The Inscription; Thanksgiving for the Spiritual State of the Corinthian
Church; Reproof of Party
Divisions: His Own Method of Preaching
1. called to be—Found in some, not in
others, of the oldest manuscripts Possibly inserted from Ro 1:1; but as likely to be genuine. Translate,
literally, "a called apostle" [Conybeare
through the will of God—not because of
my own merit. Thus Paul's call as "an apostle by the will of God,"
while constituting the ground of the authority he claims in the
Corinthian Church (compare Ga 1:1), is a
reason for humility on his own part (1Co 15:8, 10) [Bengel]. In assuming the ministerial office a man
should see he does so not of his own impulse, but by the will of God
23:21); Paul if left to his
own will would never have been an apostle (Ro 9:16).
Sosthenes—See my Introduction. Associated by Paul with
himself in the inscription, either in modesty, Sosthenes being his
inferior [Chrysostom], or in order that
the name of a "brother" of note in Corinth (Ac 18:17) might give weight to his Epistle and
might show, in opposition to his detractors that he was supported by
leading brethren. Gallio had driven the Jews who accused Paul
from the judgment-seat. The Greek mob, who disliked Jews, took the
opportunity then of beating Sosthenes the ruler of the Jewish
synagogue, while Gallio looked on and refused to interfere, being
secretly pleased that the mob should second his own contempt for the
Jews. Paul probably at this time had showed sympathy for an adversary
in distress, which issued in the conversion of the latter. So Crispus
also, the previous chief ruler of the synagogue had been converted.
Saul the persecutor turned into Paul the apostle, and Sosthenes the
leader in persecution against that apostle, were two trophies of divine
grace that, side by side, would appeal with double power to the Church
at Corinth [Birks].
2. the church of God—He calls it so
notwithstanding its many blots. Fanatics and sectaries vainly think to
anticipate the final sifting of the wheat and tares (Mt 13:27-30). It is a dangerous temptation to
think there is no church where there is not apparent perfect purity. He
who thinks so, must at last separate from all others and think himself
the only holy man in the world, or establish a peculiar sect with a few
hypocrites. It was enough for Paul in recognizing the Corinthians as a
church, that he saw among them evangelical doctrine, baptism, and the
Lord's Supper" [Calvin]. It was the
Church of God, not of this or of that favorite leader [Chrysostom].
at Corinth—a church at dissolute
Corinth—what a paradox of grace!
set apart as holy to God in (by union with) Christ Jesus.
In the Greek there are no words "to them that are"; translate
simply, "men sanctified."
called to be saints—rather, "called
saints"; saints by calling: applied by Paul to all professing
members of the Church. As "sanctified in Christ" implies the fountain
sources of holiness, the believer's original sanctification in Christ
(1Co 6:11; Heb 10:10, 14; 1Pe 1:2) in the purposes of God's grace, so
"called saints" refers to their actual call (Ro 8:30), and the end of that call that they
should be holy (1Pe 1:15).
with all that in every place call upon …
Christ—The Epistle is intended for these also, as well as for
the Corinthians. The true Catholic
Church (a term first used by Ignatius [Epistle to the Smyræans, 8]):
not consisting of those who call themselves from Paul, Cephas, or any
other eminent leader (1Co 1:12),
but of all, wherever they be, who call on Jesus as their Saviour in
sincerity (compare 2Ti 2:22).
Still a general unity of discipline and doctrine in the several
churches is implied in 1Co 4:17; 7:17; 11-16; 14-33,
36. The worship due to God is
here attributed to Jesus (compare Joe 2:32; Mt 4:10; Ac
both theirs and ours—"in every place
which is their home … and our home also"; this is added to
include the Christians throughout Achaia, not residing in Corinth, the
1:1). Paul feels the home of
his converts to be also his own. Compare a similar phrase in Ro 16:13 [Conybeare and Howson]. "Ours" refers to Paul and Sosthenes, and
the Corinthians' home [Alford]. Beza better explains, "Both their Lord and our
Lord." All believers have one and the same Lord (1Co 8:6; Eph
4:5); a virtual reproof of
the divisions of the Corinthians, as if Christ were divided (1Co 1:13).
3. peace—peculiarly needed in the
Corinthian church, on account of its dissensions. On this verse see on
4. He puts the causes for praise and hope
among them in the foreground, not to discourage them by the succeeding
reproof, and in order to appeal to their better selves.
my God—(Ro 1:8; Php 1:3).
always—(Compare Php 1:4).
the grace … given you—(Compare
by … Christ—literally, "IN Jesus Christ" given you as members
5. utterance—Alford from Menochius
translates, "doctrine." Ye are rich in preachers or the
preaching of the word, and rich in knowledge or
apprehension of it: literally "(the) word (preached)."
