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Divisions in the Church

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.


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10. Now I beseech you, brethren Hitherto he has handled the Corinthians mildly, because he knew that they were much too sensitive. Now, however, after preparing their minds for receiving correction, acting the part of a good and skillful surgeon, who soothes the wound when about to apply a painful remedy, he begins to handle them with more severity. Even here, however, as we shall still farther see, he uses great moderation. The sum is this: “It is my hope that the Lord has not in vain conferred upon you so many gifts, so as not to have it in view to bring you to salvation, but you ought at the same time to take heed lest graces so distinguished be polluted by your vices. See, then, that you be agreed among yourselves; and it is not without good reason that I call for agreement among yourselves, for I have been informed that you are in a state of disagreement, amounting even to hostility, and that there are parties and contentions raging among you, by which true unity of faith is torn asunder.” As, however, they might not perhaps be sufficiently aroused by mere exhortation, he uses earnest entreaty, for he adjures them, by the name of Christ, that, as they loved him, they should aim at promoting harmony.

That ye all speak the same thing In exhorting them to harmony, he employs three different forms of expression: for, in the first place, he requires such agreement among them that all shall have one voice; secondly, he takes away the evil by which unity is broken and torn asunder; and, thirdly, he unfolds the nature of true harmony, which is, that they be agreed among themselves in mind and will. What he has placed second is first in order, — that we beware of strifes. For from this a second thing will naturally follow, — that we be in harmony; and then at length a third thing will follow, which is here mentioned first, — that we all speak, as it were, with one mouth; a thing exceedingly desirable as a fruit of Christian harmony. Let us then observe, that nothing is more inconsistent on the part of Christians than to be at variance among themselves, for it is the main article of our religion that we be in harmony among ourselves; and farther, on such agreement the safety of the Church rests and is dependent.

But let us see what he requires as to Christian unity. If any one is desirous of nice distinctions — he would have them first of all joined together in one mind; secondly, in one judgment; and, thirdly, he would have them declare in words that agreement. As, however, my rendering differs somewhat from that of Erasmus, I would, in passing, call my readers to observe, that Paul here makes use of a participle, which denotes things that are fitly and suitably joined together 5656     “Et assembles l’une h l’autre;” — “And associated with each other.” For the verb καταρτιζεσθαι itself (from which the participle κατηρτισμένος comes) properly signifies, to be fitted and adjusted, just as the members of the human body are connected together by a most admirable symmetry. 5757     The verb καταρτιζω properly signifies, to repair, or refit, or restore to its original condition what has been disarranged or broken; and in this sense it is applied to the repairing of nets, ships, walls, etc. (See Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19.) We might with perfect propriety understand the Apostle as alluding here to the repairing of a ship that has been broken or damaged, and as intimating that a Church, when shattered by divisions, is (so to speak) not sea-worthy, and must be carefully repaired, before she can be fit for purposes of commerce, by conveying to the nations of the earth the “true riches.” The allusion, however, most probably is, as Calvin thinks, to the members of the human body, which are so admirably adjusted to each other. It deserves to be noticed, that Paul makes use of a derivative from the same verb (κατάρτισις) in 2 Corinthians 13:9, on which Beza observes, “that the Apostle’s meaning is, that whereas the members of the Church were all (as it were) dislocated and out of joint, they should now again be joined together in love, and they should endeavor to make perfect what was amiss amongst them either in faith or manners.” — Ed

For sententia (judgment) Paul has γνώμην: but I understand it here as denoting the will, so that there is a complete division of the soul, and the first clause refers to faith, the second to love. Then only will there be Christian unity among us, when there is not merely a good agreement as to doctrine, but we are also in harmony in our affections and dispositions, and are thus in all respects of one mind. Thus Luke bears witness to believers in the primitive Church, (Acts 2:46,) that they had “one heart and one soul.” And without doubt this will be found wherever the Spirit of Christ reigns. When, however, he exhorts them to speak the same thing, he intimates still more fully from the effect, how complete the agreement ought to be — so that no diversity may appear even in words. It is difficult, indeed, of attainment, but still it is necessary among Christians, from whom there is required not merely one faith, but also one confession.

