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We are to read the Bible in order to understand God’s message to us. He speaks to us in plain language but there are times we need a helping hand in what we read.Commentaries are not just for preachers or seminary students. They are for us all.The Ultimate Commentary Collection is designed to bring you a variety of thoughts and insights from theologians of high renown and reputation. Their study of the Bible is of great help to us.We are presenting to you the studies and thoughts of 6 of the Church’s greatest minds:Albert Barnes – John Calvin – Adam Clarke – Matthew Henry – Charles H. Spurgeon – John Wesley.Their commentaries will help you understand, enjoy and apply what God’s word says to you.In addition to these commentaries you will also find all of Spurgeon’s sermons on this particular book of the Bible.This volume is The Ultimate Commentary On 1 Corinthians.
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1 Corinthians Contents
Chapter Nine - Bible Study Guide
Chapter Ten - Other Publications
1 Corinthians Contents
1 CORINTHIANS CONTENTS
Chapter Two - Albert Barnes
Chapter Three - John Calvin
Chapter Four - Adam Clarke
Chapter Five - Matthew Henry
Chapter Six - Charles H. Spurgeon
Chapter Seven - Sermon's Of Spurgeon
Chapter Eight - John Wesley
1 Corinthians Contents
Chapter Nine - Bible Study Guide
Chapter Ten - Other Publications
1 Corinthians Contents
1 CORINTHIANS CONTENTS
1 Corinthians Introduction
1 Corinthians Chapter 1
1 Corinthians Chapter 2
1 Corinthians Chapter 3
1 Corinthians Chapter 4
1 Corinthians Chapter 5
1 Corinthians Chapter 6
1 Corinthians Chapter 7
1 Corinthians Chapter 8
1 Corinthians Chapter 9
1 Corinthians Chapter 10
1 Corinthians Chapter 11
1 Corinthians Chapter 12
1 Corinthians Chapter 13
1 Corinthians Chapter 14
1 Corinthians Chapter 15
1 Corinthians Chapter 16
1 Corinthians Contents
Chapter Nine - Bible Study Guide
Chapter Ten - Other Publications
1 Corinthians Introduction
1 CORINTHIANS INTRODUCTION
Introduction to 1Corinthians
Section 1. The Situation of Corinth, and the Character of its Inhabitants
Corinth was properly a small dynasty, or territory in Greece, bounded on the east by the gulf of Saron; on the south by the kingdom of Argos; on the west by Sicyon; and on the north by the kingdom of Megaris, and upper part of the isthmus and bay of Corinth, the latter of which is now called the Golfo de Lepanto, or the gulf of Lepanto. This tract, or region, not large in size, possessed a few rich plains, but was in general uneven, and the soil of an indifferent quality. The city of Corinth was the capital of this region. It stood near the middle of the isthmus, which in the narrowest part was about six miles wide, though somewhat wider where Corinth stood. Here was the natural carrying place, or portage from the Ionian sea on the west, to the Aegean on the east. Many efforts were made by the Greeks, and afterwards by the Romans, to effect a communication between the Aegean and Adriatic seas by cutting across this isthmus; and traces still remain of these attempts. Means were even contrived for transporting vessels across. This isthmus was also particularly important as it was the key of the Peloponnesus, and attempts were often made to fortify it. The city had two harbors, - Lechaeum on the gulf of Corinth, or sea of Crissa on the west, to which it was joined by a double wall, twelve stadia, or about a mile and a half in length; and Cenchrea, or the sea of Saron on the east, distant about 70 stadia, or nearly 9 miles. It was a situation therefore peculiarly favorable for commerce, and highly important in the defense of Greece.
The city is said to have been founded by Sisyphus, long before the siege of Troy, apd was then called Ephyra. The time when it was founded is, however, unknown. The name Corinth, was supposed to have been given to it from Corinthus, who, by different authors, is said to have been the son of Jupiter, of of Marathon, or of Pelops, who is said to have rebuilt and adorned the city.
The city of Corinth was built at the foot of a high hill, on the top of which stood a citadel. This hill, which stood on the south of the city, was its defense in that quarter, as its sides were extremely steep. On the three other sides it was protected by strong and lofty ramparts. The circumference of the city proper was about 40 stadia, or 5 miles. Its situation gave it great commercial advantages. As the whole of that region was mountainous and rather barren, and as the situation gave the city extraordinary commercial advantages, the inhabitants early turned their attention to commerce, and amassed great wealth. This fact was, to no inconsiderable extent, the foundation of the luxury, effeminacy, and vices for which the city afterwards became so much distinguished.
The merchandise of Italy, Sicily, and the western nations, was landed at Lechaeum on the west; and that of the islands of the Aegean sea, of Asia Minor, and of the Phoenicians, and other oriental nations, at Cenchrea on the east. The city of Corinth thus became the mart of Asia and Europe; covered the sea with its ships, and formed a navy to protect its commerce. It was distinguished by building galleys and ships of a new and improved form; and its naval force procured it respect from other nations. Its population and its wealth was thus increased by the influx of foreigners. It became a city rather distinguished by its wealth, and naval force, and commerce, than by its military achievements, though it produced a few of the most valiant and distinguished leaders in the armies of Greece.
Its population was increased and its character somewhat formed from another circumstance. In the neighborhood of the city the Isthmian games were celebrated, which attracted so much attention, and which drew so many strangers from distant parts of the world. To those games, the apostle Paul not infrequently refers, when recommending Christian energy and activity. See the note, 1 Corinthians 9:24, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27; compare Hebrews 12:1.
From these causes, the city of Corinth became eminent among all ancient cities for wealth, and luxury, and dissipation. It was the mart of the world. Wealth flowed into it from all quarters. Luxury, amusement, and dissipation, were the natural consequents, until it became the most gay and dissolute city of its times, - the Paris of antiquity.
