Commentary on 1st Corinthians

 Lesson 1.1: Address
 Scripture 1 Corinthians 1.1-1.3


1 Cor 1:1-3 (KJV)
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 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:
3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.


Commentary

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ
Paul begins the letter according to the custom of writing letters at that time; the name of the person who wrote the letter and the persons to whom it was written are both inserted. It is an epistle from Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, to the church of Corinth, which he himself had planted.

Paul is the author, or rather the writer of the following epistle; in point of fact, the Holy Ghost was the author and divine Dictater of it, which has never been doubted, except by those who refuse to believe. He is called by his Roman name, Paul, though his Jewish name was Saul; he was a Jew by birth, but he was born in a Roman city. He was allowed two names, the one Jewish, the other Gentile. He went by Saul when among the Jews, and by Paul when he was with the Gentiles: He was also called Paul when he was in his office; fulfilling the responsibilities of "an apostle of Jesus Christ." He was immediately called, and sent forth by Christ; received the Gospel from him by immediate revelation, and a commission to preach it. His high office was confirmed by signs and wonders, and mighty deeds; by the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost conferred on him, and on others under his ministry; and by the well-known success which came to him by preaching the Gospel. He calls himself an apostle and he holds the office, but some in this church express doubts (vs.9.1, 2[2]), through the insinuations of the false apostles (2 Co 10.10③), about his qualifications; but this was not a mere name given him by men, but was an office he was "called" to by Christ; he did not rush into it, or assume it by his own authority, but he had a divine commission and was empowered to perform it. Then it follows, that if Paul is an apostle, then he must be heard, even though he sometimes sharply reprehends them, bearing in mind that he doesn’t have his own cause in mind, but is a messenger that brings the commandments of Christ.

The words "to be” were added by the translators, but they are unnecessary and even cloud the meaning. Paul was stating what he was, not what he intended to be. As in most of his writings, Paul stressed his divine commission as an apostle, thus invoking the authority needed for dealing with the errors prevalent in Corinth.

Paul has been called by God, that is, set apart by the will of God. Now, two things are required of anyone that would be listened to in the Church, and would occupy the place of a teacher; first, he must be called by God to that office, and second he must faithfully discharge its duties. Paul here lays claim to both. For the name, Apostle, implies that the individual conscientiously acts the part of an ambassador for Christ, and proclaims the pure doctrine of the gospel. But, no one ought to assume this honor to himself, unless he has been called to it.

through the will of God:
Paul's call to the office of an Apostle had nothing to do with personal merit; he says instead that he is "an apostle by the will of God," and this is what constitutes the ground of the authority he claims in the Corinthian Church (compare to Galatians 1:1[4]). It was both by the secret will and purpose of God that he was a chosen vessel, to bear the name of Christ among the Gentiles, (Acts 9:15[6]) ; and by the revealed will of God, designated by the Spirit of God, who said, "separate me Saul and Barnabas, for the work whereunto I have called them", ( Acts 13:2 ) , and this shows, that it was due purely to the free grace and sovereign will and pleasure of God, that he was made an apostle of Christ.  And assuredly as a call to salvation is of grace, so also a call to the office of apostle is of grace, as Christ teaches in these words: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," (John 15:16[7]). Paul, if left to his own will would never have been an apostle (Romans 9:16[8]). It’s clear that He sees his call by God as a reason for humility on his own part (1Corinthians 15:10[5]).

Paul knows that he is not one of the twelve apostles, but he is on a par with them because, like them, he is chosen by God. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus (in the later epistles it is usually Christ Jesus). The refusal of the Judaizers to recognize Paul as equal to the twelve made him more resolved than ever to claim his position. It was proper at any time, but necessary at this time, to assert his character, and magnify his office, given that false teachers made it a point to belittle him, and their deluded followers were likely to set them up in competition with Paul. It was not Paul’s pride, but faithfulness to his commission, that made him stubbornly maintain his apostolic character and authority.

