Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The Authenticity of this Epistle is attested by Clement of Rome [First Epistle to the Corinthians, 47], Polycarp [Epistle to the Philippians, 11], and Irenæus [Against Heresies, 4.27.3]. The city to which it was sent was famed for its wealth and commerce, which were chiefly due to its situation between the Ionian and Ægean Seas on the isthmus connecting the Peloponese with Greece. In Paul's time it was the capital of the province Achaia and the seat of the Roman proconsul (Ac 18:12). The state of morals in it was notorious for debauchery, even in the profligate heathen world; so much so that "to Corinthianize" was a proverbial phrase for "to play the wanton"; hence arose dangers to the purity of the Christian Church at Corinth. That Church was founded by Paul on his first visit (Ac 18:1-17).
He had been the instrument of converting many Gentiles (1Co 12:2), and some Jews (Ac 18:8), notwithstanding the vehement opposition of the countrymen of the latter (Ac 18:5), during the year and a half in which he sojourned there. The converts were chiefly of the humbler classes (1Co 1:26, &c.). Crispus (1Co 1:14; Ac 18:8), Erastus, and Gaius (Caius) were, however, men of rank (Ro 16:23). A variety of classes is also implied in 1Co 11:22. The risk of contamination by contact with the surrounding corruptions, and the temptation to a craving for Greek philosophy and rhetoric (which Apollos' eloquent style rather tended to foster, Ac 18:24, &c.) in contrast to Paul's simple preaching of Christ crucified (1Co 2:1, &c.), as well as the opposition of certain teachers to him, naturally caused him anxiety. Emissaries from the Judaizers of Palestine boasted of "letters of commendation" from Jerusalem, the metropolis of the faith. They did not, it is true, insist on circumcision in refined Corinth, where the attempt would have been hopeless, as they did among the simpler people of Galatia; but they attacked the apostolic authority of Paul (1Co 9:1, 2; 2Co 10:1, 7, 8), some of them declaring themselves followers of Cephas, the chief apostle, others boasting that they belonged to Christ Himself (1Co 1:12; 2Co 10:7), while they haughtily repudiated all subordinate teaching. Those persons gave out themselves for apostles (2Co 11:5, 13). The ground taken by them was that Paul was not one of the Twelve, and not an eye-witness of the Gospel facts, and durst not prove his apostleship by claiming sustenance from the Christian Church. Another section avowed themselves followers of Paul himself, but did so in a party spirit, exalting the minister rather than Christ. The followers of Apollos, again, unduly prized his Alexandrian learning and eloquence, to the disparagement of the apostle, who studiously avoided any deviation from Christian simplicity (1Co 2:1-5). In some of this last philosophizing party there may have arisen the Antinomian tendency which tried to defend theoretically their own practical immorality: hence their denial of the future resurrection, and their adoption of the Epicurean motto, prevalent in heathen Corinth, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die" (1Co 15:32). Hence, perhaps, arose their connivance at the incestuous intercourse kept up by one of the so-called Christian body with his stepmother during his father's life. The household of Chloe informed Paul of many other evils: such as contentions, divisions, and lawsuits brought against brethren in heathen law courts by professing Christians; the abuse of their spiritual gifts into occasions of display and fanaticism; the interruption of public worship by simultaneous and disorderly ministrations, and decorum violated by women speaking unveiled (contrary to Oriental usage), and so usurping the office of men, and even the holy communion desecrated by greediness and revelling on the part of the communicants. Other messengers, also, came from Corinth, consulting him on the subject of (1) the controversy about meats offered to idols; (2) the disputes about celibacy and marriage; (3) the due exercise of spiritual gifts in public worship; (4) the best mode of making the collection which he had requested for the saints at Jerusalem (1Co 16:1, &c.). Such were the circumstances which called forth the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the most varied in its topics of all the Epistles.