There was another cause which contributed to its character of dissoluteness and corruption. I refer to its religion. The principal deity worshipped in the city was Venus; as Diana was the principal deity worshipped at Ephesus; Minerva at Athens, etc. Ancient cities were devoted usually to some particular god or goddess, and were supposed to be under their peculiar protection. See the note at Acts 14:13. Corinth was devoted, or dedicated thus to the goddess of love, or licentious passion; and the effect may be easily conceived. The temple of Venus was erected on the north side or slope of the Acrocorinthus, a mountain about half a mile in height on the south of the city, and from the summit of which a magnificent prospect opened on the north to Parnassus and Helicon, to the eastward the island of Aegina and the citadel of Athens, and to the west the rich and beautiful plains of Sicyon. This mountain was covered with temples and splendid houses; but was especially devoted to Venus, and was the plaque of her worship.
Her shrine appeared above those of the other gods; and it was enjoined by law, that 1,000 beautiful females should officiate as courtesans, or public prostitutes, before the altar of the goddess of love. In a time of public calamity and imminent danger, these women attended at the sacrifices, and walked with the other citizens singing sacred hymns. When Xerxes invaded Greece, recourse was had to their intercession to avert the impending calamity. They were supported chiefly by foreigners; and from the avails of their vice a copious revenue was derived to the city. Individuals, in order to ensure success in their undertakings, vowed to present to Venus a certain number of courtesans, which they obtained by sending to distant countries. Foreign merchants were attracted in this way to Corinth; and, in a few days, would be stripped of all their property. It thus became a proverb, “It is not for everyone to go to Corinth,” - ( οὐ παντὸςἀνδρὸςεἰςΚόρινθονἐστίν ; πλους ou pantas andros eis Korinthon estin plous).
The effect of this on the morals of the city can be easily understood. It became the most frivolous, dissipated, corrupt, and ultimately the most effeminate and feeble portion of Greece. It is necessary to make these statements, because they go to show the exceeding grace of God in collecting a church in such a city, the power of the gospel in overcoming the strongest and most polluted passions of our nature; and because no small part of the irregularities which arose in the church at Corinth, and which gave the apostle occasion to write this Epistle, were produced by this prevailing licentiousness of the people; and by the fact, that gross and licentious passions had received the countenance of law and the patronage of public opinion. See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Acts 18:1. He was then on his way from Macedonia to Jerusalem. He had passed some time at Athens, where he had preached the gospel, but not with such success as to warrant him to remain, or to organize a church; see the notes at Acts 17:15; compare Acts 18:5. He came to Corinth alone, but found Aquila and Priscilla there, who had lately come from Rome, and with them he waited the arrival of Silas and Timothy. When they arrived, Paul entered on the great work of preaching the gospel in that splendid and dissipated city, first to the Jews, and when it was rejected by them, then to the Greeks; Acts 18:5-6. His feelings when he engaged in this work, he has himself stated in 1 Corinthians 16:2-5. (See the note at that place.) His embarrassments and discouragements were met by a gracious promise of the Lord that he would be with him, and would not leave him; and that it was his purpose to collect a church there; see the note on Acts 18:9-10. In the city, Paul remained for 18 months Acts 18:11, preaching without no hesitation, until he was opposed by the Jews trader Sosthenes their leader, and brought before Gallio. When Gallio refused to hear the cause, and Paul was discharged, it is said, that he remained there yet “a good while” Acts 18:18, and then sailed into Syria.
Of the size of the church that was first organized there, and of the general character of the converts, we have no other knowledge than that which is contained in the Epistle. There is reason to think that Sosthenes, who was the principal agent of the Jews in arraigning Paul before Gallio, was converted (see 1 Corinthians 1:1), and perhaps some other persons of distinction; but it is evident that the church was chiefly composed of those who were in the more humble walks of life; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. It was a signal illustration of the grace of God, and the power of the gospel, that a church was organized in that city of gayety, fashion, luxury, and licentiousness; and it shows that the gospel is adapted to meet and overcome all forms of wickedness, and to subdue all classes of people to itself. If a church was established in the frivolous and dissolute capital of Achaia then there is not now a city on earth so gay and so profligate that the same gospel may not meet its corruptions, and subdue it to the cross of Christ. Paul subsequently visited Corinth about 58 a.d., or six years after the establishment of the church there. He passed the winter in Greece - doubtless in Corinth and its neighborhood, on his journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem, the fifth time in which he visited the latter city. During this stay at Corinth he wrote the Epistle to the Romans. See the introduction to the Epistle to the Romans.
Section 3. The Time and Place of Writing the First Epistle to the Corinthians
It has been uniformly supposed that this Epistle was written at Ephesus. The circumstances which are mentioned incidently in the Epistle itself, place this beyond a doubt. The Epistle purports to have been written, not like that to the Romans, without having been at the place to which it was written, but after Paul had been at Corinth. “I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech,” etc. 1 Corinthians 2:1. It also purports to have been written when he was about to make another visit to that church; 1 Corinthians 4:19, “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will.” 1 Corinthians 16:5,” now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia, for I do pass through Macedonia.” Now the history in the Acts of the Apostles informs us, that Paul did in fact visit Achaia and doubtless Corinth twice; see Acts 18:1, etc.; Acts 20:1-3. The same history also informs us that it was from Ephesus that Paul went into Greece; and as the Epistle purports to have been written a short time before that journey, it follows, to be consistent with the history, that the Epistle must have been written while he was at Ephesus. The narrative in the Acts also informs us, that Paul had passed two years in Ephesus before he set out on his second journey into Greece.
