Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 1:4 - 1:9

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 1:4 - 1:9


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

II. Gratitude and hope in respect to their Christian state in general

1Co_1:4-9

4I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is [was] given you by [in: ἐí ] Jesus Christ; 5That in everything ye are [were] enriched by [in] him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day 9of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by [through] whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

This opening, in which the Apostle expresses his thanks to God for the abundance of spiritual gifts possessed by the Corinthian Church, and his hope in their steadfastness and further prosperity in all good, should by no means be regarded as a simple rhetorical captatio benevolentiæ, as a mere bit of flattery designed to win his readers, so that they might the better accept his subsequent exhortations and rebukes, and keep themselves well disposed in spite of the unpleasant things he had to say, and submit to be the more readily guided to the ends he had in view. What Paul here says is preëminently the truth. It comes from his heart. He does feel a sincere joy that so much good exists in the church and that it affords such ground of hope for the future. It is a conviction which proceeds from his fatherly disposition (comp. 1Co_4:15). Nor are we to regard it as any self-deception or fond fancy of his. For however great may have been the faults of individuals, the work of Divine grace had nevertheless been begun in all the plenitude of spiritual gifts, and his confidence in the continued operation of the Lord confirming their hearts, and in the faithfulness of God towards them, was verily well grounded. Both these things are presupposed in his exhortation and rebuke. First, objectively: in so far as the expectation of any good results from his efforts rested only upon the existence of some good already in the church and upon God’s faithfulness and coöperation. Again, subjectively: in so far as the acknowledgment of previous successes and the hope of yet greater ones, generally inspire confidence and render persons favorably disposed to receive exhortation and rebuke as given kindly and intelligently, and infuse into them courage to undertake the work of reform; and this courage is of the right kind since it refers all good back to God as the source. And in this style of address there is something more than cool human calculation. It is acting in perfect conformity with the true laws of the mind, and above all with the law of that love “which believeth all things and hopeth all things,” but which nevertheless secures the same results that worldly prudence is wont to calculate for in a selfish way. “The Corinthian Church was well trained and instructed and established in the faith; but it was not yet entirely simple-minded and pure in heart; there was much worldly vanity and party spirit still among them. So in every church there is to be found a mixture of what is praiseworthy and blameworthy. The praise of the better class piques even the worse, and is a means of inciting them to merit that praise, too. And the reproof of the bad ought to affect the better class likewise, awakening in them regrets that there are such persons by their side and in their communion as deserve reproof, and it should prompt them to remove the evil. Every church is one organic whole, by reason of which the several members exert an influence upon each other and share in that which others have and are.” Heubner, p. 213. “This introduction, breathing blessing and praise, gratitude and confidence, exhibits the spiritual shepherd in apostolic simplicity and truth. All goodness in the church he denominates a work of grace, and he sets in prospect the consummation of the salvation begun as only grace likewise, and he does it in a manner at once humbling and animating. He looks at the church in its germ, in the strength of its better elements which may be rendered a source of blessing to others, and so, wisely preparing the way, he passes over from the bright to the darker side.” Osiander.

1Co_1:4. I thank.—An expression of acknowledgment and joy towards God as the Author of all good.—My God.—As in Rom_1:8 and elsewhere,—of course not in an exclusive sense, but as an avowal of his own personal communion with God and direct interest in Him; a personal attestation of his religious position, without any sinister design, but yet in a manner calculated to elicit respect and confidence in what he is about to say.—Always.—This cannot mean that he was always engaged in audible thanksgiving, or that this feeling of gratitude was also definitely present in his consciousness; but only that he bore this church perpetually upon his heart with grateful emotions to God—a meaning which the word in the Greek also carries.—On your behalf for the grace of God.—The personal object for whom and the reason on account of which the thanks were given. [ ÷Üñéò : grace, the disposition in God, for ÷áñßóìáôá : the blessings flowing from it—“a metonymy which has passed so completely into our common parlance, as to be almost lost sight of as such.”—Alf. Wordsworth, however, distinguishes here, ÷Üñéóìá is a special gift to be used for general edification. ÷Üñéò is grace generally for personal sanctification. Tongues, miracles, healing are ÷áñßóìáôá . ÷Üñéò is given in order that ÷áñßóìáôá may be rightly used.”].—Which was given you in Jesus Christ.—Comp. also 1Co_1:2.—Christ is here regarded, in a sort, as the place, where the grace of God is manifested (comp. 2Co_5:19) so that he who enters there becomes partaker of it. But this entrance is faith, by which the believer is in Christ and comes into vital communion with Him.

