EPISTLE OF S. PAUL, THE APOSTLE,
TO THE CORINTHIANS.
Corinth was the capital of Achaia, a very rich and populous city, where S. Paul had preached a year and a half, and converted a great many. See Acts xviii. 10. Now having received a letter from them, (c. vii. 1.) and being informed of divers disputes and divisions among them, (c. i. v. 11.) he wrote this letter to them, and sent it by the same persons, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who had brought him their letter, c. xvi. 17. It was written about the year 56, not from Philippi, as it is commonly marked at the end of the Greek copies, but rather from Ephesus. The subject and main design of this Epistle was to take away the divisions among them about the talents and merits of those who had baptized and preached to them, and to settle divers matters of ecclesiastical discipline. The apostle justifieth his mission, and his manner of preaching, c. i. ii. iii. iv. He teacheth them what was to be done with the man guilty of a scandalous sin of incest, c. v. He speaks of sins against chastity; of matrimony; and of the state of continency, c. vi. and vii. Of meats offered to idols, c. viii. Of his manner of conversing with them, and what their conversation ought to be, c. ix. and x. Of the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, c. xi. Of the different gifts of the Holy Ghost, and how to employ them, c. xii. xiii. and xiv. Of the faith of the resurrection, c. xv. Of charitable contributions, and of his design of coming again to them, c. xvi. Wi.
--- S. Paul having planted the faith in Corinth, where he had preached a year and a half, and converted a great many, went to Ephesus. After being there three years, he wrote this first Epistle to the Corinthians, and sent it by the same persons, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who had brought their letter to him. It was written about twenty-four years after our Lord's ascension, and contains several matters appertaining to faith and morals, and also to ecclesiastical discipline. Ch.
Ver. 1. Paul called to be an apostle. S. Paul had preached to the Corinthians, and had remained a long time with them, to instruct and confirm them in the faith. During his absence, the faithful of Corinth were divided into several parties, on occasion of some new teachers, who had come amongst them. Calmet.
--- It was to heal the wounds caused by these divisions, that the present epistle was written. S. Thom. A.
--- And Sosthenes. There are various conjectures made concerning the person S. Paul here mentions. Some are of opinion that this Sosthenes is the same mentioned, Acts xviii. 17. who was beaten before the tribunal of Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, when S. Paul was carried before that magistrate. Eusebius says, that Sosthenes was one of the 72 disciples, and a different person from the one mentioned in Acts. Estius takes him to be S. Paul's secretary. The common opinion is, that he was a great sufferer for the faith at Corinth, and S. Paul here mentions him as a man worthy their imitation. Calmet.
Ver. 2. In every place of theirs and ours. Inasmuch as among Christians in all places there ought to be such an union in faith, and conformity of discipline, as if they were all in one place. Wi.
Ver. 4. That is given you in, or by Christ Jesus.† Where we may take notice with S. Chrys. for the understanding of other places, that in, is many times put for by or through.
[†] V. 4. In Christo Jesu, en cristw Ihsou. S. Chrys. om. b. ora pwV pollakou to en, anti tou di ou, estin.
Ver. 5. Rich in him in all knowledge. The apostles never addressed any epistle, except to persons who had been previously converted to the faith. Nor is it reasonable to expect, that infidel and pagan nations, merely by reading the inspired writings, will be able, by the light that is in them, to elicit from the said book the truths of religion. Would they not be tempted to worship the wily serpent, that succeeded in deceiving Eve? and how will they know that this serpent is the devil? A.
Ver. 6. As the testimony of Christ, what Christ testified and taught was confirmed in you, that is, your faith in Christ hath been confirmed by those graces and gifts which you received from the Holy Ghost at your baptism, and when by imposition of hands you were confirmed by me, or some other bishop. Wi.
Ver. 10. &c. That there is no schisms . . . contentions, &c. To hinder these, was the chief design of this letter; one saying, I am of Paul, &c. each party bragging of their master by whom they had been baptized, and made Christians. I am of Apollo, the eloquent preacher, and I of Cephas, the head of the apostles, and of the whole Church; whilst others, the only party not to be blamed, contented themselves with saying, and I am of Christ.
--- Is Christ divided? Is not your salvation, is not your justification in baptism, and all gifts from him? Wi.
Ver. 11. Of Chloe. It is worthy our observation, that S. Paul does not here mention any one person in particular, lest he might expose any one to the resentment of the rest, but mentions only in general terms the house of Chloe. S. Chrys. Theophyl.
Ver. 12. Chloe was a Christian woman of Corinth. Apollo is the person mentioned, Acts xviii. 24. &c. Cephas is S. Peter, so called in the Syriac tongue. V.
Ver. 13. Was Paul crucified for you? Though says S. Aug. brothers may die for brothers, yet the blood of no martyr is shed for the remission of a brother's sin. See also S. Leo the Great, serm. xii. de pass. Dom.
Ver. 14. I give God thanks that I baptized none of you, but, &c. It is strange that Quakers should from hence pretend, that S. Paul condemned baptism, when he only tells them, he is glad they were baptized by some other, rather than by him, lest they should say, they were baptized in his name, or think that baptism had a greater virtue, when given by a minister of greater sanctity; whereas it is Christ only, who is the chief minister, who gives grace in baptism, and in the other sacraments. This makes him say, was Paul crucified for you, &c. He tells them the occasion why he baptized few, because he was sent chiefly to preach and to be their apostle, whereas other inferior ministers were employed in baptizing. Wi.