With this supposition, all the circumstances relating to the place where the apostle then was which are mentioned in this Epistle agree. “If after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?” 1 Corinthians 15:32. It is true, as Dr. Paley remarks (Horae Paulinae) that the apostle might say this wherever he was; but it was much more natural, and much more to the purpose to say it, if he was at Ephesus at the time, and in the midst of those conflicts to which the expression relates. “The churches of Asia salute you,” 1 Corinthians 16:19. It is evident from this, that Paul was near those churches, and that he had contact with them. But Asia, throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles of Paul, does not mean commonly the whole of Asia, nor the whole of Asia Minor, but a district in the interior of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital; see the note at Acts 2:9; note at Acts 6:9; note at Acts 16:6; note at Acts 20:16.
“Aquila and Priscilla salute you,” 1 Corinthians 16:19. Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus during the time in which I shall endeavor to show this Epistle was written, Acts 18:26. It is evident, if this were so, that the Epistle was written at Ephesus. “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost,” 1 Corinthians 16:8. This is almost an express declaration that he was at Ephesus when the Epistle was written. “A great and effectual door is opened to me, and there are many adversaries,” 1 Corinthians 16:9. How well this agrees with the history, may be seen by comparing it with the account in Acts, when Paul was at Ephesus. Acts 19:20. “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” That there were “many adversaries,” may be seen from the account of the same period in Acts 19:9, “But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them and separated the disciples,” Compare 1 Corinthians 16:8, that Paul purposed to tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. But this must have been written and sent away before the riot which was raised by Demetrius Acts 20:1-2. The reason why Paul purposed to remain in Ephesus until Pentecost, was, the success which he had met with in preaching the gospel, 1 Corinthians 16:9. But after the riot excited by Demetrius, this hope was in a measure defeated, and he soon left the city. These circumstances serve to fix the time when this Epistle was written to the interval which elapsed between what is recorded in Acts 19:22-23. This occurred about 56 or 57 a.d. Pearson and Mill place the date in the year 57 a.d.; Lardner, in the spring of the year 56 ad.
It has never been doubted that Paul was the author of this Epistle. It bears his name; has internal evidence of having been written by him, and is ascribed to him by the unanimous voice of antiquity. It has been made a question, however, whether this was the first letter which Paul wrote to them: or whether he had previously written an epistle to them which is now lost. This inquiry has been caused by what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9, “I wrote unto you in an epistle,” etc. Whether he there refers to another epistle, which he wrote to them before this, and which they had disregarded; or whether to the previous chapters of this Epistle; or whether to a letter to some other church which they had been expected to read, has been made a question. This question will be considered in the note on that verse.
Section 4. The Occasion on which this Epistle Was Written
It is evident that this Epistle was written in reply to one which had been addressed by the church at Corinth to Paul; 1 Corinthians 7:1, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me,” etc. That letter had been sent to Paul while at Ephesus, by the hands of Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who had come to consult with him respecting the state of the church at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 16:17-18. In addition to this, Paul had heard various reports of certain disorders which had been introduced into the church at Corinth, and which required his attention and correction. Those disorders, it seems, as was natural, had not been mentioned in the letter which they sent to him, but he had heard of them incidentally by some members of the family of Chloe, 1 Corinthians 1:11. They pertained to the following subjects:
(1) The divisions which had arisen in the church by the popularity of a teacher who had excited great disturbance, 1 Corinthians 1:12-13. Probably this teacher was a Jew by birth, and not improbably of the sect of the Sadducees 2 Corinthians 11:22, and his teaching might have been the occasion why in the Epistle Paul entered so largely into the proof of the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. This case was a flagrant violation of the gospel; and yet it is not improbable that it had been palliated, or vindicated by the false teachers; and it is certain that it excited no shame in the church itself. Such cases were not regarded by the dissolute Corinthians as criminal. In a city dedicated to Venus the crimes of licentiousness had been openly indulged, and this was one of the sins to which they were particularly exposed. It became necessary, therefore, for Paul to exert his apostolic authority, and to remove the offender in this case from the communion of the church, and to make him an example of the severity of Christian discipline.
(5) the Corinthians had evinced a litigious spirit, a fondness for going to law, and for bringing their causes before heathen tribunals, to the great scandal of religion, instead of endeavoring to settle their difficulties among themselves. Of this the apostle had been informed, and this called also for his authoritative interposition, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
(6) Erroneous views and practices had arisen, perhaps, under the influence of the false teachers, on the subject of temperance, chastity, etc. To the vices of intemperance, licentiousness, and gluttony, the Corinthian Christians from their former habits, and from the customs of their countrymen, were particularly exposed. Those vices had been judged harmless, and had been freely indulged in, and it is not improbable that the views of the apostle had been ridiculed as unnecessarily stern, and severe, and rigid. It became necessary, therefore, to correct their views, and to state the true nature of the Christian requirements, 1 Corinthians 6:8-20.
(7) the apostle having thus discussed those things of which he had incidentally heard, proceeds to notice particularly the things respecting which they had consulted him by letter. Those were.
(a) Marriage, and the duties in regard to it in their circumstances, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. In order to enforce his views of what he had said on the duty of abstaining from the use of certain food, if it was the occasion of giving offence, he shows them 1 Corinthians 10:1-12.
These principles he illustrates by a reference to their joining in feasts, and celebrations with idols, and the dangers to which they would subject themselves by so doing; and concludes that it would be proper in those circumstances wholly to abstain from partaking of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols if it were known to be such. This was to be done on the principle that no offence was to be given. And thus the second question referred to him was disposed of, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 shows the inferiority of the highest of these endowments to a kind, catholic spirit - to the prevalence of charity, and thus endeavors to allay all contentions and strifes for ascendancy, by the prevalence of the spirit of love. In connection with this Acts 17:32, and in the Corinthian church it had been either called in question, or greatly perverted, 1 Corinthians 15:12. That the same body would be raised up had been denied, and the doctrine that came to be believed was, probably, simply that there would be a future state, and that the only resurrection was the resurrection of the soul from sin, and that this was past; compare 2 Timothy 2:18. This subject the apostle had not before taken up, probably because he had not been consulted on it, and because it would find a more appropriate place after be had reproved their disorders, and answered their questions. After all those discussions, after examining all the opinions and practices that prevailed among them, it was proper to pierce the great argument for the truth of the religion which they all professed on a permanent foundation, and to close the Epistle by reminding them, and proving to them that the religion which they professed, and which they had so much abused, was from heaven. The proof of this was the resurrection of the Saviour from the dead. It was indispensable to hold that in its obvious sense, and holding that, the truth of their own resurrection was demonstrated, and the error of those who denied it was apparent.
