1 Corinthians 11:18
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) For first of all.—We in vain look for the “secondly,” which, in a perfectly systematic treatise, should follow this “first.” Some writers maintain that 1Corinthians 11:18-19 form the first point, and 1Corinthians 11:20-34 the second. There is, however, no indication of a new subject being introduced with 1Corinthians 11:20, but the repetition of the words “come together” carries the mind back at once to the “come together” in 1Corinthians 11:18, and indicates the continuation of the subject there commenced, and from which the Apostle had, at the mention of the word “divisions,” for a moment parenthetically digressed.

It is better to consider the “first point” to be the abuse regarding the Lord’s Supper, which is more immediately treated of; and the “second point,” the abuse of spiritual gifts, commencing with 1Corinthians 12:1. They are two branches of the one general subject, viz., “Irregularities in religious assemblies,” and although the latter is not connected with the former by a definite “secondly,” there is a sufficient verbal indication that a second topic is entered upon. It is well to remember in this and similar cases that this is not a treatise, but a letter, and not only a letter, but an answer to a letter, and that if we had a copy of the epistle to which this is a reply, many points of sequence and arrangement, which at present present difficulties, would be as clear to us as they were to those who originally received this Epistle.

When ye come together in the church.—The reference here is not to a locality, but to the character of the assembly, as we should say “in church,” or, “in parliament.” The spirit of faction, which has already, in the earlier part of this Epistle, been dealt with, as pervading Christian society, had invaded the Christian assemblies.

I partly believe it.—These words are full of the courtesy and charity so characteristic of the Apostle; and they suggest to us all a lesson regarding our belief of evil reports, even when reaching us on “the very best authority.” The general practice is to believe a little more than we are told. St. Paul believed a part only of what he was told.

11:17-22 The apostle rebukes the disorders in their partaking of the Lord's supper. The ordinances of Christ, if they do not make us better, will be apt to make us worse. If the use of them does not mend, it will harden. Upon coming together, they fell into divisions, schisms. Christians may separate from each other's communion, yet be charitable one towards another; they may continue in the same communion, yet be uncharitable. This last is schism, rather than the former. There is a careless and irregular eating of the Lord's supper, which adds to guilt. Many rich Corinthians seem to have acted very wrong at the Lord's table, or at the love-feasts, which took place at the same time as the supper. The rich despised the poor, and ate and drank up the provisions they brought, before the poor were allowed to partake; thus some wanted, while others had more than enough. What should have been a bond of mutual love and affection, was made an instrument of discord and disunion. We should be careful that nothing in our behaviour at the Lord's table, appears to make light of that sacred institution. The Lord's supper is not now made an occasion for gluttony or revelling, but is it not often made the support of self-righteous pride, or a cloak for hypocrisy? Let us never rest in the outward forms of worship; but look to our hearts.For first of all - That is, I mention as the first thing to be reproved.

When ye come together in the church - When you come together in a religious assembly; when you convene for public worship. The word "church" here does not mean, as it frequently does with us, a "building." No instance of such a use of the word occurs in the New Testament; but it means when they came together as a Christian assembly; when they convened for the worship of God. These divisions took place then; and from some cause which it seems then operated to produce alienations and strifes.

I hear - I have learned through some members of the family of Chloe; 1 Corinthians 1:11.

That there be divisions among you - Greek, as in the margin, Schisms. The word properly means a rent, such as is made in cloth Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21, and then a division, a split, a faction among people; John 7:43; John 9:10; John 10:19. It does not mean here that they had proceeded so far as to form separate churches, but that there was discord and division in the church itself; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 1:10-11.

And I partly believe it - I credit a part of the reports; I have reason to think, that, though the evil may have been exaggerated, yet that it is true at least in part. I believe that there are dissensions in the church that should be reproved.

18. first of all—In the first place. The "divisions" (Greek, "schisms") meant, are not merely those of opinion (1Co 1:10), but in outward acts at the love-feasts (Agapæ), (1Co 11:21). He does not follow up the expression, "in the first place," by "in the second place." But though not expressed, a second abuse was in his mind when he said, "In the first place," namely, THE ABUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS, which also created disorder in their assemblies [Alford], (1Co 12:1; 14:23, 26, 33, 40).

in the church—not the place of worship; for Isidore of Pelusium denies that there were such places specially set apart for worship in the apostles' times [Epistle, 246.2]. But, "in the assembly" or "congregation"; in convocation for worship, where especially love, order, and harmony should prevail. The very ordinance instituted for uniting together believers in one body, was made an occasion of "divisions" (schisms).

partly—He hereby excepts the innocent. "I am unwilling to believe all I hear, but some I cannot help believing" [Alford]: while my love is unaffected by it [Bengel].

