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his third journey, when, after passing through Galatia and Phrygia, he went again to Ephesus, and from this place about A. D. 56, he wrote this first epistle to the church at Corinth. *
It was occasioned by messengers sent to him from that city, proposing to him a variety of questions, on which the members of the church were much divided. In Corinth also, as well as in Galatia, attempts had been made to lessen the authority of Paul, where some persons, distinguished by their eloquence, and boasting of their knowledge, had taught that the Christian resurrection was not a literal rising from the dead, but either a change of life and conduct, or the release of the soul from its confinement in the body. These persons evidently held the Gnostic opinions; and this is the first time that we meet with the mention of them among Christians: for the philosophers of that age, believing in the inherent evil nature of matter, thought that the soul would be most completely happy when it was released from its fleshly incumbrance.
On this, Paul, in this epistle, asserts at large the reality of a proper resurrection, like that of Jesus Christ, on which the whole of the Christian scheme depended ; assuring the Corinthians that that which was committed to the grave would rise again, but much changed in its nature and properties, from mortal to immortal, from earthly to heavenly.
The apostle's address to the Christians at Corinth, shews that many of the first converts to Christianity were not immediately reformed by it, but continued addicted to the sensual gratifications in which they had, without restraint, indulged before, and that it was not without difficulty that they were brought off from them. Indeed, we may easily believe that many persons of good sense, candour, and competent judges of evidence, but whose moral characters were far from being irreproachable, might be convinced of the truth of Christianity, a considerable time before the principles of it effected a thorough reformation of their conduct.
In this epistle, Paul asserts his apostolical authority, and endeavours to make his Corinthian converts think less highly of the boasted eloquence of their new teachers, who seem, like the philosophers and rhetoricians of those times, to have received money for their harangues. He, therefore,
See Locke's Synopsis ; Doddridge's Introd.; Lardner, VI. pp. 314, 315.
shews the difference between his conduct and theirs in that respect.
Corinth was one of the most populous cities of Greece. Many of its inhabitants were rich and luxurious, and, like the Greeks in general, were much captivated with the charms of eloquence,* with which they were entertained by their public speakers and philosophers. Many of them, even after their conversion to Christianity, entertained but a low opinion of the apostle, on account of his mean personal appearance, and the plainness of his address. Of these circumstances the Gnostic teachers took advantage, and to this the apostle adverts in the beginning of his epistle.
CHAP. I. 1.f Sosthenes f was of Corinth.
2.9 This ought to have been rendered, who call themselves by the name of Christ, that is, “ that are called Christians.”ll
5—7. Here the apostle, with much address, praises the Corinthians as far as he justly could; having many disagreeable truths to tell them afterwards.
10. The Church of Corinth was long noted for the factions and divisions that prevailed in it, as we find by the Epistle of Clement, bishop of Rome, some time after the age of the apostles. **
12.tt The difference with respect to the persons by whom they had been converted was of little consequence, but with those who were previously disposed to difference, a small circumstance would snffice. From what the apostle here says, it appears, that though the generality of the Corinthian Christians were converted by him, some of them had resided in Judea, and been the disciples of Christ himself.
* “ A people of quick parts and inquisitive, but naturally vain and conceited of themselves.” Locke's Synopsis.
+ Called by the will of God. “We may suppose him to intimate his miraculous call; for he doubted not of the will and providence of God governing all things." Locke.
I“A Corinthian minister, who attended Paul in his travels. Compare Acts xviii. 17." Doddridge.
$ “ Sanctified in Christ Jesus, does not signify here, whose lives are pure aud holy; for there were many among those he wrote to, who were quite otherwise; but sanctified signifies, separated from the common state of mankind, to be the people of God, and to serve him.” Locke. See Doddridge.
11 “ These Greek words being a periphrasis for Christians, as is plain from the design of this verse. See proofs of it in Dr. Hammond upon the place.” Locke. See Impr. Vers.
Doddridge, who translates invoke the name, says, “ this strongly implies that it might well be taken for granted, that every true Christian would often pray to Christ, as well as address the Father in his name.” Yet, thus every true Christian would appear to oppose his practice to our Lord's direction, that his followers should present their requests, exclusively, to the Father. See John xvi. 28.
q “ Intending to abolish the names of leaders they distinguished themselves by, Paul beseeches them, by the name of Christ, a form that I do not remember he elsewhere uses." Locke.
** “ Take the Epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle into your hands. What was it that he wrote to you, at his first preaching the gospel among you? Verily he did by the Spirit admonish you concerning himself and Cephas, and Apollos, because, ihat even then ye had begun to fall into parties and factions among your. selves." Ch. xlvii. Wake, p. 38.
tt See Hallett, III. pp. 373, 374; Impr. Vers. “Leave out syw 8c Xpaço, for all be certain, therefore, that its external evidence must have been irresistible to those who gave due attention to it. the converts would agree in saying they were of Christ, (Ep. Duc). Chrysostom and Angust. place a full stop at Knpa, that the next clause may stand in opposition to all the others: "every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas. But I am of Christ, and is Christ divided ?" Beza in Bowyer. See Pearce.