1Co_1:5. Extends the thought and shows wherein the manifested grace consists.—That ye were enriched in himi. e., as being in Christ and having constant communion with Him; and this enriching is the work of God’s grace.—In every thing.—A general statement, which is at once more particularly defined and limited.—In all doctrine.—Thus ought ëüãïò to be translated with Luther [in which Calvin, Alf., de Wette, Billroth, Meyer concur, understanding by it: doctrine preached to the Corinthians], and not: “utterance,” as though the reference were to powers of eloquence or the gift of tongues [so Bengel, Stanley and Wordsworth; “and which interpretation,” Hodge says, “gives good sense and is the one generally adopted.” Meyer: “All manner of external endowments for speaking;” excluding however any allusion to gift of tongues, as inconsistent with the subordinate value attached to this in chap. 14. This view is sustained by 1Co_12:8; 2Co_8:7; 2Co_11:6, In this case ãíþóéò ; knowledge, would denote the inward endowment. The order of the words appears to support Kling’s view. “Truth preached, (i.e.) ‘doctrine,’ must precede ‘truth apprehended,’ i. e. ‘knowledge.’ ” But the analogous passages in the two Epistles go to prove Meyer’s view and the correctness of the English version also].—In all knowledge.—By this he means: the general acceptance of the doctrines that had been communicated to them on every side, and a comprehensive insight into their truth. This statement does not conflict with the fact of peculiar defects in individuals.

1Co_1:6. Further confirms and illustrates the foregoing. Inasmuch as êáèþò : [not correlation: “according as,” but as in appended clauses denoting explanation, quoniam, si quidem, since. Winer’s Gr. LIII. 8].—The testimony of Christ.—Christ may here be taken either as the subject, the one testifying, or as the object, the one testified of. The one does not exclude the other. In the former case the phrase would mean, the proclamation of the Divine plan of salvation in all its parts (its grounds, aims and relations; its beginning, mediation, execution and consummation), obtained by a direct insight into the heart of God, into His inmost thought and purpose (comp. Joh_1:18; Joh_6:46). But in this testimony of Christ, which sounded forth from the Apostles also, and so included their preaching, there is involved also the other idea, Christ’s own personal testimony, and the testimony of His Apostles likewise, to His divine Sonship and His mediatoral office. It makes little difference whether we construe it in the one way or the other. [“The former is the higher and therefore the better sense. It is good to contemplate the Gospel as that system of truth which the Eternal Logos or Revealer has made known.” Hodge. Yet, it must be said, usage favors the latter acceptation. “The testimony of Christ” is the witness borne concerning Christ by His Apostles of which the New Testament is the record, and in this instance by Paul. So Calv., Alf., Stan., Meyer]. “That the word ìáñôýñéïí , testimony, and not äéäáóêáëßá , instruction, is here chosen, does not rest upon a simple Hebraism, but is well explained on the ground that the gospel has not to do first and primarily with a system of ideas, but with an announcement of facts, the power of which a person must experience in himself.” Neander. The same expression occurs in 2Ti_1:18.—was confirmed in you.—Others render: ‘was established among you’ (Mar_16:20; Rom_15:8; Heb_2:4), whether it be by signs and miracles or by extraordinary operations of the Gospel.—Rückert: ‘by its effects on you.’ But this neither suits the connection with what precedes, nor what is afterwards (1Co_1:7) mentioned as the result of it. The former indicates that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in their hearts, inwardly rooted there. And this happens partly through a comprehensive knowledge, so that thus the words “in all knowledge” would be further illustrated, and partly as its presupposed condition, inasmuch as it is effected by faith, which is the root of all knowledge, and is to be regarded as a becoming fixed and remaining steadfast in the truth. Respecting their steadfastness in this respect see 1Co_16:1; 2Co_1:24.

