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The Divisions in the Church Brought to Light
Summary —Greetings to the Church. Thanksgiving for the Grace of God. An Exhortation to Unity. Schisms Rebuked. The Sin of Honoring Human Leaders Instead of Christ. The Preaching of the Cross the Power of God to Salvation. Not the Worldly Wise and Proud, but the Humble and Lowly Converted.
1–3. Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Some of the Judaizing teachers, who had visited the church at Corinth after the departure of Paul, in order to lessen his authority, had asserted that he was not an apostle, divinely called like the Twelve. Hence, at the beginning, he asserts his apostleship, and refers to his divine call. See 1 Cor. 9:1, and 2 Cor. 12:12. Sosthenes, our brother. A Sosthenes is named in Acts 18:17, who was then the chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth. The Sosthenes whom Paul associated with himself in the letter must have been well known to, and influential among, the Corinthians, and was probably the former chief ruler, who had been converted. Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, all well known to the church, were at Ephesus with Paul (see chap. 16), but Sosthenes is chosen to appear with him in the salutation. 2. Unto the church of God. This designation of the church appears oftener than any other in the New Testament. To them that are sanctified. All of “the church of God at Corinth” were “sanctified in Christ Jesus;” that is, they were set apart from the world and consecrated to God. All Christians are “sanctified” in the sense of the term in the New Testament, and “called to be saints.” The humblest Christian is a saint, as well as Peter or Paul. With all that in every place call, etc. The letter is intended for all Christians, as well as for those at Corinth. Call upon the name of Jesus Christ. Recognize him as their divine Savior. Both theirs and ours. The Lord of the saints everywhere as well as ours (8:6; Eph. 4:5). Since there is only one Lord and Master, all Christians should be brethren. 3. Grace be unto you. The favor of God; the divine blessing. This is the apostolical benediction. Peace. This is always an appropriate benediction, since peace is one of the greatest blessings, but was especially appropriate to a church which was torn by dissensions.
4–9. I thank my God always on your behalf. Before speaking of the faults which he must rebuke, he speaks of the grounds for praise and hope. He did not forget these, because there was much that he could not praise. He could see their improvement on their former condition, as well as their present faults. A good example for all critics. 5. That in every thing ye are enriched by him. “The grace of God” (verse 4) had “enriched” them. In all utterance. The reference is especially, but not exclusively, to the supernatural gifts of tongues and of knowledge which were imparted to the early church. See 12:8–10; and 2 Cor. 8:7; 11:6. 6. Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you. It was confirmed by the fruits which it brought forth; their belief and the spiritual gifts which were bestowed upon some of them. 7. So that ye come behind in no gift. They were “enriched” by the grace of God, so that they were not inferior to other Christians in privileges. Waiting for the coming. They, like other Christians, were eagerly waiting for the return of the Lord to the earth. 8. Who shall confirm you. He will do his part to confirm you; give you strength to the end, that ye may be blameless in the day, etc. Free from blame when they are called to meet the Lord. 9. God is faithful. Hence he will faithfully discharge his part of the covenant. His promises may be relied upon. The fact that he had called the saints to fellowship with his Son, is proof that their salvation will be completed.
10–17. Now I beseech you, brethren, etc. How earnest and imploring is the Apostle's exhortation that they should maintain unity! That ye all speak the same thing. Have no distinctive party declarations. This is violated in the modern sectarian symbols and confessions. That there be no divisions. “No schisms,” in the Greek. If there were none, and all “were perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” all would “speak the same thing.” There would be no variance in their declarations. It is evident, from what follows, that, while the Corinthians had not separated into various church organizations, they had formed several parties within the church. Organized sects, claiming to be “branches of the church,” were unknown till centuries later. 11. For it hath been declared unto me. He candidly tells them how he had learned of their dissensions. Them which are of the house of Chloe. Whether these were her children or her servants, or whether she lived at Corinth and these members of her household had come to visit Paul at Ephesus, or whether she lived at Ephesus and these persons had made a visit to Corinth, these are all unknown. Chloe is not elsewhere name. 12. Now this I say. I explain more fully what I mean. He shows that there were four existing parties: A Pauline party, clinging to the founder of their church; a party of Apollos, who were probably carried away by their admiration of his Alexandrian philosophy; a party of Judaizer, who claimed to be following Peter, called here by his Hebrew name of Cephas; and a fourth party, who claimed to turn away from all these human leaders, and to be only of Christ. 13. Is Christ divided? The church is “the Body of Christ” (12:12, 13). Can that body be cut into parts, and these assigned to human leaders? Was Paul crucified for you? The cross binds us to Christ alone. By baptism we are baptized in Christ's name, into his death, and into Christ (Rom. 6:3). 14. I thank God that I baptized none of you, etc. “The Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8), but the fellow-ministers of Paul usually administered the baptismal rite. Since some of the Corinthians were claiming to be of his party, he was glad that he had not personally baptized them, lest some of them should say he had baptized in his own name (verse 15). Crispus. Formerly chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth (Acts 18:8). Gaius. See Romans 16:23. He was Paul's host at Corinth when the Epistle to the Romans was written. 16. I baptized also the household of Stephanas. This household was “the first fruits of Achaia” (16:15); Stephanas was one of the three Corinthian brethren then visiting Paul at Ephesus (16:17). There is no proof that this, or any other household named in Scripture, contained infants, but there is proof that most of them did not. “The household” does not mean the same as “the family,” but those dwelling in the house; often the servants only. 17. For Christ sent me not to baptize. Paul does not intend to disparage baptism, but to say that, in the division of labor, the work assigned him was to preach, while others did the baptizing. If the common views of his physical condition are correct, he was hardly strong enough to do a great deal of baptizing. Not with wisdom of words. Instead of seeking eloquence or philosophical speculation, which might hide the cross, he told the simple story of the gospel in plain and simple language.
