Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 1:1 - 1:3

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 1:1 - 1:3


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

FIRST DIVISION

THE GREETING; THANKS AND HOPE IN REFERENCE TO THEIR CHRISTIAN STATE IN GENERAL

I. Greeting

1Co_1:1-3

1Paul, called to be an apostle [a chosen apostle] of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our [the] brother, 2Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be [chosen] saints, with all that in every place [om. in every place] call upon the name of Jesus Christ 3our Lord, [in every place] both theirs and ours: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1Co_1:1-3. These opening verses, according to ancient custom, combine to present in advance the address and greeting; that is, the designation of the parties concerned in their mutual relations, and likewise the benediction.

1Co_1:1. Paul.—Concerning his person and history, his importance to the Church and his labors, consult the general introduction to these Epistles [also Herzog’s Real. Ency. art. Paul. Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, do. Kitto’s Bible Ency. do. Besser, “Paul the Apostle.” Eadie, “Paul the Preacher.” Howson, “Hulsean Lectures,” for 1862. A. Monod, “Five Discourses on St. Paul.” Ld. Lyttleton, “On the Conversion of St. Paul.” Neander, “Planting and Training,” etc.]

A chosen Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God.—The ordinary rendering, “called to be an Apostle,” does not give sufficient prominence to the leading thought here, which is shown by the order of the words to lie in ‘Apostle.’ The sense is,—an Apostle by virtue of his calling; and this calling was that given him by Christ (Act_9:22-26), having for its deeper ground the will of God (comp. Gal_1:15 ff.). Hence, neither of these designations is superfluous. The fact of “being called” is insisted on in contrariety to everything like arbitrary assumption of honor, or unwarrantable, intrusion into office. “ Êáëåἶí : to call, like ÷ָìָà is used to denote the way in which God specially appoints men to any particular end.” Neander. And this was a matter which, in view of the parties at Corinth who refused to acknowledge Paul’s apostleship, and sought to put him below the twelve, directly called by Christ when on earth, it was in point to bring prominently forward; and no less important was it to show that this calling came through ( äéἀ ) the Supreme Will. And there was the greater necessity for this, inasmuch as the office of which he claimed to be the bearer was highest in the divine economy. It was that of an ambassador of Jesus Christ, whose business it was to represent his Master, whose words and acts were to be regarded as Christ’s words and acts, the honoring or contemning of whom was to be looked upon as the honoring or contemning of Christ, who, as Christ’s commissioner, appointed to organize and govern the Church throughout the world, wielded an all-embracing power, and exercised a far-reaching authority, and who agreeably with such an appointment and such plenitude of authority was endowed with a “wealth of spiritual gifts, such as is ordinarily distributed among several persons in a less degree.

And Sosthenes the brother.—Although conscious of his high and well established position, he nevertheless does not present himself before the Church alone; but he takes into company one who officially stood far below him. Him, however, he designates as an equal—as a brother both to himself and the Church, in the unity of Christian faith and hope. “The disposition on the part of Paul to send out his Epistles in the name of one or more of the brethren happening to be with him (Gal_1:2), may be taken either to imply that the persons mentioned had aided in the upbuilding of the churches concerned, or as an expression of their perfect agreement with what he wrote. It certainly is, at any rate, a testimony to that fellowship in the Spirit, which Paul so often inculcated, and which he was ever diligent both to cultivate in himself and to inculcate upon his readers.” Burger. Whether this Sosthenes was the ruler of the synagogue mentioned in Act_18:17,—supposing him to be then already inclined to the cause of Christ, in case it was by the Jews that he was beaten, or that he was violently opposed to this cause, in case he was beaten by Greeks, (the readings which indicate the one or the other are neither of them original),—cannot be accurately ascertained. In any case, he must have been known and esteemed in the Church, so that it was not without its influence with them that he expressed his assent to the contents of the letter, and represented them before Paul. That he must have written the letter himself under Paul’s dictation, as some suppose (Billroth, Hodge) (comp. 1Co_16:21), does not necessarily follow from this connection. Perhaps we might infer that he had been an official assistant of Paul; but even this is not expressly denoted by the term ‘brother.’

