1 Corinthians 1 Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
1 Corinthians 1
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.

The First Epistle to the Corinthians.

BY

THE REV. T. TEIGNMOUTH SHORE, M.A.,

Canon of Worcester and Chaplain-in Ordinary to the King.

INTRODUCTION

TO

THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.

To describe briefly the relation in which St. Paul stood to the Corinthian Church, and the circumstances under which he wrote this Epistle, will, I think, be the best and most efficient help to the ordinary reader.

After a stay at Athens of some few months, St. Paul, towards the end (probably) of the year A.D. 51, left that city for Corinth. At Athens, the centre of philosophic thought and culture, St. Paul had preached Christianity. The wide question of the relation of God’s providence to the heathen world in times past—Christ crucified and raised from the dead—all these topics had been dwelt on by the Apostle in a speech which still remains a model of the subtlest rhetorical skill and of the most earnest eloquence. Judged, however, by immediate results, the speech on Mars Hill, and the other addresses at Athens, of which we have no record, but which were probably on the same lines, were not successful. Only a few converts were won for Christ.

The Apostle dwells with no fond recollection on his work here. A single sentence[26] sums up the results of his labour in a city where the successful planting of the Church would have been of such vast importance: “Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” There is an undertone of sadness and disappointment in these words of St. Paul’s companion and friend, St. Luke.

[26] Acts 17:34.

The Apostle left Athens downcast and thoughtful. The subtle skill, the earnest eloquence, had been employed apparently in vain. The inestimable value which that great exposition of God’s dealings with man, as well in the world at large as in the more sacred enclosure of the Christian faith, might have—as we know now it has had—in Christendom, did not present itself to the Apostle’s mind as any consolation for the want of practical results at the moment. Athens was a sad memory to St. Paul. He never mentions her name in an Epistle. He sends no words of greeting to any of her children.

From the Piraeus—the port of Athens—St. Paul sails for Corinth. It being late in autumn (probably October or November), it is most likely that the Apostle landed at Cenchreæ, a seaport town on the Saronic Bay.[27] The experience which he had at Athens, and its bearing on the work on which he was now about to enter in the capital of Achaia, were doubtless the uppermost thoughts in the Apostle’s mind during this brief journey. He sees that the power of the gospel to win men to Christ lies in the message itself, and not in the method and style of its delivery. He resolves to lay aside the rhetoric and the merely human eloquence, and in the new field of his missionary labours “to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”[28] This now he probably made as he landed at Cenchreæ; and when, a year and a half afterwards, he embarked at the same port on his return journey, he could look back with satisfaction and with thanksgiving on the resolution which he had formed, and the glorious results which had followed in Achaia from his preaching.

[27] I assume that St. Paul went by sea, and not by land, as the words (Acts 18:1), “Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth,” seem to imply a brief and uninterrupted journey. Had he gone by land he would have passed through other towns on the way, some mention of which it would be natural to expect.

[28] See 1Corinthians 2:1-2, and Note there. The word “you,” repeated in both these verses, seems emphatic, as if the Apostle meant to bring out a contrast between his former style of teaching among others, and that which he had resolved should be his style of teaching amongst them. The only point on which he had determined when coming to them was, “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” as the subject-matter of his teaching.

A journey of nine miles from Cenchreæ brought the Apostle to Corinth, which was situate in the south-west end of the isthmus, and at the northern base of the Acrocorinthus. The two things which in older days had made Corinth famous in Grecian history still rendered her a place of supreme importance. From a military point of view, she might be regarded as the key to the Peloponnesus, and commercially she was the central point of the vast trade which was carried on between Asia and Europe. The storms which so constantly raged on the southern shore of Greece drove the vast tide of commerce through the safer overland route, which lay through Cenchreæ and Lechæum, which latter port was only a mile and a half distant from Corinth. It was at Corinth that, in B.C. 146, the Aehaians made their last stand against the Romans, and were finally defeated by Mummius. After this, Achaia became a Roman province, and Corinth for a century remained in the condition of utter desolation to which the sword and fire of the victorious consul had reduced it. Some years before the birth of Christ (B.C. 44) Julius Cæsar restored Corinth, and, under the Emperor Claudius, the direct rule of the province was transferred from the emperor to the senate; and hence we find at the time when St. Paul arrived its government was administered by a pro-consul.[29] As St. Paul entered Corinth his eyes might for a moment have rested on the grave of Lais amid the cypress grove outside the walls, and the monument of Diogenes which stood by the gate—fit types of the cynical, worldly philosophy, and the gross, yet attractive, sensuality with which the society of that day and city were permeated. Within the city, most of the buildings were comparatively modern, “run up” within the last century by the imported population of Roman freed-men; while only here and there, in the stately magnificence of an older style of architecture, stood an occasional edifice which had survived the “fire” that had “tried every man’s work” in the great conflagration which had swept away the inferior structures of “wood, hay, stubble” when the conquering troops of Mummius had captured Corinth.[30] The population of Corinth was composed of many and diverse elements. There were Greeks, who thought, by their delight in a tawdry rhetoric and in a sham and shallow philosophy, to revive the historic glory of a past age. There were a thousand corrupt and shameless priestesses attached to the temple of Aphrodite, which crowned the neighbouring hill. There were the families of the Roman freed-men whom Julius Cæsar had sent to rebuild and recolonise the town. There were traders from Asia and from Italy, and all that nondescript element naturally to be found in a city which was practically a great commercial seaport and the scene, every fourth year, of those Isthmian games which attracted among the athletes the best, and among some of the spectators the worst, of the population of the surrounding provinces. All these, like so many streams of human life, mingled together here, and at this particular juncture were met by the vast returning tide of Jews expelled from Rome by Claudius,[31] and so formed that turbulent and seething flood of human life on which the barque of Christ’s Church was launched at Corinth.

[29] Acts 18:12.