18–21. The preaching of the cross. The gospel of a Crucified Savior. To them that perish. Those who are unregenerate. Is foolishness. The Greek philosopher and the Jewish scribe scoffed at the thought of a Savior who had been crucified. They held that his crucifixion proved that he was not divine. Unto us who are saved. There are two sections of mankind—the unsaved and the saved. To the first, the cross is folly; to the second, the gospel of the Crucified One comes as the power of God. See Rom. 1:16. To the unsaved, the cross is a pillar of cloud; to the saved, a pillar of light. 19. I will destroy the wisdom of the wise (Isa. 29:14). By turning to the passage in Isaiah, its meaning is clear. God will put aside the wisdom and understanding of men; these will not save; but he will save by what the world called foolishness. 20. Where is the wise? The Greek philosophers. In Greek, the term “philosopher” means a lover of wisdom. The scribe? The scribes were the Jewish learned class. The disputer? etc. Probably the Greek teachers who “disputed daily” in the public places. Hath not God made foolish? etc. All their worldly wisdom is excluded from the gospel. 21. For … knew not God. Worldly wisdom did not search out the true God. Intellectual speculation had done its utmost, and failed. Hence it was rejected, and the Divine Wisdom chose by the foolishness of preaching to save, etc. That is, by preaching what the wise and puffed up of the this world called foolishness. They called the gospel foolishness.
22–25. For the Jews require a sign. Not merely miracles, such as the apostles worked, but a sign from heaven (Matt. 12:38). They said, “Let Christ come down from heaven, if he be risen.” And the Greeks seek after wisdom. While the Jews asked for a sign from heaven, the Greeks demanded a well-argued system of philosophy (Acts 17:18). 23. But we preach Christ crucified. Not merely Christ, but Christ Crucified; a Crucified Savior. Unto the Jews a stumbling-block. Because they had an entirely different conception of the Christ. Yet it was predicted that he should be “a stone of stumbling” (Matt. 21:42). Unto the Greeks foolishness. It seemed to the Greeks that a being who died so ignominious a death could not be divine. 24. But to them which are called. But to those who obey the gospel call, whether Jews or Gentiles, the Crucified Christ is found to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God. The gospel not only is found to be mighty, but wise in meeting the wants of the soul. 25. The foolishness of God. In one thing that men call foolishness, in Christ Crucified, there is greater wisdom than in all the philosophers, and though it seemed weakness of God to let Christ be crucified, yet the Crucified Savior is mightier than all the strength of men. If folly and weakness be of God, these will be wiser and stronger than men.
26–31. Not many wise men after the flesh. Paul now shows the weakness of the human instrumentality chosen to convert the world; not those the world called wise, not the mighty, not the noble, yet the work was moving on with wonderful power. 27. But God hath chosen the foolish things. Men whom the world would call foolish, with a gospel that it called foolishness; yet these “confounded the wise” and upturned the world's philosophies. 28. Base things. Those of lowly birth. Things which are not. People that the world would call “nobodies,” and things that it counts as nothing. These are chosen to bring to nought things that are; the existing state of things; the pagan religions, governments, and civilization; these were to be overthrown through the influence of the gospel. 29. That no flesh should glory, etc. That it should be shown that the power was of God. 30. Who of God is made unto us wisdom. “Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God” (verse 24), is wisdom to us. And righteousness. In him we are made righteous, and obtain sanctification and redemption. Christ is all of these to us. 31. He that glorieth, etc. (Jer. 9:23). As Christ is our all, imparts every grace that we enjoy, and bestows every blessing, there is no ground for glorying in Paul, Apollos or Cephas, but in the Lord alone.
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