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3. On Division in the Church

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 16Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

18Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 21Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

1. And I, brethren He begins to apply to the Corinthians themselves, that he had said respecting carnal persons, that they may understand that the fault was their own — that the doctrine of the Cross had not more charms for them. It is probable, that in mercantile minds like theirs there was too much confidence and arrogance still lingering, so that it was not without much ado and great difficulty that they could bring themselves to embrace the simplicity of the gospel. Hence it was, that undervaluing the Apostle, and the divine efficacy of his preaching, they were more prepared to listen to those teachers that were subtle and showy, while destitute of the Spirit. 145145     “Combien qu’il n’y eust en eux ancunc efficace de l’Esprit;” — “Though there was in them no efficacy of the Spirit.” Hence, with the view of beating down so much the better their insolence, he declares, that they belong to the company of those who, stupefied by carnal sense, are not prepared to receive the spiritual wisdom of God. He softens down, it is true, the harshness of his reproach by calling them brethren, but at the same time he brings it forward expressly as a matter of reproach against them, that their minds were suffocated with the darkness of the flesh to such a degree that it formed a hindrance to his preaching among them. What sort of sound judgment then must they have, when they are not fit and prepared as yet even for hearing! He does not mean, however, that they were altogether carnal, so as to have not one spark of the Spirit of God — but that they had still greatly too much of carnal sense, so that the flesh prevailed over the Spirit, and did as it were drown out his light. Hence, although they were not altogether destitute of grace, yet, as they had more of the flesh than of the Spirit, they are on that account termed carnal This sufficiently appears from what he immediately adds — that they were babes in Christ; for they would not have been babes had they not been begotten, and that begetting is from the Spirit of God.

Babes in Christ This term is sometimes taken in a good sense, as it is by Peter, who exhorts us to be like new-born babes, (1 Peter 2:2,) and in that saying of Christ,

Unless ye become as these little children,
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God, (Luke 18:17.)

Here, however, it is taken in a bad sense, as referring to the understanding. For we must be children in malice, but not in understanding, as he says afterwards in 1 Corinthians 14:20, — a distinction which removes all occasion of doubt as to the meaning. To this also there is a corresponding passage in Ephesians 4:14.

That we be no longer children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, and made the sport 146146     Our author gives in this, as in many other instances, the substance of the passage quoted rather than the express words In the expression “made the sport of human fallacies,” he seems to have had in his eye the term κυβεια — rendered by our translators sleight (of men,) which, as Calvin himself remarks when commenting upon the passage, is “translatum ab aleatoribus, quod inter eos multae sint fallendi artes:” borrowed from players at dice, there being many arts of deception practiced among them. — Ed of human fallacies, but may day by day grow up, etc

2. I have fed you with milk Here it is asked, whether Paul transformed Christ to suit the diversity of his hearers. I answer, that this refers to the manner and form of his instructions, rather than to the substance of the doctrine. For Christ is at once milk to babes, and strong meat to those that are of full age, (Hebrews 5:13, 14,) the same truth of the gospel is administered to both, but so as to suit their capacity. Hence it is the part of a wise teacher to accommodate himself to the capacity of those whom he has undertaken to instruct, so that in dealing with the weak and ignorant, he begins with first principles, and does not go higher than they are able to follow, (Mark 4:33,) and so that, in short, he drops in his instructions by little and little, 147147     “Il leur propose la doctrine petit a petit, et par maniere de dire, la face distiller en eux;” — “He presents instruction to them by little and little, and, so to speak, makes it drop upon them.” lest it should run over, if poured in more abundantly. At the same time, those first principles will contain everything necessary to be known, no less than the farther advanced lessons that are communicated to those that are stronger. On this point read Augustine’s 98th homily on John. This tends to refute the specious pretext of some, who, while they do but mutter out, from fear of danger, something of the gospel in an indistinct manner, 148148     “Ne parlans de l’Euangile que quelques mots bleu obscurement, et comme entre les deurs, pour la crainte qu’ils ont de tomber en quelque danger de leurs ersonnes;” — “Speaking merely some words of the gospel very indistinctly, and, as it were, through their teeth, from the fear that they have of incurring some personal danger.” pretend to have Paul’s example here. Meanwhile, they present Christ at such a distance, and covered over, besides, with so many disguises, that they constantly keep their followers in destructive ignorance. I shall say nothing of their mixing up many corruptions, their presenting Christ not simply in half, but torn to fragments, 149149     “Par pieces et morceaux;” — “Into pieces and morsels.” their not merely concealing such gross idolatry, but confirming it also by their own example, and, if they have said anything that is good, straightway polluting it with numerous falsehoods. How unlike they are to Paul is sufficiently manifest; for milk is nourishment and not poison, and nourishment that is suitable and useful for bringing up children until they are farther advanced.

For ye were not yet able to bear it That they may not flatter themselves too much on their own discernment, he first of all tells them what he had found among them at the beginning, and then adds, what is still more severe, that the same faults remain among them to this day. For they ought at least, in putting on Christ, to have put off the flesh; and thus we see that Paul complains that the success which his doctrine ought to have had was impeded. For if the hearer does not occasion delay by his slowness, it is the part of a good teacher to be always going up higher, 150150     “D’avaneer tousiours ses escholiers, et monter plus haut;” — “To be always carrying forward his pupils, and going up higher.” till perfection has been attained.


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