and Sosthenes our brother.
This man is probably the same person mentioned Acts 18:17[9]. In Acts 18:12-17[10]; an account is given of an attempt made by the Jews at Corinth to induce the Roman deputy to inflict punishment upon Paul for the offence of preaching Christianity. The attempt not only failed, but it produced a reaction in Paul's favor, so strong that the populace arose and took swift vengeance upon those who had made the attempt, including one named Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the Synagogue at Corinth, whom they appear to have regarded as the leader of the hostility against Paul.  He received a publicly beating, but He must have had an amazing conversion, because soon after it seems that this Sosthenes became a Christian, and was now the apostle's friend and companion. His prominent position as ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, and the personal influence which would naturally be connected with it, were very probably the reason why his name was joined with that of the apostle in this communication. Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, all well known to the church, were at Ephesus with Paul (see 1 Corinthians 16:12[12]; 1 Corinthians 16:19[13]), but Sosthenes is chosen to appear with him in the salutation. However he is in no sense a co-author of the Epistle, but merely an associate of Paul, and a brother whom Paul shared Christ with and participated in his conversion. Apparently, he was the amanuensis (person who did the actual writing), and Paul dictated while under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Paul wrote only the salutation and lovingly included his helper. The emphatic first person singular pronoun “I” in 1 Cor. 1:4[11] denies that Sosthenes had anything to do with the content of the epistle.

Sosthenes is not equal in office with the apostle, but as a brother in Christ, and very probably a ministering brother, and a companion of his, and a person well known and respected by the Corinthians, he chose to list his name in this letter of reprimand, to show their agreement in doctrine and discipline, and in the advice given to them.

 

2 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:

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth
This epistle is written to the saints at Corinth; who are described by the phrase "the church of God", a particular church congregation. I believe a congregation as it pertains to religion could be defined as “a number of individuals gathered out of the world, and joined together in holy fellowship, carrying on the worship of God together, and walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord; a people of high character who are called The Church (the building and the denomination are not the church), which is the pillar and ground of truth. In this particular church at Corinth, it will soon be seen that some of the people have committed indiscretions; and there are false teachers who teach false doctrine, and there is confusion and some have split from the church.

The church location is mentioned; it is the church which is at Corinth, the "metropolis" of Achaia; a very large and wealthy city, a place of great trade and commerce, and famous both for its wealth and wisdom.  But, it is not famous for anything like this; that there was a church of Christ in it. This Church was planted by the apostle himself about A. D. 52.

Paul addressed his letter to the church which is at Corinth and to the church of God. He calls it that even though it has many scars. It is a dangerous temptation to think there is no church where there is not apparent perfect purity. Anyone that thinks that way will eventually separate from all others and think of himself as the only holy man in the world, or establish a sect of some kind along 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. It was the Church of God, not of this or of that favorite leader.  The church did not belong to the Corinthians but to God, unto whom they were set apart (sanctified) to serve God by reason of the fact that they were "in Christ.”  This designation, Unto the church of God appears oftener than any other in the New Testament. Friends, there is no perfect church; did you ever hear this snicker; “I would never join a church that would have me as a member.” There are a lot of people who believe they are to “Bad” to go to church.

It may perhaps appear strange that Paul would give the name of a Church of God to a multitude of persons that were infested with so many faults, so much so that Satan might be said to reign among them rather than God. He certainly did not mean to flatter the Corinthians, as he speaks under the direction of the Spirit of God, who is not accustomed to flattering anyone. So how can anyone call this congregation a church? The words of Jesus may hold the answer— Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city (Acts 18:9-10; KJV[14]). Keeping this promise in mind, he conferred upon a godly few the honor of recognizing them as a Church in the midst of a vast multitude of ungodly persons.  What’s more, even though many vices had crept in, and various doctrines and manners had been corrupted, there were, nevertheless, certain tokens still remaining of a true Church. This is a passage that ought to be carefully studied, becauset we cannot require that the Church, while in this world, should be free from every wrinkle and stain, or immediately designate as unworthy every society in which everything is not as we want it to be.

to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
They were not sanctified by baptism, because they were sanctified before that; they were set apart (from the world’s corruptions), or chosen in Christ from all eternity, saved by grace here, and glorified in the hereafter; justified by the blood and righteousness of Christ. A definition for sanctified, which may not say enough is this: 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"; a simple translation is "men sanctified."

All Christians are sanctified in Christ Jesus; they are dedicated and devoted to him by baptism, and they are under strict obligations to be holy, and they make a profession of real faith in Christ. If they are not truly holy, it is their own fault. Note, Christianity is designed to sanctify us in Christ. He gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

In Christ Jesus denotes the status of all Christians, a relationship brought about through an obedient faith when they were baptized "into" him (Galatians 3:27[15]; 1 Corinthians 12:13[16]; and Romans 6:3[17]). The epic importance of this phrase appears in the fact that it is used no less than 169 times in Paul's epistles.

called to be saints;
Again, "to be" is an unnecessary addition to the text. The Corinthian Christians were not merely candidates for sainthood but were in fact already entitled to this designation by virtue of their being in the spiritual body of Christ, "in him," and therefore possessing a complete identity with the Savior. The humblest Christian is a saint, as well as Peter or Paul. In fact, God by his gracious goodness and absolute love has separated His Christians for himself, and that is where our sanctification comes from: He has called us to holiness and that shows what we are to strive for.