1Co_1:2. Names and characterizes the party written to.—Unto the Church of God.—‘The congregation,’ or, ‘the Church of God’ is the Old Testament designation of Israel as a divinely gathered people. It means a people assembled before God and for God. The derivation of the word ecclesia points out the mode of its gathering. It was by means of a ‘calling,’—a spiritual instrumentality. Hence its members are designated as “the called.” In this a personal independence is presupposed. Salvation is offered, not enforced, and it is shared only by those who voluntarily accept and enter into it. Ôïῦ èåïῦ : of God—Gen. of possession. The Corinthian Church is hereby emphatically declared to belong not to any human leader, but to God alone. The Church is His.Which is at Corinth [The local designation of the Church. Geographical divisions are in the Church the only ones recognized in the New Testament, and the Church in one place or city is always spoken of as a unit. Though consisting of one or more distinct congregations, it was regarded as an organic whole under one general superintendency. It was otherwise when a province was in view, e. g., the churches of Asia.—“Church at Corinth! that wicked city! what a joyful and striking paradox.” Bengel.]—to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus.—By this the Church of God is distinctly characterized in its members as Christian. It is composed of persons who are sanctified, i. e., separated from the mass of sinful humanity, the world, and devoted to the exclusive service of the true God [and whose guilt has been expiated by an atonement. Both ideas, those of consecration and expiation, are included in the word ἁãéÜæåéí : to sanctify]. This is not to be understood in a simply legal or theocratic sense (as in the case of the Jews, who were termed a holy nation because of their descent from Abraham and their divine government); nor yet in a purely objective sense, as implying the mere imputation of holiness; but in a real sense, as being the result of the operation of the Holy Ghost (comp. 1Co_6:11; 1Pe_1:2). Yet this inward appropriation of salvation is not on this account to be considered as complete, but only as begun in its informing principle, and as existing in a germ which may be developed in various degrees.

In Christ Jesus.—These words denote the ground or soil whereon those who are sanctified stand, and from which they derive the power of sanctification. It is Jesus Christ, into whose fellowship they have entered by faith and baptism (comp. Gal_3:26 ff.; Rom_6:3), [and who is the only centre and bond of union for the Church]—called or chosen saints. This implies that they are consecrated to God and numbered among His peculiar people by virtue of a divine call, [“effectual call as distinguished from a merely external invitation.” Hodge] (comp. Rom_10:14; Rom_9:24, etc.); hence, that they, as well as the Apostle on his part (1Co_1:1), were also indebted for their high position to the Divine Will, which was made known to them in their call through the Gospel (Rom_10:14; 2Th_2:14). “Paul here may have reminded them of their ‘calling’ as something which was alike for all, having in view already the parties whom he was soon to rebuke for giving undue prominence to the human instrumentality, and for insisting upon subjective diversities in a schismatic way.” Neander. [“It is not to be inferred from this that the Corinthian professors were all true believers, or that these terms express nothing more than external consecration. Men are uniformly addressed in Scripture according to their profession.” Hodge].

With all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place.—There is a difference of opinion as to the connection of these words. They might be joined to those just preceding, e.g., ‘who are called holy, as are all who, etc.’ So taken, they would serve to remind the Corinthian converts of their fellowship with Christians in all places. So Bengel. Or they may be construed as enlarging the circle of those whom Paul intends to address. The former construction would not be unsuitable, since it would furnish a fit antidote to the narrow-minded tendency to division which showed itself in the church. But the latter is favored by the similar passage in 2Co_1:1, which at the same time more exactly defines and explains the general statement we have here: ‘in every place.’ Then we should have immediately joined to this, as belonging to it, the closing words—both theirs and ours.—To connect these [as the E. V. does] with “our Lord,” q. d. “their Lord and ours,” is hardly admissible from the order of the Greek text, and is also unsuitable, because in that case the word “our” as connected with “Lord” would be understood not simply of Paul or Sosthenes, but also of the recipients of the letter included with them as well. (Comp. 2Co_13:13).—Referred to the daughter churches of Corinth in Achaia, as suggested by 2Co_1:1, these words yield the sense: “in every place which belongs as well to them—the Corinthians as the mother church—as also to us, the Apostle and his companions.” So construed, the Apostle will here be understood as, on the one hand, conceding to them the right of the mother church, and impressing upon them the duty of taking a deeper interest in the daughter churches, and, on the other hand, as indicating his interest in these, and so winning them also to the reception of his doctrine and exhortation. [But is it not more natural to refer “theirs” to “those who call upon, etc.,” and to include under “ours” both the parties writing and the parties written to? So Alford. Another interpretation has been proposed. “The Epistle is addressed to all Christians in Corinth and Achaia, wherever they might be. Every place is at once theirs and ours—their place of abode and my place of labor.” See Hodge. “These words form a weighty and precious addition—made here doubtless to show the Corinthians that membership of God’s Holy Catholic Church consisted not in being planted or presided over by Paul or Apollos or Cephas (or their successors), but in calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Alf.].