11. It has been declared. As general observations have usually little effect, he intimates, that what he had said was more particularly applicable to them. The application, therefore, is designed with the view of leading the Corinthians to perceive, that it was not without good reason that Paul had made mention of harmony. For he shows that they had not merely turned aside from a holy unity, 5858     “La sancte union qui doit estre entre les Chrestiens;” — “That holy unity which ought to be among Christians.” but had even fallen into contentions, which are worse 5959     “Bien plus dangereuses;” — “Much more dangerous.” than jarrings of sentiment. And that he may not be charged with believing too readily what was said, 6060     It is remarked by Beza that the verb here employed, δηλοω, (to declare,)has a stronger signification than σημαινω (to intimate,) just as there is a difference of meaning between the Latin words declarare (to declare) and significare (to intimate,) an example of which is furnished in a letter of Cicero to Lucretius, “tibi non significandum solum, sed etiam declarandum arbitror, nihil mihi esse potuisse tuis literis gratius;” “I think it ought to be not merely intimated to you but declared, that nothing could be more agreeable to me than your letters.” The emphatic word εδηλωθν (it has been declared,) appears to have been made use of by the Apostle to convey more fully to the mind of the Corhlthians, that he had not hastily given heed to a mere report. — Ed as though he lightly lent his ear to false accusations, he speaks with commendation of his informants, who must have been in the highest esteem, as he did not hesitate to adduce them as competent witnesses against an entire Church. It is not indeed altogether certain, whether Chloe is the name of a place or of a woman, but to me it appears more probable that it is the name of a woman. 6161     Some have thought that by τῶς Χλόης,(those of Chloe,) the Apostle means persons who were in a flourishing condition in religion; from χλόη, green herbage, (Herodotus, 4:34, Euripides, Hipp. 1124.) One writer supposes Paul to mean seniores, (elders,) deriving the word χλόη from כלח, old age. These conjectures, however, are manifestly more ingenious than solid. It is certain that the name Χλόν (Chloe,) was frequent among the Greeks as the name of a female. It is most natural to understand by των Χλονς those of Chloe, as equivalent to των Χλονς σοικειως those of the household of Chloe. — Ed I am of opinion, therefore, that it was a well-regulated household that acquainted Paul with the distempered condition of the Corinthian Church, being desirous that it might be remedied by him. The idea entertained by many, in accordance with Chrysostom’s view, that he refrained from mentioning names, lest he should bring odium upon them, appears to me to be absurd. For he does not say that some of the household had reported this to him, but, on the contrary, makes mention of them all, and there is no doubt that they would willingly have allowed their names to be made use of. Farther, that he might not exasperate their minds by undue severity, he has modified the reproof by an engaging form of address; not as though he would make light of the distemper, but with the view of bringing them to a more teachable spirit, for perceiving the severity of the malady.

12. I say then, etc. Some think there is here an instance of μιμησις, imitation, as if Paul were here repeating their expressions. Now, although the manuscripts differ as to the particle ὅτι, I am of opinion that it is the conjunction (because) rather than the relative (which), so that there is simply an explanation of the preceding statement in this sense. “My reason for saying that there are contentions among you is, because every one of you glories in the name of some individual.” It will, however, be objected, that in these words there is no appearance as yet of contention. My answer is, that where there are jarrings in religion, it cannot but be that men’s minds will soon afterwards burst forth in open strife. For as nothing is more effectual for uniting us, and there is nothing that tends more to draw our minds together, and keep them in a state of peace, than agreement in religion, so, on the other hand, if any disagreement has arisen as to matters of this nature, the effect necessarily is, that men’s minds are straightway stirred up for combat, and in no other department are there more fierce contendings. 6262     “Et n’y a en chose quelconque debars si grans ni tant a craindre que sent ceux-la;” — “And in no department are there disputes so great, or so much to be dreaded as those:” Hence it is with good reason that Paul brings it forward as a sufficient evidence of contention, that the Corinthians were infested with sects and parties.