13.* It is something remarkable, and greatly in favour of the evidences of Christianity, that none of the disciples of Christ endeavoured to supplant him. They all acted in subordination to a crucified Master, how much soever they were opposed to each other; and there was no want of emu. lation among thein.
thein. In this they were all united, acknow. ledging one Master, even Christ. This was not the case with respect to Mahometanism. Several persons set up on Mahomet's plan, and in opposition to him. With respect to Christ, this was never attempted, nor could it possibly have succeeded if the attempt had been made.
17.1 The mere administration of baptism was in its nature, a servile and interior work. Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples; for as baptism was then administered, the person who baptized went into the water along with the new convert, and plunged him over head.
18. Nothing staggered the world more than the promulgation of a new religion under the name of a crucified founder. To make it credible, required the strongest evidence; and nothing short of this could have enabled it to make its way. But no circumstance shews the wisdom of Providence with respect to future ages more than this, at which the minds of men revolted so much at the time; since it is now most evident, that the gospel did not owe its establishment to any thing specious in itself
, any more than to the aid of learning or power.
The apostles had nothing but plain and most improbable things to relate, and they were not able to set off their plain story in any manner that was adapted to captivate their hearers.
"Pour être nommés disciples de Paul. Voyez Matt. xxiij. 8." Le Clerc. See Locke; Doddridge.
+ See Le Clerc. “ Not so much to baptize as to preach the gospel : not with the doctrine of wisdom." Pearce. See Doddridge.
22.* That is, the sign from heaven so often mentioned in the history of Jesus.
29. This state of things, and the pious sentiments suggested by the consideration of it, we see in the address of Jesus, Matt. xi. 25, 26, “ I thank thee, O Father, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.”+
30.5 True wisdom appears in the plan and in the promulgation of the gospel, and it is excellently calculated to promote the virtue and final happiness of man. S
PARAPHRASE. I Paul, appointed by the favour of almighty God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, now joined by our brother Sosthenes, address this epistle to you who are Christians at Corinth, separated from the Heathen world by the profession of a holy religion, and to all who are called by the Christian name in your neighbourhood; all of you professing obedience to the same Lord Jesus Christ. May you enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.
I am truly thankful to God for your happiness in this respect, and that, besides the advantages common to all Christians, many of you are distinguished by superior knowledge and eloquence, as by this means the truth of Christianity will be more fully displayed. Thus endued, you are deficient in nothing, and only wait for the coming of Jesus Christ. And as I do not doubt your perseverance, I am persuaded that you will appear with advantage at that great and glorious day. Having done your part, you will not doubt but that God, by whose spirit and power you have been confirmed in the faith of Christ, will perform all that has been promised by him.
Let me intreat you, brethren, since you all agree in the * On vers. 22—25, see Locke; Doddridge.
+ “ This is a sentiment replete with wisdom, and it is most indisputable, that the evangelical histories would have been assailable by very serious objections, had they been composed by men of eloquence and learning; and the dispensation itself encumbered with peculiar difficulties, if its primitive teachers and professors had principally issued from the mansions of the rich or the schools of the philosophers. We have reason to rejoice that not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, were originally called. i Cor. i. 26.” Wakefield's Evidences of Christianity, 1793, Rem. xxviii. pp. 153, 154. See Vol. XIII. pp. 133, 134.
I “Ye are both righteousness and sanctification, and redemption in Christ Jesus, who is made wisdom to us." Bos in Bowyer. See Wakefield.
$ “Dieu nous a donné le Christ pour nous procurer la sagesse, la justice, la sanctification et la redemption." Le Cene, p. 692. Dodson on Isaiah viii. 14.
profession of Christianity, and your subjection to one common Lord and Master, to be perfectly united among yourselves; and do not keep up those divisions, and that animosity against one another, which I have been informed subsist among you; for some of you, I hear, profess a particular attachment to myself, others to Apollos, others to Peter, and others to Christ only. But what foundation is there for any division of Christians on this account? Do any of us set up in opposition to Christ? Was I crucified for you, as he was, or were any of you baptized in my name? I rejoice that, since this unhappy division has taken place, I did not myself baptize any of you, except Crispus, Gaius, and the family of Stephanas, so that there cannot be any pretence for saying that I baptized in my own name, with a view to make disciples to myself.
Indeed, my commission was not to baptize, but to preach the gospel ; and, in doing this, I do not endeavour to appear what you call eloquent; for then my preaching would have had less real effect. Though this plan of preaching is deemed foolish by those who reject it, to those who receive it, it appears to be such as God himself gives his sanction to. As we read, Isaiah xxix. 14, “ I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." This is fully exemplified in the present state of things; for what has been effected by your philosophers and orators ? Compared with the gospel, all their discourses are mere folly. But when, by the greatest efforts of their wisdom, they did not attain to the true knowledge of God, but continued addicted to the most absurd idolatry, it pleased the Divine Being to effect this happy and wonderful change, to bring great numbers to the knowledge of the most salutary truth, by that preaching which they despise.
The Jews and the Gentiles have different reasons for rejecting the gospel. The Jews still call for their sign from heaven, supposing that the Messiah must make his appearance in that character by descending from the clouds, and the Greeks cannot relish any thing that is not recommended by their much-admired eloquence; whereas, I lay before them nothing but a plain narrative of facts, such as an authentic account of the doctrine, the miracles, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the death of the Messiah the Jews are shocked as a catastrophe unworthy of him ; and as to the doctrine of the resurrection, the learned Greeks, like those of Athens, think it so incredible, that they will not attend to any evidence in its favour. But to those