1 Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us which are saved it is the power of God.
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(18) For the preaching.—In the original the contrast comes out more strongly between this and the previous statement, the same phrase being repeated, thus, “For the word of the cross,” in contrast to “the wisdom of more words” above. This is the word of real power.

Them that perish.—Better, those that are perishing, and us who are being saved, the former referring to those who have not received the gospel, and the latter to those who have (2Corinthians 2:15; 2Corinthians 4:3).

The power of God.—The cross and all that it represents is the greatest display of the power of God (Acts 8:10).

1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 1:18

The starting-point of my remarks is the observation that a slight variation of rendering, which will be found in the Revised Version, brings out the true meaning of these words. Instead of reading ‘them that perish’ and ‘us which are saved,’ we ought to read ‘them that are perishing,’ and ‘us which are being saved.’ That is to say, the Apostle represents the two contrasted conditions, not so much as fixed states, either present or future, but rather as processes which are going on, and are manifestly, in the present, incomplete. That opens some very solemn and intensely practical considerations.

Then I may further note that this antithesis includes the whole of the persons to whom the Gospel is preached. In one or other of these two classes they all stand. Further, we have to observe that the consideration which determines the class to which men belong, is the attitude which they respectively take to the preaching of the Cross. If it be, and because it is, ‘foolishness’ to some, they belong to the catalogue of the perishing. If it be, and because it is, ‘the power of God’ to others, they belong to the class of those who are in process of being saved.

So, then, we have the ground cleared for two or three very simple, but, as it seems to me, very important thoughts.

I. I desire, first, to look at the two contrasted conditions, ‘perishing’ and ‘being saved.’

Now we shall best, I think, understand the force of the darker of these two terms if we first ask what is the force of the brighter and more radiant. If we understand what the Apostle means by ‘saving’ and ‘salvation’ we shall understand also what he means by ‘perishing.’

If, then, we turn for a moment to Scripture analogy and teaching, we find that that threadbare word ‘salvation,’ which we all take it for granted that we understand, and which, like a well-worn coin, has been so passed from hand to hand that it scarcely remains legible-that well-worn word ‘salvation’ starts from a double metaphorical meaning. It means either-and is used for both-being healed or being made safe. In the one sense it is often employed in the Gospel narratives of our Lord’s miracles, and it involves the metaphor of a sick man and his cure; in the other it involves the metaphor of a man in peril and his deliverance and security. The negative side, then, of the Gospel idea of salvation is the making whole from a disease, and the making safe from a danger. Negatively, it is the removal from each of us of the one sickness, which is sin; and the one danger, which is the reaping of the fruits and consequences of sin, in their variety as guilt, remorse, habit, and slavery under it, perverted relation to God, a fearful apprehension of penal consequences here, and, if there be a hereafter, there, too. The sickness of soul and the perils that threaten life, flow from the central fact of sin, and salvation consists, negatively, in the sweeping away of all of these, whether the sin itself, or the fatal facility with which we yield to it, or the desolation and perversion which it brings into all the faculties and susceptibilities, or the perversion of relation to God, and the consequent evils, here and hereafter, which throng around the evil-doer. The sick man is healed, and the man in peril is set in safety.

But, besides that, there is a great deal more. The cure is incomplete till the full tide of health follows convalescence. When God saves, He does not only bar up the iron gate through which the hosts of evil rush out upon the defenceless soul, but He flings wide the golden gate through which the glad troops of blessings and of graces flock around the delivered spirit, and enrich it with all joys and with all beauties. So the positive side of salvation is the investiture of the saved man with throbbing health through all his veins, and the strength that comes from a divine life. It is the bestowal upon the delivered man of everything that he needs for blessedness and for duty. All good conferred, and every evil banned back into its dark den, such is the Christian conception of salvation. It is much that the negative should be accomplished, but it is little in comparison with the rich fulness of positive endowments, of happiness, and of holiness which make an integral part of the salvation of God.

This, then, being the one side, what about the other? If this be salvation, its precise opposite is the Scriptural idea of ‘perishing.’ Utter ruin lies in the word, the entire failure to be what God meant a man to be. That is in it, and no contortions of arbitrary interpretation can knock that solemn significance out of the dreadful expression. If salvation be the cure of the sickness, perishing is the fatal end of the unchecked disease. If salvation be the deliverance from the outstretched claws of the harpy evils that crowd about the trembling soul, then perishing is the fixing of their poisoned talons into their prey, and their rending of it into fragments.

