Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 1

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1 Corinthians 1

Supplemental Commentary:

Introduction  1, 1-9

1, 1-3:  Greeting.    1.  Paul is a real apostle, like the Twelve, called and sent immediately by Christ to witness to His Resurrection.  God took the initiative when Paul was minded rather to persecute the Church (Acts 9, 3 ff).  Sosthenes was probably the president of the synagogue at Corinth mentioned in Acts 18, 17.  If so, he was converted so as to become our brother and is now associated with St. Paul at Ephesus.    2.  They are sanctified, consecrated, set apart at Baptism by incorporation in Christ Jesus.  All Christians are called saints by St. Paul (6, 1 f; 7, 14; 14, 33; Rom. 1, 7; 8, 28; etc.), an external designation which calls for internal holiness.  Their Lord and ours: the word "Lord" is added here to complete the sense.  Paul would emphasize the fact that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all, possibly because some at Corinth consider Christ as in a particular way their own (cf. 1, 12-13; 2 Cor. 10, 7).  It is possible that "theirs and ours" refers to "every place": their place would then be Achaia of which Corinth was the capital, and ours the places evangelized by Paul and Sosthenes; or Gentile places as opposed to Jewish places.    3.  Salutation; cp. Rom. 1, 7.  God the Father and Jesus Christ are equally the source of grace.

1, 4-9:  The Gifts of God.    5.  In all utterance and in all knowledge: the spiritual gift of knowledge for instruction.  The Corinthians received all that they were prepared to receive.  St. Paul later speaks of the limitations of their knowledge (3, 1 ff).    7.  The appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ: this refers to the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the world but can also be applied to His coming to the individual at death in the particular judgment.  Christ is pointed out as the center of all things by the fact that "Christ" appears ten time in the first nine verses of this Epistle.

I.  PARTY SPIRIT  1, 10 -- 4, 21

From the first four chapters of this Epistle it appears that there were party divisions at Corinth.  (a) The number of these parties is not certain.  All admit that there were parties of Paul, Cephas (Peter) and Apollos.  Some claim that these are only instances of an indefinite number of parties.  Some authors deny that there was a party of Christ.  In 3, 22 f mention is made only of the parties of Paul, Cephas and Apollos.  Clement of Rome later in an epistle to the Corinthians mentions only these three parties (1 Clem. 4, 7).  Yet the words "I am of Christ" in v.12 appear exactly the same as the slogans of the parties which precede.  The words "Has Christ been divided up?" refer to the Mystical Body: there is only one head and there should be only one body.  (b) Concerning the nature of these parties, let it be said first that Paul, Peter, and Apollos were not the leaders of these factions.  St. Paul disclaims any such responsibility (1, 13-16); Peter and Apollos are in no way reproached in this letter.  Neither were the factions based on doctrinal differences: no indication of doctrinal differences is found in the letter; Paul wishes Apollos to return to Corinth to continue his preaching (16, 12).  There may have been some error in Corinth concerning the resurrection (cf. 15), but the error is not linked up with any of the factions.  The divisions seem to be based on personal preference for one Apostle or preacher over another because of his manner and method, or because of personal acquaintances, or because of some association in the reception of the sacraments, etc.  These preferences were harmless in themselves, but were the occasion of hurt to Christian unity and were probably leading to a real danger in the so-called party of Christ.  The party of Paul may have arisen among the defenders of Paul against his critics alluded to in this Epistle.  The defenders probably tended to exaggerate his viewpoint on the principle of Christian liberty and the abrogation of the Law.  The party of Apollos was probably formed among those who preferred his rhetorical style, allegorical interpretation, and metaphysical mind.  Apollos followed St. Paul in evangelizing the church at Corinth (Acts 18, 24-28).  The party of Cephas probably consisted of a few converts from Judaism who boasted of their acquaintance in Palestine with the head of the Church, and were inclined to attach undue importance to Jewish observances.  There is no evidence that St. Peter ever preached in Corinth.  The lack of refutation of this party may be due to its insignificance or to respect for the person of Peter.  The party of Christ may have arisen as a reaction to the other parties.  It is believed that some proud men, considering themselves superior, refused to pledge fealty to mere men, and professed themselves to be subordinate to Christ alone.  These would easily consider their own fancies as divine inspirations.  There is evidence throughout the Epistle of such a self-sufficient group (cf. 2 Cor. 10, 7).