Those that are called to be saints were first chosen as Christ teaches in these words: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," (John 15:16[7]). We were all unholy before we were called. We are in that impure condition, because we fell in Adam, and became both guilty and filthy through his transgression; and by our first birth we are made unholy and unclean, and so were the Corinthians.  None of them were born saints, and they were not made so by their own free will, but became such through the powerful grace of God in His effectual calling; and only now does one have a desire for holiness.

with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord;
In conjunction with the church at Corinth, he directs the epistle to all that in every place call on the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, both theirs and ours.  Christians are distinguished from the wicked and atheists, by the fact that they don’t dare live without prayer; and they are distinguished from Jews and Pagans, for the reason that they call on the name of Christ. He is their common head and Lord. It is remarkable that in every place in the world there are some that call on the name of Christ. God has a remnant in all places; and we should receive as our brothers and sisters everyone that calls on Christ’s name. To call upon Christ’s name means to acknowledge and take him for actual God. This clause, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord makes this epistle applicable to the saints of all ages in every place and circumstance.

Lord Jesus Christ ...This use of the compound name JESUS CHRIST by Paul, and by the whole church, barely a quarter of a century after the crucifixion of Christ in A.D. 30 declares the historical accuracy of John's Gospel, which recorded the first usage of it by the Saviour himself in the great prayer of John 17, making it certain that "in Christ Jesus" is equivalent to "in thy name" of John 17:3,11,26[18].

Lord ...Likewise, this title of Jesus was not a development in the last first-century church but was firmly established by the time of Paul's writing here, having been used by Paul in his very first encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:5[19]).

both theirs and ours,
This clause can mean several things. First, either, as some think, it refers to "every place" and that is how the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions read; and the sense is, that the apostle dedicates his epistle to all that call upon the name of Christ, whether in Judea or in the Gentile world, in the place where the apostle was, or where the Corinthians were, or where any of the other saints in Achaia were; signifying, that the word of God is not confined to any particular place, but that men may now lift up holy hands in prayer to God everywhere. Second, it may refer to "our Lord", and shows that Christ is the Lord of the saints everywhere, and since there is only one Lord and Master, all Christians should be brethren, and they ought to love one another. Third, since all believers have one and the same Lord (1 Corinthians 8:6[20], Ephesians 4:5[21]); this clause is a virtual rebuke of the divisions within this church, which gives the impression that Christ can be divided (1 Corinthians 1:13[22]).

Jesus Christ is the exclusive property of no one Church, or people, or nation. Calling on or invoking the name of the Lord Jesus, was the proper distinguishing mark of a Christian. In those times of apostolic light and purity no man attempted to pray to God except in the name of Jesus Christ; this is what genuine Christians still mean when they ask anything from God for Christ's SAKE.

This verse is an appropriate introduction to an Epistle addressed to a church which was to be admonished for its internal dissensions.


3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

This double salutation combined the common greetings of both Greeks and Hebrews, but with a remarkable extension of the meaning of both. [Chairein] was the Greek word for "greeting"; but Paul's word [Greek: charis] means "grace," calling attention to God's unspeakable gift to humanity. The Hebrew salutation, [shalom], meaning "peace," was united with an affirmation of its coming through Jesus Christ alone.

In Paul's style of mentioning himself first, then the addressee, and next a formal greeting, he followed the format employed by all educated persons of that era; and he used it in all of his epistles. "When Paul wrote letters he wrote them on the pattern which everybody used." However, Paul always extended the form somewhat in order to adorn it with the distinctive sentiments and teachings of Christianity. In these three verses, it is plain that "The distinguishing feature is its stress upon the sanctity of the church." Paul’s Greeting that begins his letter to the Romans is perhaps, though typical, the best example of His method for writing a salutation. I will add it below; You may skip it, if so inclined.