Of course that is metaphor, but no metaphor can be half so dreadful as the plain, prosaic fact that the exact opposite of the salvation, which consists in the healing from sin and the deliverance from danger, and in the endowment with all gifts good and beautiful, is the Christian idea of the alternative ‘perishing.’ Then it means the disease running its course. It means the dangers laying hold of the man in peril. It means the withdrawal, or the non-bestowal, of all which is good, whether it be good of holiness or good of happiness. It does not mean, as it seems to me, the cessation of conscious existence, any more than salvation means the bestowal of conscious existence. But he who perishes knows that he has perished, even as he knows the process while he is in the process of perishing. Therefore, we have to think of the gradual fading away from consciousness, and dying out of a life, of many things beautiful and sweet and gracious, of the gradual increase of distance from Him, union with whom is the condition of true life, of the gradual sinking into the pit of utter ruin, of the gradual increase of that awful death in life and life in death in which living consciousness makes the conscious subject aware that he is lost; lost to God, lost to himself.

Brethren, it is no part of my business to enlarge upon such awful thoughts, but the brighter the light of salvation, the darker the eclipse of ruin which rings it round. This, then, is the first contrast.

II. Now note, secondly, the progressiveness of both members of the alternative.

All states of heart or mind tend to increase, by the very fact of continuance. Life is a process, and every part of a spiritual being is in living motion and continuous action in a given direction. So the law for the world, and for every man in it, in all regions of his life, quite as much as in the religious, is ‘To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance.’

Look, then, at this thought of the process by which these two conditions become more and more confirmed, consolidated, and complete. Salvation is a progressive fact. In the New Testament we have that great idea looked at from three points of view. Sometimes it is spoken of as having been accomplished in the past in the case of every believing soul-’Ye have been saved’ is said more than once. Sometimes it is spoken of as being accomplished in the present-’Ye are saved’ is said more than once. And sometimes it is relegated to the future-’Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed,’ and the like. But there are a number of New Testament passages which coincide with this text in regarding salvation as, not the work of any one moment, but as a continuous operation running through life, not a point either in the past, present, or future, but a continued life. As, for instance, ‘The Lord added to the Church daily those that were being saved.’ By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are being sanctified. And in a passage in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, which, in some respects, is an exact parallel to that of my text, we read of the preaching of the Gospel as being a ‘savour of Christ in them that are being saved, and in them that are perishing.’

So the process of being saved is going on as long as a Christian man lives in this world; and every one who professes to be Christ’s follower ought, day by day, to be growing more and more saved, more fully filled with that Divine Spirit, more entirely the conqueror of his own lusts and passions and evil, more and more invested with all the gifts of holiness and of blessedness which Jesus Christ is ready to bestow upon him.

Ah, brethren! that notion of a progressive salvation at work in all true Christians has all but faded away out of the beliefs, as it has all but disappeared from the experience, of hosts of you that call yourselves Christ’s followers, and are not a bit further on than you were ten years ago; are no more healed of your corruptions {perhaps less so, for relapses are dangerous} than you were then-have not advanced any further into the depths of God than when you first got a glimpse of Him as loving, and your Father, in Jesus Christ-are contented to linger, like some weak band of invaders in a strange land, on the borders and coasts, instead of pressing inwards and making it all your own. Growing Christians-may I venture to say?-are not the majority of professing Christians.

And, on the other side, as certainly, there are progressive deterioration and approximation to disintegration and ruin. How many men there are listening to me now who were far nearer being delivered from their sins when they were lads than they have ever been since! How many in whom the sensibility to the message of salvation has disappeared, in whom the world has ossified their consciences and their hearts, in whom there is a more entire and unstruggling submission to low things and selfish things and worldly things and wicked things, than there used to be! I am sure that there are not a few among us now who were far better, and far happier, when they were poor and young, and could still thrill with generous emotion and tremble at the Word of God, than they are to-day. Why! there are some of you that could no more bring back your former loftier impulses, and compunction of spirit and throbs of desire towards Christ and His salvation, than you could bring back the birds’ nests or the snows of your youthful years. You are perishing, in the very process of going down and down into the dark.