(9) having finished this demonstration, the apostle closes the Epistle 1 Corinthians 4:17. In the mean time the church at Corinth wrote to him to ascertain his views on certain matters submitted to him 1 Corinthians 7:1, and the reception of this letter gave him occasion to enter at length into the subject of their disorders and difficulties. Yet he wrote the letter under the deepest solicitude about the manner of its reception, and its effect on the church, 2 Corinthians 2:4, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears,” etc. Paul had another object in view which was dear to his heart, and which he was laboring with all diligence to promote, which was the collection which he proposed to take up for the poor and afflicted saints at Jerusalem; see the notes, Romans 15:25-26.
This object he wished to press at this time on the church at Corinth; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. In order, therefore, to ensure the success of his letter, and to facilitate the collection, he sent Titus with the letter to the church at Corinth, with instructions to have the collection ready, 2 Corinthians 7:7-8, 2 Corinthians 7:13, 2 Corinthians 7:15. This collection, Titus was requested to finish; 2 Corinthians 8:6. With Titus, Paul sent another brother, perhaps a member of the church at Ephesus 2 Corinthians 12:8, a man whose praise, Paul says, was in all the churches, and who had been already designated by the churches to bear the contribution to Jerusalem, 2 Corinthians 8:18-19. By turning to Acts 21:29, we find it incidentally mentioned that “Trophimus an Ephesian” was with Paul in Jerusalem, and undoubtedly this was the person here designated. This is one of the undesigned coincidences between Paul‘s Epistle and the Acts of the Apostles, of which Dr. Paley has made so much use in his Horae Paulinae in proving the genuineness of these writings. Paul did not deem it necessary or prudent for him to go himself to Corinth, but chose to remain in Ephesus. The letter to Paul 1 Corinthians 7:1 had been brought to him by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus 1 Corinthians 16:17, and it is probable that they accompanied Titus and the other brother with him who bare Paul‘s reply to their inquiries.
The success of this letter was all that Paul could desire. It had the effect to repress their growing strifes, to restrain their disorders, to produce true repentance, and to remove the person who had been guilty of incest in the church. The whole church was deeply affected with his reproofs, and engaged in hearty zeal in the work of reform, 2 Corinthians 7:9-11. The authority of the apostle was recognized, and his Epistle read with fear and trembling, 2 Corinthians 7:15. The act of discipline which he had required on the incestuous person was inflicted by the whole church, 2 Corinthians 2:6. The collection which he had desired 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, and in regard to which he had boasted of their liberality to others, and expressed the utmost confidence that it would be liberal 2 Corinthians 9:2-3, was taken up agreeably to his wishes, and their disposition on the subject was such as to furnish the highest satisfaction to his mind, 2 Corinthians 7:13-14. Of the success of his letter, however, and of their disposition to take up the collection, Paul was not apprised until he had gone into Macedonia, where Titus came to him, and gave him information of the happy state of things in the church at Corinth, 2 Corinthians 7:4-7, 2 Corinthians 7:13. Never was a letter more effectual than this was, and never was authority in discipline exercised in a more happy and successful way.
General Character and Structure of the Epistle.
The general style and character of this Epistle is the same as in the other writings of Paul. See the introduction to the Epistle to the Romans. It evinces the same strong and manly style of argument and language, the same structure of sentences, the same rapidity of conception, the same overpowering force of language and thought, and the same characteristics of temper and spirit in the author. The main difference between the style and manner of this Epistle, and the other epistles of Paul, arises from the scope and design of the argument. In the Epistle to the Romans, his object led him to pursue a close and connected train of argumentation. In this, a large portion of the Epistle is occupied with reproof, and it gives occasion for calling into view at once the authority of an apostle, and the spirit and manner in which reproof is to be administered. The reader of this Epistle cannot but be struck with the fact, that it was no part of Paul‘s character to show indulgence to sin; that he had no design to flatter; that he neither “cloaked nor concealed transgression;” that in the most open, firm, and manly manner possible, it was his purpose to rebuke them for their disorders, and to repress their growing irregularities. At the same time, however, there is full opportunity for the display of tenderness, kindness, love, charity and for Christian instruction - an opportunity for pouring forth the deepest feelings of the human heart - an opportunity which Paul never allowed to escape unimproved. Amidst all the severity of reproof, there is the love of friendship: amidst the rebukes of an apostle, the entreaties and tears of a father. And we here contemplate Paul, not merely as the profound reasoner, not simply as a man of high intellectual endowments, but as evincing the feelings of the man, and the sympathies of the Christian.
Perhaps there is less difficulty in understanding this Epistle than the Epistle to the Romans. A few passages indeed have perplexed all commentators, and are to this day not understood. See 1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Corinthians 15:29. But the general meaning of the Epistle has been much less the subject of difference of interpretation. The reasons have probably been the following.
(1) the subjects here are more numerous, and the discussions more brief. There is, therefore, less difficulty in following the author than where the discussion is protracted, and the manner of his reasoning more complicated.
(2) the subjects themselves are far less abstruse and profound than those introduced into the Epistle to the Romans. There is, therefore, less liability to misconception.
(3) the Epistle has never been made the subject of theological warfare. No system of theology has been built on it, and no attempt made to press it into the service of abstract dogmas. It is mostly of a practical character, and there has been, therefore, less room for contention in regard to its meaning.