English Version (as in 2Co 8:7) is better: for Paul, purposing
presently to dwell on the abuse of the two gifts on which the
Corinthians most prided themselves, utterance (speech) and
knowledge (1Co 1:20; 3:18; 4:19; 1Co
13:1-14:40), previously gains
their goodwill by congratulating them on having those gifts.
6. According as the testimony of (of, and
concerning) Christ (who is both the object and author of this testimony
[Bengel]; 1Co 2:1; 1Ti 2:6; 2Ti
1:8) was confirmed
among [Alford] you; that is, by
God, through my preaching and through the miracles accompanying it
(1Co 12:3; Mr 16:20; 2Co
1:21, 22; Ga 3:2, 5; Eph 4:7, 8; Heb 2:4). God confirmed (compare Php 1:7;
Heb 2:3), or gave effect to
the Gospel among (or better as English Version, "in") the
Corinthians by their accepting it and setting their seal to its
truth, through the inward power of His Spirit, and the outward gifts
and miracles accompanying it [Calvin].
7. ye come behind—are inferior to other
Christians elsewhere [Grotius].
in no gift—not that all had all gifts,
but different persons among them had different gifts (1Co 12:4, &c.).
waiting for … coming of …
Christ—The crowning proof of their "coming behind in no
gift." Faith, hope, and love, are all exercised herein
(compare 2Ti 4:8; Tit 2:13). "Leaving to others their MEMENTO MORI (remember death), do thou earnestly
cherish this joyous expectation of the Lord's coming" [Bengel]. The Greek verb implies, "to expect
constantly, not only for a certain time, but even to the end till the
expected event happens" (Ro 8:19,
[Tittmann, Greek Synonyms of the New
8. Who—God, 1Co 1:4 (not Jesus Christ, 1Co 1:7, in which case it would be "in
unto the end—namely, "the coming of
blameless in the day of …
After that day there is no danger (Eph 4:30; Php 1:6). Now is our day to work, and the day of
our enemies to try us: then will be the day of Christ, and of His glory
in the saints [Bengel].
9. faithful—to His promises (Php 1:6;
called—according to His purpose (Ro 8:28).
unto … fellowship of …
Jesus—to be fellow heirs with Christ (Ro 8:17-28), like Him sons of God and heirs
of glory (Ro 8:30; 2Th 2:14; 1Pe 5:10; 1Jo 1:3). Chrysostom remarks that the name of Christ is
oftener mentioned in this than in any other Epistle, the apostle
designing thereby to draw them away from their party admiration of
particular teachers to Christ alone.
10. Now—Ye already have knowledge,
utterance, and hope, maintain also love.
brethren—The very title is an argument
by … Christ—whom Paul wishes to
be all in all to the Corinthians, and therefore names Him so often in
speak … same thing—not speaking
different things as ye do (1Co 1:12), in
a spirit of variance.
perfectly joined together—the opposite
word to "divisions." It is applied to healing a wound, or
making whole a rent.
mind … judgment—the view taken
by the understanding, and the practical decision arrived
at [Conybeare and Howson], as to what is to be done. The mind,
within, refers to things to be believed: the judgment is
displayed outwardly in things to be done [Bengel]. Disposition—opinion [Alford].
11. (1Co 11:18).
by them … of … house of
Chloe—They seem to have been alike in the confidence of Paul
and of the Corinthians. The Corinthians "wrote" to the apostle (1Co 7:1), consulting him concerning
certain points; marriage, the eating of things offered to idols, the
decorum to be observed by women in religious assemblies. But they said
not a syllable about the enormities and disorders that had crept in
among them. That information reached Paul by other quarters.
Hence his language about those evils is, "It hath been declared unto
me," &c.; "It is reported commonly" (1Co 5:1, 2). All this he says before he
refers to their letter, which shows that the latter did not give
him any intimation of those evils. An undesigned proof of genuineness
[Paley, Horæ Paulinæ].
Observe his prudence: He names the family, to let it be seen that he
made his allegation not without authority: he does not name the
individuals, not to excite odium against them. He tacitly implies that
the information ought rather to have come to him directly from their
presbyters, as they had consulted him about matters of less moment.
contentions—not so severe a word as
"divisions," literally, "schisms" (1Co 1:10, Margin).