Now, notice, that the Apostle treats these two classes as covering the whole ground of the hearers of the Word, and as alternatives. If not in the one class we are in the other. Ah, brethren! life is no level plane, but a steep incline, on which there is no standing still, and if you try to stand still, down you go. Either up or down must be the motion. If you are not more of a Christian than you were a year ago, you are less. If you are not more saved-for there is a degree of comparison-if you are not more saved, you are less saved.

Now, do not let that go over your head as pulpit thunder, meaning nothing. It means you, and, whether you feel or think it or not, one or other of these two solemn developments is at this moment going on in you. And that is not a thought to be put lightly on one side.

Further, note what a light such considerations as these, that salvation and perishing are vital processes-’going on all the time,’ as the Americans say-throw upon the future. Clearly the two processes are incomplete here. You get the direction of the line, but not its natural termination. And thus a heaven and a hell are demanded by the phenomena of growing goodness and of growing badness which we see round about us. The arc of the circle is partially swept. Are the compasses going to stop at the point where the grave comes in? By no means. Round they will go, and will complete the circle. But that is not all. The necessity for progress will persist after death; and all through the duration of immortal being, goodness, blessedness, holiness, Godlikeness, will, on the one hand, grow in brighter lustre; and on the other, alienation from God, loss of the noble elements of the nature, and all the other doleful darknesses which attend that conception of a lost man, will increase likewise. And so, two people, sitting side by side here now, may start from the same level, and by the operation of the one principle the one may rise, and rise, and rise, till he is lost in God, and so finds himself, and the other sink, and sink, and sink, into the obscurity of woe and evil that lies beneath every human life as a possibility.

III. And now, lastly, notice the determining attitude to the Cross which settles the class to which we belong.

Paul, in my text, is explaining his reason for not preaching the Gospel with what he calls ‘the words of man’s wisdom,’ and he says, in effect, ‘It would be of no use if I did, because what settles whether the Cross shall look “foolishness” to a man or not is the man’s whole moral condition, and what settles whether a man shall find it to be “the power of God” or not is whether he has passed into the region of those that are being saved.’

So there are two thoughts suggested which sound as if they were illogically combined, but which yet are both true. It is true that men perish, or are saved, because the Cross is to them respectively ‘foolishness’ or ‘the power of God’; and the other thing is also true, that the Cross is to them ‘foolishness,’ or ‘the power of God’ because, respectively, they are perishing or being saved. That is not putting the cart before the horse, but both aspects of the truth are true.

If you see nothing in Jesus Christ, and His death for us all, except ‘foolishness,’ something unfit to do you any good, and unnecessary to be taken into account in your lives-oh, my friends! that is the condemnation of your eyes, and not of the thing you look at. If a man, gazing on the sun at twelve o’clock on a June day, says to me, ‘It is not bright,’ the only thing I have to say to him is, ‘Friend, you had better go to an oculist.’ And if to us the Cross is ‘foolishness,’ it is because already a process of ‘perishing’ has gone so far that it has attacked our capacity of recognising the wisdom and love of God when we see them.

But, on the other hand, if we clasp that Cross in simple trust, we find that it is the power which saves us out of all sins, sorrows, and dangers, and ‘shall save us’ at last ‘into His heavenly kingdom.’