In 1Co 5:9, "I wrote unto you in an Epistle not to company with fornicators," it is implied that Paul had written a previous letter to the Corinthians (now lost). Probably in it he had also enjoined them to make a contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem, whereupon they seem to have asked directions as to the mode of doing so, to which he now replies (1Co 16:2). It also probably announced his intention of visiting them on way to Macedonia, and again on his return from Macedonia (2Co 1:15, 16), which purpose he changed hearing the unfavorable report from Chloe's household (1Co 16:5-7), for which he was charged with (2Co 1:17). In the first Epistle which we have, the subject of fornication is alluded to only in a way, as if he were rather replying to an excuse set up after rebuke in the matter, than introducing for the first time [Alford]. Preceding this former letter, he seems to have paid a second visit to Corinth. For in 2Co 12:4; 13:1, he speaks of his intention of paying them a third visit, implying he had already twice visited them. See on 2Co 2:1; 2Co 13:2; also see on 2Co 1:15; 2Co 1:16. It is hardly likely that during his three years' sojourn at Ephesus he would have failed to revisit his Corinthian converts, which he could so readily do by sea, there being constant maritime intercourse between the two cities. This second visit was probably a short one (compare 1Co 16:7); and attended with pain and humiliation (2Co 2:1; 12:21), occasioned by the scandalous conduct of so many of his own converts. His milder censures having then failed to produce reformation, he wrote briefly directing them "not to company with fornicators." On their misapprehending this injunction, he explained it more fully in the Epistle, the first of the two extant (1Co 5:9, 12). That the second visit is not mentioned in Acts is no objection to its having really taken place, as that book is fragmentary and omits other leading incidents in Paul's life; for example, his visit to Arabia, Syria, and Cilicia (Ga 1:17-21).
The Place of Writing is fixed to be Ephesus (1Co 16:8). The subscription in English Version, "From Philippi," has no authority whatever, and probably arose from a mistaken translation of 1Co 16:5, "For I am passing through Macedonia." At the time of writing Paul implies (1Co 16:8) that he intended to leave Ephesus after Pentecost of that year. He really did leave it about Pentecost (A.D. 57). Compare Ac 19:20. The allusion to Passover imagery in connection with our Christian Passover, Easter (1Co 5:7), makes it likely that the season was about Easter. Thus the date of the Epistle is fixed with tolerable accuracy, about Easter, certainly before Pentecost, in the third year of his residence at Ephesus, A.D. 57. For other arguments, see Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul.
The Epistle is written in the name of Sosthenes "[our] brother." Birks supposes he is the same as the Sosthenes, Ac 18:17, who, he thinks, was converted subsequently to that occurrence. He bears no part in the Epistle itself, the apostle in the very next verses (1Co 1:4, &c.) using the first person: so Timothy is introduced, 2Co 1:1. The bearers of the Epistle were probably Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (see the subscription, 1Co 16:24), whom he mentions (1Co 16:17, 18) as with him then, but who he implies are about to return back to Corinth; and therefore he commends them to the regard of the Corinthians.
1Co 1:1-31. The Inscription; Thanksgiving for the Spiritual State of the Corinthian Church; Reproof of Party Divisions: His Own Method of Preaching Only Christ.
1. called to be—Found in some, not in others, of the oldest manuscripts Possibly inserted from Ro 1:1; but as likely to be genuine. Translate, literally, "a called apostle" [Conybeare and Howson].
through the will of God—not because of my own merit. Thus Paul's call as "an apostle by the will of God," while constituting the ground of the authority he claims in the Corinthian Church (compare Ga 1:1), is a reason for humility on his own part (1Co 15:8, 10) [Bengel]. In assuming the ministerial office a man should see he does so not of his own impulse, but by the will of God (Jer 23:21); Paul if left to his own will would never have been an apostle (Ro 9:16).
Sosthenes—See my Introduction. Associated by Paul with himself in the inscription, either in modesty, Sosthenes being his inferior [Chrysostom], or in order that the name of a "brother" of note in Corinth (Ac 18:17) might give weight to his Epistle and might show, in opposition to his detractors that he was supported by leading brethren. Gallio had driven the Jews who accused Paul from the judgment-seat. The Greek mob, who disliked Jews, took the opportunity then of beating Sosthenes the ruler of the Jewish synagogue, while Gallio looked on and refused to interfere, being secretly pleased that the mob should second his own contempt for the Jews. Paul probably at this time had showed sympathy for an adversary in distress, which issued in the conversion of the latter. So Crispus also, the previous chief ruler of the synagogue had been converted. Saul the persecutor turned into Paul the apostle, and Sosthenes the leader in persecution against that apostle, were two trophies of divine grace that, side by side, would appeal with double power to the Church at Corinth [Birks].
