when progress is made in holiness of life — when we put off more and more the old man, (Colossians 3:9) — when we advance in newness of life, etc. (Romans 6:4.) The Sacraments have a tendency to exercise us in piety and love. The prayers, too, ought to be of use for promoting all these purposes. In addition to this, the Lord works efficaciously by his Spirit, because he wills not that his ordinances should be vain. Hence if the sacred assemblies are of no benefit to us, and we are not made better by them, it is our ingratitude that is to blame, and therefore we deserve to be reproved. For the effect of our conduct is, that those things, which, from their own nature, and from God’s appointment, ought to have been salutary, become unprofitable.

Then follows the second fault — that they come together for the worse. This is much more criminal, and yet it almost always follows the other, for if we derive no advantage from God’s benefits, he employs this method of punishing our carelessness — that we are made worse by them. It usually happens, too, that negligence gives birth to many corruptions, especially on this account, that those who do not observe the natural use of things usually fall erelong into hurtful inventions. 646646     “Principalement pource que ceux qui ne regardent pas a tenir le droit et naturel usage des choses, sont suiets a tomber incontinent en beaucoup d’inuentions peruerses et dangereuses;” — “Chiefly because those who do not take care to observe the right and natural use of things, are liable to fall straightway into many perverse and dangerous inventions.”

18. When ye come together in the Church, I hear there are divisions Some take the words divisions and heresies, as referring to that disorder (ἀταξίαν) of which he speaks soon afterwards. I consider them as having a more extensive signification, and certainly it is not likely that he would employ terms so improper and unsuitable for the purpose of exposing that abuse. 647647     “Qu’il leur remonstrera qu’ils fout en la Cene;” — “Which he will show that they have fallen into as to the Supper.” For as to their alleging that he has expressed himself in more severe terms, with the view of exposing more fully the heinousness of the offense, I would readily grant this, if the meaning corresponded. It is, then, a reproof of a general kind — that they were not of one accord as becomes Christians, but every one was so much taken up with his own interests, that he was not prepared to accommodate himself to others. Hence arose that abuse, as to which we shall see in a little — hence sprung ambition and pride, so that every one exalted himself and despised others — hence sprung carelessness as to edification — hence sprung profanation of the gifts of God.

He says that he partly believes it, that they might not think that he charged them all with this heinous crime, and might accordingly complain, that they were groundlessly accused. In the meantime, however, he intimates that this had been brought to him not by mere vague rumor, but by credible information, such as he could not altogether discredit.

19. For there must be also heresies He had previously spoken of divisions (1 Corinthians 11:18.) Now he uses the term heresies, with the view of amplifying the more, as we may infer, too, from the word also, for it is added for the sake of amplification. (προς αὔξησιν.) It is well known in what sense the ancients used those two terms, 648648     “Schisme et Heresie;” — “Schism and Heresy.” and what distinction they made between Heretics and Schismatics. 649649     “Voyez l’Institution;” — “See my Institutes,” (volume 3.) Heresy they made to consist in disagreement as to doctrine, and schism, on the contrary, in alienation of affection, as when any one withdrew from the Church from envy, or from dislike of the pastors, or from ill nature. It is true, that the Church cannot but be torn asunder by false doctrine, and thus heresy is the root and origin of schism, and it is also true that envy or pride is the mother of almost all heresies, but at the same time it is of advantage to distinguish in this way between these two terms.

But let us see in what sense Paul employs them. I have already expressed my disapprobation of those who explain heresy as meaning the setting up of a separate table, inasmuch as the rich did not partake of their Supper along with the poor; for he had it in view to point out something more hateful. But without mentioning the opinions of others, I take schism and heresy here in the way of less and greater. Schisms, then, are either secret grudges — when we do not see that agreement which ought to subsist among the pious — when inclinations at variance with each other are at work — when every one is mightily pleased with his own way, and finds fault with everything that is done by others. Heresies are when the evil proceeds to such a pitch that open hostility is discovered, and persons deliberately divide themselves into opposite parties. Hence, in order that believers might not feel discouraged on seeing the Corinthians torn with divisions, the Apostle turns round this occasion of offense in an opposite direction, intimating that the Lord does rather by such trials make proof of his people’s constancy. A lovely consolation! “So far, says he, should we be from being troubled, or cast down, when we do not see complete unity in the Church, but on the contrary some threatenings of separation from want of proper agreement, that even if sects should start up, 650650     “De tous costez;” — “On all sides.” we ought to remain firm and constant. For in this way hypocrites are detected — in this way, on the other hand, the sincerity of believers is tried. For as this gives occasion for discovering the fickleness of those who were not rooted in the Lord’s Word, and the wickedness of those who had assumed the appearance of good men, so the good afford a more signal manifestation of their constancy and sincerity.”