[30] See St. Paul’s recollection of this in the imagery employed in 1Corinthians 3:10-13.

[31] Acts 18:2.

Amongst those who had lately come from Italy were Aquila and Priscilla, his wife. With them the Apostle lodged, joining with them in their occupation of tent-making. Pontus,[32] the native country of Aquila, and Cilicia, [32b] the native country of St. Paul, were both renowned for the manufacture of the goat’s hair cloth from which the tent-coverings were made. It is probable, however, that an affinity of faith, as well as an identity of occupation, led to the Apostle’s intimate association with these friends. If this man and his wife had not been converted to Christianity before this they would scarcely have allowed St. Paul to join himself so intimately with them. The very circumstances of their expulsion from Rome would have embittered them against a Christian. From a remark in Suetonius, we find that the expulsion of the Jews had to do with their riots with Christian converts. Rome cared nothing about the religious opinions of these rival sects; but when their differences led to public riots Rome was then as vigorous and decisive in action as before she had been indifferent. [32c] Having left Italy under such circumstances, Aquila and Priscilla would, if unconverted Jews, have certainly not taken a Christian as a partner in their home and work; whereas, if already Christians, and suffering expulsion thus from Rome, they would gladly welcome such a convert as Paul. These considerations are confirmed by the course of events at the outset of St. Paul’s preaching at Corinth. The Apostle first preaches to the Jews and those proselytes (called “Greeks”)[33] who had at least accepted Judaism so far as to attend the synagogue. He is met with opposition and blasphemy by them, and then turns unto the Gentiles, and teaches in a house close by the synagogue, winning many converts to the faith, amongst others, Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, Gaius, and Stephanas and his household, who received their baptism at the hand of the Apostle himself.[34] Silas and Timothy joined the Apostle during the earlier part of his sojourn, and probably brought with them some pecuniary help from the Philippians, which was doubly acceptable because of a famine then prevalent and of the Apostle’s unflinching determination to take nothing from the Corinthians.[35]

[32] Acts 18:2.

[32b] Acts 18:2.

[32c] “Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome on account of their continual tumults instigated by Chrestus.” The name Christus, in pronunciation nearly identical with Chrestus, was mixed up in the riots somehow. That was quite sufficient for the authorities to assume that some person of the that name was the author of them.

[33] Acts 18:4.

[34] 1Corinthians 1:14-16.

[35] See 2Corinthians 11:7-12 : Philippians 4:15.

Some time in A.D. 53, M. Annæus Novatus, the brother of the philosopher Seneca, arrives at Corinth as pro-consul of Achaia. He was called Gallio, having been adopted into the family of that name. His kindly and loving disposition [36] gave the Jewish faction some hope that they might make him the unconscious tool by which they would wreak their intensifying rage on St. Paul and his Christian companions. Gallio, with the imperturbable calmness of a Roman governor, refuses to allow himself to be dragged into a religious-dispute between two sects. In retaliation for this conduct on the part of the Jews, the Greeks take Sosthenes, who had succeeded Crispus as chief ruler of the synagogue—here, no doubt, the ringleader in the persecution of St. Paul—and beat him. [36b] When the same Sosthenes became a convert it was not strange that he and St. Paul should become firm friends. Both had been active enemies of the faith which they now preached, and the two converted persecutors are joined together in the opening of this Epistle to the Corinthian Church (1Corinthians 1:1). For some considerable time the Apostle remains and teaches at Corinth, and then returns to Syria by Cenchreæ. The vow made on landing there had been kept. [36c] Jesus Christ and His crucifixion had been the sole subject and strength of the Apostle’s teaching. With what feelings of profound thankfulness must St. Paul, as he sailed from Cenchreæ, have looked back on the work and the success of those intervening months. With Aquila and Priscilla, he arrives at Ephesus, and leaves them there. After a somewhat prolonged tour through Galatia and Phrygia, and a visit to Jerusalem, St. Paul returns to Ephesus, probably in the year A.D. 54. Meanwhile, during the absence of St. Paul on his journey visiting the churches in Galatia and Phrygia, a man arrives at Ephesus who is destined to have a remarkable influence in the future on St. Paul’s relation with the Corinthian Church. Apollos, a Jew by religion and an Alexandrian by birth, had been brought up in a city where commerce brought together various races, and where philosophy attracted varied schools of thought. Alexandria, famous also as the place where the Greek translation of the Old Testament had been made, became naturally the seat of an intellectual school of scriptural interpretation, as well as the abode of Greek philosophy. Amid such surroundings, Apollos, gifted with natural eloquence, became “mighty in the scriptures,” and was “instructed in the way of the Lord,” possibly by some of those Alexandrian Jews who, in their disputes with Stephen,[37] had become acquainted with the elementary principles of Christianity. His imperfect acquaintance with the Christian faith—limited to the tenets of the Baptist [38]—is supplemented and completed by the instruction which he receives from Aquila and Priscilla, who were attracted by the eloquence and fervour with which he preached in the synagogue at Ephesus his imperfect gospel. The days spent with St. Paul at Corinth were fresh in the memory of these Christians. The incidents of those days were doubtless often recalled in many a conversation with Apollos, and what he hears fires his earnest soul with a desire to preach the gospel in Achaia. To the various churches—including, of course, Corinth—he receives letters of commendation from the Ephesian Christians, and his preaching is attended with great blessing, “helping them much which had believed through grace.” His style of teaching was strikingly different from that which St. Paul—in accordance with his vow, “to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,”—had adopted at Corinth. With more intellectual eloquence, and with a wider and more philosophic range of thought, he opened up the deeper spiritual meaning of the Old Testament scriptures, showing from them that Jesus was Christ.[39] The philosophic school of thought in which he had been educated could be traced in the style of his eloquence, which won many converts amongst those classes to whom the simplicity of Paul’s preaching had not been acceptable, and who, on that account, had continued to the end his active opponents.