Ver. 17. &c. Not to baptize. That is, the first and principal intent, in my vocation to the apostleship, was to preach the gospel, before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Acts c. ix. 15. To baptize is common to all, but to preach is peculiarly the function of an apostle. Est. Menoc. Grot.
--- I was sent to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of speech, and as he says in the next chapter, (v. 13.) not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, &c. The Spirit of God, which guided the thoughts and pen of S. Paul, and the other sacred writers, inspired them to deliver the gospel-truths with great simplicity, without the ornaments of an artificial human eloquence, lest the cross of Christ should be made void, lest the conversion of the world might be attributed to any human means, and not to the power of God, and of Christ crucified. Wi.
Ver. 18. For the word of the cross. That is, the preaching that the Son of God, both God and man, died nailed to an infamous cross, is folly, is looked upon as ridiculous and incredible, by all obstinate unbelievers that perish: but it is received as the work of God, and an effect of his divine power, by such as are saved. Wi.
Ver. 19-20. I will destroy the wisdom of the wise. I will confound the false and mistaken wisdom of the great and wise philosophers, of the learned doctors or scribes, of the curious searchers of the secrets of nature.
--- Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world, by the means he hath made use of to convert, and save the world, particularly by sending his only Son to die upon a cross? the preaching of which seems a folly, &c. only they who are called, believe Christ, though crucified, to be the power and wisdom of God. Wi.
Ver. 21. For seeing that in the wisdom of God, &c. That is, by the works of the divine wisdom, by the visible creatures of this world, and the effects of his providence, the world had not wisdom, or was not wise enough, to know and worship God, as they might, and ought to have done: it pleased God to shew his power by the foolishness of preaching, by sending illiterate men to preach a God crucified, which to human wisdom seems a folly, and to save men by this belief. Wi.
--- The gospel, which I announce to you, though it appears folly to the vain philosopher, is the wisdom of God; and whilst it exhibits the picture of a crucified God, and teaches us the mortification of our senses, promises a happiness in the next life, not to be found in this. Vat. Grot. Tir. Just.
Ver. 22-25. The Jews, in the mean time, ask for miracles, such as God formerly wrought in their favour, and the Greeks, or the Gentiles, to be converted, expect from us, what they would look upon as the highest points of human wisdom and knowledge; for that which appeareth the foolishness of God, is wiser than men, and able to confound the highest human wisdom; and that which appeareth weakness of God, is stronger than men, who cannot hinder God from converting the world, by means and methods, that seem so disproportioned to this his design. Wi.
--- Foolishness. That is to say, what appears foolish to the world in the ways of God, is indeed more wise: and what appears weakness, is indeed above all the strength and comprehension of man. Ch.
Ver. 26-28. Vocation, is here used for the called, as Rom. iii. 30. circumcision for the circumcised, (ibid. xi. 7.) election for the elected. V.
--- Consider your manner of being called; not many, hitherto, of those who have believed, or of those who have preached the gospel, are wise according to the flesh, or as to worldly wisdom; and in the esteem of men, not many mighty, not many noble. God hath chosen such as are looked upon as illiterate, without power, without riches, without human wisdom, to confound the great and wise men: He hath chosen the things that are not, that is, says S. Chrys. men reputed as nothing, of no consideration, to confound, to destroy, to make subject to him, and to the gospel, men who had the greatest worldly advantages, that no flesh, no men how great, wise, rich, or powerful soever, might glory in his sight, or attribute their call, and their salvation to their own merits.
--- From him you are in Christ Jesus brought to believe in him, who is made to us wisdom, acknowledged to be the wisdom of his eternal Father, by whom we have been justified, sanctified, redeemed. We have nothing of ourselves to boast of, and can only glory in the Lord. Wi.
--- And the mean things. In the beginning of Christianity, it was frequently objected to the Christians, that they had none but men of the basest extraction. The emperor Julian likewise made the Catholics the same reproach. Grot.
--- But this objection was not founded; for we find many persons of consideration mentioned in the Scriptures, who had embraced Christianity. Witness, v. 1. of this chap. Sosthenes, the head of the synagogue at Corinth, and some in the very palace of Cæsar.
Ver. 29. Glory in his sight. God wished it to be known, that the establishment of his Church was not the work of human wisdom or power, but of the omnipotent power of his divinity. Calmet.
We may here admire, (v. 1.) the happiness of those who, like S. Paul, are called to the sacred ministry, not through human respects, nor by any influence of parents, but by the vocation of heaven.
--- V. 2. We have here the model and origin of all future pastoral letters.
--- V. 3. &c. he gives thanks to God for past favours, and prays for a continuation of graces and blessings.
--- V. 10. He begs that there be no schisms found among them, but that unanimity of sentiment and disposition may reign among them, certain and unequivocal marks of truth.
--- V. 12. &c. He shews that both pastors and flocks should look up to God, as the only source of truth and grace; that it is a crying injustice to withdraw any share of our heart and confidence from God, to fix it on any thing that is not God; as it is to attach ourselves to the ministers of truth, and not to the Truth itself. Therefore, concludes S. Paul, though the Jews call for miracles, and the Gentiles lean upon worldly wisdom, Christians must seek their strength and success in the weakness of the cross, and their glory in the ignominy of Christ crucified, to whom alone be all the honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.