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. the church of God—He calls it so notwithstanding its many blots. Fanatics and sectaries vainly think to anticipate the final sifting of the wheat and tares (Mt 13:27-30). It is a dangerous temptation to think there is no church where there is not apparent perfect purity. He who thinks so, must at last separate from all others and think himself the only holy man in the world, or establish a peculiar sect with a few hypocrites. It was enough for Paul in recognizing the Corinthians as a church, that he saw among them evangelical doctrine, baptism, and the Lord's Supper" [Calvin]. It was the Church of God, not of this or of that favorite leader [Chrysostom].
at Corinth—a church at dissolute Corinth—what a paradox of grace!
sanctified—consecrated, or set apart as holy to God in (by union with) Christ Jesus. In the Greek there are no words "to them that are"; translate simply, "men sanctified."
called to be saints—rather, "called saints"; saints by calling: applied by Paul to all professing members of the Church. As "sanctified in Christ" implies the fountain sources of holiness, the believer's original sanctification in Christ (1Co 6:11; Heb 10:10, 14; 1Pe 1:2) in the purposes of God's grace, so "called saints" refers to their actual call (Ro 8:30), and the end of that call that they should be holy (1Pe 1:15).
with all that in every place call upon … Christ—The Epistle is intended for these also, as well as for the Corinthians. The true Catholic Church (a term first used by Ignatius [Epistle to the Smyræans, 8]): not consisting of those who call themselves from Paul, Cephas, or any other eminent leader (1Co 1:12), but of all, wherever they be, who call on Jesus as their Saviour in sincerity (compare 2Ti 2:22). Still a general unity of discipline and doctrine in the several churches is implied in 1Co 4:17; 7:17; 11-16; 14-33, 36. The worship due to God is here attributed to Jesus (compare Joe 2:32; Mt 4:10; Ac 9:14).
both theirs and ours—"in every place which is their home … and our home also"; this is added to include the Christians throughout Achaia, not residing in Corinth, the capital (2Co 1:1). Paul feels the home of his converts to be also his own. Compare a similar phrase in Ro 16:13 [Conybeare and Howson]. "Ours" refers to Paul and Sosthenes, and the Corinthians' home [Alford]. Beza better explains, "Both their Lord and our Lord." All believers have one and the same Lord (1Co 8:6; Eph 4:5); a virtual reproof of the divisions of the Corinthians, as if Christ were divided (1Co 1:13).
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. peace—peculiarly needed in the Corinthian church, on account of its dissensions. On this verse see on Ro 1:7.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
4. He puts the causes for praise and hope among them in the foreground, not to discourage them by the succeeding reproof, and in order to appeal to their better selves.
my God—(Ro 1:8; Php 1:3).
always—(Compare Php 1:4).
the grace … given you—(Compare 1Co 1:7).
by … Christ—literally, "IN Jesus Christ" given you as members in Christ.
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
5. utterance—Alford from Menochius translates, "doctrine." Ye are rich in preachers or the preaching of the word, and rich in knowledge or apprehension of it: literally "(the) word (preached)." English Version (as in 2Co 8:7) is better: for Paul, purposing presently to dwell on the abuse of the two gifts on which the Corinthians most prided themselves, utterance (speech) and knowledge (1Co 1:20; 3:18; 4:19; 1Co 13:1-14:40), previously gains their goodwill by congratulating them on having those gifts.
Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
6. According as the testimony of (of, and concerning) Christ (who is both the object and author of this testimony [Bengel]; 1Co 2:1; 1Ti 2:6; 2Ti 1:8) was confirmed among [Alford] you; that is, by God, through my preaching and through the miracles accompanying it (1Co 12:3; Mr 16:20; 2Co 1:21, 22; Ga 3:2, 5; Eph 4:7, 8; Heb 2:4). God confirmed (compare Php 1:7; Heb 2:3), or gave effect to the Gospel among (or better as English Version, "in") the Corinthians by their accepting it and setting their seal to its truth, through the inward power of His Spirit, and the outward gifts and miracles accompanying it [Calvin].