1Co_1:7. The consequence.—So that ye come behind in no gift.—The deep and fixed rooting of the gospel in the soul results in a rich unfolding of spiritual life, of which he now proceeds to speak. By “gift” we are to understand a result of the operation of divine grace. Rom_5:16 expresses by it the work of grace as a whole. Here we are to understand it of the particular operations by which the members of the Church were variously qualified to labor for the edification of the body of Christ, either by instruction, or exhortation, or rule, or service, inasmuch as the native talents of individuals requisite for such labors are awakened and sanctified by divine grace (comp. 12). When such talents fall within the sphere of moral effort, and are exercised in furthering the welfare of the Church and in glorifying God, they acquire an ethical character, and the gifts appear as Christian virtues. That such were the gifts alluded to seems to be intimated in what follows—Waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.—This constant expectation of our Lord’s second coming (Rom_8:19 etc.), when He shall be revealed in his glory unto all (Col_3:4), is one of the characteristic features of primitive Christianity (comp. Php_3:20; 1Th_1:10 : Tit_2:13; 2Ti_4:8). Hence the clause has been taken as a simple paraphrase of the word: Christians. But this is by no means allowable here.—The connection of this participial clause with the preceding one has been variously interpreted. Luther somewhat loosely: “And are waiting,” “only waiting” in the sense, that they were all ready; in which sense we might translate it: “And can wait” or: “can comfortably wait;” But this would conflict with the entire contents of the Epistle. To take it as ironical, (Mosheim) in the way of a slant at their self-sufficiency, would be inconsistent with the friendly winning style of the introduction. And no less so, to suppose that he intended to alarm, by the suggestion of a coming judgment (Chrysostom), or to rebuke the sceptics of whom mention is made in chap. 15. More correct it would be, undoubtedly, to adopt the closer connection and translate: “while ye are waiting,” or, “ye who are expecting,” etc. The train of thought is this, that they, in this state of waiting, did not cease to make advances in every Christian qualification. So considered, the fact of “not coming behind” obtains the sense of: not falling short from any lack of earnest moral endeavor. There was a self-cultivation on the part of the spiritually quickened in consequence of their establishment in the faith (1Co_1:6). [But it must be added also that in the very mention of their waiting attitude, a commendation is intended. For this very “waiting,” as Alford well says, was “the greatest proof of maturity and richness of the spiritual life; implying the coëxistence and coöperation of faith, whereby they believed the promise of Christ—hope, whereby they looked on to its fulfilment, and love, whereby that anticipation was lit up with earnest desire.” But it may be asked, Were the Corinthians looking for Christ’s second advent as an event likely to occur in their day, and which some of them might expect to witness? This question must be answered in the affirmative. As Trench has well remarked, “It is a necessary element of the doctrine concerning the second coming of Christ, that it should be possible at any time.” And all the hints given us throughout the Epistles (comp. 1Th_4:13 to 1Th_5:10; Php_3:20; Tit_2:13; 2Ti_4:8) show that the hope of seeing Christ appear, while yet in the flesh, was an influential and inspiring sentiment, pervading the whole early Church. It was a powerful motive to watchfulness and patient endurance. And that it should so operate was one design of the secrecy which veiled it. “Latet ultimus dies, ut observetur omnes dies” (Aug.). That such was the case with the Corinthians seems to be intimated in the use of the word expressive of their mental attitude, ἀðåêäå÷ï ìÝíïõò : waiting it out, as persons expecting to see what they are waiting for].

The earnest endeavor of the Church (or at least its better portion, its kernel) just recognized, leads the Apostle, in spite of all existing defects in individuals, to cherish the hope which he expresses in.