I am of Paul He makes mention here of Christ’s faithful servants — Apollos, who had been his successor at Corinth, and Peter himself too, and then adds himself to their number, that he may appear to plead not so much his own cause as that of Christ. In any other point of view it is not likely that there were any parties that espoused the separate interests of ministers joined together by a sacred agreement. 6363     “Autrement veu que ces trois estoyent d’un sainct accord ensemble en leur ministere, il n’est point vray-semblable, qu’il y eust aucunes partialitez entre les Corinthiens pour se glorifier en l’un plustost qu’en l’autre;” — “Otherwise, seeing that those three were united in their ministry by a sacred agreement, it is not likely that there were any parties among the Corinthians that were prepared to glory in one of them rather than in another.” He has, however, as he afterwards mentions, transferred to himself and Apollos what was applicable to others; and this he has done, in order that they might more candidly consider the thing itself, viewing it apart from respect of persons. It will, however, be replied, that he makes mention here even of those who professed that they were of Christ Was this, too, worthy of blame? I answer, that in this way he shows more fully what unseemly consequences result from those depraved affections, when we give ourselves up to men, as in that case Christ must be acknowledged merely in part, and the pious have no alternative left them, but to separate themselves from others, if they would not renounce Christ.

As, however, this passage is wrested in various ways, we must endeavor to ascertain more minutely what Paul intends here. His object is, to maintain Christ’s exclusive authority in the Church, so that we may all exercise dependence upon him, that he alone may be recognized among us as Lord and Master, and that the name of no individual be set in opposition to his. Those, therefore, that draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30,) with the view of splitting the Church into parties, he condemns as most destructive enemies of our faith. Thus then he does not, suffer men to have such pre-eminence in the Church as to usurp Christ’s supremacy. He does not allow them to be held in such honor as to derogate even in the slightest degree from Christ’s dignity. There is, it is true, a certain degree of honor that is due to Christ’s ministers, and they are also themselves masters in their own place, but this exception must always be kept in view, that Christ must have without any infringement what belongs to him — that he shall nevertheless be the sole Master, and looked upon as such. Hence the aim of good ministers is this, that they may all in common serve Christ, and claim for him exclusively power, authority, and glory — fight under his banner — obey him alone, and bring others in subjection to his sway. If any one is influenced by ambition, that man gathers disciples, not to Christ, but to himself. This then is the fountain of all evils — this the most hurtful of all plagues — this the deadly poison of all Churches, when ministers seek their own interests rather than those of Christ. In short, the unity of the Church consists more especially in this one thing — that we all depend upon Christ alone, and that men thus occupy an inferior place, so as not to detract in any degree from his pre-eminence.

13. Is Christ divided? This intolerable evil was consequent upon the divisions that prevailed among the Corinthians: for Christ alone must reign in the Church. And as the object of the gospel is, that we be reconciled to God through him, it is necessary, in the first place, that we should all be bound together in him. As, however, only a very few of the Corinthians, who were in a sounder condition than the others, 6464     “Mieux avisez que les autres;” — “Better advised than the others.” retained Christ as their Master, (while all made it their boast that they were Christians,) Christ was by this means torn asunder. For we must be one body, if we would be kept together under him as our head. If, on the other hand, we are split asunder into different bodies, we start aside from him also. Hence to glory in his name amidst strifes and parties is to tear him in pieces: which indeed is impossible, for never will he depart from unity and concord, because “He cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13.) Paul, therefore, by setting before them this absurdity, designs to lead the Corinthians to perceive that they are estranged from Christ, inasmuch as they are divided, for then only does he reign in us, when we have him as the bond of an inviolably sacred unity.