1, 10-16:  Nature of the Division.    10.  Mind refers to speculative understanding; judgment to practical decision, to disposition of mind.    11.  The house of Chloe: probably slaves of a Corinthian woman otherwise unknown.    12.  Each of you need not be taken as absolutely universal.  I am of Paul, etc.: slogans of the various parties.  Those who deny the existence of a party of Christ interpret I am of Christ as the cry of St. Paul giving a slogan that should be used by all in one Christian party.  Cephas: St. Paul always uses the Aramaic name of Peter, reminiscent of Peter's call to be the foundation rock of the church.    13.  Has Christ been divided up?  Division in the Church, the body of Christ, is like a division of Christ Himself.  A party of Christ, appropriating Christ to themselves, would also be an attempt at dividing Him.  Baptized in the name of: literally "immersed into."  Baptism makes us Christ's.    14-16.  Paul is glad that he did not personally baptize many Corinthians, since he might thus unwittingly have become the occasion of these coteries.  Crispus had been president of the synagogue before Sosthenes (Acts 18, 8.17); Gaius or Caius was Paul's host on a later visit to Corinth (Rom. 16, 23), Stephanas was one of Achaia's first converts, now visiting Paul (16, 15.17).

1, 17-25:  Salvation Not by Wisdom of Words.  Some at Corinth found that Paul possessed less wisdom than Apollos.  Paul defends his position to keep his authority.  Wisdom for the Greeks was applied to the skill of the philosopher, of the artist, and even of the artisan.  Some Corinthians wanted more eloquence.  Paul found it best to give the Corinthians the doctrine of Christ's salvation without embellishments of oratory for fear that in their case the form would detract from the matter.  The conviction of Christian faith rests not on the power of words but on the power of the cross (1, 17; 2, 1-5).

True wisdom, as inherited by the Christians from the Old Testament, consists in the knowledge and love of God.  Man by abusing his natural intelligence through voluntary ignorance of God and His law loses true wisdom and gives the name to a fraud (cf. Rom. 1, 18-32).  This false wisdom is put in quotation marks in the text.  Such "wisdom" could not grasp the wisdom of elementary Christian doctrine, and those Christians who were not yet fully spiritualized were unable to receive the loftier truths of faith.    17.  Paul's mission was not so much to baptize as to preach.  Christ (John 4, 2) and Peter (Acts 10, 48) also usually allowed disciples to perform the baptismal rite.    19.  God promised to deliver the Jews from the Assyrians by His own power without Egyptian aid which the leaders were contriving to bring in.    20.  Apollos was a wise man with the Greeks, Paul a scribe among the Jews.  There were others, but not many worldly wise in the early Church.  Disputant of this world: one whose intelligence is totally absorbed by things of this world without consideration of the supernatural (cf. Isa. 19, 12; 33, 18).    21.  The wisdom of God, although manifest in the world, was often not found by the intellect of fallen man (cf. Rom. 1, 18-23).    22.  The Jews looked for a Messias conquering by miraculous power, the Greeks looked for a leader conquering by reason.    25.  The least wisdom and power in God is superior to man's best.

1, 26-31:  Their Case an Example.  When the Corinthians were called there were not among them many possessed of what the world esteems, a show of wisdom, noble birth, influence, wealth.  These are from God though not beyond natural attainment.  The Corinthians can boast only of the supernatural which does not come in any way from themselves.

Confraternity Bible:

Greeting  1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God at Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints with all who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place---their Lord as well as ours.  3 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gifts of God  4 I give thanks to my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 because in everything you have been enriched in him, in all utterance and in all knowledge; 6 even as the witness to the Christ has been made so firm in you 7 that you lack no grace, while awaiting the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also keep you secure unto the end, unimpeachable in the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  9 God is trustworthy, by him you have been called into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Nature of the Division  10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing; and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be perfectly united in one mind and in one judgment.  11 For I have been informed about you, my brethren, by those of the house of Chloe, that there are strifes among you.  12 Now this is what I mean: each of you says, I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas, or I am of Christ.  13 Has Christ been divided up?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  14 I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that you were baptized in my name.  16 I baptized also the household of Stephanas,  I am not aware of having baptized anyone else.

Salvation Not by Wisdom of Words  17* For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ be made void.  18 For the doctrine of the cross is foolishness to those who perish, but to those who are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God.  19* For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject." 
20 Where is the "wise man"?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the disputant of this world?  Has not God turned to foolishness the "wisdom" of this world?  21 For since, in God's wisdom, the world did not come to know God by "wisdom," it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save those who believe.  22 For the Jews ask for signs, and the Greeks look for "wisdom"; 23 but we, for our part, preach a crucified Christ---to the Jews indeed a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Their Case an Example  26 For consider your own call, brethren; that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.  27 But the foolish things of the world has God chosen to put to shame the "wise," and the weak things of the world has God chosen to put to shame the strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised has God chosen, and the things that are not, to bring to naught the things that are; 29 lest any flesh should pride itself before him.  30 From him you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us God-given wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption; 31 so that, just as it is written, "Let him who takes pride, take pride in the Lord."


17: Not . . . to baptize: as his principal office.  Like Christ (John 4, 2) and Peter (Acts 10, 48), Paul usually left the baptismal rite to others.  Wisdom of words: eloquence.

19: Isa. 29, 14.