Dear friends, that message leaves no man exactly as it found him. My words, I feel, in this sermon, have been very poor, set by the side of the greatness of the theme; but, poor as they have been, you will not be exactly the same man after them, if you have listened to them, as you were before. The difference may be very imperceptible, but it will be real. One more, almost invisible, film, over the eyeball; one more thin layer of wax in the ear; one more fold of insensibility round heart and conscience-or else some yielding to the love; some finger put out to take the salvation; some lightening of the pressure of the sickness; some removal of the peril and the danger. The same sun hurts diseased eyes, and gladdens sound ones. The same fire melts wax and hardens clay. ‘This Child is set for the rise and fall of many in Israel.’ ‘To the one He is the savour of life unto life; to the other He is the savour of death unto death.’ Which is He, for He is one of them, to you?1 Corinthians 1:18-21. The preaching of the cross — The doctrine of the crucifixion of the Son of God, to expiate the sins of mankind, and procure salvation for such as should believe in him; is to them that perish — By obstinately rejecting the only name whereby they can be saved; foolishness — Accounted an absurd, ridiculous, and impossible thing, and what no men of sense will believe; but unto us who are saved — That is, believe in order to salvation; it is the power of God — The great instrument whereby his power regenerates, sanctifies, and finally saves us. For, &c. — As if he had said, It appears that this is the only means of salvation, because all other ways of man’s own invention are ineffectual; it is written — And the words are remarkably applicable to this great event, (see the note on Isaiah 29:14,) I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, &c. — That carnal and worldly wisdom, which they so much confide in and boast of, as to despise the doctrine of the gospel, shall be of no advantage to them for their salvation. Where is the wise, &c. — The deliverance of Judea from Sennacherib is what Isaiah refers to in these words, (see note on Isaiah 33:18;) in a bold and beautiful allusion to which, the apostle, in the clause that follows, triumphs over all the opposition of human wisdom, to the victorious gospel of Christ. What could the wise men of the Gentiles do against this? Or the Jewish scribes? Or the disputers of this world? — Those among both, who, proud of their acuteness, were fond of controversy, and thought they could confute all opponents. Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world — That is, shown it to be very foolishness? For after that — Since it came to pass, that in the wisdom of God — According to his wise disposals, leaving them to make the trial; the world — Whether Jewish or Gentile, by all its boasted wisdom knew not God — Though the whole creation declared its Creator, and though he declared himself by his servants the prophets, the heathen were not brought to the true saving knowledge of God, and the generality of the Jews did not attain that spiritual, experimental, and practical knowledge of him, which entitles to, and prepares for eternal life. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching — By a way which those who perish count mere foolishness; to save them that believe — From the guilt and power of sin here, and from its consequences hereafter.1:17-25 Paul had been bred up in Jewish learning; but the plain preaching of a crucified Jesus, was more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy of the heathen world. This is the sum and substance of the gospel. Christ crucified is the foundation of all our hopes, the fountain of all our joys. And by his death we live. The preaching of salvation for lost sinners by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, if explained and faithfully applied, appears foolishness to those in the way to destruction. The sensual, the covetous, the proud, and ambitious, alike see that the gospel opposes their favourite pursuits. But those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works. God left a great part of the world to follow the dictates of man's boasted reason, and the event has shown that human wisdom is folly, and is unable to find or retain the knowledge of God as the Creator. It pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. By the foolishness of preaching; not by what could justly be called foolish preaching. But the thing preached was foolishness to wordly-wise men. The gospel ever was, and ever will be, foolishness to all in the road to destruction. The message of Christ, plainly delivered, ever has been a sure touchstone by which men may learn what road they are travelling. But the despised doctrine of salvation by faith in a crucified Saviour, God in human nature, purchasing the church with his own blood, to save multitudes, even all that believe, from ignorance, delusion, and vice, has been blessed in every age. And the weakest instruments God uses, are stronger in their effects, than the strongest men can use. Not that there is foolishness or weakness in God, but what men consider as such, overcomes all their admired wisdom and strength.For the preaching of the cross - Greek, "the word (ὁ λόγος ho logos) of the cross;" that is, the doctrine of the cross; or the doctrine which proclaims salvation only through the atonement which the Lord Jesus Christ made on the cross, This cannot mean that the statement that Christ died "as a martyr" on a cross, appears to be foolishness to people; because, if that was all, there would be nothing that would appear contemptible, or that would excite their opposition more than in the death of any other martyr. The statement that Polycarp, and Ignatius, and Paul, and Cranmer died as martyrs, does not appear to people to be foolishness, for it is a statement of an historical truth, and their death excites the high admiration of all people. And if, in the death of Jesus on the cross, there had been nothing more than a mere martyr's death, it would have been equally the object of admiration to all people. But; the "preaching of the cross" must denote more than that; and must mean:

(1) That Christ died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of people, and that; it was this which gave its speciality to his sufferings on the cross.

(2) That people can be reconciled to God, pardoned, and saved only by the merits and influence of this atoning sacrifice.

To them that perish - τοις μεν απολλυμενοις tois men apollumenois. To those who are about to perish, or to those who have a character fitting them for destruction; that is, to the wicked. The expression stands in contrast with those who are "saved," that is, those who have seen the beauty of the cross of Christ, and who have fled to it for salvation.

