1 Corinthians 1:26
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
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(26) For ye see your calling.—Better, imperative (as in 1Corinthians 8:9; 1Corinthians 10:18; 1Corinthians 16:10), For see your calling. The Apostle directs them to look at the facts regarding their own calling to Christianity, as an illustration of the truth of what he has just written, viz., that though there were, perhaps, a few of high birth and education who were called, and responded to that call, yet that these are “not many.” It has been well remarked, “the ancient Christians were, for the greater part, slaves and persons of humble rank; the whole history of the progress of the Church is in fact a gradual triumph of the unlearned over the learned, of the lowly over the great, until the emperor himself cast his crown at the foot of Christ’s cross” (Olshausen); or, as an English writer puts it, “Christianity with the irresistible might of its weakness shook the world.”

1 Corinthians 1:26. And hereby it appears that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, &c. — Because he makes use of such weak and mean instruments to bring men to the knowledge of the truth. For ye see — Βλεπετε, behold, consider; your calling — And you will discern how agreeably to these things the divine wisdom hath ordered it; observe especially the state of your fellow-Christians in general, and what method he uses, and what manner of persons he employs, to bring men to the knowledge of, and to obedience to the gospel; that not many wise men after the flesh — In secular matters, and according to the wisdom of this world, or in the account of carnal, worldly men. Not many mighty, &c., are called — Are brought to the knowledge of the truth: or, as the apostle rather means, and as ought to have here been supplied to complete the sense, are employed to call you. Our translators, in supplying the words, are called, “convey a sentiment,” says Macknight, “neither true nor suitable to the apostle’s design. It is not true: for even in Judea, among the chief rulers, many believed on him, John 12:42; particularly Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. Other Jews, likewise, of rank and learning were called; such as the nobleman whose sick son Jesus cured, John 4:53; and Manaen, Herod’s foster-brother, and Cornelius, and Gamaliel; and that great company of priests mentioned Acts 6:7, who were obedient to the faith. At Ephesus many who used the arts of magic and divination were called, and who were men of learning, as appears from the number and value of their books, which they burned after embracing the gospel, Acts 19:19. And in such numerous churches as those of Antioch, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome, it can hardly be doubted that there were disciples in the higher ranks of life. There were brethren even in the emperor’s family, Php 4:22. In short, the precepts in the epistles to masters, to treat their slaves with humanity, and to women, concerning their not adorning themselves with gold and silver, and costly raiment, show that many wealthy persons had embraced the gospel. On the other hand, though it were true, that not many wise men, &c., were called, it did not suit the apostle’s argument to mention it here. For surely God’s not calling many of the wise, &c., joined with his calling the foolish ones of the world to believe, did not put to shame the wise and strong, &c. Whereas, if the discourse be understood of the preachers of the gospel, who were employed to convert the world, all is clear and pertinent. God chose, not the learned and mighty, and the noble ones of this world, to preach the gospel, but illiterate and weak men, and men of low birth: and by making them successful in reforming mankind, he put to shame the legislators, statesmen, and philosophers among the heathen, and the learned scribes and doctors among the Jews, who never had done any thing to the purpose in that matter.”