But observe what Paul says — there must be, for he intimates by this expression, that this state of matters does not happen by chance, but by the sure providence of God, because he has it in view to try his people, as gold in the furnace, and if it is agreeable to the mind of God, it is, consequently, expedient. At the same time, however, we must not enter into thorny disputes, or rather into labyrinths as to a fatal necessity. We know that there never will be a time when there will not be many reprobates. We know that they are governed by the spirit of Satan, and are effectually drawn away to what is evil. We know that Satan, in his activity, leaves no stone unturned with the view of breaking up the unity of the Church. From this — not from fate — comes that necessity of which Paul makes mention. 651651     “De la vient ceste necessite de laquelle S. Paul fait mention, et non pas de ce Fatum que les Stoiques ont imagine, que l’on nomme communeement Destinee. Voyez l’ Institution;” — “From this comes that necessity of which St. Paul makes mention, and not from that Fate of which the Stoics have dreamed, and which is commonly called destiny. See the Institutes.” (Volume 1, p. 241.) We know, also, that the Lord, by his admirable wisdom, turns Satan’s deadly machinations so as to promote the salvation of believers. 652652     “Conuertit au profit et salut des fideles les machinations de Satan horribles et pernicieuses;” — “Turns the horrible and pernicious machinations of Satan to the advantage and salvation of believers.” Hence comes that design of which he speaks — that the good may shine forth more conspicuously; for we ought not to ascribe this advantage to heresies, which, being evil, can produce nothing but what is evil, but to God, who, by his infinite goodness, changes the nature of things, so that those things are salutary to the elect, which Satan had contrived for their ruin. As to Chrysostom’s contending that the particle that (ἴνα) denotes not the cause, but the event, it is of no great moment. For the cause is the secret counsel of God, 653653     “Car a parlet proprement, la cause de ceci depend du secret conseil de Dieu;” — “For, properly speaking, the cause of this depends on the secret counsel of God.” by which things that are evil are overruled in such a manner, as to have a good issue. We know, in fine, that the wicked are impelled by Satan in such a manner, that they both act and are acted upon with the consent of their wills. 654654     “Ce qu’ils font, et ce que Satan lear fait faire, ils le font volontairement, et non point par force;” — “What they do, and what Satan makes them do, they do voluntarily, and not from force.” Hence they are without excuse.

20. This is not to eat the Lord’s supper He now reproves the abuse that had crept in among the Corinthians as to the Lord’s Supper, in respect of their mixing up profane banquets with the sacred and spiritual feast, and that too with contempt of the poor. Paul says, that in this way it is not the Lord’s supper that is partaken of — not that a single abuse altogether set aside the sacred institution of Christ, and reduced it to nothing, but that they polluted the sacrament by observing it in a wrong way. For we are accustomed to say, in common conversation, that a thing is not done at all, if it is not done aright. Now this was no trivial abuse, as we shall afterwards see. If you understand the words is not as meaning, is not allowable, 655655     Paraeus and some others take the words ὀυκ ἔστι is not, as used for, ουκ ἔξεστι is not allowable. — Ed the meaning will amount to the same thing — that the Corinthians were not in a state of preparation for partaking of the Lord’s supper, as being in so divided a state. What I stated a little ago, however, is more simple — that he condemns that profane admixture, which had nothing in it akin to the Lord’s Supper.

21. For every one of you taketh before others his own supper. It is truly wonderful, and next to a miracle, 656656     “Quasi incroyable;” — “As it were incredible.” that Satan could have accomplished so much in so short a time. We are, however, admonished by this instance, how much antiquity, without reason on its side, can effect, or, in other words, how much influence a long continued custom has, while not sanctioned by a single declaration of the word of God. This, having become customary, was looked upon as lawful. Paul was then at hand to interfere. What then must have been the state of matters after the death of the Apostles? With what liberty Satan must have sported himself. 657657     “A ioue ses tours;” — “Have played off his tricks.” Yet here is the great strength of Papists: “The thing is ancient — it was done long ago — let it, therefore, have the weight of a revelation from heaven.”