Foolishness - Folly. That is, it appears to them to be contemptible and foolish, or unworthy of belief. To the great mass of the Jews, and to the pagan philosophers, and indeed, to the majority of the people of this world, it has ever appeared foolishness, for the following reasons:

(1) The humble origin of the Lord Jesus. They despise him that lived in Nazareth; that was poor; that had no home, and few friends, and no wealth, and little honor among his own countrymen.

(2) they despise him who was put to death, as an impostor, at the instigation of his own countrymen, in an ignominious manner on the cross - the usual punishment of slaves.

(3) they see not why there should be any particular efficacy in his death. They deem it incredible that he who could not save himself should be able to save them; and that glory should come from the ignominy of the cross.

(4) they are blind to the true beauty of his personal character; to the true dignity of his nature; to his power over the sick, the lame, the dying, and the dead; they see not the bearing of the work of atonement on the law and government of God; they believe not in his resurrection, and his present state of exalted glory. The world looks only at the fact, that the despised man of Nazareth was put to death on a cross, and smiles at the idea that such a death could have any important influence on the salvation of man - It is worthy of remark, also, that to the ancient philosophers this doctrine would appear still more contemptible than it does to the people of these times. Everything that came from Judea, they looked upon with contempt and scorn; and they would spurn above all things else the doctrine that they were to expect salvation only by the crucifixion of a Jew. Besides, the account of the crucifixion has now lost to us no small part of its reputation of ignominy. Even around the cross there is conceived to be no small amount of honor and glory. There is now a sacredness about it from religious associations; and a reverence which people in Christian lands can scarcely help feeling when they think of it. But to the ancients it was connected with every idea of ignominy. It was the punishment of slaves, impostors, and vagabonds; and had even a greater degree of disgrace attached to it than the gallows has with us. With them, therefore, the death on the cross was associated with the idea of all that is shameful and dishonorable; and to speak of salvation only by the sufferings and death of a crucified man, was suited to excite in their bosoms only unmingled scorn.

But unto us which are saved - This stands opposed to "them that perish." It refers, doubtless, to Christians, as being saved from the power and condemnation of sin; and as having a prospect of eternal salvation in the world to come.

It is the power of God - See the note at Romans 1:16. This may either mean that the gospel is called "the power of God," because it is the medium through which God exerts his power in the salvation of sinners; or, the gospel is adapted to the condition of man, and is efficacious in renewing him and sanctifying him. It is not an inert, inactive letter, but is so suited to the understanding, the heart, the hopes, the fears of people, and all their great constitutional principles of action, that it actually overcomes their sin, and diffuses peace through the soul. This efficacy is not unfrequently attributed to the gospel. John 17:17; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22-23. When the gospel, however, or the preaching of the cross, is spoken of as effectual or powerful, it must be understood of all the agencies which are connected with it; and does not refer to simple, abstract propositions, but to the truth as it comes attended with the influences which God sends down to accompany it.

It includes, therefore, the promised agency of the Holy Spirit, without which it would not be effectual. But the agency of the Spirit is designed to give efficacy to that which is "really adapted" to produce the effects, and not to act in an arbitrary manner. All the effects of the gospel on the soul - in regeneration, repentance, faith, sanctification - in hope, love, joy, peace, patience, temperance, purity, and devotedness to God, are only such "as the gospel is suited to produce." It has a set of truths and promises just adapted to each of these effects; just suited to the soul by him who knows it; and adapted to produce just these results. The Holy Spirit secures their influence on the mind: and is the grand living agent of accomplishing just what the truth of God is "suited originally" to produce. Thus, the preaching of the cross is "the power of God;" and every minister may present it with the assurance that he is presenting, not "a cunningly devised fable," but a system "really suited" to save people; and yet, that its reception by the human mind depends on the promised presence of the Holy Spirit.

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 2Co 2:15, 16.

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 belong.

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 power (Ro 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 apostle (1Co 2:3) is really His mighty "power." What seems "foolishness" because wanting man's "wisdom of words" (1Co 1:17), is really the highest "wisdom of God" (1Co 1:24).

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: I know (saith the apostle) that plain discourses about a Christ crucified are to some persons foolish things, and accounted canting; but to whom are they so? To those who, if they be not some that shall perish eternally, yet are some of those who at present are in a perishing estate; these indeed count sermons of Christ silly, foolish things.