(4) no false and unfounded theories of philosophy have been attached to this Epistle, as have been to the Epistle to the Romans. Its simple sense, therefore, has been more obvious, and no small part of the difficulties in the interpretation of that Epistle are wanting in this.
(5) the apostle‘s design has somewhat varied his style. There are fewer complicated sentences, and fewer parentheses, less that is abrupt and broken, and elliptical, less that is rapid, mighty, and overpowering in argument. We see the point of a reproof at once, but we are often greatly embarrassed in a complicated argument. Psalm 25:9.
ALBERT BARNES COMMENTARY CONTENTS
1 Corinthians Chapter 1
Paul, called to be an apostle - See the notes at Romans 1:1.
Through the will of God - Not by human appointment, or authority, but in accordance with the will of God, and His command. That will was made known to him by the special revelation granted to him at his conversion, and call to the apostleship; Galatians 1:11-12; 1 Corinthians 9:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:22-33; 2 Corinthians 12:1-12. There was a special reason why he commenced this Epistle by referring to the fact that he was divinely called to the apostleship. It arose from the fact that his apostolic authority had been called in question by the false teachers at Corinth. That this was the case is apparent from the general strain of the Epistle, from some particular expressions 2 Corinthians 10:8-10; and from the fact that he is at so much pains throughout the two epistles to establish his divine commission.
And Sosthenes - Sosthenes is mentioned in Acts 18:17, as “the chief ruler of the synagogue” at Corinth. He is there said to have been beaten by the Greeks before the judgment-seat of Gallio because he was a Jew, and because he had joined with the other Jews in arraigning Paul, and had thus produced disturbance in the city; see the note on this place. It is evident that at that time he was not a Christian. When he was converted, or why he left Corinth and was now with Paul at Ephesus, is unknown. Why Paul associated him with himself in writing this Epistle is not known. It is evident that Sosthenes was not an apostle, nor is there any reason to think that he was inspired. Some circumstances are known to have existed respecting Paul‘s manner of writing to the churches, which may explain it:
(1) He was accustomed to employ an amanuensis (scribe) in writing his epistles, and the copyist frequently expressed his concurrence or approbation in what the apostle had indicted; see the note at Romans 16:22; compare Colossians 4:18. “The salutation by the hand of Paul,” 2 Thessalonians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 16:21. It is possible that Sosthenes might have been employed by Paul for this purpose.
(2) Paul not unfrequently associated others with himself in writing his letters to the churches, himself claiming authority as an apostle; and the others expressing their concurrence; 2 Corinthians 1:1. Thus, in Galatians 1:1, “all the brethren” which were with him, are mentioned as united with him in addressing the churches of Galatia; Philemon 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1.
(3) Sosthenes was well known at Corinth. He had been the chief ruler of the synagogue there. His conversion would, therefore, excite a deep interest, and it is not improbable that he had been conspicuous as a preacher. All these circumstances would render it proper that Paul should associate him with himself in writing this letter. It would be bringing in the testimony of one well known as concurring with the views of the apostle, and tend much to conciliate those who were disaffected toward him.
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth - For an account of the time and manner in which the church was established in Corinth, see the introduction, and the notes at Romans 1:7.
In Christ Jesus - That is, “by” ἐν enthe agency of Christ. It was by his authority, his power, and his Spirit, that they had been separated from the mass of pagans around them, and devoted to God; compare John 17:19.
Called to be saints - The word “saints” does not differ materially from the word “sanctified” in the former part of the verse. It means those who are separateD from the world, and set apart to God as holy. The idea which Paul introduces here is, that they became such because they were called to be such. The idea in the former part of the verse is, that this was done “by Christ Jesus;” here he says that it was because they were called to this privilege. He doubtless means to say that it was not by any native tendency in themselves to holiness, but because God had called them to it. And this calling does not refer merely to an external invitation, but it was that which was made effectual in their case, or that on which the fact of their being saints could be predicated; compare 1 Corinthians 1:9; see 2 Timothy 1:9; “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,” etc.; 1 Peter 1:15; the Romans 1:6-7; Romans 8:28 notes; Ephesians 4:1 note; 1 Timothy 6:12 note; 1 Peter 2:9 note.
With all … - This expression shows:
(1) That Paul had the same feelings of attachment to all Christians in every place; and,
(2) That he expected that this Epistle would be read, not only by the church at Corinth, but also by other churches. That this was the uniform intention of the apostle in regard to his epistles, is apparent from other places; compare 1 Thessalonians 5:27; “I charge you by the Lord that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren;” Colossians 4:16; “And when this Epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.” It is evident that Paul expected that his epistles would obtain circulation among the churches; and it was morally certain that they would be soon transcribed, and be extensively read - the ardent feelings of Paul embraced all Christians in every nation. He knew nothing of the narrowness of exclusive attachment to a sect. His heart was full of love, and he loved, as we should, all who bore the Christian name, and who evinced the Christian spirit.
Call upon the name of Jesus Christ - To call upon the name of any person, in Scripture language, is to call on the person himself; compare John 3:18; the note at Acts 4:12. The expression “to call upon the name” ἐπικαλουμένοις epikaloumenoisto invoke the name, implies worship, and prayer; and proves:
(1) That the Lord Jesus is an object of worship; and,
(2) That one characteristic of the early Christians, by which they were known and distinguished, was their calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus, or their offering worship to him. That it implies worship, see the note at Acts 7:59; and that the early Christians called on Christ by prayer, and were distinguished by that, see the note at Acts 7:59, and compare the note at Acts 1:24, also Acts 2:21; Acts 9:13; Acts 22:16; 2 Timothy 2:22.