[36] Seneca says of Gallio, “He was loved much even by those who had little power to love;” and, “No mortal is so dear to me as Gallio to all men.”

[36b] In Acts 18:17, the words “the Greeks” do not occur in the best MSS., and some commentators conclude that it was the Jewish faction who took Sosthenes and beat him, suspecting him of some leanings toward the faith which he afterwards embraced. I think it more natural to assume that it was the Greek mob who acted thus towards the leader of the defeated faction of the Jews. If it were the Jews writhing under their defeat, surely they would have taken vengeance on some avowed Christian like Paul or Aquila.

[36c] Acts 18:18. The words here may, as a mere matter of grammar, refer to either Paul or Aquila; but the whole sense of the passage refers to the former. The fact that Paul goes on to Jerusalem, and Aquila remains at Ephesus, is almost in itself sufficient to indicate Paul as the one having some solemn obligation to fulfil. I have already indicated that in the solemn vow made by the Apostle, and which was carried out apparently according to the law of the Nazarite vow (see Numbers 6) was included a resolve as to his teaching at Corinth. What, if any, other motives for the vow the Apostle could have had, must, of course, be matter of the merest conjecture.

[37] Acts 6:9.

[38] Acts 18:25.

[39] Acts 18:28.

While the eloquent Alexandrian is preaching in Corinth—watering[39b] where Paul had planted, building up where Paul had laid the foundation, giving strong meat to those whom, in their spiritual infancy, Paul had fed with milk, and winning some new converts amongst those whose Jewish and intellectual prejudices had hitherto been invincible—St. Paul rejoins Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus. [39c] This is not the place to dwell upon St. Paul’s work at Ephesus (of which a full account is given in Acts 19), only so far as it directly bears upon his Epistle to Corinth. During his stay at Ephesus he is constantly hearing news of the Corinthians by those whose business necessitated constant journeyings between these two commercial capitals. The Apostle himself also, during the earlier part of his sojourn, pays a brief visit to Corinth, of which we have no record, and of which we should know nothing but for the casual allusion in his Second Epistle that he is coming to them the third time. [39d] After some two years’ residence at Ephesus, the Apostle determines, after some time, to proceed directly by sea to Corinth, and making it his head-quarters, visit the churches in Macedonia, returning after this tour to Corinth again, on his way back to Jerusalem,[40] from whence, finally, he hoped to visit Rome.[41] This plan is, however, entirely upset by the course of events which we have now to narrate.

[39b] 1Corinthians 3:1; 1Corinthians 3:6; 1Corinthians 3:10

[39c] Acts 19:1

[39d] I place the unrecorded visit of St. Paul thus early during his residence at Ephesus because it seems to have occurred before the matter treated of in the First Epistle to the Corinthians assumed a serious aspect; otherwise we can scarcely imagine that there should be no allusion in this Epistle to some definite rebuke or instruction for which that visit would have afforded an opportunity,

[40] 2Corinthians 1:15-16.

[41] Acts 19:21.

Rumours, more or less vague at first, reach St. Paul of a bad state of affairs in the Corinthian Church. The Corinthian Christians were living in the midst of a heathen society. The religion of heathendom, and the sensual license and indulgence which formed a part of it, pervaded all the social customs and entered into the very fibre of the social life of the country. To define, therefore, the precise position which Christians should assume in relation to the political conditions and the domestic institutions of the heathen was a matter of the utmost delicacy and difficulty. Christian thought and practice perpetually oscillated between the license into which human nature easily transformed the liberty of the gospel, and the rigid rejection of every custom which was tainted with heathen approval. To steady in the line of right that trembling pendulum of vibrating religious thought required all the spiritual skill and all the fine delicacy of touch which were characteristic of the great Apostle of the Gentiles. When the earliest rumours reach him of the unsatisfactory condition of some of the Corinthian Christians, he writes a letter to them, in which he probably mentions his intention of visiting them on his way to Macedonia; and he warns them of the great danger of moral contamination to which they would infallibly be subject if they allowed any of the immoral practices of the heathen to receive any sanction from the Christian Church. Whatever the heathen might think of the lawfulness of sinful indulgence which their own faith surrounded with a distorting moral atmosphere of religious sanction, Christians were to allow no trace of such immorality within the boundaries of the Church. This Epistle has been lost; we can only conjecture its general contents from the circumstances under which it was written, and the reference to it in what is now the First of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians.[42]

[42] See 1Corinthians 5:9.

The Apostle still adheres to his intention of visiting Corinth and Macedonia, and sends Timothy and Erastus to prepare the various churches in Macedonia and Achaia for his coming, and, above all, to set things right at Corinth by, as St. Paul says, “bringing you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” [42b]

[42b] See 1Corinthians 4:17.

After the despatch of Timothy and Erastus, more alarming news reaches St. Paul. The household of Chloe[42c]—some Christian resident, either at Corinth or Ephesus, evidently well known to the Corinthians—report to the Apostle that the Church is disorganised with sectarian strife, and defiled by sanctioning a marriage between a Christian man and a heathen woman who had been his step-mother, and was now divorced from his father. A letter also arrives[42d] from the Corinthians to St. Paul, which was in part a reply to St. Paul’s lost Epistle, and which contained various questions regarding doctrine and practice which revealed the disintegrated condition of religious thought and life in Christian Corinth.[43] The letter was probably brought to Ephesus by Stephanas and his companions, who supplemented the information which it contained by their own knowledge, based upon personal and recent observation. The arrival of this letter, which called for an immediate answer, and the receipt of this intelligence of a state of affairs which required to be dealt with immediately and vigorously, led to a change in the Apostle’s plans. He abandons his intention of going direct to Corinth, so as to give time for a change for the better in the state of that Church; and he can no longer, now that he realises the full extent of the evil, leave it to be dealt with by one of Timothy’s gentle disposition. He therefore writes this (Second) First Epistle to the Corinthians, and sends with it Titus, who, going direct to Corinth, would reach that city probably before the arrival of Timothy, who would be delayed visiting other churches en route. Titus—whom we may call St. Paul’s companion in determination, as Timothy was St. Paul’s companion in conciliation—was far more competent to meet the difficulties which would present themselves in such a state of affairs as existed then at Corinth. Moreover, Titus was a Gentile, whereas Timothy was half Jewish by birth; and so there would be no danger of the most hostile faction in Corinth—the Jewish—awakening any sympathy for themselves in him. How judicious the selection of Titus was is evident by the success of his mission, which we read of afterwards when he rejoined Paul in Macedonia.[44]

[42c] See 1Corinthians 1:11.