12. this I say—this is what I
mean in saying "contentions" (1Co 1:11).
every one of you saith—Ye say
severally, "glorying in men" (1Co 1:31; 1Co 3:21, 22), one, I am of Paul; another, I am
of Apollos, &c. Not that they formed definite parties, but
they individually betrayed the spirit of party in contentions
under the name of different favorite teachers. Paul will not allow
himself to be flattered even by those who made his name their party
cry, so as to connive at the dishonor thereby done to Christ. These
probably were converted under his ministry. Those alleging the name of
Apollos, Paul's successor at Corinth (Ac 18:24, &c.), were persons attracted by his
rhetorical style (probably acquired in Alexandria, 1Co 3:6), as contrasted with the "weak bodily
presence" and "contemptible speech" of the apostle. Apollos, doubtless,
did not willingly foster this spirit of undue preference (1Co 4:6, 8); nay, to discourage it, he would not
repeat his visit just then (1Co 16:12).
I of Cephas—probably Judaizers, who
sheltered themselves under the name of Peter, the apostle of the
circumcision ("Cephas" is the Hebrew, "Peter" the Greek
name; Joh 1:42; Ga 2:11, &c.): the subjects handled in the
seventh through ninth chapters were probably suggested as matters of
doubt by them. The church there began from the Jewish synagogue,
Crispus the chief ruler, and Sosthenes his successor (probably), being
converts. Hence some Jewish leaven, though not so much as elsewhere, is
traceable (2Co 11:22).
Petrism afterwards sprang up much more rankly at Rome. If it be
wrong to boast "I am of Peter," how much more so to boast I am of the
I of Christ—A fair pretext used to
slight the ministry of Paul and their other teachers (1Co 4:8; 2Co
13. Is Christ divided?—into various
parts (one under one leader, another under another) [Alford]. The unity of His body is not to be cut in
pieces, as if all did not belong to Him, the One Head.
was Paul crucified for you?—In the
Greek the interrogation implies that a strong negative answer is
expected: "Was it Paul (surely you will not say so) that was
crucified for you?" In the former question the majesty of "Christ" (the Anointed One of God) implies the
impossibility of His being "divided." in the latter, Paul's
insignificance implies the impossibility of his being the head of
redemption, "crucified for" them, and giving his name to the redeemed.
This, which is true of Paul the founder of the Church of
Corinth, holds equally good of Cephas and Apollos, who had not such a
claim as Paul in the Corinthian Church.
crucified … baptized—The cross
claims us for Christ, as redeemed by Him; baptism, as dedicated to
in the name—rather, "into the
3:27), implying the
incorporation involved in the idea of baptism.
14. I thank God's providence now, who so
ordered it that I baptized none of you but Crispus (the former ruler of
the synagogue, Ac 18:8) and
Gaius (written by the Romans Caius, the host of Paul at Corinth,
and of the church, Ro 16:23; a
person therefore in good circumstances). Baptizing was the office of
the deacons (Ac 10:48)
rather than of the apostles, whose office was that of establishing and
superintending generally the churches. The deacons had a better
opportunity of giving the necessary course of instruction
preparatory to baptism. Crispus and Gaius were probably among the
first converts, and hence were baptized by Paul himself, who founded
15. Lest—not that Paul had this reason
at the time, but God so arranged it that none might say [Alford].
16. household of Stephanas—"The
first-fruits of Achaia," that is, among the first converted there
16:15, 17). It is likely that
such "households" included infants (Ac 16:33). The history of the Church favors this
view, as infant baptism was the usage from the earliest ages.
17. Paul says this not to depreciate baptism;
for he exalts it most highly (Ro 6:3). He baptized some first converts; and
would have baptized more, but that his and the apostles' peculiar work
was to preach the Gospel, to found by their autoptic testimony
particular churches, and then to superintend the churches in
sent me—literally, "as an
not to baptize—even in Christ's name,
much less in my own.
not with wisdom of words—or speech;
philosophical reasoning set off with oratorical language and
secular learning, which the Corinthians set so undue a value upon
1:5; 2:1, 4) in Apollos, and
the want of which in Paul they were dissatisfied with (2Co 10:10).
cross of Christ—the sum and substance
of the Gospel (1Co 1:23; 2:2), Christ crucified.
be made of none effect—literally, "be
made void" (Ro 4:14);
namely, by men thinking more of the human reasonings and eloquence in
which the Gospel was set forth, than of the Gospel itself of Christ
crucified, the sinner's only remedy, and God's highest exhibition of
18. preaching, &c.—literally, "the
word," or speech as to the cross; in contrast to the "wisdom of
words" (so called), 1Co 1:17.
them that perish—rather, "them that
are perishing," namely, by preferring human "wisdom of words" to the
doctrine of the "cross of Christ." It is not the final state that is
referred to; but, "them that are in the way of perishing." So also in
us which are saved—In the Greek
the collocation is more modest, "to them that are being saved (that are
in the way of salvation) as," that is, to which class we
power of God—which includes in it that
it is the wisdom of God" (1Co 1:24).