1Co_1:8. Who shall also confirm you.—To whom does the relative “who” refer? Most naturally to Christ, mentioned just before in 1Co_1:7. But in this case it is remarkable that in the next clause instead of saying “in His day,” he uses again the whole name and title of Christ. Hence the “who” might be referred back to “God” (1Co_1:9), whose gracious doings are spoken of in 1Co_1:5-6, and to whom the confirmation in the faith is ascribed (2Co_1:21; Rom_16:25). The effect then of the Divine confirmation of the testimony of Christ in them would be regarded as awakening the hope also that God would establish them still further. The reference however to Christ must still be maintained. The use of the full phrase “in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” must be regarded only as the adoption of a solemn formula, elsewhere also employed, to designate the time of the second advent (comp. 2Ti_1:8). In 2Th_3:3 we have likewise the work of confirming believers ascribed to Christ. And this is mentioned here in correspondence with what is said of their not coming behind in any gift and of their patient waiting. It involves also what follows.—Unto the end.i. e., as the connection requires, not the end of the present life of individuals, but the end of the present dispensation, which terminates at the second advent, when the new era ( áἰὼõ ìÝëëùí ) will come in.—“Blameless.”—A short constructio prægnans åἰò ôὸ åἶíáé ὑìᾶò : that ye may be, [which is supplied in the E. V. “Compare the expressions äéäÜóêåéí óïöὸí , áὐîÜíåéí ìÝãáí , to teach a man so as to become wise, to increase him so as to be great; Kühner, § 417, 3. This is called by grammarians a proleptic use of the adjective.” Words. See Winer, Gram. Part iii. § lxvi. 3. g.]. By the term ‘blameless’ we understand such as are liable to no accusation; and this not simply putatively, but, since he is speaking of their condition at the appearing of Christ, in the sense of an actual or perfected holiness, so that the All-seeing Judge Himself will have nothing to lay to their charge (comp. Eph_5:27). Meyer. “This blamelessness is conditioned upon perseverance in the faith by which our justification is appropriated, and therefore is imputed; nevertheless by virtue of the moral nature and power of faith, as well as by virtue of the sanctification through the Holy Ghost, it is entirely of a moral nature (Rom_6:1 ff; Rom_8:1 ff.). Hence the person who is ἀíÝãêëçôïò : blameless, appears at the revelation of Christ not indeed as ἀíáìÜñôçôïò : sinless, but as a “new creature in Christ” (2Co_5:17) who having been Divinely restored (Eph_2:10) and progressively sanctified (1Th_5:23) has worked out his own salvation in the moral power of a new life (Php_2:12). [But here a question arises. Is this promise absolute or conditional? Conybeare and Howson add the gloss, “He will do His part to confirm you.” Hammond puts in the qualification, “God will make good His promise if you do not fail yourselves.” A. Clark inquires “But can it be said that God will keep what is either not intrusted to Him? or, after being intrusted, is taken away?” But such limitations seem to take from the promise its blessedness and comfort, for if this promise be of any value, it is the fact that it furnishes a guarantee against that greatest of dangers, the fickleness of the human will. It is in view of this danger, so manifest in the Corinthians, that Paul expresses his assurance of their steadfastness as grounded in the confirming grace of God. It were better therefore to take the promise absolutely. “Those to whom God gives the renewing influence of the Spirit, He thereby pledges himself to save; for the ‘first fruits of the spirit’ are of the nature of a pledge.” Hodge.]

1Co_1:9. Refers the hope expressed in 1Co_1:8 to its deepest ground.—God is faithful.—He will not drop the work He has begun after the fashion of weak inconstant men; but persevering in love He will carry out that which was commenced in love, even unto its goal. (Comp. Php_1:6; 1Th_5:24; 2Th_3:3; Rom_11:29)—[“Here, on this fidelity of God, and not on the strength of the believers’ purpose to persevere, nor on any assumption that the principle of religion in their hearts was indestructible, was the confidence of the Apostle in their steadfastness grounded.” Hodge. This faithfulness of God is pledged in three directions: 1. to Himself in the purpose formed; 2. to Christ in the covenant made with Him, Isaiah 53; Isaiah , 3. to believers].—Through whom. äἰ ïὗ : a popular expression. We can speak of God as a mediating as well as a principal cause. (Rom_11:36). His Providence it is that through a great variety of arrangements and coöperating circumstances mediates the call, viz., the presentation of the Gospel to them, and also its effect in their hearts.—Ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, &c.—This calling of God is the commencement of His work. Its goal is a participation as a son in the glory of his Lord (Comp. Rom_8:21; Rom_8:23; 2Th_2:14). The fellowship with Jesus Christ embraces our entire condition, into which we are transferred through the power of the word when heard and received, and through the sacraments, extending from childhood on until we come into the inheritance of the glory which is to be revealed in Him and in us also.” Burger.

But does not 1Co_1:9 compel us to take God as the subject in 1Co_1:8? [Certainly; one would suppose so]. By no means [!]. The truth of God is a pledge that Christ will confirm us. For it is precisely because we have been called through the unchangeable loving will of the Father to have part in Him, the glorified Son of God, and therefore to be made conformable unto Him that He whose will is ever one with the Father can do no other than confirm us. [Rather far fetched].