But unto us which are saved it is the power of God; but to those who shall be eternally saved, and are at present in the true road to eternal life and salvation, it is, that is, the preaching of the gospel is, that institution of God by which he showeth his power in the salvation of those who shall be saved. The apostle saith the same, Romans 1:16. For the preaching of the cross,.... Not of the Christian's cross, which he is to take up and bear for the sake of Christ; though this is a doctrine taught by Christ, and his apostles, and found to be true by the saints in all ages; and is what is had in great aversion and contempt, being very disagreeable to the natural man: but of the cross of Christ, the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Christ; or the doctrine of peace and reconciliation by the blood of his cross, and of righteousness, pardon, atonement, and satisfaction by the offering up of himself upon it as a sacrifice for sin, is here intended; and which

is foolishness in the esteem of many; and that because man's wisdom has no hand either in forming the scheme of it, or in the discovery of it to the sons of men; and besides, being revealed, it is very disagreeable to the carnal reason of man. This way of preaching is very impolite and unfashionable, and therefore despised; it is a doctrine which is not received by the wise and learned, but has been in all ages loaded with reproach, stigmatized either as a novel or licentious doctrine, and attended with persecution; though the only doctrine God owns for conversion, which administers comfort to distressed souls, and is food for the faith of believers; yea, it is a display of the highest wisdom; is what angels approve of, and desire to look into; is wiser than the wisdom of men; it has made foolish the wisdom of this world, and is what is only able to make a man wise unto salvation; and yet this doctrine is accounted foolish, yea foolishness itself; but to whom is it so?

to them that perish. All mankind are in a lost and perishing condition, by reason of sin, and want of righteousness. There are some who shall not perish; the Father has chose them unto salvation, the Son has redeemed them, and the Spirit sanctifies them; but there are others who do perish in their sins; wicked and ungodly men, Carried away with their own lusts and blinded by Satan, the god of this world: these are they that are lost, to whom the Gospel is hid, and who judge it foolishness; but their judgment of it is not to be regarded, being no more capable to judge of the glory and wisdom of the Gospel, than a blind man is of colours: but unto us which are saved; who are chosen in Christ unto salvation; whose persons and grace are secured in Christ, and in the everlasting covenant; for whom Christ has wrought out salvation; and to whom it is applied by the Spirit of God; and who are kept unto the full enjoyment of it by divine grace: to thest is the power of God; organically or instrumentally; it being the means of quickening them when dead in sin, of enlightening their dark minds, of unstopping their deaf ears, of softening their hard hearts, and of enemies making them friends to God, Christ, and his people: and it is likewise so declaratively, there being a wonderful display of the power of God in the ministration of it; as may be seen when observed who were the first preachers of it, men of no figure in life, of no education, illiterate mechanics, very mean and abject; into these earthen vessels were put the treasure of the Gospel, that the excellency of the power might appear to be of God, and not man; as also the doctrine they preached, a crucified Christ, disagreeable to the wisdom of men; the manner in which they spread it, not by force of arms, by carnal weapons, but spiritual ones; moreover, the opposition they met with from rabbins, philosophers, princes, kings, and emperors, and all the states and powers of the world; and yet in how short a time, maugre all opposition, did they carry the Gospel throughout the whole world, to the conversion of millions of souls, and the planting of churches everywhere; and which Gospel has continued and increased, notwithstanding the efforts of persecutors and false teachers, and all the power and artifice of men and devils; all which can be attributed to nothing else but the mighty power of God: add to this, that the Gospel is the power of God in the esteem of the saints, who know it to be so by inward experience; they have felt the power of it on their hearts; it has wrought effectually in them, and therefore they are the best judges, and are capable of giving the best account of it.

For the {m} preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the {n} power of God.

(m) The preaching of Christ crucified, or the type of speech which we use.

(n) It is that in which he declares his marvellous power in saving his elect, which would not so evidently appear if it depended upon any help of man, for if it did man might attribute that to himself which is to be attributed only to the cross of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:18. Establishment of the foregoing ἵνα μὴΧριστοῦ. Were, namely, the doctrine of the cross, although folly to the unbelieving, not a power of God to believers, it would be impossible to speak of a ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ of its substance, the cross of Christ, as the aim of the εὐαγγ. οὐκ ἐν σ. λ.

The ἐστί with the dative expresses the actual relation in which the λόγος stands to both; it is for them in fact (not, as might be thought, simply in their judgment) the one and the other.