Was Paul crucified for you? By two powerful considerations, he shows how base a thing 6565     “Combien c’est vne chose insupportable;” — “How insufferable a thing it is.” it is to rob Christ of the honor of being the sole Head of the Church — the sole Teacher — the sole Master; or to draw away from him any part of that honor, with the view of transferring it to men. The first is, that we have been redeemed by Christ on this footing, that we are not our own masters. This very argument Paul makes use of in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 14:9,) when he says,

“For this end Christ died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the living and the dead.”

To him, therefore, let us live and die, because we are always his. Also in this same Epistle (1 Corinthians 7:23,)

“Ye are bought with a price: be not ye the servants of men.”

As the Corinthians, therefore, had been purchased with the blood of Christ, they in a manner renounced the benefit of redemption, when they attached themselves to other leaders. Here is a doctrine that is deserving of special notice — that we are not at liberty to put ourselves under bondage to men, 6666     “Addicere nos hominibus in servitutem“ — “de nous assuiettir aux hommes en seruitude;” — “To give ourselves up to men, so as to be in bondage to them.” Calvin very probably had in his eye the celebrated sentiment of Horace, (Epistle 1 50:14,) “Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri;” — “Bound to swear allegiance to no master,” while enforcing the sentiment by a powerful consideration, to which the heathen poet was an entire stranger. — Ed. because we are the Lord’s heritage. Here, therefore, he accuses the Corinthians of the basest ingratitude, in estranging themselves from that Leader, by whose blood they had been redeemed, however they might have done so unwittingly.

Farther, this passage militates against the wicked contrivance of Papists, by which they attempt to bolster up their system of indulgences. For it is from the blood of Christ and the martyrs 6767     “Du sang de Christ, et des martyrs tous ensemble;” — “From the blood of Christ, and of all the martyrs together.” that they make up that imaginary treasure of the Church, which they tell us is dealt out by means of indulgences. Thus they pretend that the martyrs by their death merited something for us in the sight of God, that we may seek help from this source for obtaining the pardon of our sins. They will deny, indeed, that they are on that account our redeemers; but nothing is more manifest than that the one thing follows from the other. The question is as to the reconciling of sinners to God; the question is as to the obtaining of forgiveness; the question is as to the appeasing of the Lord’s anger; the question is as to redemption from our iniquities. This they boast is accomplished partly by the blood of Christ, and partly by that of the martyrs. They make, therefore, the martyrs partners with Christ in procuring our salvation. Here, however, Paul in strong terms denies that any one but Christ has been crucified for us. The martyrs, it is true, died for our benefit, but (as Leo 6868     Leo, ad Palaestinos, Epistle 81. The passage alluded to above is quoted at large in the Institutes. (Volume 2.) “Although the death of many saints was precious in the sight of the Lord, (Psalm 116:15,) yet no innocent man’s slaughter was the propitiation of the world. The just received crowns, did not give them; and the fortitude of believers produced examples of patience, not gifts of righteousness; for their deaths were for themselves; and none by his final end paid the debt of another, except Christ our Lord, in whom alone all are crucified, all dead, buried, and raised up.” Leo, from whose writings this admirable passage is extracted, was a Roman bishop, who flourished in the fifth century, and was one of the most distinguished men of his age. He was a most zealous defender of the doctrines of grace, in opposition to Pelagianism and other heresies. — Ed. observes) it was to furnish an example of perseverance, not to procure for us the gift of righteousness.

Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? Here we have a second argument, which is taken from the profession of baptism; for we enlist ourselves under the banners of him in whose name we are baptized. We are, accordingly, bound 6969     “Obligez par serment;” — “Bound by oath.” to Christ, in whose name our baptism is celebrated. Hence it follows that the Corinthians are chargeable with perfidy and apostasy, if they place themselves under subjection to men. Observe here that the nature of baptism resembles a contract 7070     “Syngrapha (the term employed by Calvin) was a contract or bond, formally entered into between two parties, signed and sealed by both, and a copy given to each.” Cic. Verr. 1:36. Dio. 48:37. It is derived from a Greek term συγγραφὴ (a legal instrument or obligation.) Herodotus 1:48; and Demosthenes 268:13. Π. στεφ.Ed of mutual obligation; for as the Lord by that symbol receives us into his household, and introduces us among his people, so we pledge our fidelity to him, that we will never afterwards have any other spiritual Lord. Hence as it is on God’s part a covenant of grace that he contracts with us, in which he promises forgiveness of sins and a new life, so on our part it is an oath of spiritual warfare, in which we promise perpetual subjection to him. The former department Paul does not here touch upon, because the subject did not admit of it; but in treating of baptism it ought not to be omitted. Nor does Paul charge the Corinthians with apostasy simply on the ground of their forsaking Christ and betaking themselves to men; but he declares that if they do not adhere to Christ alone — that very thing would make them covenant-breakers.

It is asked, what it is to be baptized in the name of Christ? I answer that by this expression it is not simply intimated that baptism is founded on the authority of Christ, but depends also on his influence, and does in a manner consist in it; and, in fine, that the whole effect of it depends on this — that the name of Christ is therein invoked. It is asked farther, why it is that Paul says that the Corinthians were baptized in the name of Christ, while Christ himself commanded (Matthew 28:19) the Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I answer, that in baptism the first thing to be considered is, that God the Father, by planting us in his Church in unmerited goodness, receives us by adoption into the number of his sons. Secondly, as we cannot have any connection with him except by means of reconciliation, we have need of Christ to restore us to the Father’s favor by his blood. Thirdly, as we are by baptism consecrated to God, we need also the interposition of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to make us new creatures. Nay farther, our being washed in the blood of Christ is peculiarly his work; but as we do not obtain the mercy of the Father, or the grace of the Spirit, otherwise than through Christ alone, it is on good grounds that we speak of him as the peculiar object in view in baptism, and more particularly inscribe his name upon baptism. At the same time this does not by any means exclude the name of the Father and of the Spirit; for when we wish to sum up in short compass the efficacy of baptism, we make mention of Christ alone; but when we are disposed to speak with greater minuteness, the name of the Father and that of the Spirit require to be expressly introduced.

14. I thank my God. In these words he reproves very sharply the perversity of the Corinthians, which made it necessary for him to avoid, in a manner, a thing so sacred and honorable as that of the administration of baptism. Paul, indeed, would have acted with propriety, and in accordance with the nature of his office, though he had baptized ever so many. He rejoices, however, that it had happened otherwise, and acknowledges it as having been so ordered, in the providence of God, that they might not take occasion from that to glory in him, or that he might not bear any resemblance to those ambitious men who endeavored in this way to catch followers. But what if he had baptized many? There would have been no harm in it, but (as I have said) there is couched under this a heavy reproach against the Corinthians and their false apostles, inasmuch as a servant of the Lord found occasion to rejoice that he had refrained from a work, otherwise good and commendable, lest it should become an occasion of harm to them.

17. For Christ sent me not. He anticipates an objection that might, perhaps, be brought against him — that he had not discharged his duty, inasmuch as Christ commands his Apostles to baptize as well as teach. Accordingly he replies, that this was not the principal department of his office, for the duty of teaching had been principally enjoined upon him as that to which he should apply himself. For when Christ says to the Apostles, (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15,) Go, preach and baptize, he connects baptism with teaching simply as an addition or appendage, so that teaching always holds the first place.