Romans 1:7 (KJV) To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To all that be in Rome
These words contain both the dedication of the epistle, and the apostle's usual salutation, as in all his epistles, the dedication of it is not to the Roman emperor; or to the Roman senate, or to all the inhabitants in Rome; but to all the saints there, whether rich or poor, bond or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile, without any distinction, being all one in Christ Jesus: and these are described as
beloved of God; not for any loveliness there was in them, or because of any love in them to God, or on account of their obedience and righteousness; but through the free favor and sovereign will and pleasure of God, who loved them before he called them, even from eternity, and will love them to eternity; this love of his is the source and spring of all the blessings of grace.

called [to be] saints;
not born so, or become so through their own power, but were so by calling grace, as a fruit of everlasting love; men are first beloved of the Lord, and then called to be His saints. The salutation follows; the things wished for in it are,

grace to you, and peace:
by "grace" is not meant ministerial gifts, which are not common to all the saints; or the Gospel, which was at Rome already; or the love and favor of God, which these persons were sharers in, as appears from their above characters; or the principle of grace, which was now formed there in their effectual calling; but an increase of grace, as to its degrees, acts, and exercise; every grace is imperfect in this respect, and those who have the most stand in need of more; there is such a thing as growing in grace, which is very desirable, and may be expected from God, who is able to make all grace to abound, and has promised to give more: by "peace" is meant, peace with God through Christ; peace in their own consciences, and with one another; all manner of prosperity inward and outward here, and eternal happiness hereafter. The persons from whom these are desired are, God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; God the Father of Christ is spoken of as our Father, which is by adoption; partly to engage fear and reverence of him at his throne; and partly to encourage freedom and boldness there, and an expectation of receiving every blessing of grace from him: "the Lord Jesus Christ" is mentioned, as being the person through whom, and for whose sake, all the blessings of grace and peace are communicated to us; and being put upon a level with the Father in these petitions, shows him to be equal with him, and so truly and properly God. "Grace" may be thought to be particularly wished for from the Father, and though not exclusive of Christ, since He is the God of all grace, who has treasured up a fulness of it in his Son. And "peace" may be considered as desired to be had from Christ, though not exclusive of the Father; since the covenant of peace was made with him, the chastisement of peace was laid on him, and he has made peace by the blood of his cross, and is the giver of it to his people.

The foundation and the life of the Church is Christ Jesus, who has been given by the Father. It is His church and He is the Head; if you are a member of His church, then this benediction is for you: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. An apostle of the prince of peace must be a messenger and minister of peace. The gospel brings this blessing with it and every preacher of the gospel should heartily wish and pray that this blessing may be the lot in life of all among whom he ministers. Grace and peace; the favor of God, and reconciliation to him is, in reality, the summary of all blessings. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace, was the form of benediction under the Old Testament (Num. 6:26). But we have this advantage by virtue of having the gospel: That we are directed how to obtain that peace from God: it is in and by Christ. Sinners can have no peace with God, and they may not receive any good from Him, because those things must come through Christ. We are told what must qualify us for this peace; namely, grace: first grace, then peace. God first reconciles sinners to himself, before he bestows his peace upon them.

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[1]Jer 9:23-24 (KJV) Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

[2]1 Cor 9:1-2 (KJV) Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Am I not an apostle? Am I not free?—These questions are all designed as assertions of the affirmative: I am an apostle; and I am free—Paul possessed of all the rights and privileges of an apostle.

[3]2 Cor 10:10 (KJV) For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.

[4]Gal 1:1 (KJV) Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

[5]1 Cor 15:10 (KJV)  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. But by the grace of God I am what I am. Not by his own merit, which he considered so small, but by God's grace he had been enabled to do a more abundant work than any other apostle.

[6] Acts 9:15 (KJV) But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: he is a chosen vessel -- a word often used by Paul in illustrating God's sovereignty in election (Ro 9:21-23 2Co 4:7 2Ti 2:20, 21)

[7] John 15:16 (KJV) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

[8] Romans 9:16 (KJV) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

[9] Acts 18:17 (KJV) Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

[10] Acts 18:12-17 (KJV) And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drave them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

[11] 1 Cor 1:4 (KJV) I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

[12] 1 Cor 16:12 (KJV) As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.

[13] 1 Cor 16:19 (KJV) The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

[14]Acts 18:9-10 (KJV) Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

[15] Gal 3:27 (KJV) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

[16]1 Cor 12:13 (KJV) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

[17] Romans 6:3 (KJV) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

[18] John 17:3, 11, 26 (KJV) And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent… And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

[19]Acts 9:5 (KJV)  And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

[20]1 Cor 8:6 (KJV) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

[21]Eph 4:5 (KJV) One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

[22]1 Cor 1:13 (KJV) Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Comments and questions are apprecated

 

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