1:26-31 God did not choose philosophers, nor orators, nor statesmen, nor men of wealth, and power, and interest in the world, to publish the gospel of grace and peace. He best judges what men and what measures serve the purposes of his glory. Though not many noble are usually called by Divine grace, there have been some such in every age, who have not been ashamed of the gospel of Christ; and persons of every rank stand in need of pardoning grace. Often, a humble Christian, though poor as to this world, has more true knowledge of the gospel, than those who have made the letter of Scripture the study of their lives, but who have studied it rather as the witness of men, than as the word of God. And even young children have gained such knowledge of Divine truth as to silence infidels. The reason is, they are taught of God; the design is, that no flesh should glory in his presence. That distinction, in which alone they might glory, was not of themselves. It was by the sovereign choice and regenerating grace of God, that they were in Jesus Christ by faith. He is made of God to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; all we need, or can desire. And he is made wisdom to us, that by his word and Spirit, and from his fulness and treasures of wisdom and knowledge, we may receive all that will make us wise unto salvation, and fit for every service to which we are called. We are guilty, liable to just punishment; and he is made righteousness, our great atonement and sacrifice. We are depraved and corrupt, and he is made sanctification, that he may in the end be made complete redemption; may free the soul from the being of sin, and loose the body from the bonds of the grave. And this is, that all flesh, according to the prophecy by Jeremiah, Jer 9:23-24, may glory in the special favour, all-sufficient grace, and precious salvation of Jehovah.For ye see your calling - You know the general character and condition of those who are Christians among you, that they have not been generally taken from the wise, the rich, and the learned, but from humble life. The design of the apostle here is, to show that the gospel did not depend for its success on human wisdom. His argument is, that "in fact" those who were blessed by it had not been of the elevated ranks of life mainly, but that God had shown his power by choosing those who were ignorant, and vicious, and abandoned, and by reforming and purifying their lives. The verb "ye see" βλέπετε blepete, is ambiguous, and may be either in the indicative mood, as our translators have rendered it, "ye do see; you are well apprised of it, and know it," or it may be in the imperative, "see; contemplate your condition;" but the sense is substantially the same. "Your calling" (τὴν κλῆσιν tēn klēsin) means "those who are called" 1 Corinthians 1:9; as "the circumcision" means those who are circumcised. Romans 3:30. The sense is, "took upon the condition of those who are Christians."

Not many wise men - Not many who are regarded as wise; or who are ranked with philosophers. This supposes that there were some of that description, though the mass of Christians were then, as now, from more humble ranks of life. That there were some of high rank and wealth at Corinth who became Christians, is well known. Crispus and Sosthenes, rulers of the synagogue there (Acts 28:8, Acts 28:17; Compare 1 Corinthians 1:1); Gaius, a rich, hospitable man Romans 16:23; and Erastus the chancellor of the city of Corinth Rom 16:23, had been converted and were members of the church. Some have supposed ("Macknight") that this should be rendered "not many mighty, wise, etc. 'call you;' that is, God has not employed the wise and the learned 'to call' you into his kingdom." But the sense in our translation is evidently the correct interpretation. It is the obvious sense; and it agrees with the design of the apostle, which was to show that God had not consulted the wisdom, and power, and wealth of men in the establishment of his church. So the Syriac and the Vulgate render it.

According to the flesh - According to the maxims and principles of a sensual and worldly policy; according to the views of people when under the influence of those principles; that is, who are unrenewed. The flesh here stands opposed to the spirit; the views of the people of this world in contradistinction from the wisdom that is from above.

Not many mighty - Not many people of power; or men sustaining important "offices" in the state. Comp, Revelation 6:15. The word may refer to those who wield power of any kind, whether derived from office, from rank, from wealth, etc.

Not many noble - Not many of illustrious birth, or descended from illustrious families - εὐγενεῖς eugeneis, "well-born." In respect to each of these classes, the apostle does not say that there were no men of wealth, and power, and birth, but that the mass or body of Christians was not composed of such. They were made up of those who were in humble life. There were a few, indeed, of rank and property, as there are now; but then, as now, the great mass was composed of those who were from the lower conditions of society. The reason why God had chosen his people from that rank is stated in 1 Corinthians 1:29. The character of many of those who composed the church at Corinth before the conversion, is stated in 1 Corinthians 6:10-11, which see.

26. ye see—rather, from the prominence of the verb in the Greek, "see" or "consider" (imperative) [Alford from Vulgate and Irenæus].

your calling … are called—Instead of the words in italics, supplied by English Version, supply, "were your callers." What Paul is dwelling on (compare 1Co 1:27, 28) is the weakness of the instrumentality which the Lord employed to convert the world [Hinds and Whately; so Anselm]. However, English Version accords well with 1Co 1:24. "The whole history of the expansion of the Church is a progressive victory of the ignorant over the learned, the lowly over the lofty, until the emperor himself laid down his crown before the cross of Christ" [Olshausen].

wise … after the flesh—the wisdom of this world acquired by human study without the Spirit. (Contrast Mt 16:17).