τοῖς ἀπολλυμ.] to those who are incurring (eternal) ἀπώλεια. Comp 2 Corinthians 2:15; 2 Corinthians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:10. The present participle[216] betokens either the certainty of the future destruction (Bernhardy, p. 371), or it brings the being lost before us as a development which is already taking place in them; just as τοῖς σωζομ., those who are being saved unto Messianic bliss. From 1 Corinthians 15:2, Romans 5:9-10; Romans 8:24, al[217], also Ephesians 2:5-8, the former mode of conceiving it seems to be the correct one; comp 1 Corinthians 2:6. Paul designates in this way the believers and unbelievers, ἈΠῸ ΤΟῦ ΤΈΛΟΥς ΤᾺς ΠΡΟΣΗΓΟΡΊΑς ΤΙΘΕΊς, Theodoret. He has certainly (Rückert) conceived of both classes as predestinated (1 Corinthians 1:24; Romans 8:29; Romans 9:11; Romans 9:19; Romans 9:22 f.; Ephesians 1:4 f.; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, al[219]); but this point remains here out of view.

ΜΩΡΊΑ] This doctrine is to them (to their conscious experience) an absurdity (μωρία τε καὶ ἀλογία, Plat. Epin. p. 983 E; Dem. 397, pen.). Why? see 1 Corinthians 1:22. Comp 2 Corinthians 4:3. Billroth’s answer is un-Pauline.

ἩΜῖΝ] is not put last out of modesty (Billroth), but because the emphasis of the contrast lies on the idea of ΤΟῖς ΣΩΖΟΜ. Comp Eur. Phoeniss. 1738. Pors.: ἐλαύνειν τὸν γέροντα μʼ ἐκ πάτρας.

δύναμις Θεοῦ] Comp on Romans 1:16. That doctrine is to them (to their conscious experience) God’s power, inasmuch, that is to say, as God works mightily in them through the saving tidings of the Crucified. The contrast is stronger than if it were σοφία Θεοῦ, and is also logically correct; for ΔΎΝΑΜΙς ΘΕΟῦ necessarily presupposes the opposite of ΜΩΡΊΑ, because the power of God brings about enlightenment, repentance, sanctification, love, peace, hope, etc. Comp Ignat. a[224] Eph. 18, where it is said of the cross, that it is to us ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ Κ. ΖΩῊ ΑἸΏΝΙΟς.

[216] Bengel’s ingenious exposition: “qui evangelium audire coepit, nec ut perditus nec ut salvus habetur, sed est quasi in bivio, et nunc aut perit aut salvatur,” is wrecked on the word ἡμῖν, which the audire coepit does not suit.

[217] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[219] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[224] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.1 Corinthians 1:18. What P. asserted in 1 Corinthians 1:17 as intrinsically true, he supports by experience (1 Corinthians 1:18) and by Scripture (1 Corinthians 1:19), combining their testimony in 1 Corinthians 1:20.—ὁ λόγος γάρ, ὁ τοῦ σταύρου, “For the word, namely that of the cross”. ὁ λόγος (distinguish from the anarthrous λόγος above) takes its sense from εὐαγγελίζεσθαι (1 Corinthians 1:17); it is “the tale” rather than “the doctrine of the cross,” synonymous with μαρτύριον (1 Corinthians 1:6) and κήρυγμα (1 Corinthians 1:21).—τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοιςτοῖς δὲ σωζομένοις, the two classes into which P. sees his hearers divide themselves (see parls.). The ptps. are strictly pr[197]—not expressing certain expectation (Mr[198]), nor fixed predestination (Bz[199]); the rejectors and receivers of “the word” are in course of perishing and being saved respectively (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:2; contrast the aor[200] of σώζω in Romans 8:24, and the pf. in Ephesians 2:5). “In the language of the N.T. salvation is a thing of the past, a thing of the present, and a thing of the future.… The divorce of morality and religion is fostered by failing to note this, and so laying the whole stress either on the past or on the future—on the first call or on the final change” (Lt[201]). Paul paints the situation before his eyes: one set of men deride the story of the cross—these are manifestly perishing; to another set the same story is “God’s power unto salvation”. The appended pers[202] pron[203] (τ. σωζομένοις) ἡμῖν, “to the saved, viz., ourselves,” speaks from and to experience: “You and I know that the cross is God’s saving power”. Cf. with the whole expression Romans 1:16, also John 3:14-17.—The antithesis to μωρία is not, in the first instance, σοφία, but δύναμις Θεοῦ—a practical vindication against false theory; saved men are the Gospel’s apology. Yet because it is δύναμις, the word of the cross is, after all, the truest σοφία (see 30, 1 Corinthians 2:6 ff.). The double ἐστὶν emphasises the actuality of the contrasted results.

