Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,Ch. 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. Salutation and Introduction
1. called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God] St Paul here as elsewhere asserts his Divine commission. This was necessary because a party had arisen which was inclined to dispute it. We read in the Epistle to the Galatians of the ‘false brethren unawares brought in’ whose doctrine he was compelled to withstand and to assert the Divine origin of his own; and in the second Epistle to the Corinthians we find many allusions to those who rejected his authority, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 10:7; 1 Corinthians 10:10, and the whole of chapters 11 and 12. They no doubt laid much stress on the fact that St Paul had not received the call of Christ as the Twelve had (see notes on ch. 9), and also on the different complexion his doctrine, though the same, necessarily bore, from the fact that it was mainly addressed to Gentiles and not to Jews. It is worthy of remark that in the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, written before the controversy arose, no such clause is found, while after the commencement of the dispute the words or some equivalent to them are only absent from one epistle addressed to a church.
Sosthenes our brother] Literally, the brother. He was probably not the Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18:17, who was an opponent of the faith, but some one well known to the churches in the Apostolic age.
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:2. to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus] Literally, to them that have been sanctified. The word here rendered sanctify means (1) to consecrate to the service of the Deity, and hence (2) to purify, make holy. The word here partakes of both senses. Those who have become united to Christ by faith have not only been dedicated to Him, but have been made partakers of His holiness by their participation in the Life that is in Him. But such persons were by no means as yet free from actual sin, as chapters 5, 6, 8, 11. conclusively prove. “The Church of Christ, abstractedly and invisibly, is a kingdom where no evil is; in the concrete, and actually, it is the Church of Corinth, Rome, or England, tainted with impurity. And yet, just as the mudded Rhone is really the Rhone and not mud and the Rhone, so there are not two churches, the Church of Corinth and the false church within it, but one visible Church, in which the invisible lies concealed.” Robertson, On the Corinthians, Lect. ii.
called to be saints] Literally, called saints—because the faculty of saintliness, if not actual saintliness itself, had been communicated to every member of the Church. The only difference between ‘saints’ and ‘them that are sanctified’ is that the latter expression has reference to a past act of God’s mercy, the former to the present condition of those who have benefited from it.
with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord] The Epistle, which dealt with so many and such weighty truths, was not to be treasured up as the peculiar heritage of the Corinthian Church, but was to be regarded as the common possession of the universal Church of Christ. Or perhaps it is better, with Olshausen, to regard the Apostle as reminding the Corinthians that they form only a part, and that but a small one, of the whole Church of Christ, a consideration which their self-satisfaction was leading them to forget.
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.3. grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ] The close association of these words—for the preposition is not repeated twice—has been held to imply the oneness of substance of the Father and the Son. It is also to be noted that the grace and peace are said to come from our Lord Jesus Christ equally with the Father. The same formula is to be found in the greeting of every epistle. But the most remarkable instance of this form of speech is certainly that in 1 Thessalonians 3:11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, where the Father and the Son stand together as nominatives to a verb in the singular. Grace is here used in the signification of favour, kindness, rather than in the usual theological signification of Divine assistance. The Apostle is speaking of that Divine favour in the sunshine of which the believer is privileged to dwell, and which produces peace of mind as its natural effect. For it is a cardinal point of his teaching that ‘there is henceforth no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’ It is to be remembered that our word grace is derived from the Latin gratia, the original signification of which is favour, kindness.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;4. the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ] Rather, perhaps, the favour of God which is given you in Jesus Christ. “We are to conceive of Jesus Christ as filled with grace and as pouring it out upon the human race” (Olshausen). Or rather perhaps, All gifts are the result not of our merit, but God’s good-will, and are not only given to us by Jesus Christ, but are results of His indwelling in the soul.
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;5. in every thing ye are enriched] Rather, Ye were enriched, i.e. at your baptism, when you entered into the covenant-union with Christ. The gifts of utterance, knowledge and the like, were the result of the favour of God towards you. It appears evident from the rest of the Epistle that the Apostle was thinking rather of the powers conveyed to the Corinthians by their translation into Christ, than of the use they had made of them. The Corinthians as a body were not as yet remarkable for their Christian knowledge, though many individuals had no doubt made great spiritual progress.
in all utterance] Literally, speech, discourse.
Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:6. even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift] The testimony of Christ is St Paul’s preaching concerning Christ. It was ‘confirmed’ by the outpouring of His Spirit.
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:7. come behind] should rather be translated fall short. No comparison with other Churches seems to have been intended.
the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ] The word in the original and in the margin of the English version is revelation. But this is not always equivalent to coming. The ‘revelation of Jesus Christ’ unquestionably means (1) the Last Day in such passages as 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 1 Peter 1:7, and the same is the case with St Luke 17:30. But on the other hand, in passages such as 2 Corinthians 12:1; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:2, it means (2) the fuller revelation of the mysteries of God’s kingdom; while in Revelation 1:1, it signifies (3) the unfolding of things to come. The second of these three meanings would seem most appropriate here. The testimony of Christ, confirmed originally by the inward witness of the Spirit, receives additional confirmation by the gradual unfolding of things Divine, until the believer, fully grounded in the faith, stands without reproach before Christ at His coming.
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.8. blameless] is the exact equivalent of the Greek, which signifies free from reproach. It is worthy of remark that “blame,” though the Saxon termination “less” has been appended to it, is itself a word of Greek origin. It is identical with “blaspheme,” the original meaning of which is, “to speak ill of,” and has reached us in an abbreviated form through the French.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.9. God is faithful] It will not be God’s fault, but our own, if the promises of the last verse are not realized.
the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ] The important word here rendered fellowship has unfortunately different renderings in our version. Sometimes, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 10:16 (where see note), it is rendered communion; and in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where it is thus rendered, another word is rendered fellowship. In 2 Corinthians 9:13, it is rendered distribution. Its usual signification would appear to be the sharing together, joint participation as common possessors of any thing. But it is impossible to go so far as Cremer in his Lexicon of the N. T. and assert that it never has the active sense of communication, in the face of such passages as Romans 15:26 (where it is rendered distribution); 2 Corinthians 9:13. Here it refers to the life which by means of faith is common to the believer and his Lord. Cf. Galatians 2:20.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.10–17. Rebuke of the Divisions in the Corinthian Church
10. I beseech you, brethren] The Apostle now enters on the subject of the divisions among his Corinthian converts, for which his introduction (see next note) was intended as a preparation.
by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ] St Chrysostom says that the reason why the name Jesus Christ appears so often in the introduction (it occurs eight times in nine verses) is the desire to censure indirectly the schisms existing in the Corinthian Church by reminding its members of Him in Whom they were made one, and Whose name told of nothing but love and peace.
and that there be no divisions among you] The margin has ‘schisms,’ the original σχίσματα. But the recognized theological sense of the word ‘schisms’ renders it unsuitable here, where the idea is rather that of divisions in, than separation from, the Church.
but that ye be perfectly joined together] The Apostle is hardly to be supposed here to require absolute unity of opinion, a thing impossible among men, but rather that mutual affection which would knit the disciples together in all essentials, and would prevent all acrimonious discussion of non-essentials. The word rendered joined together is literally fitted together, as the fragments in a piece of mosaic, in which each minute portion exactly fills its proper place.
in the same mind and in the same judgment] The word translated mind, which is kindred with the Latin nosco and our know, has the signification in the N. T. (1) of the organ of perception, mind, intellect, (2) of the perception which is the result of the action of that organ understanding, and (3) of the intellectual conviction which the understanding imparts. The latter is the meaning here. For an example of (1) see ch. 1 Corinthians 2:16 and note; of (2) see Revelation 13:18. In Romans 7:25 it would seem to have (4) a meaning which includes moral as well as intellectual qualities. The word rendered judgment does not mean judicial sentence, but like judgment in English it is often equivalent to opinion. See ch. 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40; 2 Corinthians 8:10. It is rendered advice in the latter passage.
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.11. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe] The aorist here seems to imply some special occasion on which St Paul met his informants, and received the intelligence which pained him. Of Chloe nothing is known.
Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.12. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul] The idea of some commentators that there were defined parties in the Apostolic Church under the leadership of Apostles and their Master, a Paul-party, a Peter-party, a Christ-party, is refuted by ch. 1 Corinthians 4:6, where St Paul plainly states that he had replaced the names of the antagonistic teachers at Corinth by that of himself and Apollos, in order to secure his rebukes from assuming a personal form.
Apollos] See Acts 18:24-28. From this passage we gather that he was a Hellenistic Greek, of the school of philosophical Judaism which flourished at that time at Alexandria, and was an admixture of the doctrines of the Platonic philosophy with those of the Jewish religion. It is possible that he may have been a disciple of the celebrated Alexandrian teacher Philo, who was contemporary with the Apostles. Learned and zealous, he could not be confined within the bounds of any particular school, but diligently acquainted himself with all the movements which sprang up in the Jewish Church. Thus he became a disciple of John the Baptist, whose doctrines had been widely spread abroad by that time (Acts 19:1-3), and as his fervent spirit was allied with the gift of eloquence, he speedily endeavoured to communicate to others the new light he had received. He is described as being ‘accurately instructed in the things concerning the Lord,’ although he knew ‘only the baptism of John.’ By this we are not to understand a perfect knowledge of the system of Christianity, or it would have been impossible for Aquila and Priscilla to have explained it to him ‘more accurately.’ His knowledge was probably confined to the Baptist’s witness to Christ as the Messiah, to the more general moral teaching of Christ, as contained in the first three Gospels, and to those remarkable glimpses of the inner mysteries of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 3:9; St John 3:27-36, and compare St John 8:39; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 9:7) which our Gospels shew the Baptist to have had. But with that deeper teaching as a whole, confided by Christ to His disciples, and afterwards given to the world in the preaching and writings of the Apostles, and in the Gospel of St John, he had no acquaintance when he came to Ephesus. Endowed with this knowledge through the instrumentality of Aquila and Priscilla, he became an effective preacher of the Gospel, and filling St Paul’s place when the latter had left Corinth, ‘he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ’ But disgusted possibly by an attempt on the part of some (see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 16:12) to set him up as a rival to St Paul, he left Corinth and returned to Ephesus, and we know not whether he ever visited Corinth again.
Cephas] See St John 1:42.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?13. Is Christ divided?] Some editors read this affirmatively, “Christ is divided,” instead of interrogatively as in the text. But the latter is preferable. St Paul would ask if Christ, into Whose Name the whole Church has been baptized, and Whose Body (Ephesians 1:23) the whole Church is, can thus be split up into portions, and each portion appropriated by one of the parties he has mentioned.
was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?] Rather, into the name of Paul. To baptize ‘into’ a name signifies something more than to baptize in a name. Had St Paul used the latter phrase here, he would have been rebuking those Christians who called themselves disciples of any other but Christ. But he is also reminding them that the ‘Name’ of Christ, standing as it does for Himself, is the only way of salvation, that Christ is the only Head of the Church, and he disclaims any attempt to claim for himself that close connection with the inner life of all who profess belief in Christ, which is the prerogative of Christ alone. Cf. St Matthew 28:19; Acts 3:16; Acts 4:12.
I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;14. Crispus and Gaius] The special honour seems to have been accorded to Crispus of baptism by the hands of St Paul, because he was ‘the chief ruler of the synagogue’ (Acts 18:8). Gaius, ‘mine host, and of the whole Church’ (Romans 16:23) must not be confounded with Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), nor with the Macedonian Gaius mentioned in Acts 19:29. Gaius or Caius was a very common Roman name. The Epistle to the Romans was written at Corinth. Paley (Horae Paulinae, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians 8) remarks on the minute yet undesigned agreement between the Epistles and the Acts. We must not foil to notice also that the Corinthian Church was by no means an exclusively Gentile community. See Acts 18:12-13.
Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.15. in mine own name] Rather, into my own name.
And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.16. Stephanas] Probably the bearer of the Epistle. He is mentioned in ch. 1 Corinthians 16:15; 1 Corinthians 16:17.
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.17. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel] “Even the less earned can baptize perfectly, but perfectly to preach the Gospel is a far more difficult task, and requires qualifications which are far more rare.”—Augustine.
not with wisdom of words] Rather discourse, as in 1 Corinthians 1:5. Here the matter of the discourse as well as its expression is meant, though the latter is probably the predominant idea. For it is impossible to study the philosophy of the Apostolic and post-Apostolic period without seeing how much it consisted of word-play.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.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.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.19. For it is written] In Isaiah 29:14.