To prove that this is the method of Divine Providence, to make use of seemingly infirm and weak means to produce his great effects, you need not look further than yourselves; look upon the whole body of your church at Corinth, it is not made up of many that have a reputation for the wise men or the noble men of your city. Some indeed were such; Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, was converted, and Sosthenes; but the generality were men of very ordinary repute.

For ye see your calling, brethren,.... That is, those that were called by the grace of God among them; for as circumcision and uncircumcision stand for circumcised and uncircumcised persons, and election for elect persons, and righteousness for righteous persons, Romans 3:30 so here "calling" designs men called by grace; the manner of whose calling, and what sort of persons they were, the apostle signifies, they did or might, or ought, to see, observe, and consider; for respect is here had, not, as some have thought, to the first preachers of the Gospel, who were mechanics, fishermen, illiterate persons, very mean and despicable; but to the members of the church at Corinth, whether public preachers, or private members. The city of Corinth had in it many noble families, of high birth and quality, abounded with learned philosophers and rich merchants; and yet it was easy to be seen,

how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. The apostle does not say that there were none of the wise, the mighty, and noble called; for there were Crispus, and Sosthenes, rulers of the synagogue, and Gains a rich hospitable man, and Erastus the chamberlain of the city, and it may be some others of a like or better figure in life; but there were not many of them; instances of this kind are but few recorded in the Scripture; as Joseph of Arimathea a rich counsellor, Paulus Sergius a Roman deputy, Dionysius the Areopagite, and some in Caesar's palace; which show that nobility, riches, and learning, as they do not at all contribute towards a man's salvation, so neither can they hinder it where grace takes place; but, generally speaking, God has thought fit, for wise reasons, to choose and call persons of different characters.

{26} For ye see your {t} calling, brethren, how that not many wise men {u} after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

(26) A confirmation taken from those things which came to pass at Corinth, where the church especially consisted of the lowly and common people, insomuch that the philosophers of Greece were driven to shame when they saw that they could do nothing with their wisdom and eloquence in comparison with the apostles, whom nonetheless they called idiots and unlearned. And in this he beats down their pride: for God did not prefer them before those noble and wise men so that they should be proud, but that they might be constrained, whether they wished to or not, to rejoice in the Lord, by whose mercy, although they were the most abject of all, they had obtained in Christ both this wisdom as well as all things necessary to salvation.

(t) What way the Lord has taken in calling you.

(u) After that type of wisdom which men consider to be important, as though there were none else: but because they are carnal, they do not know spiritual wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:26. Confirmation of this general proposition from the experience of the readers. The element of proof lies in the contrast, 1 Corinthians 1:27 f. For if the matter were not as stated in 1 Corinthians 1:25, then God would not have chosen the foolish of the world to put to shame its wise ones. By so doing He has, indeed, set before your eyes the practical experimental proof, that the μωρὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ transcends men in wisdom. Otherwise He would have acted in the reverse way, and have sought out for Himself the wise of the world, in order, through their wisdom, to help that which now appears as the μωρὸν τ. Θεοῦ to victory over the foolishness of the world. This holds, too, as against de Wette, who (comp also Hofmann) makes ΓΆΡ refer to the whole series of thoughts, 1 Corinthians 1:19-25, notwithstanding that the expressions here used attach themselves so distinctly to 1 Corinthians 1:25.

ΒΛΈΠΕΤΕ] imperative. As such it has with logical correctness its hortatory emphasis;[264] but not so, if we take it as indicative (Valla, Erasmus, Castalio, Beza, Vatablus, Bengel, Rosenmüller, and Schrader).

τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν] is not to be taken arbitrarily, with Beza, Estius, Mosheim, Semler, Rosenmüller, and Pott, Proverbs concreto, for ὑμᾶς τοὺς κλητούς, but as: your calling (to salvation through the Messiah); see, what was the nature of it as regards the persons whom God, the caller, had chosen (1 Corinthians 1:27 ff.). Krause and Olshausen run counter to the specific Christian sense of the word, and even to the general linguistic usage (see on 1 Corinthians 7:20), when they make it mean, like the German word “Beruf” [calling], the vitae genus, the outward circumstances.

ὅτι] equivalent to ΕἸς ἘΚΕῖΝΟ, ὍΤΙ, in so far, namely, as. Plat. Prot. p. 330 E, Crat. p. 384 C, al[265] John 2:18; John 9:17; John 11:51; 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 11:10; Mark 16:14; Fritzsche, a[266] Matth. p. 248 f.

Οὐ ΠΟΛΛΟῚ ΣΟΦΟῚ Κ. Σ.] that not many (among you) are wise in the eyes of men, etc. It is enough to supply the simple εἰσί, making Οὐ ΠΟΛΛ., i.e. but few, the subject, and σοφ. the predicate; and there is no need for introducing an ἘΚΛΉΘΗΣΑΝ (so commonly), according to which οὐ π. σ. together would be the subject. ΚΑΤᾺ ΣΆΡΚΑ, specifying the kind and manner of the ΣΟΦΊΑ, marks it out as purely human, and distinguishes it from the Christian wisdom which proceeds from the Holy Spirit. For σάρξ comprises the simply human element in man as opposed to the divine principle. Comp ΣΟΦΊΑ ΣΑΡΚΙΚΉ, 2 Corinthians 1:12; ΣΟΦΊΑ ΨΥΧΙΚΉ, Jam 3:15; and see on Romans 4:1; John 3:6. Estius aptly remarks: “Significari vult sapientiam, quae studio humano absque doctrina Spir. sancti potest acquiri.” In substance, the ΣΟΦΊΑ ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ, 1 Corinthians 1:20, and the Σ. ΤΟῦ ΑἸῶΝΟς ΤΟΎΤΟΥ, 1 Corinthians 2:6, are the same.

ΔΥΝΑΤΟΊ] We are not to supply ΚΑΤᾺ ΣΆΡΚΑ here again; for that was essentially requisite only with ΣΟΦΟΊ, and Paul otherwise would have coupled it with the third word (comp 1 Corinthians 1:20). That mighty men of this world are meant, is self-evident.

εὐγενεῖς] of high descent. Comp Luke 19:12; frequent in the classics.

Rückert objects that Paul, instead of proving the phenomenon recorded in 1 Corinthians 1:26 to have proceeded from the divine wisdom, uses it as an argument for 1 Corinthians 1:25, and so reasons in a circle. But this is without foundation. For that the phenomenon in question was a work of the divine wisdom, was to the Christian consciousness (and Paul was, of course, writing to Christians, who looked at it in the same light with himself) a thing ascertained and settled, which could be employed therefore directly to establish 1 Corinthians 1:25 in conformity with experience.

[264] The γάρ is not against our taking it as imperative; Greek writers, too, use it with that mood, as e.g. Soph. Phil. 1043: ἄφετε γὰρ αὐτόν.

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

[266] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31. § 5. THE OBJECTS OF THE GOSPEL CALL. § 4 has shown that the Gospel does not come ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου (1 Corinthians 1:17 b) by the method of its operation; this will further be evidenced by the status of its recipients. If it were, humanly speaking, a σοφία, it would have addressed itself to σοφοί, and won their adherence; but the case is far otherwise.