Two things, however, must be noticed here. The first is, that the Apostle does not here absolutely deny that he had a command to baptize, for this is applicable to all the Apostles: Go and baptize; and he would have acted rashly in baptizing even one, had he not been furnished with authority, but simply points out what was the chief thing in his calling. The second thing is, that he does not by any means detract here, as some think, from the dignity or utility of the sacrament. For the question here is, not as to the efficacy of baptism, and Paul does not institute this comparison with the view of detracting in any degree from that; but because it was given to few to teach, while many could baptize; and farther, as many could be taught at the same time, while baptism could only be administered to individuals successively, one by one, Paul, who excelled in the gift of teaching, applied himself to the work that was more especially needful for him, and left to others what they could more conveniently accomplish. Nay farther, if the reader considers minutely all the circumstances of the case, he will see that there is irony 7171     “Ironie, c’est a dire, mocquerie;” — “Irony, that is to say, mockery.” tacitly conveyed here, dexterously contrived for making those feel acutely, who, under color of administering a ceremony, endeavor to catch a little glory at the expense of another’s labor. Paul’s labors in building up that Church had been incredible. There had come after him certain effeminate masters, who had drawn over followers to their party by the sprinkling of water; 7272     “Seulement en les arrousant d’eau: c’est a dire, baptizant;” — “Simply by sprinkling them with water, that is to say, baptizing.” Paul, then, giving up to them the title of honor, declares himself contented with having had the burden. 7373     “Toute la charge et la pesanteur du fardeau;” — “The whole charge and weight of the burden.”

Not with wisdom of words There is here an instance of anticipation, by which a twofold objection is refuted. For these pretended teachers might reply that it was ludicrous to hear Paul, who was not endowed with eloquence, making it his boast that the department of teaching had been assigned to him. Hence he says, by way of concession, that he had not been formed to be an orator, 7474     “Vn Rhetoricien ou harangueur;” — “A Rhetorician, or declaimer.” to set himself off by elegance of speech: but a minister of the Spirit, that he might, by plain and homely speech, bring to nothing the wisdom of the world. Now, lest any one should object that he hunted after glory by his preaching, as much as others did by baptism, he briefly replies, that as the method of teaching that he pursued was the farthest removed from show, and breathed nothing of ambition, it could give no ground of suspicion on that head. Hence, too, if I mistake not, it may readily be inferred what was the chief ground of the controversy that Paul had with the wicked and unfaithful ministers of the Corinthians. It was that, being puffed up with ambition, that they might secure for themselves the admiration of the people, they recommended themselves to them by a show of words and mask of human wisdom.

From this main evil two others necessarily followed — that by these disguises (so to speak) the simplicity of the gospel was disfigured, and Christ was, as it were, clothed in a new and foreign garb, so that the pure and unadulterated knowledge of him was not to be found. Farther, as men’s minds were turned aside to neatness and elegance of expression, to ingenious speculations, and to an empty show of superior sublimity of doctrine, the efficacy of the Spirit vanished, and nothing remained but the dead letter. The majesty of God, as it shines forth in the gospel, was not to be seen, but mere disguise and useless show. Paul, accordingly, with the view of exposing these corruptions of the gospel, makes a transition here to the manner of his preaching. This he declares to be right and proper, while at the same time it was diametrically opposed to the ambitious ostentation of those men. 7575     “Ces vaillans docteurs;” — “Those valiant teachers.” It is as though he had said — “I am well aware how much your fastidious teachers delight themselves in their high-sounding phrases. As for myself, I do not simply confess that my preaching has been conducted in a rude, coarse, and unpolished style, but I even glory in it. For it was right that it should be so, and this was the method that was divinely prescribed to me.” By the wisdom of words, he does not mean λογοδαιδαλία, 7676     The term λογοδαιδαλία properly denotes speech ingeniously contrived. It is compounded of λογος (speech) and Δαιδαλος (Daedalus,) an ingenious artist of Athens, celebrated for his skill in statuary and architecture. Hence everything that was skilfully contrived was called Daedalean. See Lucr. 4. 555, and 5. 235; Virg. G. 4. 179; and Aen. 7. 282. — Ed which is mere empty talk, but true eloquence, which consists in skillful contrivance of subjects, ingenious arrangement, and elegance of expression. He declares that he had nothing of this: nay more, that it was neither suitable to his preaching nor advantageous.

Lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect As he had so often previously presented the name of Christ in contrast with the arrogant wisdom of the flesh, so now, with the view of bringing down thereby all its pride and loftiness, he brings forward to view the cross of Christ. For all the wisdom of believers is comprehended in the cross of Christ, and what more contemptible than a cross? Whoever, therefore, would desire to be truly wise in God’s account, must of necessity stoop to this abasement of the cross, and this will not be accomplished otherwise than by his first of all renouncing his own judgment and all the wisdom of the world. Paul, however, shows here not merely what sort of persons Christ’s disciples ought to be, and what path of learning they ought to pursue, but also what is the method of teaching in Christ’s school. “The cross of Christ (says he) would have been made of none effect, if my preaching had been adorned with eloquence and show.” The cross of Christ he has put here for the benefit of redemption, which must be sought from Christ crucified. Now the doctrine of the gospel which calls us to this, should savor of the nature of the Cross, so as to be despised and contemptible, rather than glorious, in the eyes of the world. The meaning, therefore, is, that if Paul had made use of philosophical acuteness and studied address in the presence of the Corinthians, the efficacy of the cross of Christ, in which the salvation of men consists, would have been buried, because it cannot come to us in that way.

Here two questions are proposed: first, whether Paul here condemns in every respect the wisdom of words, as opposed to Christ; and secondly, whether he means that eloquence and the doctrine of the gospel are invariably opposed, so they cannot agree together, and that the preaching of the gospel is vitiated, if the slightest tincture of eloquence 7777     “Eloquence et rhetorique;” — “Eloquence and rhetoric.” is made use of for adorning it. To the first of these I answer — that it were quite unreasonable to suppose, that Paul would utterly condemn those arts which, it is manifest, are excellent gifts of God, and which serve as instruments, as it were, to assist men in the accomplishment of important purposes. As for those arts, then, that have nothing of superstition, but contain solid learning, 7878     “Vne bonne erudition, et scauoir solide;” — “Good learning, and solid wisdom.” and are founded on just principles, as they are useful and suited to the common transactions of human life, so there can be no doubt that they have come forth from the Holy Spirit; and the advantage which is derived and experienced from them, ought to be ascribed exclusively to God. What Paul says here, therefore, ought not to be taken as throwing any disparagement upon the arts, as if they were unfavorable to piety.

The second question is somewhat more difficult, for he says, that the cross of Christ is made of none effect if there be any admixture of the wisdom of words I answer, that we must consider who they are that Paul here addresses. The ears of the Corinthians were tickled with a silly fondness for high sounding style. 7979     “Les Corinthiens auoyent les oreilles chatouilleuses, et estoyent transportez d’vn fol appetit d’auoir des gens qui eussent vn beau parler;” — “The Corinthians had itching ears, (2 Timothy 4:3,) and were carried away with a silly eagerness to have persons that had a good manner of address.” Hence they needed more than others to be brought back to the abasement of the cross, that they might learn to embrace Christ as he is, unadorned, and the gospel in its simplicity, without any false ornament. I acknowledge, at the same time, that this sentiment in some respects holds invariably, that the cross of Christ is made of none effect, not merely by the wisdom of the world, but also by elegance of address. For the preaching of Christ crucified is simple and unadorned, and hence it ought not to be obscured by false ornaments of speech. It is the prerogative of the gospel to bring down the wisdom of the world in such a way that, stripped of our own understanding, we show ourselves to be simply docile, and do not think or even desire to know anything, but what the Lord himself teaches. As to the wisdom of the flesh, we shall have occasion to consider more at large ere long, in what respects it is opposed to Christ. As to eloquence, I shall advert to it here in a few words, in so far as the passage calls for.