In the church, here, must signify the religious assembly; for at this time there were no temples built for Christians, but they met in private houses, as the iniquity of those times would bear: yet others think the place is here meant where the church was wont to meet, and say, that the Christians had a certain stated place, though in a private house, where they used to meet. But it is not very probable that they should, in the midst of heathens, be so quiet and secure as to meet either constantly, or ordinarily, in any one certain and stated place, so denominated. What schisms, or divisions, the apostle meaneth, he expoundeth in the following verses; either they quarrelled about meats, or drinks, or their order in sitting down, or the time when they should begin, or did not stay till they were all met.

For first of all, when ye come together in the church,.... The place where the church met together to perform divine service, called "one place". 1 Corinthians 11:20 and is distinguished from their own "houses", 1 Corinthians 11:22 and the first thing he took notice of as worthy of dispraise and reproof, in their religious assemblies, were their animosities and factions:

I hear that there be divisions among you: schisms and parties, either about their ministers, one being for Paul, another for Apollos, and another for Cephas; or in the celebration of the Lord's supper, and that which went before it, they going into separate bodies, and partook by themselves, and each took his own supper before another, one ate, and another did not. This the apostle had heard from the house of Chloe:

and I partly believe it; meaning, either that this was the practice of a part of the church to do so, though not of them all; or that part of the report that had been made to him was true; though he hoped in that charity which hopeth all things, that it was not quite so bad as was feared or represented, since things are generally heightened and increased by fame; but yet he had it from such good hands, that he could not but believe there was something in it. So the Syriac version renders it, , "and something, something I believe".

{15} For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

(15) To celebrate the Lord's supper correctly, it is required that there is not only consent of doctrine, but also of affections, so that it is not profaned.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 11:18-19. Πρῶτον μὲν γάρ] The second point is found by most expositors in 1 Corinthians 11:20 (so Billroth, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Ewald, Maier, Winer, p. 536 [E. T. 721]). In that case Paul first of all censures here generally the divisions which appeared in their assemblies, and then in 1 Corinthians 11:20 links on by οὖν the abuse of the Lord’s Supper as a consequence of those divisions. But this view has against it the fact that he follows up 1 Corinthians 11:18 neither by censure nor correction of what was amiss, which he would not have omitted to do, considering the importance of the matter in question, if he had regarded 1 Corinthians 11:18 as touching upon a distinct point from that in 1 Corinthians 11:20-21. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 11:22, ἐπαινέσω ὑμᾶς; ἐν τούτῳ οὐκ ἐπαινῶ, which has reference to the οὐκ ἐπαινῶν of 1 Corinthians 11:17, proves that in his mind 1 Corinthians 11:18-22 formed not two rebukes, but one. This serves, too, by way of reply to Hofmann, who insists on taking πρῶτον, in spite of the μέν that follows it, not as firstly, but as before all things, above all. The true view, on the contrary, is (comp also Baur in the theol. Jahrbücher, 1852, p. 558; Räbiger, p. 135; Osiander), that οὖν in 1 Corinthians 11:20 does not introduce a second point of reprehension, but takes up again the first point, which had been begun in 1 Corinthians 11:18 and interrupted by ΚΑῚ ΜΈΡΟς ΤΙ Κ.Τ.Λ[1815] (see on 1 Corinthians 8:4),—an interpretation which is strongly supported by the repetition of the same words συνερχομ. ὑμῶν. In using the term σχίσματα,[1816] Paul has already in his mind the separations at the love-feasts (not the party-divisions of 1 Corinthians 1:12, Theodoret, and many others), but is kept for a time from explaining himself more fully by the digression which follows, and does so only in 1 Corinthians 11:20. Still, however, the question remains: Where is the second point, which πρῶτον leads us to expect? It commences in 1 Corinthians 12:1. Paul censures two kinds of evils in connection with their assemblies—(1) the degeneration of the Agapae (1 Corinthians 11:18-34), and (2) the misapplication of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1 ff.). The πρῶτον μέν is left out of account while he pursues the first point, and instead of following it up with an ἜΠΕΙΤΑ ΔΈ, after completing his discussion, he passes on in 1 Corinthians 12:1 with the continuative ΔΈ to the second subject, making no further reference to that ΠΡῶΤΟΝ ΜῈΝ ΓΆΡ in 1 Corinthians 11:18. How common it is in classic writers also to find the ΠΡῶΤΟΝ followed by no ἜΠΕΙΤΑ, or anything of the kind, but another turn given to the sentence, may be seen in Maetzner, a[1817] Antiph. p. 191; Bremi, a[1818] Lys. I. p. 31. Comp on Acts 1:1, and on Romans 1:8; Romans 3:2.