Both theirs and ours - The Lord of all - both Jews and Gentiles - of all who profess themselves Christians, of whatever country or name they might have originally been. Difference of nation or birth gives no pre-eminence in the kingdom of Christ but all are on a level, having a common Lord and Saviour; compare Ephesians 4:5.
Grace be unto you … - See the note at Romans 1:7.
I thank my God … - No small part of this Epistle is occupied with reproofs for the disorders which had arisen in the church at Corinth. Before proceeding, however, to the specific statement of those disorders (1 Corinthians 1:10 ff), the apostle commends them for the attainments which they had really made in divine knowledge, and thus shows that he was disposed to concede to them all that he could. It was no part of the disposition of Paul to withhold commendation where it was due. On the contrary, as he was disposed to be faithful in reproving the errors of Christians, he was no less disposed to commend them when it could be done; compare the note at Romans 1:8. A willingness to commend those who do well is as much in accordance with the gospel, as a disposition to reprove where it is deserved; and a minister, or a parent, may frequently do as decided good by judicious commendation as by reproof, and much more than by fault-finding and harsh crimination.
On your behalf - In respect to you; that God has conferred these favors on you.
For the grace of God - On account of the favors which God has bestowed on you through the Lord Jesus. Those favors are specified in the following verses. For the meaning of the word “grace,” see the note at Romans 1:7.
That in every thing - In every respect, or in regard to all the favors conferred on any of his people. You have been distinguished by him in all those respects in which he blesses his own children.
Ye are enriched by him; - compare the note at Romans 2:4. The meaning of this expression is, “you abound in these things; they are conferred abundantly upon you.” By the use of this word, the apostle intends doubtless to denote “the fact” that these blessings had been conferred on them abundantly; and also that this was a “valuable endowment,” so as to be properly called “a treasure.” The mercies of God are not only conferred abundantly on his people, but they are a bestowment of inestimable value; compare 2 Corinthians 6:10.
In all utterance - With the power of speaking various languages ἐν παντὶλόγῳ en panti logōThat this power was conferred on the church at Corinth, and that it was highly valued by them, is evident from 2 Corinthians 8:7. The power of speaking those languages the apostle regarded as a subject of thanksgiving, as it was a proof of the divine favor to them; see 1 Corinthians 14:5, 1 Corinthians 14:22, 1 Corinthians 14:39.
And in all knowledge - In the knowledge of divine truth. They had understood the doctrines which they had heard, and had intelligently embraced them. This was not true of all of them, but it was of the body of the church; and the hearty commendation and thanksgiving of the apostle for these favors, laid the foundation for the remarks which he had subsequently to make, and would tend to conciliate their minds, and dispose them to listen attentively, even to the language of reproof.
Even as - Καθώς KathōsThe force of this expression seems to be this, “The gospel of Christ was at first established among you by means of the miraculous endowments of the Holy Spirit. Those same endowments are still continued among you, and now furnish evidence of the divine favor, and of the truth of the gospel to you, ‹even as‘ - that is, in the same measure as they did when the gospel was first preached.” The power to speak with tongues, etc. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:8.
Was confirmed - Was established, or proved. It was proved to be divine, by the miraculous attestations of the Holy Spirit. It was confirmed, or made certain to their souls by the agency of the Holy Spirit, sealing it on their hearts. The word translated “confirmed” ἐβεβαιώθη ebebaiōthēis used in the sense of establishing, confirming, or demonstrating by miracles, etc.; in Mark 16:20; compare Hebrews 13:9; Philemon 1:7.
In you - ἐνὑμῖν en huminAmong you as a people, or in your hearts. Perhaps the apostle intends to include both. The gospel had been established among them by the demonstrations of the agency of the Spirit in the gift of tongues, and had at the same time taken deep root in their hearts, and was exerting a practical influence on their lives.
So that - God has so abundantly endowed you with his favors.
Ye come behind - ὑστερεῖσθαι hustereisthaiYou are not missing, or deficient. The word is usually applied to destitution, want, or poverty; and the declaration here is synonymous with what he had said, 1 Corinthians 1:5, that they abounded in everything.
In no gift - In no favor, or gracious endowment. The word used here χάρισμα charismadoes not refer necessarily to extraordinary and miraculous endowments, but includes also all the kindnesses of God toward them in producing peace of mind, constancy, humility, etc. And the apostle meant evidently to say that they possessed, in rich abundance, all those endowments which were bestowed on Christians.
Waiting for - Expecting, or looking for this coming with glad and anxious desire. This was, certainly, one of the endowments to which he referred, to wit, that they had grace given them earnestly to desire, and to wait for the second appearing of the Lord Jesus. An earnest wish to see him, and a confident expectation and firm belief that he will return, is an evidence of a high state of piety. It demands strong faith, and it will do much to elevate the feelings above the world, and to keep the mind in a state of peace.
The coming … - Greek The revelation - τὴνἀποκάλυψιν tēn apokalupsin- the manifestation of the Son of God. That is, waiting for his return to judge the world, and for his approbation of his people on that Day. The earnest expectation of the Lord Jesus became one of the marks of early Christian piety. This return was promised by the Saviour to his anxious disciples, when he was about to leave them; John 14:3. The promise was renewed when he ascended to heaven; Acts 1:11. It became the settled hope and expectation of Christians that he would return; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:12; Hebrews 9:28. And with the earnest prayer that be would quickly come, John closes the volume of inspiration; Revelation 22:20-21.
Who shall also confirm you - Who shall establish you in the hopes of the gospel. He shall make you “firm” ( βεβαιώσει bebaiōsei) amidst all your trials, and all the efforts which may be made to shake your faith, and to remove you from that firm foundation on which you now rest.
Unto the end - That is, to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He would keep them to the end of life in the path of holiness, so that at the coming of the Lord Jesus they might be found blameless; compare John 13:1. The sense is, that they should be kept, and should not be suffered to fall away and perish - and this is one of the many places which express the strong confidence of Paul that those who are true Christians shall be preserved unto everlasting life; compare Philemon 1:6.