[42d] See 1Corinthians 8:1.

[43] My reason for thinking that the letter from the Corinthians was in part a reply to St. Paul’s lost Epistle is that the Apostle says (1Corinthians 5:9) emphatically, “I wrote to you in the Epistle,”—i.e., the Epistle to which you refer. They had probably taken exception to his strict injunction, and said in reply. “If we are not to keep company at all with fornicators, then we must go out of the world altogether.” His words seem to me to be an answer to some such captious criticism, and not a voluntary modification or explanation of what he had no reason to suppose should be misunderstood. It has been suggested by some commentators that the lost Epistle had been sent by Timothy. But St. Paul seems to assume as certain that the letter has reached them (1Corinthians 5:9), and to be doubtful whether Timothy was there or not (1Corinthians 16:10).

[44] See 2Corinthians 2:12-13.

The Epistle was written and despatched probably about Easter, A.D. 57,[45] and the Apostle’s intention is now to remain at Ephesus until after Pentecost, and then proceed, visiting the churches in Macedonia before going to Corinth. This would leave time for this Epistle to have the desired effect, and for St. Paul to meet Titus somewhere—probably at Troas. This Epistle divides itself into two parts. The first Section, extending to 1Corinthians 6:20, deals with the reports which had reached St. Paul as to the condition of the Corinthian Church; and the second Section, which occupies the remainder of the Epistle, is a reply to the letter received from Corinth, including directions for the collection for the saints at Jerusalem and the usual salutations from the brethren.

[45] See 1Corinthians 5:7, and Note there, and 1Corinthians 16:18, showing that it was written before Pentecost, and probably at Passover time.

With characteristic courtesy, the Epistle opens with words of approval and congratulation,[46] which show that the writer’s subsequent censures arise from no desire to see merely what is bad in the Corinthians, but are forced from him by the serious nature of the evils which have to be checked. Three evils are then rebuked—viz., THE SPIRIT OF FACTION, [46b] THE CASE OF PROHIBITED MARRIAGE, [46c] THE APPEALS OF CHRISTIANS TO HEATHEN COURTS.[47] The general principles of the relation of Christianity to heathenism, out of which the advice given under the last two heads has grown, are then solemnly reiterated;[48] and the first Section of the Epistle closes with these words of earnest warning.

[46] 1Corinthians 1:1-9.

[46b] 1Corinthians 1:10 to 1Corinthians 4:21

[46c] 1Corinthians 5:1-13

[47] 1Corinthians 6:1-9.

[48] 1Corinthians 6:5-20.

From the second Section of this Epistle we can discover what were the topics concerning which the Corinthians had written to St. Paul. He would doubtless treat of these subjects in the same sequence as they occurred in the letter to which this is the answer. The questions asked were probably these: IS IT RIGHT TO MARRY? The answer to this[49] is,—that, owing to the exceptional state of circumstances then existing, the unmarried state is better. This advice is, however, to be modified in its practical application in the cases of those who have an irresistible natural desire for marriage and those who have already contracted it.

[49] 1 Corinthians 7

The second question was: IS IT LAWFUL FOR A CHRISTIAN TO EAT THE FLESH WHICH HAS BEEN ALREADY USED FOR SACRIFICIAL PURPOSES BY THE HEATHEN? To this the answer[49b] is, in general terms, that there is no harm in eating such meat, but that in practice this wide principle of Christian liberty must be limited by regard to the general welfare of others and their tenderness of conscience.

[49b] 1Corinthians 8:1 to 1Corinthians 1:1

The third inquiry was: WHAT IS THE BECOMING DRESS OF WOMEN IN PUBLIC WORSHIP? This question was rendered necessary by some women pushing the freedom of the faith so far as to appear in public unveiled—a practice which might easily be mistaken by the heathen as the indication of a loose morality. To this the Apostle replies[49c] practically that our Christianity is not to make us transgress the social order and customs of the community in which we live.

[49c] 1Corinthians 11:2-16

The fourth question was: WHAT IS THE PROPER ORDER OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER? In his answer to this question[50] the Apostle severely censures the scenes of riot and debauch into which the Love Feasts—with which the Lord’s Supper was practically united, though not identical—had fallen, and gives stringent and exact directions as to the means of avoiding such scandal in the future.[51]

[50] 1Corinthians 11:17-34.

[51] It seems impossible to us that drunkenness could arise from the abuse of the Eucharistic wine as administered in our own day. A remarkable instance is mentioned in Mrs. Brassey’s Voyage of the “Sunbeam,” (p. 231) of a church which they visited in Tahiti, where cocoa-nut milk was used in the Holy Communion in the place of wine, owing to abuses of the cup which had arisen.

The fifth question was: WHICH IS THE MOST VALUABLE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS? The discussion of this matter[52] involves the condemnation of the extravagant value attached by some to the gift of tongues, and the enunciation of the principle that the value of a gift depends on its utility for the good of the whole Church.

[52] 1Corinthians 12:1 to 1Corinthians 14:40

The seventh and last inquiry was: Is THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD A VITAL DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIANITY? The reply to this[53] is an elaborate exposition and vindication of the doctrine of the resurrection. The collection for the saints at Jerusalem, information regarding his own change of plans, and some personal matters, occupy the concluding chapter of the Epistle.