ἘΝ ἘΚΚΛ.] in a church-meeting. This is conceived of as a local sphere (comp Bengel: “vergit ad significationem loci”), in which the συνέρχεσθαι takes place by the arrival of members; as we also say: “in einer Gesellschaft zusammenkommen.” Comp Winer, p. 386 [E. T. 515]. Although the apostle might have written ΕἸς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑΝ (Lucian, Jov. Trag. 6), yet we must neither take ἐν in the sense of ΕἸς (Vulgate, Rückert, Schrader), nor impute to the word ἘΚΚΛ. the meaning: place of assembly (Grotius, Wolf, Heydenreich), nor understand it adverbially, as with abstract terms: congregationally (Hofmann).

There should be no comma after ἐκκλ.; for ΣΥΝΈΡΧ. Κ.Τ.Λ[1822] connects itself in meaning not with ἀκούω, but with σχίσματα κ.τ.λ[1823]

ἈΚΟΎΩ] in the sense of ἈΚΉΚΟΑ, denoting continuance. See Ast, a[1824] Plat. Leg. p. 9 f.; Bernhardy, p. 370; Kühner, a[1825] Xen. Mem. iii. 5. 26.

ΜΈΡΟς ΤΙ] for a part, partly, Thuc. i. 23. 3, ii. 64. 2, iv. 30.1; Isocr. p. 426 D. He cannot bring himself to believe all that he has heard of the divisions at their assemblies. A delicate way of showing the better opinion that he still has of his readers, not a reference to the uncertainty of the source whence the news reached him (Hofmann).

δεῖ] according to God’s decree. It is the “necessitas consequentiae” (Melanchthon); for the ἽΝΑ which follows indicates, according to the apostle’s teleological view (comp Matthew 18:7), the end ordained by God, namely, that the tried, those, who have not suffered themselves to be carried away by party-agitation, should become manifest.

καὶ αἱρέσεις] It cannot be proved (although Rückert, Neander, Hofmann, and others hold) that ΑἹΡΈΣΕΙς is something worse[1827] than ΣΧΊΣΜΑΤΑ (and that ΚΑΊ must mean even), as Pelagius, Estius, and Calovius would take it; for καί may be simply also (among other evils also), and in Galatians 5:20—where, moreover, σχίσματα does not come in at all

Paul does not intend to construct an exact climax, but merely to heap together kindred things. Now, seeing that our Epistle says nothing of absolute party-separations, but always shows us merely party-divisions subsisting along with outward unity, one cannot well make out wherein the worseness of the αἱρέσεις consisted; for to hold, with Rückert, that ΕἾΝΑΙ means to ensue, and points to the future (as Hofmann too maintains), is a perfectly groundless assumption. The αἱρέσεις were there, were not merely coming; it will not do to confound εἶναι with ΓΊΝΕΣΘΑΙ or ἘΛΘΕῖΝ (Matthew 18:7; Luke 17:1), a mistake into which J. Müller also falls, l.c[1828] We must therefore, with Chrysostom, Grotius, Olshausen, al[1829], regard ΑἹΡΈΣΕΙς as another form of designation for the same thing (the ΣΧΊΣΜΑΤΑ). It does not mean heresies in the sense of false doctrine (2 Peter 2:1), as Calvin, Calovius, and others maintain; neither does it refer simply to the separations in keeping the Agapae (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact); but—as is clear from the nature of the sentence as assigning a more general reason for what had been said—to factious divisions in the church generally[1830] (according as there existed tendencies and views at variance with each other and destructive of harmony). Comp on Galatians 5:20.

[1815] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1816] Chrysostom well remarks: οὐ λέγει· ἀκούω μὴ κοινῇ ὑμᾶς συνδειπνεῖν, ἀκούω γὰρ κατʼ ἰδίαν ὑμᾶς ἑστιᾶσθαι καὶ μὴ μετὰ τῶν πενήτων ἀλλʼ ὅ μάλιστα ἱκανὸν ἦν αὐτῶν διασεῖσαι τὴν διάνοιαν, τοῦτο τέθεικε τὸ τοῦ σχίσματος ὄνομα, ὅ καὶ τούτου ἦν αἴτιον.