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. That Jesus Christ is the living sanctuary, whence all the manifestations of Divine grace are made, and all gifts are imparted, rests upon the character of His person. In Him it pleased God that all fulness should dwell—yea, that the fulness of the Godhead should dwell in Him bodily (Col_1:19; Col_2:9). From this it follows that believers are complete in Him. (Col_2:10).

2. The actual participation in this fulness is conditioned on the confirmation of this “testimony of Christ” in the heart through a lively faith, which involves a union with Christ and results in energetic endeavors, awakened in prospect of Christ’s glorious advent, to be behind in no gift, in order that the Church of Christ may become a well-equipped organic whole, and so ripen on to perfection.

3. To this actual confirmation of the truth in the heart there corresponds the work of Christ, resting upon the faithfulness of God who has called us unto the fellowship of His Son, for the confirmation of His own unto the end that they may be found blameless at His appearing, and prepared to participate in His glory as a bride adorned for the bridegroom (Rev_21:2; Rev_21:9; comp. 2Co_11:2; Col_1:12).

[4. The nature of the believers’ calling: 1. As to its condition. It is a fellowship with Christ through faith in character, in sufferings, and in glory. 2. As to its permanence, endurance unto the end; kept by the power of a faithful God. 3. As to its activity, a cultivation of Divine gifts in the service of Christ.]

[5. The second advent of Christ is possible for any generation, and ought constantly to be looked for, desired and prayed for.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. A proper joy at the prosperity of a church: a. expresses itself in thanks to God, (1Co_1:4); b. is occasioned by the grace of God manifested to it in Jesus Christ; [c. and should fill every minister’s heart even as it did Paul’s, compensating him for all the toil and suffering of his ministry].

2. The wealth of a church in doctrine, [or utterance] and knowledge, a. has its ground in Christ, (1Co_1:5); b. is obtained through the confirmation of his testimony in it.

3. The right waiting for the coming of Christ allows us to remain neither idle nor unfruitful, but inspires us with an earnest zeal constantly to appropriate and improve every spiritual gift.

4. Our hope for the perfection of Christians is our confidence in Christ [or God], who will confirm them blameless unto the end, and it is founded upon the faithfulness of God who has called us to the fellowship of His Son. (1Co_1:9.)

[5. The test of a true or false Christian is his waiting for or dreading the revelation of Christ. Bengel].

Heubner: 1Co_1:4 : 1. Gratitude is something more than prayer. He who does nothing but always pray, is and appears ever unsatisfied. 2. God must become our God, i. e., we should not only acknowledge Him as God in general, but we should also recognize Him as our own God from all the experiences of life. This is true egotism. 3. A teacher has no blessing except what comes from God. 1Co_1:5 : 1. Wealth in that which is needful for salvation is true permanent wealth. 2. The amount the Apostles accomplished in their churches ought to shame us. They were obliged to quarry their churches out of the rough rock. We find Christians ready made to our hand, yet how little we achieve. 1Co_1:7 : Christian life in a church is to be known by the awakening of all good Christian energies. Every one should be ready to serve the holy cause of Christ with his gift. 1Co_1:8 : Unblamableness at Christ’s judgment should be the goal of a Christian.

[1Co_1:4. There is a bright side even to the most disheartening circumstances of the church. It is our duty to consider these first and take courage].

[1Co_1:4-9. The rebukes of a minister, when steeped in love and prefaced by commendation descend like an excellent oil that doth not break the head].

Footnotes:

[1Co_1:4. äïèåßóῃ : was given, viz., at the time of conversion].

[Neander believed that in the minds of the Apostles, especially in Paul, a progressive development in Eschatology took place. The second advent at first seemed close at hand and possible in their day, but as they became more enlightened as to the future by the illuminations of the Spirit, it stood at a farther remove. Neander “Plant and Train, of the Christian Church,” p. 484.]

[The reasons for referring “Who” to God, 1Co_1:4, are well given by Stanley “1. êáὶ âåâáéþóåé : also confirm, evidently refers back to ἐâåâáéþèç : was confirmed, in ver.6.” 2. “In the day of the Lord Jesus Christ,” would else be: “in His day.” 3. ὁ èåüò ; God is the general subject of the whole sentence, and therefore repeated in 1Co_1:9. “God is faithful. For the sense comp. Php_1:6.” To these may be added a 4. from Hodge: “vocation and perseverance are in the work of redemption specially referred to the Father.” The same position is taken by Calvin, Alford, Billroth, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander and others.]