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
7. ye come behind—are inferior to other Christians elsewhere [Grotius].
in no gift—not that all had all gifts, but different persons among them had different gifts (1Co 12:4, &c.).
waiting for … coming of … Christ—The crowning proof of their "coming behind in no gift." Faith, hope, and love, are all exercised herein (compare 2Ti 4:8; Tit 2:13). "Leaving to others their MEMENTO MORI (remember death), do thou earnestly cherish this joyous expectation of the Lord's coming" [Bengel]. The Greek verb implies, "to expect constantly, not only for a certain time, but even to the end till the expected event happens" (Ro 8:19, [Tittmann, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament]).
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
8. Who—God, 1Co 1:4 (not Jesus Christ, 1Co 1:7, in which case it would be "in His day").
unto the end—namely, "the coming of Christ."
blameless in the day of … Christ—(1Th 5:23). After that day there is no danger (Eph 4:30; Php 1:6). Now is our day to work, and the day of our enemies to try us: then will be the day of Christ, and of His glory in the saints [Bengel].
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
9. faithful—to His promises (Php 1:6; 1Th 5:24).
called—according to His purpose (Ro 8:28).
unto … fellowship of … Jesus—to be fellow heirs with Christ (Ro 8:17-28), like Him sons of God and heirs of glory (Ro 8:30; 2Th 2:14; 1Pe 5:10; 1Jo 1:3). Chrysostom remarks that the name of Christ is oftener mentioned in this than in any other Epistle, the apostle designing thereby to draw them away from their party admiration of particular teachers to Christ alone.
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—Ye already have knowledge, utterance, and hope, maintain also love.
brethren—The very title is an argument for love.
by … Christ—whom Paul wishes to be all in all to the Corinthians, and therefore names Him so often in this chapter.
speak … same thing—not speaking different things as ye do (1Co 1:12), in a spirit of variance.
divisions—literally, "splits," "breaches."
perfectly joined together—the opposite word to "divisions." It is applied to healing a wound, or making whole a rent.
mind … judgment—the view taken by the understanding, and the practical decision arrived at [Conybeare and Howson], as to what is to be done. The mind, within, refers to things to be believed: the judgment is displayed outwardly in things to be done [Bengel]. Disposition—opinion [Alford].
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. (1Co 11:18).
by them … of … house of Chloe—They seem to have been alike in the confidence of Paul and of the Corinthians. The Corinthians "wrote" to the apostle (1Co 7:1), consulting him concerning certain points; marriage, the eating of things offered to idols, the decorum to be observed by women in religious assemblies. But they said not a syllable about the enormities and disorders that had crept in among them. That information reached Paul by other quarters. Hence his language about those evils is, "It hath been declared unto me," &c.; "It is reported commonly" (1Co 5:1, 2). All this he says before he refers to their letter, which shows that the latter did not give him any intimation of those evils. An undesigned proof of genuineness [Paley, Horæ Paulinæ]. Observe his prudence: He names the family, to let it be seen that he made his allegation not without authority: he does not name the individuals, not to excite odium against them. He tacitly implies that the information ought rather to have come to him directly from their presbyters, as they had consulted him about matters of less moment.
contentions—not so severe a word as "divisions," literally, "schisms" (1Co 1:10, Margin).
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. this I say—this is what I mean in saying "contentions" (1Co 1:11).
every one of you saith—Ye say severally, "glorying in men" (1Co 1:31; 1Co 3:21, 22), one, I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos, &c. Not that they formed definite parties, but they individually betrayed the spirit of party in contentions under the name of different favorite teachers. Paul will not allow himself to be flattered even by those who made his name their party cry, so as to connive at the dishonor thereby done to Christ. These probably were converted under his ministry. Those alleging the name of Apollos, Paul's successor at Corinth (Ac 18:24, &c.), were persons attracted by his rhetorical style (probably acquired in Alexandria, 1Co 3:6), as contrasted with the "weak bodily presence" and "contemptible speech" of the apostle. Apollos, doubtless, did not willingly foster this spirit of undue preference (1Co 4:6, 8); nay, to discourage it, he would not repeat his visit just then (1Co 16:12).