That ye may be blameless - The word rendered “blameless” ἀνεγκλήτου anegklētoudoes not mean perfect, but properly denotes those against whom there is no charge of crime; who are unaccused, and against whom there is no ground of accusation. Here it does not mean that they were personally perfect, but that God would so keep them, and enable them to evince a Christian character, as to give evidence that they were his friends, and completely escape condemnation in the last Day; see the notes at Romans 8:33-34. There is no man who has not his faults; no Christian who is not conscious of imperfection; but it is the design of God so to keep his people, and so to justify and sanctify them through the Lord Jesus, that the church may be presented “a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle” Ephesians 5:27 on the Day of Judgment.
In the day … - On the Day when the Lord Jesus shall come to judge the world; and which will be called his Day, because it will be the Day in which he will be the great and conspicuous object, and which is especially appointed to glorify him; see 2 Thessalonians 1:10, “Who shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.”
God is faithful - That is, God is true, and constant, and will adhere to his promises. He will not deceive. He will not promise, and then fail to perform; he will not commence anything which he will not perfect and finish. The object of Paul in introducing the idea of the faithfulness of God here, is to show the reason for believing that the Christians at Corinth would be kept unto everlasting life. The evidence that they will persevere depends on the fidelity of God; and the argument of the apostle is, that as they had been called by Him into the fellowship of his Son, his faithfulness of character would render it certain that they would be kept to eternal life. The same idea he has presented in Philemon 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will also perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Ye were called - The word “called” here does not refer merely to “an invitation” or an “offer of life,” but to the effectual influence which had been put forth; which had inclined them to embrace the gospel note at Romans 8:30; note at Romans 9:12; see Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32; Galatians 1:6; Galatians 5:8, Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 3:15. In this sense the word often occurs in the Scriptures, and is designed to denote a power, or influence that goes forth “with” the external invitation, and that makes it effectual. That power is the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Unto the fellowship of his Son - To participate with his Son Jesus Christ; to be partakers with him; see the notes at John 15:1-8. Christians participate with Christ:
(1) in his feelings and views; Romans 8:9.
(2) in his trials and sufferings, being subjected to temptations and trials similar to his; 1 Peter 4:13, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ‘s sufferings;” Colossians 1:24; Philemon 3:10.
(3) in his heirship to the inheritance and glory which awaits him; Romans 8:17, “And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ;” 1 Peter 1:4.
(4) in his triumph in the resurrection and future glory; Matthew 19:28, “Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel;” John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall live also;” Revelation 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
(Immediately on our union to Christ, we have fellowship with him, in all the blessings of his purchase. This communion or fellowship with him is the necessary result of our union to him. On the saint‘s union to Christ, see the supplementary note at Romans 8:10.)
From all this, the argument of the apostle is, that as they partake with Christ in these high privileges, and hopes, and promises, they will be kept by a faithful God unto eternal life. God is faithful to his Son; and will be faithful to all who are united to him. The argument for the perseverance of the saints is, therefore, sure.
Now I beseech you, brethren - In this verse the apostle enters on the discussion respecting the irregularities and disorders in the church at Corinth, of which he had incidentally heard; see 1 Corinthians 1:11. The first of which he had incidentally learned, was that which pertained to the divisions and strifes which had arisen in the church. The consideration of this subject occupies him to 1 Corinthians 1:17; and as those divisions had been caused by the influence of phi osophy, and the ambition for distinction, and the exhibition of popular eloquence among the Corinthian teachers, this fact gives occasion to him to discuss that subject at length 1 Corinthians 1:17-31; in which he shows that the gospel did not depend for its success on the reasonings of philosophy, or the persuasions of eloquence. This part of the subject he commences with the language of entreaty. “I beseech you, brethren” - the language of affectionate exhortation rather than of stern command. Addressing them as his brethren, as members of the same family with himself, he conjures them to take all proper measures to avoid the evils of schism and of strife.
By the name - By the authority of his name; or from reverence for him as the common Lord of all.
Of our Lord Jesus Christ - The reasons why Paul thus appeals to his name and authority here, may be the following:
(1) Christ should be regarded as the Supreme Head and Leader of all his church. It was improper, therefore, that the church should be divided into portions, and its different parts enlisted under different banners.
(2) “the whole family in heaven and earth should be named” after him Ephesians 3:15, and should not be named after inferior and subordinate teachers. The reference to “the venerable and endearing name of Christ here, stands beautifully and properly opposed to the various human names under which they were so ready to enlist themselves” - Doddridge. “There is scarcely a word or expression that he (Paul) makes use of, but with relation and tendency to his present main purpose; as here, intending to abolish the names of leaders they had distinguished themselves by, he beseeches them by the name of Christ, a form that I do not remember he elsewhere uses” - Locke.
(3) the prime and leading thing which Christ had enjoined upon his church was union and mutual love John 13:34; John 15:17, and for this he had most earnestly prayed in his memorable prayer; John 17:21-23. It was well for Paul thus to appeal to the name of Christ - the sole Head and Lord of his church, and the friend of union, and thus to rebuke the divisions and strifes which had arisen at Corinth.
That ye all speak the same thing - “That ye hold the same doctrine” - Locke. This exhortation evidently refers to their holding and expressing the same religious sentiments, and is designed to rebuke that kind of contention and strife which is evinced where different opinions are held and expressed. To “speak the same thing” stands opposed to speaking different and conflicting things; or to controversy, and although perfect uniformity of opinion cannot be expected among people on the subject of religion any more than on other subjects, yet on the great and fundamental doctrines of Christianity, Christians may be agreed; on all points in which they differ they may evince a good spirit; and on all subjects they may express their sentiments in the language of the Bible, and thus “speak the same thing.”