[53] 1 Corinthians 15

After despatching this Epistle, St. Paul is full of fears lest it may have been written with too much severity, and possibly may have exactly the opposite effect from that which he desired. It may fail to reconcile to him the Church so dear to his heart—it may only widen the breach and embitter opponents. The Apostle leaves Ephesus after Pentecost, but his fears increase. Even an “open door” at Troas[54] cannot detain him in his restless anxiety. No new love could make up for the posssible loss of the old one at Corinth in that large and tender heart of St. Paul. He passes over into Macedonia—full of care: there are the echoes of tumults at Ephesus behind him—there is the fear of coming disruption with Corinth before him. At last, at Philippi, he meets Titus, who brings him the joyful news that, on the whole, the letter has been successful.[55] The Corinthian Christians are penitent, the chief offender has been expelled, and there is nothing now to prevent the Apostle taking back into his confidence and love the Church to which he was so warmly attached. A second letter[56]—to express his joy and gratitude, to reiterate his exhortations, and to finally prepare the Corinthians for his coming (which he explains had been delayed from no personal caprice, but for their sakes [57])—is written, and the last trace of the cloud which, by separating him from them had cast so terrible a darkness over his own soul, is completely and finally removed.

[54] 2Corinthians 2:12.

[55] 2Corinthians 2:14.

[56] 2 Corinthians.

[57] 2Corinthians 1:23.

The authenticity of this Epistle has never been seriously disputed; indeed, to deny it would almost involve a disbelief in the historical existence of the Corinthian Church and in the personality of St. Paul. The earliest fathers refer to it as the recognised letter of the Apostle. Clement of Rome. Polycarp, and Irenæus quote passages from it as St. Paul’s writing. All throughout this Epistle we have the heart as well as the intellect of the Apostle displayed to us; the Holy Spirit of God not setting aside, but controlling and guiding those good gifts of which, though we call them “natural,” He is the Author and the Giver.

Many of the subjects treated of here were local and personal. The combination of circumstances which give rise to them cannot possibly occur again in Christendom; but the principles on which the Apostle decided these matters are imperishable and of universal obligation. They can guide the Church amid the complex civilisation of the nineteenth century as truly and as clearly as they indicated to her the path of safety in the infancy of the Christian faith.

The following, among other works, have been consulted in writing the commentary upon this Epistle:—

The Greek Testament, with a Critically-revised Text, &c., by Dean Alford. Vol. II. Rivingtons, 1871.

The Greek Testament, with Notes, by Bishop Words worth.

Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament. Göttingen (English Translation, T. & T. Clark, 1877).

The Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians, with Critical Notes and Dissertations, by A. P. Stanley, Dean of Westminster. Fourth Edition. John Murray, 1876.

The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, by W. J. Conybeare and the Very Rev. J. S. Howson, Dean of Chester. New Edition. Longmans, 1870.

The Hulsean Lectures for 1862, by the Very Rev. J. S. Howson. Third Edition. Strahan & Co., 1873.

The Metaphors of St. Paul, by the Very Rev. J. S. Howson. Strahan & Co., 1870.

The Companions of St. Paul, by the Very Rev. J. S. Howson. Isbister, 1874.

Expository Lectures on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians, by the late F. W. Robertson. Smith and Elder, 1870.

The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, by Thomas Lewin, M.A. 2 Vols. Third Edition. George Bell & Sons, 1875.

The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Vols. IV. and V. of the Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church. Parker, 1839.

The Greek Testament from Cardinal Mai’s Edition of the Vatican Bible, with Notes by Professor Ornsby. J. Duffery, 1865.

G. B. Winer’s, Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Sprachidioms (English Translation, by Dr. W. F. Moulton. Eighth Edition. T. & T. Clark, 1877).

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
(1) Paul, called to be an apostle.—Better, a called Apostle of Jesus Christ. His apostolic authority, which was questioned by some in Corinth, is thus set out at the commencement of the Epistle.

And Sosthenes our brother.Sosthenes the brother, probably the Sosthenes (see Note on 1Corinthians 1:16) the chief ruler of the synagogue mentioned in Acts 18:17, one of the brethren well known to the Corinthians. From his name being thus joined with that of the Apostle, we may conjecture that he was his amanuensis in writing this Epistle, the salutation only (1Corinthians 16:21) having been written by St. Paul’s hand.

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) Church of God.—St. Chrysostom remarks how these opening words are a protest against the party-spirit prevailing at Corinth: “The Church of God—not of this or that man.”

Them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus.—This is not another class of persons, but a description of those who compose “the Church”—who are further described as “called to be saints”—i.e., “holy.” The term “saints” is never used by St. Paul with its restricted modern meaning, but is applied to the whole baptised Church. The English word which most nearly expresses the apostolic idea is “Christians”—used in its most comprehensive sense.

With all that in every place.—Better translated, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours. The teaching of the Epistle is thus addressed to the Church at large, which is composed of all who call upon the Lord Jesus, whether it be in Corinth (“our” country—the Apostle identifying himself with his converts) or elsewhere. This idea of the Church, put forward in the very opening of the Epistle, at once directs the reader’s mind from the narrow spirit of faction which was exhibiting itself at Corinth. The words of this verse contain a strong testimony to the worship of Christ, not only as being practised in the Apostolic Church, but as being one of the very marks of true union with the Church.

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
(3) Grace be unto you, and peace.—This is the usual style of apostolic greeting (Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2), and with these words the address and greeting which open the Epistle conclude.

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
(4) I thank my God.—Expressions of thankfulness (1Corinthians 1:4-9), serving also to secure at the very outset the attention of those to whom the Apostle is writing. He thus shows that he is not blind to, or forgetful of, their good qualities, although this Epistle is specially written to rebuke their present sins; and also that he is not about to utter words of hopeless condemnation, but of wholesome warning. The emphatic use of the singular, I thank my God, in contrast to the plural in the previous verses, indicates that St. Paul does not join Sosthenes with him as author of the Epistle, but that it is written in his name alone and with his sole authority.

The grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.—Better, the grace of God given you in Christ Jesusi.e., given to you as being in Christ.

That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
(5) Ye are enriched.—Literally, ye were enriched. “Utterance” is the power of outward expression of that “knowledge” which dwells within.

Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
(6) Even as the testimony of Christ.—The testimony which St. Paul bore to Christ, and from Christ, was confirmed among them by this full bestowal of spiritual gifts.

So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
(7) So that ye come.—Not exactly as in the English, “so that ye come behind” (or, are wanting) “in no gift,” but “the result being that ye come behind others in no gift.” You have as fully as any others those spiritual gifts which sustain you and enable you to wait for the revelation (i.e., the second visible appearance, which the early Church expected would soon occur) of our Lord Jesus Christ, not with fear, or with impatience, but with a calm trustfulness (Luke 17:30; Titus 2:13).

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(8) Who.—The use of the words “day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” instead of “His day,” has been regarded by some as a sufficient evidence that “who” does not refer to Christ. This by itself would scarcely be so, for there are examples elsewhere of St. Paul using our Lord’s name where the possessive pronoun would have seemed more natural (Ephesians 4:12; Colossians 2:11). The general sense of the passage, however, and especially of the following verse, shows that the antecedent to “who” is not “Christ,” in 1Corinthians 1:7, but “God,” in 1Corinthians 1:4.

Three distinct periods are referred to in these verses—(1) the time when the grace of God was given them (1Corinthians 1:4); (2) the present time while they wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus, endowed as they are with the qualities described in 1Corinthians 1:5-7; and (3) the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is still future—if preserved blameless until that, then they are finally and for ever safe; and that they will be so preserved by God the Apostle has no doubt, for the reason stated in the next verse. (See 1Corinthians 4:3.)

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
(9) God is faithful.—The One who called them “unto the communion of His Son” is faithful, and therefore He will complete His work; no trials and sufferings need make them doubt that all will at last be well. The same confidence is expressed in Philippians 1:6, and 1Thessalonians 5:24.

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) Now I beseech you, brethren.—With these words the Apostle introduces the topic which is indeed one of the chief reasons of his writing this Epistle (see Introduction), viz., the PARTY-SPIRIT existing in the Corinthian Church. The treatment of this subject occupies to 1Corinthians 4:20. It is important to remember that the factions rebuked by St. Paul were not sects who separated themselves from the Church, but those who within the Church divided themselves into parties, each calling itself by the name of some Apostle whose teaching and practice were most highly esteemed. The nature and cause of these divisions we shall understand as we consider the Apostle’s exhortation to unity, and his rebuke of the spirit which gave rise to them.

By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.—By his previous remark that they had been called unto “the communion” of this Holy Name, the writer has led up to the mention of Christ’s name—not in the form of an adjuration, but as reminding them of it. That very name adds strength to his exhortation to “speak the same thing”—i.e., to call themselves by this one name, and not each (as in 1Corinthians 1:12) by a different designation, and that there should be no “schisms” among them. The word translated “divisions,” signifies literally a “rent,” in which sense it occurs in Mark 2:21 (“the rent is made worse”), and is used three times in St. John’s Gospel in the sense of schism or difference of opinion (John 7:43; John 9:16; John 10:19). See Note on John 7:43, as to the moral application of the word having probably come from Ephesus; and the idea of a tear or rent is carried on in the words, “be perfectly joined together,” which in the original signifies the repair of something which was torn, as in Matthew 4:21 we have the word rendered “were mending their nets.” The church at Corinth presents to the Apostle’s mind the idea of a seamless robe rent and torn into pieces, and he desires its complete and entire restoration by their returning to a united temper of mind and judgment as to word and deed.

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) The house of Chloe.—Who Chloe was we cannot tell. Her name was evidently well known to the Corinthians, and some slaves of her household, probably travelling between Ephesus and Corinth, on their owner’s business, had brought to St. Paul the account of the distracted state of the church in their city.

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.—Better, What I mean is, that, &c. The following words, “every one of you saith,” show how party-spirit pervaded the whole Christian community. It may be well to mention here briefly what we may consider to have been the distinctive characteristics of the factions which called themselves respectively the party of Paul, of Cephas, of Apollos, and of Christ.

1. ST. PAUL places first that section of the Church which called themselves by his name—thus at the outset showing that it is not for the sole purpose of silencing opponents, or from a jealousy of the influence of other teachers, that he writes so strenuously against the disturbances in the Corinthian community. It is the spirit of separation and of faction which he condemns—rebuking it as strongly when it has led to the undue exaltation of his own name, as when it attempted to depreciate his gifts and ministry as compared with those of Apollos or of Cephas. He thus wins at once the attention and confidence of every candid reader. The Pauline party would no doubt have consisted chiefly of those who were the personal converts of the Apostle. Their esteem for him who had been the means of their conversion, seems to have been carried to excess in the manner in which it displayed itself. This would be increased by the hostility which their opponents’ disparagement of the Apostle naturally excited in them. They allowed St. Paul’s teaching of the liberty wherewith Christ made them free, to develop in them an unchristian license and a mode of treatment of others essentially illiberal, thus denying by their actions the very principles which they professed to hold dear. They “judged” and “set at nought” (Romans 14:10) brethren who could not take so essentially spiritual a view of Christianity, but who still clung to some of the outward forms of Judaism.