I of Cephas—probably Judaizers, who sheltered themselves under the name of Peter, the apostle of the circumcision ("Cephas" is the Hebrew, "Peter" the Greek name; Joh 1:42; Ga 2:11, &c.): the subjects handled in the seventh through ninth chapters were probably suggested as matters of doubt by them. The church there began from the Jewish synagogue, Crispus the chief ruler, and Sosthenes his successor (probably), being converts. Hence some Jewish leaven, though not so much as elsewhere, is traceable (2Co 11:22). Petrism afterwards sprang up much more rankly at Rome. If it be wrong to boast "I am of Peter," how much more so to boast I am of the Pope!" [Bengel].
I of Christ—A fair pretext used to slight the ministry of Paul and their other teachers (1Co 4:8; 2Co 10:7-11).
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
13. Is Christ divided?—into various parts (one under one leader, another under another) [Alford]. The unity of His body is not to be cut in pieces, as if all did not belong to Him, the One Head.
was Paul crucified for you?—In the Greek the interrogation implies that a strong negative answer is expected: "Was it Paul (surely you will not say so) that was crucified for you?" In the former question the majesty of "Christ" (the Anointed One of God) implies the impossibility of His being "divided." in the latter, Paul's insignificance implies the impossibility of his being the head of redemption, "crucified for" them, and giving his name to the redeemed. This, which is true of Paul the founder of the Church of Corinth, holds equally good of Cephas and Apollos, who had not such a claim as Paul in the Corinthian Church.
crucified … baptized—The cross claims us for Christ, as redeemed by Him; baptism, as dedicated to Him.
in the name—rather, "into the name" (Ga 3:27), implying the incorporation involved in the idea of baptism.
I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
14. I thank God's providence now, who so ordered it that I baptized none of you but Crispus (the former ruler of the synagogue, Ac 18:8) and Gaius (written by the Romans Caius, the host of Paul at Corinth, and of the church, Ro 16:23; a person therefore in good circumstances). Baptizing was the office of the deacons (Ac 10:48) rather than of the apostles, whose office was that of establishing and superintending generally the churches. The deacons had a better opportunity of giving the necessary course of instruction preparatory to baptism. Crispus and Gaius were probably among the first converts, and hence were baptized by Paul himself, who founded the church.
Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
15. Lest—not that Paul had this reason at the time, but God so arranged it that none might say [Alford].
And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
16. household of Stephanas—"The first-fruits of Achaia," that is, among the first converted there (1Co 16:15, 17). It is likely that such "households" included infants (Ac 16:33). The history of the Church favors this view, as infant baptism was the usage from the earliest ages.
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. Paul says this not to depreciate baptism; for he exalts it most highly (Ro 6:3). He baptized some first converts; and would have baptized more, but that his and the apostles' peculiar work was to preach the Gospel, to found by their autoptic testimony particular churches, and then to superintend the churches in general.
sent me—literally, "as an apostle."
not to baptize—even in Christ's name, much less in my own.
not with wisdom of words—or speech; philosophical reasoning set off with oratorical language and secular learning, which the Corinthians set so undue a value upon (1Co 1:5; 2:1, 4) in Apollos, and the want of which in Paul they were dissatisfied with (2Co 10:10).
cross of Christ—the sum and substance of the Gospel (1Co 1:23; 2:2), Christ crucified.
be made of none effect—literally, "be made void" (Ro 4:14); namely, by men thinking more of the human reasonings and eloquence in which the Gospel was set forth, than of the Gospel itself of Christ crucified, the sinner's only remedy, and God's highest exhibition of love.
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. preaching, &c.—literally, "the word," or speech as to the cross; in contrast to the "wisdom of words" (so called), 1Co 1:17.
them that perish—rather, "them that are perishing," namely, by preferring human "wisdom of words" to the doctrine of the "cross of Christ." It is not the final state that is referred to; but, "them that are in the way of perishing." So also in 2Co 2:15, 16.
us which are saved—In the Greek the collocation is more modest, "to them that are being saved (that are in the way of salvation) as," that is, to which class we belong.
power of God—which includes in it that it is the wisdom of God" (1Co 1:24). God's powerful instrument of salvation; the highest exhibition of God's power (Ro 1:16). What seems to the world "weakness" in God's plan of salvation (1Co 1:25), and in its mode of delivery by His apostle (1Co 2:3) is really His mighty "power." What seems "foolishness" because wanting man's "wisdom of words" (1Co 1:17), is really the highest "wisdom of God" (1Co 1:24).
