1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,…
The occasion of this letter was largely furnished by the need of rebuke. The Corinthian Church had erred grievously. To rebuke is frequently painful, but when called for it should not be shrunk from; not to rebuke under such circumstances is unalloyed cruelty. To rebuke, often painful, is always perilous. By maladroitness we may easily drive men from the right instead of drawing them to it. Unwise rebuke adds to the ill. We need to prepare for rebuke if when we reach it we would not deserve its infliction, Note the apostolic procedure. We have here one of the finest examples of preparing men's minds for well deserved censure.
I. REMARK SOME GENERAL FEATURES OF THIS PREPARATORY ADDRESS. We find in it:
1. Courtesy. A graceful and gracious salutation. The apostle does not rush into harsh words. He shows no eagerness to condemn. Roughness and rudeness add no strength to admonition.
2. Affection. This pervades every sentence, and culminates in the opening of the tenth verse, "Now I beseech you," etc. Love keeps in cheek apostolic authority and righteous indignation. We shall not injure delinquents by loving them very much. Nothing can make rebuke more telling than administering before and after and with it, unaffected love. If men see that we are unwilling to rebuke them, they will be very much more likely to accept our rebuke. To enjoy rebuking is to demonstrate our total unfitness for it.
3. Candour. The condemnation is not to be wholesale. Some can see nothing but fault in those who err, but the apostle perceives excellences. He generously acknowledges spiritual attaimnent and endowment. To blind our eyes to the good is to make ourselves powerless to remove the bad. Many rebukes have worse than failed through lack of strict honesty in the rebuker. The "candid friend" has often proved very uncandid.
(1) He turns the thought of the Corinthians to their oneness (ver. 2). His message is to them as one people in Christ: "The Church... at Corinth" - not the Churches. The Church of God - not of many leaders. Presently he will have to censure them for lack of unity.
(2) He prays that they may have more "grace." Soon he will show that they need it. The Church has been boasting of its man power; Paul thinks its great need is God power - enlightenment, guidance, help from above.
(3) He desires that they may have "peace "from God - not without an eye to their divisions and quarrels. He is wisely preparing his way.
5. Absence of pomposity and of assumption of superiority. It is not the great man speaking to the infinitesimal; nor the spotless to the utterly depraved. Paul gets as near to the Corinthians as he can. He seems to remember that his Master was made "in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7). "Come not near to me, for I am holier than thou," is likely to make people keep their distance and have nothing to do with us or our words. Not without wise humility has "Sosthenes our brother "a place in the salutation.
6. Yet the apostolic authority is not lost sight of. It may be well to show that we are entitled to rebuke - that we are not assuming an office to which we have no claim. Rebukes should come from proper quarters. Paul was the "apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God." It was manifestly within his province to point out blemishes in the Christian Church and to reprove evil doers.
II. NOTE HOW EARNESTLY HE STRIVES TO TURN THEIR THOUGHTS TO GOD AND TO CHRIST. This is, perhaps, the most striking feature of these introductory verses. Read the passage and note the extraordinary number of times mention is made of God and of Christ. The connection of this with the coming rebuke is apparent. The Corinthians have forgotten God, and therefore they have gone astray. Christ has become less and less to them, and so they have sinned more and more. We quarrel with one another very easily when we get away from our Master. We grow carnal swiftly when God begins to pass out of our thoughts. With heavenly wisdom the apostle floods the minds of the Corinthians with thoughts of God and of Christ. If they can be brought into the light of the Divine presence they will see their corruption, and standing once again before Jehovah they will be made ready to receive and not to resent a deserved and much needed rebuke. If they can be brought again well within the attractive influence of the marvellous self sacrifice and love of their Lord, self will will become crucified, pride humbled, and grateful life and service compelled. Note more particularly:
1. The apostle traces his apostleship to Christ and God. He stands before the Corinthians as the appointed representative of their Lord. The position he assumes was given to him by Christ through the will of God. We are what Christ makes us.
2. They are the Church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus, and their oneness with all other Christians is through Christ (ver. 2).
3. All that they have received, and in which they glory so much, has come from God and from Christ (vers. 4-6).
4. Their right position is one of waiting for the revelation of Christ (ver. 7).
5. Their continuance in the faith and their perfection at last are made to depend upon Christ.
6. At first they were called by God into the fellowship of Christ. Memories of conversion time are potent. Paul thus strives in every way to take the Corinthians to their Father and to their Lord. The battle of Christian rebuke is half won when gracious thoughts of God and Christ are revived. Erring Christians are likely to be brought to their senses when they are brought to their Master.
III. THE APOSTLE REMINDS HIS READERS OF CERTAIN THINGS, AND IN THIS WAY PREPARES THEM FOR WHAT IS TO FOLLOW.
1. Their Christian profession. They are sanctified or supposed to be. They are known as "saints," and therefore should live as such.
2. Past mercies, privileges, honours. (Vers. 4-7.) These are so many arguments to seek the Divine pleasure and not their own. And this can be done only by renouncing the evil and cleaving to the good. All the redeemed are laid under infinite obligation to live unto the Lord.
3. God's faithfulness to them. (Ver. 9.) A great argument that they should be exemplary towards him and his kingdom.
4. What they are looking forward to. (Ver. 7.) Soon they will be in the visible presence of Christ. We are not far from the judgment. Well may we bear rebuke here, that we may escape rebuke there. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,