It is uncertain, however, what was the origin of this abuse, or what was the occasion of its springing up so soon. Chrysostom is of opinion, that it originated in the love-feasts, 658658     “Vne sorte de banquets qui se faisoyent par charite;” — “A kind of banquets that were held, by way of love.” (ἀπὸ τῶν ἀγαπῶν) and that, while the rich had been accustomed 659659     “Premierement;” — “At first.” to bring with them from their houses the means of feasting with the poor indiscriminately and in common, they afterwards began to exclude the poor, and to guzzle over their delicacies by themselves. And, certainly, it appears from Tertullian, that that custom was a very ancient one. 660660     Pliny is supposed to refer to the Αγαπὰι (love-feasts) in his 97th letter to Trajan, where he says of the Christians in Blthynia, of which he was governor, that, upon examination, they affirmed, that after having taken their sacramenturn — “morem sibi discedendi fuisse, rursusque coeundi ad capiendum cibum, promiscuum tamen et innoxium;” — “it was customary for them to depart, and come together again for the purpose of taking an innocent repast in common.” — Ed Now they gave the name of Agapae 661661     “Agapas, c’est a dire Charitez;” — “Agapae, that is to say — Loves.” to those common entertainments, which they contrived among themselves, as being tokens of fraternal affection, and consisted of alms. Nor have I any doubt, that it took its rise from sacrificial rites commonly observed both by Jews and Gentiles. For I observe that Christians, for the most part, corrected the faults connected with those rites, in such a manner, as to retain at the same time some resemblance. Hence it is probable, that, on observing that both Jews and Gentiles added a feast to their sacrifice, as an appendage to it, but that both of them sinned in respect of ambition, luxury, and intemperance, they instituted 662662     “Par succession de temps;” — “In process of time.” a kind of banquet, which might accustom them rather to sobriety and frugality, 663663     “Quautrement;” — “Than otherwise.” and might, at the same time, be in accordance with a spiritual entertainment in respect of mutual fellowship. For in it the poor were entertained at the expense of the rich, and the table was open to all. But, whether they had from the very first fallen into this profane abuse, or whether an institution, otherwise not so objectionable, had in this way degenerated in process of time, Paul would have them in no way mix up this spiritual banquet with common feasts. “This, indeed, looks well — that the poor along with the rich partake in common of the provisions that have been brought, and that the rich share of their abundance along with the needy, but nothing ought to have such weight with us as to lead us to profane the holy sacrament.” 664664    Mais il n’y a consideration aucune qui nous doyue tant esmouuoir, que pour cela nous venions a profaner ce sainct mystere;” — “But there is no consideration that should have so much influence over us, that we should come, on that account, to profane this holy sacrament.”

And one is hungry This was one evil in the case, that while the rich indulged themselves sumptuously, they appeared, in a manner, to reproach the poor for their poverty. The inequality he describes hyperbolically, when he says, that some are drunken and others are hungry, for some had the means of stuffing themselves well, while others had slender fare. Thus the poor were exposed to the derision of the rich, or at least they were exposed to shame. It was, therefore, an unseemly spectacle, and not in accordance with the Lords supper

22. Have ye not houses? From this we see that the Apostle was utterly dissatisfied with this custom of feasting, even though the abuse formerly mentioned had not existed. For, though it seems allowable for the whole Church to partake at one common table, yet this, on the other hand, is wrong — to convert a sacred assembly to purposes foreign to its nature. We know for what exercises a Church should assemble — to hear doctrine, to pour forth prayers, and sing hymns to God, to observe the sacraments, 665665     “Pour receuoir et administrer los sacrements;” — “To receive and administer the sacraments.” to make confession of their faith, and to engage in pious observances, and other exercises of piety. If anything else is done there, it is out of place. Every one has his own house appointed him for eating and drinking, and hence that is an unseemly thing in a sacred assembly.

What shall I say to you? Having fitly stated the case, he now calls them to consider, whether they are worthy to be praised, for they could not defend an abuse that was so manifest. He presses them still further, by asking — “What else could I do? Will you say that you are unjustly reproved?” Some manuscripts connect the words in this with the verb that follows — in this way: Shall I praise you? In this I do not praise you 666666     The earlier English versions follow this reading. Thus Wiclif, (1380) — What schal I seie to zou? I preise zou: but hereynne I preise zou not; Tyndale, (1534) — What shall I saye unto you? Shall I prayse you: In this prayse I you not; Cranmer, (1539) — What shall I saye unto you? Shall I prayse you? In this prayse I you, not. — Ed. The other reading, however, is the more generally received among the Greeks, and it suits better.

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