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
19. I will destroy—slightly altered from the Septuagint, Isa 29:14. The Hebrew is, "The wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." Paul by inspiration gives the sense of the Spirit, by making God the cause of their wisdom perishing, &c., "I will destroy," &c.
understanding of the prudent—literally, "of the understanding ones."
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—nowhere; for God "brings them to naught" (1Co 1:19).
the scribe—Jewish [Alford].
the disputer—Greek [Alford]. Compare the Jew and Greek of this world contrasted with the godly wise, 1Co 1:22, 23. Vitringa thinks the reference is to the Jewish discourses in the synagogue, daraschoth, from a Hebrew root "to dispute." Compare "questions," Ac 26:3; Tit 3:9. If so, "wise" refers to Greek wisdom (compare 1Co 1:22). Paul applies Isa 33:18 here in a higher sense; there the primary reference was to temporal deliverance, here to external; 1Co 1:22, which is in threefold opposition to 1Co 1:18 there, sanctions this higher application; the Lord in the threefold character being the sole ground of glorying to His people.
of this world … of this world—rather, "dispensation (or age) … world"; the Greek words are distinct. The former is here this age or worldly order of things in a moral point of view, as opposed to the Christian dispensation or order of things. The latter is the world viewed externally and cosmically.
made foolish—shown the world's philosophy to be folly, because it lacks faith in Christ crucified [Chrysostom]. Has treated it as folly, and not used its help in converting and saving men (1Co 1:26, 27) [Estius].
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. after that—rather, "whereas."
in the wisdom of God—in the wise arrangement of God.
world by wisdom—rather, "by its wisdom," or "its philosophy" (Joh 1:10; Ro 1:28).
knew not God—whatever other knowledge it attained (Ac 17:23, 27). The deistic theory that man can by the light of nature discover his duty to God, is disproved by the fact that man has never discovered it without revelation. All the stars and moon cannot make it day; that is the prerogative of the sun. Nor can nature's highest gifts make the moral day arise; that is the office of Christ. Even the Jew missed this knowledge, in so far as he followed after mere carnal world wisdom.
it pleased God—Paul refers to Jesus' words (Lu 10:21).
by the foolishness of preaching—by that preaching which the world (unbelieving Jews and Gentiles alike) deem foolishness.
save them that believe—(Ro 1:16).
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
22. For—literally, "Since," seeing that. This verse illustrates how the "preaching" of Christ crucified came to be deemed "foolishness" (1Co 1:21).
a sign—The oldest manuscripts read "signs." The singular was a later correction from Mt 12:38; 16:1; Joh 2:18. The signs the Jews craved for were not mere miracles, but direct tokens from heaven that Jesus was Messiah (Lu 11:16).
Greeks seek … wisdom—namely, a philosophic demonstration of Christianity. Whereas Christ, instead of demonstrative proof, demands faith on the ground of His word, and of a reasonable amount of evidence that the alleged revelation is His word. Christianity begins not with solving intellectual difficulties, but with satisfying the heart that longs for forgiveness. Hence not the refined Greeks, but the theocratic Jews were the chosen organ for propagating revelation. Again, intellectual Athens (Ac 17:18-21, &c.) received the Gospel less readily than commercial Corinth.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
23. we—Paul and Apollos.
Christ crucified—The Greek expresses not the mere fact of His crucifixion, but the permanent character acquired by the transaction, whereby He is now a Saviour (Ga 3:1) crucified was the stone on which the Jews stumbled (Mt 21:44). The opposition of Jew and Gentile alike shows that a religion so seemingly contemptible in its origin could not have succeeded if it had not been divine.
unto the Greeks—the oldest manuscripts read "unto the Gentiles."
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
24. called—(compare 1Co 1:26). The same class as the "us which are (being) saved" (1Co 1:18); the elect, who have obeyed the call; called effectually (Ro 8:28, 30).
Christ—"Crucified" is not here added, because when the offense of the cross is overcome, "Christ" is received in all His relations, not only in His cross, but in His life and His future kingdom.
power—so meeting all the reasonable requirements of the Jews who sought "a sign." The cross (the death of a slave), which to the Jews (looking for a temporal Messiah) was a "stumbling-block," is really "the power of God" to the salvation of all who believe.
wisdom of God—so really exhibiting, and in the highest degree (if they would but see it), that which the Greeks sought after—wisdom (Col 2:3).