God's powerful instrument of salvation; the highest exhibition of God's
1:16). What seems to the
world "weakness" in God's plan of salvation (1Co 1:25), and in its mode of delivery by His
2:3) is really His mighty
"power." What seems "foolishness" because wanting man's "wisdom of
1:17), is really the highest
"wisdom of God" (1Co 1:24).
19. I will destroy—slightly altered from
the Septuagint, Isa 29:14.
The Hebrew is, "The wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the
understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." Paul by inspiration
gives the sense of the Spirit, by making God the cause of their wisdom perishing,
&c., "I will destroy," &c.
understanding of the
prudent—literally, "of the understanding ones."
20. Where—nowhere; for God "brings them
to naught" (1Co 1:19).
the scribe—Jewish [Alford].
the disputer—Greek [Alford]. Compare the Jew and Greek of this world
contrasted with the godly wise, 1Co 1:22, 23. Vitringa
thinks the reference is to the Jewish discourses in the synagogue,
daraschoth, from a Hebrew root "to dispute." Compare
"questions," Ac 26:3; Tit 3:9. If so, "wise" refers to Greek
wisdom (compare 1Co 1:22).
Paul applies Isa 33:18
here in a higher sense; there the primary reference was to temporal
deliverance, here to external; 1Co 1:22, which is in threefold opposition to
1:18 there, sanctions this
higher application; the Lord in the threefold character being the sole
ground of glorying to His people.
of this world … of this
world—rather, "dispensation (or age) … world";
the Greek words are distinct. The former is here this age
or worldly order of things in a moral point of view, as opposed
to the Christian dispensation or order of things. The latter is the
world viewed externally and cosmically.
made foolish—shown the world's
philosophy to be folly, because it lacks faith in Christ crucified
[Chrysostom]. Has treated it as folly,
and not used its help in converting and saving men (1Co 1:26, 27) [Estius].
21. after that—rather, "whereas."
in the wisdom of God—in the wise
arrangement of God.
world by wisdom—rather, "by its
wisdom," or "its philosophy" (Joh 1:10; Ro 1:28).
knew not God—whatever other knowledge
it attained (Ac 17:23, 27). The deistic theory that man can by the
light of nature discover his duty to God, is disproved by the fact that
man has never discovered it without revelation. All the stars
and moon cannot make it day; that is the prerogative of the sun. Nor
can nature's highest gifts make the moral day arise; that is the office
of Christ. Even the Jew missed this knowledge, in so far as he followed
after mere carnal world wisdom.
it pleased God—Paul refers to Jesus'
by the foolishness of preaching—by
that preaching which the world (unbelieving Jews and Gentiles alike)
save them that believe—(Ro 1:16).
22. For—literally, "Since," seeing that.
This verse illustrates how the "preaching" of Christ crucified came to
be deemed "foolishness" (1Co 1:21).
a sign—The oldest manuscripts read
"signs." The singular was a later correction from Mt 12:38;
16:1; Joh 2:18. The signs the
Jews craved for were not mere miracles, but direct tokens from heaven
that Jesus was Messiah (Lu 11:16).
Greeks seek … wisdom—namely, a
philosophic demonstration of Christianity. Whereas Christ, instead of
demonstrative proof, demands faith on the ground of
His word, and of a reasonable amount of evidence that the
alleged revelation is His word. Christianity begins not with solving
intellectual difficulties, but with satisfying the heart that longs for
forgiveness. Hence not the refined Greeks, but the theocratic Jews were
the chosen organ for propagating revelation. Again, intellectual Athens
17:18-21, &c.) received
the Gospel less readily than commercial Corinth.
23. we—Paul and Apollos.
Christ crucified—The Greek
expresses not the mere fact of His crucifixion, but the permanent
character acquired by the transaction, whereby He is now a Saviour
(Ga 3:1) crucified was the stone on which
the Jews stumbled (Mt 21:44).
The opposition of Jew and Gentile alike shows that a religion so
seemingly contemptible in its origin could not have succeeded if it had
not been divine.
unto the Greeks—the oldest manuscripts
read "unto the Gentiles."
24. called—(compare 1Co 1:26). The same class as the "us which are
(being) saved" (1Co 1:18);
the elect, who have obeyed the call; called effectually (Ro 8:28, 30).