2. APOLLOS was a Jew of Alexandria—“an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures.” He came to Ephesus during St. Paul’s absence from that city, and taught what he knew of the “things of the Lord.” While here, he was instructed further in “the way of God” by Aquila and Priscilla, he having previously only the inadequate knowledge which was possessed by disciples of John (Acts 18:24-28). Having preached in parts of Achaia, he came to Corinth. That he came there after St. Paul we may conclude from the Apostle’s reference to himself as having “planted,” and Apollos having “watered” (1Corinthians 3:6), and again to himself as having “laid the foundation” (1Corinthians 2:10). To Corinth Apollos brought with him the arts of the rhetorician, and the culture of a Greek philosopher; and while preaching Christ crucified, these gifts and knowledge rendered him more acceptable than St. Paul had been, with his studied simplicity of style, to a certain class of intellectual and rationalising hearers in Corinth. When Apollos left, a section of the Church unduly magnified the importance of his gifts and of his manner of teaching. They did so to the depreciation of the simplicity of the gospel. This all led to the development of evils which we shall see more in detail in our examination of 1Corinthians 1:18-31 and 1 Corinthians 2. It ought to be remembered that Apollos was in no sense “the founder of a party.” It was the exaggeration and perversion of Apollos’ teaching, by some of the converts, that really founded the party. To the end he and Paul remained friends. He was probably with the Apostle while the Epistle was being written, and (1Corinthians 16:12) refused, even when St. Paul suggested it, to go so soon again to Corinth, lest his presence should in the least tend to keep that party-spirit alive; and when, ten years (A.D. 67) later, the Apostle writes to Titus, he exhorts him “to bring Apollos on his journey diligently, that nothing be wanting to him” (Titus 3:13).

3. The third faction in Corinth professed themselves followers of ST. PETER—or, as he was always called, “Cephas.” This was the name by which our Lord addressed him in Matthew 16:18, and by this name (and not by his Greek name, Peter) he would have been spoken of by the Apostles and early Christians. In the New Testament writings he is designated most frequently Peter, as his Greek name would be more intelligible to the larger world for which these writings were intended. This faction of the Corinthian Church still clung to many Jewish ceremonial ideas, from which St. Paul was entirely free. They seem not to have quite passed through the cloud. They exalted St. Peter as more worthy of honour than St. Paul, because he had personally been with Christ, and been called “Cephas” (rock) by Him. They insinuated that St. Paul’s supporting himself was not so dignified as the maintenance of St. Peter and others by the Church, in accordance with their Lord’s command (1Corinthians 9:4-6; 2Corinthians 11:9-10); and they unfavourably contrasted St. Paul’s celibacy with the married state of St. Peter, and of “the brethren of the Lord” (1Corinthians 9:5). It is probable that their animosity towards St. Paul was not a little increased by the knowledge that there were certain matters in which he considered St. Peter to be in error, and withstood him to the face” (Galatians 2:2). To the detailed difficulties and errors of this section of the Corinthian Church reference is to be found in the 1Corinthians 7:1 to 1Corinthians 11:1.

4. There was still one other party or faction which dared to arrogate to themselves the name of CHRIST Himself. These over-estimated the importance and value of having seen Christ in the flesh, and despised St. Paul as one who had subsequently joined the Apostolate. Contempt for all human teachers was by them exalted into a virtue. Their greatest sin was that the very name which should have been the common bond of union, the name by the thought and memory of which the Apostle would plead for a restoration of unity, was degraded by them into the exclusive party-badge of a narrow section. We do not find any very definite and detailed allusion to this section in this Epistle, though in the second Epistle a reference to them can be traced in 1Corinthians 10:7. There is no need for such at any length. Their condemnation is written in every chapter, the whole of the Epistle is a denunciation of the spirit of faction—of the sin of schism—which in their case reached a climax, inasmuch as they consecrated their sin with the very name of Christ. Such, briefly, were the four schisms which were rending the Corinthian Church. We might call them—1, The Party of Liberty (PAUL); 2, The Intellectual Party (APOLLOS); 3, The Judaizing Party (CEPHAS); 4, The Exclusive Party (who said, “I am of CHRIST”).

(12) I of Christ.—It has been suggested that this is not the designation of a fourth party in the Church, but an affirmation by the Apostle, “I am of Christ,” in contradistinction to those referred to before, who called themselves after the names of men. But in addition to the fact that there is no change in form of expression to indicate a change of sense, we find evident traces of the existence of such a party (1Corinthians 9:1; 2Corinthians 10:7).

Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
(13) Is Christ divided?—Better, Christ is divided. Christ, in the communion of the Church, is rent, torn in fragments by you. The mention of the sacred name as a party-cry makes the Apostle burst into that impassioned exclamation. Then there is a momentary pause, and the Apostle goes back from his sudden denunciation of the “Christ” party, to those whom he had originally selected for typical treatment, viz., those who bore his own name, the two streams of thought, as it were, mingling and rushing together; and he asks (with a mind still full of the burning indignation aroused by the mention of the name of union as a symbol of disunion), “Was Paul crucified for you?” “Was your baptism in the name of Paul?” To each of which the answer must of necessity be “No.”

Paul being the founder of the Church, these questions apply more forcibly to the others also.

I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
(14) I thank God.—“I am thankful to God that it was not so.” For if he had baptised a great many, some might have said he had created originally a party in his own name. Crispus (see Acts 18:8), a “ruler of the synagogue,” Gaius (or Caius, his Roman name), “mine host, and of the whole Church” (Romans 16:23): the evident importance and position of these two, and that they were the first converts, may account for the Apostle having departed from his usual practice in baptising them.

And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
(16) Stephanas.—The mention of Stephanas and his household was, from the words preceding, evidently a subsequent correction by the Apostle. He had forgotten them, and was reminded of it possibly by Sosthenes, who was writing from his dictation, and would naturally have known the fact, for Stephanas was the “firstfruits of Achaia” (1Corinthians 16:15), and Sosthenes had been chief ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:17) when Paul had been brought before Gallio, deputy of Achaia. Stephanas himself was at Ephesus with St. Paul when this letter was written, and doubtless in daily intercourse both with him and with Sosthenes (1Corinthians 16:17). Finding how his memory had failed him on this point, the Apostle adds, “And I know not,” &c. (i.e., I don’t remember) so as to prevent any cavil from hypercritical opponents.