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?20. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?] i.e. “the wise generally, the Jewish scribe, the Greek disputer.”—Dean Alford. “The words ‘of this world’ apply not to the disputer alone, but to all three.”—De Wette.
hath not God made foolish] Rather, did not God make foolish, i.e. when He proclaimed the Gospel of salvation through Christ. Cf. Isaiah 44:25.
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.21. For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God] We have here a contrast drawn between God’s wisdom and that of man. Man’s wisdom could but inquire and argue. God’s wisdom had decreed that by such means man should only learn his weakness.
it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching] Rather, with the Rhemish version, by the foolishness of the preachings, i.e. of the gospel. The word translated preaching should rather be rendered what is preached. It is called foolishness (1) because ‘those who were perishing’ thought it so; (2) because it required no high intellectual gift, but simple faith in a crucified and risen Lord. This abnegation by man of his natural powers was the first step in the road to salvation. But we are not to suppose that after man had thus surrendered those powers to God in a spirit of childlike faith, he was not to receive them back regenerated and transfigured.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:22. the Jews require a sign] The plural, ‘signs’ ‘miracles,’ is the better supported reading here. The Jews (Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; John 2:18; John 6:30) required external attestations of the power of Christ, and especially that of the subjugation of the world to His kingly authority. The Greeks sought dialectic skill from one who aspired to be their teacher.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;23. but we preach Christ crucified] The Christian doctrine was the very reverse of what Jews and Greeks demanded. Instead of Messiah upon an earthly throne, triumphant over his enemies, instead of a skilful and original disputant, the Christian preachers speak of a condemned criminal. As a temporal Prince He had no pretensions to notice. To the title of philosopher, at least in the Corinthian sense of the term, He had no claim. His one argument was His Life and Death. What wonder if this doctrine were to the Jews an offence, and sheer nonsense in the ears of the inquisitive and argumentative Greek?
a stumblingblock] The expression used here is the same as in the Septuagint version of Isaiah 8:14.
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.24. but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God] His power enabled them to shake off the yoke of sin and conform their lives to the pattern of His. His wisdom consisted in speaking what He knew and testifying what He had seen (St John 3:11), in declaring those heavenly truths hitherto concealed.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.25. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, &c.] What was folly in the eyes of the Greek, or weakness in the eyes of the Jew, was yet far wiser and stronger than their highest conceptions. The revelation of God in the man Christ Jesus, the Infinite allying itself to the Finite—the foolishness of God—was the perfection of the Divine Wisdom; the crucifixion of sin in the Death of Christ; God suffering, dying—the weakness of God—was the highest manifestation of Divine Power, in that it destroyed what nothing else could destroy. For whosoever unites himself to Christ by faith in His Blood acquires the faculty of putting sin to a lingering death.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: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.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;27. to confound] Literally to disgrace, bring to shame. That which is disgraced can have no ground for self-glorification.
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:28. and things which are not] i.e. ‘things which by comparison are non-existent’—things which by the side of other things of higher importance in our human eyes appear to us as nothing. Yet these, in the counsels of God, are to change places, and more than change places, with things that are highly regarded in the sight of men.
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:30. of him are ye in Christ Jesus] Humanity is nothing in the sight of God, except it be created anew in Christ Jesus. By virtue of His Incarnation it becomes wisdom, not by means of human research but by Divine Revelation; righteousness, not by works done in obedience to law, but by the infusion of the Spirit of righteousness into the soul by Christ; sanctification, (i.e. the setting apart to the working of a principle of holiness), not by human merit, but by a Divine law of growth; redemption, (i.e. the paying the price of our deliverance from the captivity in which we were held by sin), because we were lost but for the Atonement made by Christ for our sins.
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.31. He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord] The whole work of salvation is of God. The Corinthians, like many others since, were inclined to take some of the credit to themselves. The Apostle reminds them to Whom it is due. These words are a paraphrase of Jeremiah 9:23-24.