[1817] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1818] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1822] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1823] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1824] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1825] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1827] So also J. Müller, v. d. Sünde, I. p. 538, ed. 5, holds that σχίσμ. denotes the inner disunion in the church, which shows itself in positive division and faction (αἱρέσεις). Wetstein, on the contrary, considered αἵρεσις a “mollius vocabulum” than σχίσμα.

[1828] .c. loco citato or laudato.

[1829] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1830] It is arbitrary to ascribe the disturbance about the Lord’s Supper to one special party at Corinth, such as the Christ-party (Olshausen), or that of Apollos (Räbiger).

1 Corinthians 11:18. The severe reproach, εἰς τὸ ἧσσον συνέρχεσθε, is justified by 1 Corinthians 11:18-22, which lead round to the intended παραγγελία.—πρῶτον μὲν requires an ἔπειτα δέ, that is not forthcoming (cf. Romans 1:8): the complement appears to lie in 12–14.—viz., the abuse of spiritual gifts, a further and prominent ground of disapproval (Mr[1683], Hn[1684], El[1685]). Bt[1686] and Ed[1687] find the antithesis in τὰ λοιπά, 1 Corinthians 11:34 b. Hf[1688] renders πρῶτον “chiefly,” dispensing with any complement, but μὲν supposes a mental δέ. 1 Corinthians 11:20 gives no contrasted ground of censure, it stands upon the same ground.—συνερχομένων ὑμῶν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ (not τῇ ἐκκλ., in the Church): “as often as you come together in assembly”—ptp[1689] pr[1690] of repeated occurrence; the σχίσματα in Church meetings were chronic. For ἀκούω σχίσματα, see 1 Corinthians 1:10 f.; the pr[1691] “I am hearing” suggests (in contrast with ἐδηλώθη above) continued information from various quarters (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1, ἀκούεται): hence the qualifying μέρος τι (acc[1692] of definition) πιστεύω, wanting in ch. i.; P. does not “believe” everything reported to him, but so much as is stated he does credit.—ὑπάρχειν (see parls.) implies not the bare fact, but a characteristic fact, a proprium of this Church—“have their place (are there) amongst you”: cf. Acts 28:18.

[1683] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[1684] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1685] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[1686] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

[1687] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1688] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[1689] participle

[1690] present tense.

[1691] present tense.

[1692] accusative case.

18. For first of all] Either (1) we must take this to apply to this and the next verse, find the second cause of blame to commence with 1 Corinthians 11:20, or (2) we must regard it as applying to the whole of this chapter, and then the next cause of blame will be the abuse of spiritual gifts, which is treated of in chapters 12–14. The latter is the more probable, for many of the commentators seem to have been misled by the technical theological sense which was attached to the words schism and heresy in later ages, a sense which seems to have been unknown to the Apostle. The divisions of which the Apostle speaks seem to have been social and personal rather than theological or ecclesiastical. See note on 1 Corinthians 11:21.

in the church] Not the building, for there were no churches in the sense of buildings devoted to Christian worship then, but in the assembly.

divisions] Margin, schisms. Wiclif and Tyndale better, dissencion. Dissidia, Calvin. Vulgate, scissuras. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:10.

1 Corinthians 11:18. Πρῶτον, first) This word, when secondly does not follow, gives the discourse a degree of characteristic ἦθος or feeling.[97] Their assembly, even in the use of the gifts, might be held by the Corinthians for the better, 14.—ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, in the church) The church here approaches to the signification of the place of meeting. ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ, into one place, [where it is right, that all things should be arranged with a view to harmony.—V. g.]—σχίσματα) divisions, not only in your mental opinions, ch. 1 Corinthians 1:10, but also as to your outward meetings, 1 Corinthians 11:21.—μέρος τι, partly) He excepts the innocent, and uses a mild term.—πιστεύω, I believe) while his love was unaffected by it, ch. 1 Corinthians 13:7.

[97] Appendix on moratus Sermo.

Verse 18. - First of all. The "second" rebuke is not clearly stated, but is no doubt meant to refer to the abuses in "speaking with the tongue." In the Church; rather, in congregation, or assembly. The reference is not to a particular building. The Lord's Supper was administered frequently (originally every day, Acts 2:46), and often in private houses. Divisions; schisms (ch. 1:10, 12). Here, however, he is referring to cliques and quarrels at the love feasts. Partly! cannot think, he says, in a tone of kindness, that these reports are wholly false. There must be some ground for them, even if the facts have been exaggerated. 1 Corinthians 11:18In the church (ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ)

See on Matthew 16:18. Not the church edifice, a meaning which the word never has in the New Testament, and which appears first in patristic writings. The marginal rendering of the Rev. is better: in congregation.

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