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) Not to baptize.—Preaching was eminently the work of the Apostles. The deacons used to baptise (Acts 10:48). The mention of “the preaching of the glad tidings” affords an opportunity for the Apostle stating in vindication of himself why that, and not philosophy, was the subject of his preaching, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” Such, and not inability or ignorance, was the grand cause of his simplicity.

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) 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).

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.—This is a further explanation of why the word of the gospel, and not the word of merely human wisdom, is “the power of God.” The quotation which follows consists of two passages in Isaiah, and is taken from the LXX., one word being altered. We have here “bring to nothing,” instead of “I will conceal.” “Words which originally applied to those who assumed to be the guides of the Jewish race (Isaiah 29:14), apply with greater force to those who would presume to be Christian leaders.

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) To the second quotation, which was originally a song of triumph over the enemies of Israel, the Apostle gives a general application.

The wise.—The general reference in this word is to those who would exalt human knowledge, while “the scribe” indicates the Jew, and the “disputer” the Greek, who discussed philosophy (Acts 6:9; Acts 9:29).

Of this world.—These words qualify all three mentioned, and not exclusively the disputer.” “World” (more literally, age) does not here mean the physical world, but, in an ethical sense, “this age,” in contrast to that which is “to come” (Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30). It is employed afterwards (last word of 1Corinthians 1:20, and in 1Corinthians 1:21) to designate all who are outside the Christian communion, as in the next verse it is contrasted with “them that believe.”

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.—This is an explanation and evidence of Low God made the wisdom of the world to be only “folly.”

After that (better, inasmuch as) is not here a note of time, but of causal relation.

In the wisdom of God.—These words can scarcely be taken as an expression of a kind of approval of God’s wisdom in so arranging the method of revelation, but rather as referring to God’s wisdom evidenced in nature, and in the teachings of lawgivers and prophets. The world by its wisdom did not attain to a knowledge of God in His wisdom displayed in creation (Acts 17:26; Romans 1:19).

It pleased God.—The world having thus failed to gain a true knowledge of God in His wisdom, He gave them that knowledge through that very proclamation of “the cross” which those “that perish” call foolishness. The contrast so strikingly put here is between (1) the failure of the world by means of its wisdom to know God, in His wisdom displayed to all in His mighty works, and to the Jews in His great teachers; and (2) the success of this “folly” of the gospel, as they called it, in saving all who believed it (Romans 1:16).

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
(22) For.—This is a further unfolding of the fact of the simplicity of the preaching of the Cross. It pandered neither to Jewish-minded persons (not in the Greek “the Jews,” “the Gentiles,” but simply “Jews,” “Gentiles”) who desired visible portents to support the teaching, nor to those of Greek taste who desired an actual and clear philosophic proof of it. (See Matthew 12:38; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; John 4:48.)

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
(23) But we preach.—The gospel of Christ crucified made its way by those very qualities which they regarded as “weakness and folly,” vindicating itself as “the power of God,” more mighty than any “sign” a Jew might ask for; and “the wisdom of God” surpassing any merely intellectual “wisdom” which a Greek might desire.

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
(24) Them which are called.—St. Paul always speaks of all Christians as “the called,” not using that word in the narrower sense to which some modern religious sects have restricted it.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(25) Because.—This introduces the reason why Christ, as being crucified, is the power and wisdom of God, viz., because God’s folly (as they call it) is wiser, not “than the wisdom of men,” as some understand this passage, but than men themselves—embracing in that word all that men can know or hope ever to know; and the weakness of God (as they regard it) is stronger than men.

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.—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.”

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) Foolish things.—The neuter is used probably for the purpose of generalising, and it expresses the qualities of the men whom God has chosen—“the wise” is masculine in the Greek, showing that it is still of “persons” the Apostle is speaking.

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.—This climax loses somewhat of its force by the insertion of the word “and,” which is not in some of the best MSS., and “yea,” which is not in any MS. Omitting the word “and,” the sentence is not an addition to the things already mentioned, but a general and emphatic summary of all the things which have been already contrasted with their opposites. After the words “hath God chosen” there is a slight pause, and then the Apostle describes all those things which he has declared to be God’s choice, as things which “are not”—i.e., do not in men’s estimation even exist (Romans 4:17; Romans 9:25; see also Job 34:19; Job 34:24).

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
(30) But.—So far from boasting in His presence, we all owe all to Him. He is the author of the spiritual life of us who are in union with Christ, “who was (not “is”) made wisdom unto us from God.” The past tense here refers us back to the fact of the Incarnation; in it Christ became to us God’s revelation of Himself, thus giving us a wisdom from the source of all wisdom, which surpasses utterly any wisdom we could have derived from nature or from man. Not only is Christ the source of whatever true wisdom we have, but also (so adds the Apostle) of whatever “righteousness” and “holiness” we have—spiritual gifts, as well as gifts of knowledge, come all from Him—and beyond all that, He is also our redemption, the “ransom” paid for us, by which we are redeemed from the bondage and slavery of sin. (See John 8:34; Romans 6:18; Romans 6:20; Romans 8:21; Romans 8:23; 1Peter 1:18-19.)

That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
(31) That.—So that it might be as the prophet wrote, “He that boasteth, let him boast in the Lord.” This is not a literal quotation, but only an adaptation and paraphrase from the LXX. of Jeremiah 9:23-24. Our only true boasting before God is that we are in Christ, that all we have we owe entirely to Him; we can only glory in, not ourselves or what we have or are, but in the fact that He is our benefactor. Thus, in St. Chrysostom’s quaint words, Paul “always fasteneth them on with nails to the name of Christ.”

This concludes St. Paul’s general explanation of God’s method, and he then turns to his own conduct, to show how entirely it was in harmony with God’s plan, which he has just explained and vindicated.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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