Who call upon the name, etc.— ἐðéêáëåῖóèáé ôὸ ὄíïìá . By this is denoted, not the being called by the name of the Lord, as if the Greek verb were in the Passive, but, as every where in the Old and New Testament, the calling upon the name of the Lord, especially the invocation of His help as Lord. It is, accordingly, an act of divine worship, [and in a more extended sense, denotes a life of reverence towards God, and of habitual religious faith]. The term Lord, answering to the Hebrew éְäåָֹä or àֲãåֹðָé : Jehovah or Adonai, here applied to Christ, indicates His plenipotence and truth, which is more fully set forth in Mat_11:27; Mat_28:18; Joh_18:2; and which rests partly upon His original sonship and His mediatorial agency in the creation (1Co_8:6; Col_1:16 ff.; Heb_1:2 ff.), and partly upon His redemptive office (1Co_7:22 ff.; Act_20:28; Tit_2:14).—The name indicates the being as revealed and known; hence the invocation presupposes faith—faith, preaching—and preaching, the word of God (Rom_10:14 ff.). Those who called upon the name of Christ formed a contrast with those who blasphemed this name among the Jews. (Luk_23:39; 1Ti_1:13; Act_26:9; comp. Act_22:16). This same thought lies at the foundation even in places where instead of a name we have a mere description. The name of Jesus Christ expresses what He is, His entire personality together with His office and work. [On the import of names, especially as belonging to Deity: see Bush, Com. Exo_3:13.; Hengst. Com. Psa_8:2; Psa_9:12; Whately, Serm. Mat_1:23].

1Co_1:3. The benediction, which elsewhere among the Greeks, and twice also in the New Testament (Jam_1:1; Act_15:23) is woven with the address into one sentence, is here peculiarly extended.—Grace and peace constitute the sum total of Gospel blessings, the former being the ground and source of the latter. ×Üñéò properly denotes that which begets joy, viz. favor, grace, kindly feeling. It may be regarded either as a quiescent trait, the mere outshining of an inward goodness or amiability; or as an energy put in active exercise for the welfare of others. Among the Greeks the word was used also in connections which we should deem immoral. But in the language of revelation it denotes that supreme love and self-devotion which was manifested in its most perfect form by the Son of God. It is what we, in respect of the unworthiness of the object, denominate grace, by which is meant sometimes the mere feeling of kindness in the heart, and sometimes the beneficent act which is its result. Here, indeed, it means the peace of forgiveness and reconciliation, corresponding to the Hebrew ùָìåֹí which includes the entire welfare of the individual both spiritual and physical, and the root of which is inward peace, the repose of the spirit in the sweet consciousness of being reconciled to God, and in the blessed assurance that we have God for our friend and have to expect from Him good alone. (Comp. Rom_8:1; Rom_8:31-39). [“The wish of peace has a peculiar bearing here in view of the (dissensions at Corinth.” Ols.].

From God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.—That this clause is not to be translated “from God the Father of us, and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” is clear from Gal_1:3; not to say any thing of the impropriety of thus putting Jesus Christ in a subordinate position.—The co-ordination of Jesus with the Father is to be explained on the ground that the office of mediating grace and peace rests upon His divine sonship, and so upon His equality with God.—This is a truth already indicated in the appellation “Lord,” and which is inferred from 1Co_8:6, and from the whole Pauline system of doctrine. [“Here it is to be remarked, that God is called our Father and Christ our Lord. God, as God, has not only created us, but renewed and adopted us. God in Christ has redeemed us. He is our owner and sovereign, to whom our allegiance is immediately due; who reigns in us, and rules over us, defending us from all our enemies. This is the peculiar form which piety assumes under the Gospel. All Christians regard God as their Father and Christ as their Lord.” Hodge].