And that there be no divisions among you - Greek, σχίσματα schismata“schisms.” No divisions into contending parties and sects. The church was to be regarded as one and indivisible, and not to be rent into different factions, and ranged under the banners of different leaders; compare John 9:16; 1 Corinthians 11:18; 1 Corinthians 12:25.
But that ye be perfectly joined together - ἦτεδὲκατηρτισμένοι ēte de katērtismenoiThe word used here and rendered “perfectly joined together,” denotes properly to restore, mend, or repair that; which is rent or disordered Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19, to amend or correct that which is morally evil and erroneous Galatians 6:1, to render perfect or complete Luke 6:40, to fit or adapt anything to its proper place so that it shall be complete in all its parts, and harmonious, Hebrews 11:5; and thence to compose and settle controversies, to produce harmony and order. The apostle here evidently desires that they should be united in feeling; that every member of the church should occupy his appropriate place, as every member of a well proportioned body, or part of a machine has its appropriate place and use; see his wishes more fully expressed in Romans 15:5. This cannot mean that they were to be united in precisely the same shades of opinion, which is impossible - but that their minds were to be disposed toward each other with mutual good will, and that they should live in harmony. The word here rendered “mind,” denotes not merely the intellect itself, but that which is in the mind - the thoughts, counsels, plans; Romans 11:34; Romans 14:5; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Colossians 2:18. Bretschneider.
And in the same judgment - γνώμη gnōmēThis word properly denotes science, or knowledge; opinion, or sentiment; and sometimes, as here, the purpose of the mind, or will. The sentiment of the whole is, that in their understandings and their volitions, they should be united and kindly disposed toward each other. Union of feeling is possible even where people differ much in their views of things. They may love each other much, even where they do not see alike. They may give each other credit for honesty and sincerity, and may be willing to suppose that others “may be right,” and “are honest” even where their own views differ. The foundation of Christian union is not so much laid in uniformity of intellectual perception as in right feelings of the heart. And the proper way to produce union in the church of God, is not to begin by attempting to equalize all intellects on the bed of Procrustes, but to produce supreme love to God, and elevated and pure Christian love to all who bear the image and the name of the Redeemer.
For it hath been declared unto me - Of the contentions existing in the church at Corinth, it is evident that they had not informed him in the letter which they had sent; see 1 Corinthians 7:1, compare the introduction. He had incidentally heard of their contentions.
My brethren - A token of affectionate regard, evincing his love for them, and his deep interest in their welfare, even when he administered a needed rebuke.
Of the house of Chloe - Of the family of Chloe. It is most probable that Chloe was a member of the church at Corinth, some of whose family had been at Ephesus when Paul was, and had given him information of the state of things there. Who those members of her family were, is unknown. Grotius conjectures that they were Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:17, who brought the letter of the church at Corinth to Paul. But of this there is no certain evidence; perhaps not much probability. If the information had been obtained from them, it is probable that it would have been put in the letter which they bore. The probability is that Paul had received this information before they arrived.
Now this I say - This is what I mean; or, I give this as an instance of the contentions to which I refer.
That every one of you saith - That you are divided into different factions, and ranged under different leaders. The word translated “that” ὅτι hotimight be translated here, “because,” or “since,” as giving a reason for his affirming 1 Corinthians 1:11 that there were contentions there. “Now I say that there are contentions, because you are ranged under different leaders,” etc. - Calvin.
I am of Paul - It has been doubted whether Paul meant to affirm that the parties had actually taken the names which he here specifies, or whether he uses these names as illustrations, or suppositions, to show the absurdity of their ranging themselves under different leaders. Many of the ancient interpreters supposed that Paul was unwilling to specify the real names of the false teachers and leaders of the parties, and that he used these names simply by way of illustration. This opinion was grounded chiefly on what he says in 1 Corinthians 4:6, “And these things, brethren, I have ‹in a figure‘ transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes,” etc. But in this place Paul is not referring so particularly to the factions or parties existing in the church, as he is to the necessity of modesty and humility; and in order to enforce this, he refers to himself and Apollos to show that even those most highly favored should have a low estimate of their importance, since all their success depends on God; see 1 Corinthians 3:4-6.
It can scarcely be doubted that Paul here meant to say that there were parties existing in the church at Corinth, who were called by the names of himself, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of Christ. This is the natural construction; and this was evidently the information which he had received by those who were of the family of Chloe. Why the parties were ranged under these leaders, however, can be only a matter of conjecture. Lightfoot suggests that the church at Corinth was composed partly of Jews and partly of Gentiles; see Galatians 2:7; and this circumstance might give rise to the division. Apollos succeeded Paul in Achaia, and labored successfully there; see Acts 18:27-28. These two original parties might be again sub-divided. A part of those who adhered to Paul and Apollos might regard Saul with chief veneration, as being the founder of the church as the instrument of their conversion, as the chief apostle, as signally pure in his doctrine and manner; and a part might regard Apollos as the instrument of their conversion, and as being distinguished for eloquence. It is evident that the main reason why Apollos was regarded as the head of a faction was on account of his extraordinary eloquence, and it is probable that his followers might seek particularly to imitate him in the graces of popular elocution.
And I of Cephas, Peter; - compare John 1:42. He was regarded particularly as the apostle to the Jews; Galatians 2:7. He had his own speciality of views in teaching, and it is probable that his teaching was not regarded as entirely harmonious with that of Paul; see Galatians 2:11-17. Paul had everywhere among the Gentiles taught that it was not necessary to observe the ceremonial laws of Moses; and, it is probable, that Peter was regarded by the Jews as the advocate of the contrary doctrine. Whether Peter had been at Corinth is unknown. If not, they had heard of his name, and character; and those who had come from Judea had probably reported him as teaching a doctrine on the subject of the observance of Jewish ceremonies unlike that of Paul.
And I of Christ -
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