Christ—"Crucified" is not here added,
because when the offense of the cross is overcome, "Christ" is received
in all His relations, not only in His cross, but in His life and His
power—so meeting all the reasonable
requirements of the Jews who sought "a sign." The cross (the death of a
slave), which to the Jews (looking for a temporal Messiah) was a
"stumbling-block," is really "the power of God" to the salvation of all
wisdom of God—so really exhibiting,
and in the highest degree (if they would but see it), that which the
Greeks sought after—wisdom (Col 2:3).
25. foolishness of God—that is, God's
plan of salvation which men deem "foolishness."
weakness of God—Christ "crucified
through weakness" (2Co 13:4, the
great stumbling-block of the Jews), yet "living by the
power of God." So He perfects strength out of the
weakness of His servants (1Co 2:3; 2Co 12:9).
26. ye see—rather, from the prominence
of the verb in the Greek, "see" or "consider" (imperative)
[Alford from Vulgate and Irenæus].
your calling … are
called—Instead of the words in italics, supplied by
English Version, supply, "were your callers." What Paul is
dwelling on (compare 1Co 1:27, 28) is the weakness of the instrumentality
which the Lord employed to convert the world [Hinds and Whately; so
Anselm]. However, English Version
accords well with 1Co 1:24.
"The whole history of the expansion of the Church is a progressive
victory of the ignorant over the learned, the lowly over the lofty,
until the emperor himself laid down his crown before the cross of
wise … after the flesh—the
wisdom of this world acquired by human study without the Spirit.
(Contrast Mt 16:17).
27. the foolish things—a general phrase
for all persons and things foolish. Even things (and
those, too, foolish things) are chosen by God to confound
persons, (and those too persons who are wise). This seems
to me the force of the change from neuter to masculine.
to confound—The Greek is
stronger, "that He might confound (or put to shame)." God
confounds the wise by effecting through His instruments, without human
wisdom, that the worldly wise, with it, cannot effect, namely, to bring
men to salvation.
chosen … chosen—The repetition
indicates the gracious deliberateness of God's purpose (Jas 2:5).
28. yea, and things which are
not—Yea is not in the Greek. Also some of the
oldest manuscripts omit "and." Thus the clause, "things which are not"
(are regarded as naught), is in apposition with "foolish … weak
… base (that is, lowborn) and despised things." God has chosen
all four, though regarded as things that are not, to bring to
naught things that are.
29. no flesh … glory—For they who
try to glory (boast) because of human greatness and wisdom, are
"confounded" or put to shame (1Co 1:27). Flesh, like "the flower of the field,"
is beautiful, but frail (Isa 40:6).
in his presence—We are to glory not
before Him, but in Him [Bengel].
30. But … ye—in contrast to them
that "glory" in worldly wisdom and greatness.
of him are—not of yourselves (Eph 2:8), but of Him (Ro 11:36). From Him ye are (that is, have
spiritual life, who once were spiritually among the "things which are
in Christ—by living union with Him.
Not "in the flesh" (1Co 1:26, 29).
of God—from God; emanating
from Him and sent by Him.
is made unto us—has been made
to us, to our eternal gain.
wisdom—unattainable by the worldly
mode of seeking it (1Co 1:19, 20; contrast Col 2:3; Pr 8:1-36; Isa
9:6). By it we become "wise
unto salvation," owing to His wisdom in originating and
executing the plan, whereas once we were "fools."
righteousness—the ground of our
justification (Jer 23:5, 6; Ro 4:25; 2Co 5:21); whereas once we were "weak" (Ro 5:6). Isa 42:21; 45:24.
sanctification—by His Spirit; whereas
formerly we were "base." Hereafter our righteousness and sanctification
alike shall be both perfect and inherent. Now the righteousness
wherewith we are justified is perfect, but not inherent; that wherewith
we are sanctified is inherent, but not perfect [Hooker]. Now sanctification is perfect in principle,
but not in attainment. These two are joined in the Greek as
forming essentially but one thing, as distinguished from the
"wisdom" in devising and executing the plan for us ("abounded
toward us in all wisdom," Eph 1:8), and
"redemption," the final completion of the scheme in the
deliverance of the body (the position of "redemption" last shows that
this limited sense is the one intended here). Lu 21:28; Ro 8:23; Eph 1:14; 4:30.
redemption—whereas once we were
31. glory in … Lord—(Jer 9:23, 24)—in opposition to "flesh
glorying in His presence" (1Co 1:29). In
contrast to morbid slavish self-abasement, Paul joins with humility the
elevating consciousness of our true dignity in Christ. He who glories
is to glory in the Lord, not in the flesh, nor in the world.