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
25. foolishness of God—that is, God's plan of salvation which men deem "foolishness."
weakness of God—Christ "crucified through weakness" (2Co 13:4, the great stumbling-block of the Jews), yet "living by the power of God." So He perfects strength out of the weakness of His servants (1Co 2:3; 2Co 12:9).
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
26. ye see—rather, from the prominence of the verb in the Greek, "see" or "consider" (imperative) [Alford from Vulgate and Irenæus].
your calling … are called—Instead of the words in italics, supplied by English Version, supply, "were your callers." What Paul is dwelling on (compare 1Co 1:27, 28) is the weakness of the instrumentality which the Lord employed to convert the world [Hinds and Whately; so Anselm]. However, English Version accords well with 1Co 1:24. "The whole history of the expansion of the Church is a progressive victory of the ignorant over the learned, the lowly over the lofty, until the emperor himself laid down his crown before the cross of Christ" [Olshausen].
wise … after the flesh—the wisdom of this world acquired by human study without the Spirit. (Contrast Mt 16:17).
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. the foolish things—a general phrase for all persons and things foolish. Even things (and those, too, foolish things) are chosen by God to confound persons, (and those too persons who are wise). This seems to me the force of the change from neuter to masculine.
to confound—The Greek is stronger, "that He might confound (or put to shame)." God confounds the wise by effecting through His instruments, without human wisdom, that the worldly wise, with it, cannot effect, namely, to bring men to salvation.
chosen … chosen—The repetition indicates the gracious deliberateness of God's purpose (Jas 2:5).
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. yea, and things which are not—Yea is not in the Greek. Also some of the oldest manuscripts omit "and." Thus the clause, "things which are not" (are regarded as naught), is in apposition with "foolish … weak … base (that is, lowborn) and despised things." God has chosen all four, though regarded as things that are not, to bring to naught things that are.
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
29. no flesh … glory—For they who try to glory (boast) because of human greatness and wisdom, are "confounded" or put to shame (1Co 1:27). Flesh, like "the flower of the field," is beautiful, but frail (Isa 40:6).
in his presence—We are to glory not before Him, but in Him [Bengel].
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
30. But … ye—in contrast to them that "glory" in worldly wisdom and greatness.
of him are—not of yourselves (Eph 2:8), but of Him (Ro 11:36). From Him ye are (that is, have spiritual life, who once were spiritually among the "things which are not." 1Co 1:28).
in Christ—by living union with Him. Not "in the flesh" (1Co 1:26, 29).
of God—from God; emanating from Him and sent by Him.
is made unto us—has been made to us, to our eternal gain.
wisdom—unattainable by the worldly mode of seeking it (1Co 1:19, 20; contrast Col 2:3; Pr 8:1-36; Isa 9:6). By it we become "wise unto salvation," owing to His wisdom in originating and executing the plan, whereas once we were "fools."
righteousness—the ground of our justification (Jer 23:5, 6; Ro 4:25; 2Co 5:21); whereas once we were "weak" (Ro 5:6). Isa 42:21; 45:24.
sanctification—by His Spirit; whereas formerly we were "base." Hereafter our righteousness and sanctification alike shall be both perfect and inherent. Now the righteousness wherewith we are justified is perfect, but not inherent; that wherewith we are sanctified is inherent, but not perfect [Hooker]. Now sanctification is perfect in principle, but not in attainment. These two are joined in the Greek as forming essentially but one thing, as distinguished from the "wisdom" in devising and executing the plan for us ("abounded toward us in all wisdom," Eph 1:8), and "redemption," the final completion of the scheme in the deliverance of the body (the position of "redemption" last shows that this limited sense is the one intended here). Lu 21:28; Ro 8:23; Eph 1:14; 4:30.
redemption—whereas once we were "despised."
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
31. glory in … Lord—(Jer 9:23, 24)—in opposition to "flesh glorying in His presence" (1Co 1:29). In contrast to morbid slavish self-abasement, Paul joins with humility the elevating consciousness of our true dignity in Christ. He who glories is to glory in the Lord, not in the flesh, nor in the world.