[197] present tense.

[198] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[199] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[200] aorist tense.

[201] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[202]ers. grammatical person, or personal.

[203]ron. pronoun.18–31. God’s Message not intended to flatter the pride of man

18. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God] Literally, to them that are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the (or a) power of God. The connection of this verse with the preceding is not quite clear. It may, however, be thus explained: The doctrine of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, because they conceive of some inherent excellence in humanity, whereas the Cross proclaims and justifies God’s sentence of death against the human race. The same doctrine is the power of God to those who are in the way of salvation, because it is through faith in Christ’s Blood alone that man can be justified from sin, crucified to the old man, and united to the new man which is created in righteousness and true holiness. To preach the Gospel, then, with wisdom of words, to exalt, that is, the human element, is to take away the power of the Gospel, and to make it in reality the folly which it is deemed to be by unspiritual men. Cf. Romans 1:16; Romans 3:22; Ephesians 4:22-23; Colossians 3:9-10.1 Corinthians 1:18. Μωρία, folly) and offence. See, immediately after, its antithesis, power. There are two steps in salvation, Wisdom and Power. In the case of them that perish, when the first step is taken away, the second [also] is taken away; in the case of the blessed, the second presupposes the first.—σωζομένοις, to them, that are being saved) The Present tense is used, as in the phrase, to them that perish. He, who has begun to hear the Gospel is considered neither as lost, nor as saved, but is at the point, where the two roads meet, and now he either is perishing, or is being saved.—δύναμις, the power) and wisdom, so also, ch. 1 Corinthians 2:5.Verses 18-25. - The nature of true Christian preaching. Verse 18. - For the preaching of the cross; rather, the word of the cross. To them that are perishing; rather, to the perishing; to all those who are now walking in the paths that lead to destruction (2 Corinthians 2:15). To them it was foolishness, because it requires spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:14); and, on the other hand, human wisdom is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19). Foolishness. It shows the heroic character of the faith of St. Paul that he deliberately preached the doctrine of the cross because he felt that therein lay the conversion and salvation of the world, although he was well aware that he could preach no truth so certain at first to revolt the unregenerate hearts of his hearers. To the Jews "the cross" was the tree of shame and horror; and a crucified person was "accursed of God" (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). To the Greeks the cross was the gibbet of a slave's infamy and a murderer's punishment. There was not a single association connected with it except those of shame and agony. The thought of "a crucified Messiah" seemed to the Jews a revolting folly; the worship of a crucified malefactor seemed to the Greeks "an execrable superstition" (Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 15:44; Pliny, 'Epp.' 10:97); yet so little did St. Paul seek for popularity or immediate success, that this was the very doctrine which he put in the forefront, even at a city so refined and so voluptuous as Corinth. And the result proved his inspired wisdom. That very cross became the recognized badge of Christianity, and when three centuries had elapsed it was woven in gold upon the banners and set in jewels on the diadems of the Roman empire. For had not Christ prophesied, And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me"? Unto us which are being saved; who are on the way of salvation. The same present participle is used in Luke 13:23; Acts 2:47; 2 Corinthians 2:15; Revelation 21:24. It is the power of God. Because the cross is at the heart of that gospel which is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16; Romans 8:3), though many were tempted to be ashamed of it. It could never be a carnal weapon of warfare, and yet was mighty for every purpose (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5). The word of the cross (ὁ λόγος ὀ τοῦ σταυροῦ)

Lit., the word, that, namely, of the cross. The second article is definitive and emphatic. The word of which the substance and purport is the cross.

To them that perish (τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις)

Lit., that are perishing. So Rev. The present participle denotes process: they who are on the way to destruction. Compare 2 Corinthians 2:15.

Foolishness (μωρία)

Only in this epistle. See on have lost his savor, Matthew 5:13.

Which are saved (τοῖς σωζομένοις)

Rev., being saved: in process of salvation.

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