26. For ye see your calling, brethren] or perhaps, Behold your calling. So Vulgate, Wiclif and Tyndale. The Apostle adds an illustration of his paradox in 1 Corinthians 1:25. The truth is exemplified in the growth of the Christian Church. Its law of progress is the very opposite to that of all ordinary bodies. Not the powerful in rank, authority, and intellect, but the poor, the uneducated, the uninfluential, were first attracted to Christ, until by “a progressive victory of the ignorant over the learned, the lowly over the lofty, the emperor himself laid down his crown before the Cross of Christ.”—Olshausen. Thus the real weakness of man and his incapacity unaided to attain to God were demonstrated, and God’s object, the depriving humanity, as such, of all cause of self-satisfaction (1 Corinthians 1:29), attained. It is necessary to add here that the word translated ‘calling’ does not mean what we usually understand by the words vocation in life, but rather “the principle God has followed in calling you” (Beza); cf. Ephesians 4:1, where the same Greek word is translated vocation, and is followed by wherewith.

1 Corinthians 1:26. Βλέπετε) ye see. For shows it to be the indicative mood.—τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, your calling) the state, in which the heavenly calling proves an offence to you; so, calling, 1 Corinthians 7:20.—οὐ πολλοὶ, not many) Therefore, however, some supply, have been called. As a comparison has been made with the preachers, so also with the hearers of the Gospel. The ellipse contains a euphemism [end.[13]]—κατὰ σάρκα, according to the flesh) a phrase nearly related to the expression, of the world, which presently after occurs in 1 Corinthians 1:27. The world judges according to the flesh.—εὐγενεῖς, noble) who are generally also wise and powerful. [Can it be believed, that this is the distinctive characteristic of the society of those, who, in our vernacular tongue (German) are styled Freymaurer, Freemasons.—V. g.]

[13] Σοφοὶ, wise) Hence such a small number of men were gained at Athens, which was the seat of Grecian wisdom.—V. g.

Verses 26-31. - The method of God in the spread of the gospel. Verse 26. - For behold; or, consider (imperative, as in 1 Corinthians 10:15; Philippians 3:2). Your calling; the nature and method of your heavenly calling; the "principle God has followed in calling you" (Beza); see Ephesians 4:1; Hebrews 3:1. Not many wise after the flesh. Those who hear the calling arc alone the truly wise; but they are net wise with a carnal wisdom, not wise as men count wisdom; they have but little of the wisdom of the serpent and the wisdom of "this age." The Sanhedrin looked down on the apostles as "unlearned and ignorant men" (Acts 4:13). "God," says St. Augustine, "caught orators by fishermen, not fishermen by orators." Not many mighty; i.e. not many persons of power and influence. Almost the first avowed Gentile Christian of the highest rank was the consul Flavius Clemens, uncle of the Emperor Domitian. This was the more marked because the Jews won many rich and noble proselytes, such as the Queen Helena and the royal family of Adiabene, Poppaea the wife of Nero, and others. The only illustrious converts mentioned in the New Testament are Joseph of Arimathaea, Nicodemus, Sergius Paulus, and Dionysius the Areopagitc. Not many noble. All this was a frequent taunt against Christians, but they made it their boast. Christianity came to redeem and elevate, not the few, but the many, and the many must ever be the weak and the humble. Hence Christ called fishermen as his apostles, and was known as "the Friend of publicans and sinners." None of the rulers believed on him (John 7:48). It must, however, be borne in mind that these words apply mainly and primarily to the first age of Christianity. It was essential that its victory should be due to Divine weapons only, and that it should shake the world "by the irresistible might of weakness." After a time, the wisest and the noblest and the most powerful were called. Kings became the nursing fathers of the gospel, and queens its nursing mothers. Yet the ideal truth remains, and human power shows utter weakness, and human wisdom is capable of sinking into the depths of folly. 1 Corinthians 1:26Calling (κλῆσιν)

Not condition of life, but your calling by God; not depending on wisdom, power, or lineage.

Noble (εὐγενεῖς)

Of high birth. So originally, though as Greece became democratic, it came to signify merely the better sort of freemen. Plato applies it to the children of native Athenians ("Menexenus," 237). Aeschylus makes Clytaemnestra say to the captive Cassandra that if slavery must befall one there is an advantage in having masters of ancient family property instead of those who have become unexpectedly rich ("Agamemnon," 1010).

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