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. From the fact that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are exhibited to us as the common source or sum total of all the blessings of salvation, it is to be seen that the Apostle, even while subordinating Christ to God (1Co_3:23; 1Co_11:3; 1Co_15:28), yet maintains such a mediation through Christ of the Divine grace, and of the blessings flowing from it, as presupposes in Christ the Mediator a divine nature. How the two things, subordination and equality of substance, agree, is a problem for the science of Christology. This is the mystery of love, which in the Father flows out in the fulness of the divine perfections; which in the Son keeps itself evermore as consciously dependent and recipient, and, accordingly, both thinks, purposes and does every thing with sole reference to the Father.

2. The equality of Christ with God is also indicated by the calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both this invocation and that derivation of all the blessings of salvation from the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ conjointly, can be made consistent with the Old Testament teaching respecting God, only on the supposition of the essential divinity of Jesus Christ and His true equality with the Father.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. The consciousness of being called to the ministry through the will of God (1Co_1:1) is: 1. the ground of our confidence in appearing before a Christian congregation to instruct, exhort, reprove and comfort (comp. 2Co_3:4 ff.); 2. the spring of humble devotion to the service of the Lord, a. devoid of all arbitrary and self-willed activity, b. and in every thing observant of the Master’s eye, and subject to His word; [3. an example for all engaged in any lawful vocation. The consciousness of being called to our work in the providence of God is necessary for the sanctification of our labors, by imparting to them a noble aim, a right impulse, and a true courage to do and endure valiantly for God, our true Master, in all things appointed unto us. After Robertson].

2. The main features of a true church (1Co_1:2) are, 1. that it is an assemblage before and for God; 2. that it consists of such as are consecrated to God in Jesus Christ; 3. that it is thus consecrated through the mighty creative will of God; 4. that its members are such as call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; [5. that these things may exist in connection with many glaring faults in true professing believers, and with many false professions of faith, which yet do not necessarily vitiate the claim to be called a true church].

3. The proper fellowship between the office and the church rests, 1. in that the former works out for the latter the benefits of salvation which come from God and Jesus Christ in the way of blessing; 2. in that the latter receives these benefits from the ministration of blessing with earnest and hearty desires.

4. 1Co_1:2-3 : Besser:—How must the Apostolic greeting shame many congregations who assemble to hear this Epistle read, and yet come there with discordant sentiments and divided tongues! “The name ἐêêëçóßá : church,” says Chrysostom, “is a name not of separation, but of union and harmony.”

[5. 1Co_1:2 : Bengel:—The consideration of the church universal frees the mind from party bias, and sways it to obedience.]

Footnotes:

1Co_1:1.— Êëçôüò : called or chosen is wanting in many good authorities (A. D. E. etc.) These, however, are not sufficient to warrant its omission, since it is more likely that the word was omitted as superfluous, in consequence of äéὰ èåëÞìáôïò èåïῦ (as it is not found in like connection in 2Co_1:1; Eph_1:1; Col_1:1; 2Ti_1:1), than that it should have been inserted from Rom_1:1. [Cod. Sin. has it. In the text we follow the version of our author and translate êëçôïò as a verbal adjective “chosen.” This is the nearest equivalent in English. “Called” would be more correct; but this word is appropriated to another meaning, and would therefore be ambiguous.]

1Co_1:2.—[Our author inserts the clause “which is at Corinth” after “Christ Jesus,” an unnatural order, authorized by B. D. E. F. G. It. and which he vindicates on the ground that it were more natural to suppose that the order of the Received Text was a supposed improvement by transcribers, than that the clause in question should have been placed by design or error in those manuscripts after “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” The valuable Cod. Sin., however, agrees with the Received Text, and we adhere to this against the decision of Alford, Stanley or others.]

[We here conform to the unquestioned order of the Greek text, which alone yields the true meaning.—See below.]

[On the nature and extent of the apostolic office, consult articles under the word “Apostle,” in Kitto’s Enc., 2d ed.; Smith’s Bib. Diet.; Herzog’s Real. Enc.; also, Owen’s Works, vol. iv. p. 433–445; Schaff, Hist. of Ap. Ch., Book iii. chap. 2; Conybeare and Howson, Life of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13; Litton, The Church of Christ, Book ii., Part ii. 1 Corinthians 1.]