We see that God from the beginning ordered matters so, that, the gospel should be administered in simplicity, without any aid from eloquence. Could not he who fashions the tongues of men for eloquence, be himself eloquent if he chose to be so? While he could be so, he did not choose to be so. Why it was that he did not choose this, I find two reasons more particularly. The first is, that in a plain and unpolished manner of address, the majesty of the truth might shine forth more conspicuously, and the simple efficacy of his Spirit, without external aids, might make its way into the hearts of men. The second is, that he might more effectually try our obedience and docility, and train us at the same time to true humility. For the Lord admits none into his school but little children. 8080     “Les humbles;” — “The humble.” Hence those alone are capable of heavenly wisdom who, contenting themselves with the preaching of the cross, however contemptible it may be in appearance, feel no desire whatever to have Christ under a mask. Hence the doctrine of the gospel required to be regulated with this view, that believers should be drawn off from all pride and haughtiness.

But what if any one should at the present day, by discoursing with some degree of elegance, adorn the doctrine of the gospel by eloquence? Would he deserve to be on that account rejected, as though he either polluted it or obscured Christ’s glory. I answer in the first place, that eloquence is not at all at variance with the simplicity of the gospel, when it does not merely not disdain to give way to it, and be in subjection to it, but also yields service to it, as a handmaid to her mistress. For as Augustine says, “He who gave Peter a fisherman, gave also Cyprian an orator.” By this he means, that both are from God, notwithstanding that the one, who is much the superior of the other as to dignity, is utterly devoid of gracefulness of speech; while the other, who sits at his feet, is distinguished by the fame of his eloquence. That eloquence, therefore, is neither to be condemned nor despised, which has no tendency to lead Christians to be taken up with an outward glitter of words, or intoxicate them with empty delight, or tickle their ears with its tinkling sound, or cover over the cross of Christ with its empty show as with a veil; 8181     “Ni a offusquer de sa pompe la croix de Christ, comme qui mettroit vne nuee au denant;” — “Nor to darken the cross of Christ with its empty show, as if one were drawing a cloud over it.” but, on the contrary, tends to call us back to the native simplicity of the gospel, tends to exalt the simple preaching of the cross by voluntarily abasing itself, and, in fine, acts the part of a herald 8282     “Brief, a seruir comme de trompette;” — “In short, to serve as a trumpet.” to procure a hearing for those fishermen and illiterate persons, who have nothing to recommend them but the energy of the Spirit.

I answer secondly, that the Spirit of God, also, has an eloquence of his own, but of such a nature as to shine forth with a native luster peculiar to itself, or rather (as they say) intrinsic, more than with any adventitious ornaments. Such is the eloquence that the Prophets have, more particularly Isaiah, David, and Solomon. Moses, too, has a sprinkling of it. Nay farther, even in the writings of the Apostles, though they are more unpolished, there are notwithstanding some sparks of it occasionally emitted. Hence the eloquence that is suited to the Spirit of God is of such a nature that it does not swell with empty show, or spend itself in empty sound, but is solid and efficacious, and has more of substance than elegance.

18. For the preaching of the cross, etc. In this first clause a concession is made. For as it might very readily be objected, that the gospel is commonly held in contempt, if it be presented in so bare and abject a form, Paul of his own accord concedes this, but when he adds, that it is so in the estimation of them that perish, he intimates that no regard must be paid to their judgment. For who would choose to despise the gospel at the expense of perishing? This statement, therefore, must be understood in this way: “However the preaching of the cross, as having nothing of human wisdom to recommend it to esteem, is reckoned foolishness by them that perish; in our view, notwithstanding, the wisdom of God clearly shines forth in it.” He indirectly reproves, however, the perverted judgment of the Corinthians, who, while they were, through seduction of words, too easily allured by ambitious teachers, regarded with disdain an Apostle who was endowed with the power of God for their salvation, and that simply because he devoted himself to the preaching of Christ. In what way the preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation, we have explained in commenting upon Romans 1:16




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