Tuesday, March 21st, 2023
the Fourth Week of Lent
the Fourth Week of Lent
There are 19 days til Easter!
Godet's Commentary on Selected Books Godet on Selected Books
1 Corinthians 10
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ gsc/ 1-corinthians-10.html.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/
- Henry's Complete
- Clarke Commentary
- Bridgeway Bible Commentary
- Coffman's Commentaries
- Carroll's Biblical Interpretation
- Barnes' Notes
- Bullinger's Companion Notes
- Calvin's Commentary
- Bell's Commentary
- College Press
- Church Pulpit Commentary
- Smith's Commentary
- Dummelow on the Bible
- Constable's Expository Notes
- Ellicott's Commentary
- Expositor's Dictionary
- Hole's Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Gaebelein's Annotated
- Gann on the Bible
- Morgan's Exposition
- Gill's Exposition
- Everett's Study Notes
- Geneva Study Bible
- Haydock's Catholic Commentary
- Commentary Critical
- Commentary Critical Unabridged
- Gray's Concise Commentary
- Sutcliffe's Commentary
- Trapp's Commentary
- Kretzmann's Commentary
- Lange's Commentary
- Grant's Commentary
- Wells of Living Water
- Henry's Complete
- Henry's Concise
- Poole's Annotations
- Pett's Commentary
- Peake's Commentary
- Preacher's Homiletical
- Poor Man's Commentary
- Benson's Commentary
- Coke's Commentary
- The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- The Pulpit Commentaries
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
- Wesley's Notes
- Whedon's Commentary
- Calvin's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- AEK Concordant NT Commentary
- Abbott's NT
- Orchard's Catholic Commentary
- Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary
- Contending for the Faith
- Daily Study Bible
- Expositor's Greek Testament
- Family Bible NT
- Godbey's NT Commentary
- Alford's Greek Testament Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Mahan's Commentary
- Bible Study NT
- Bengel's Gnomon
- People's NT
- Robertson's Word Pictures
- Schaff's NT Commentary
- Vincent's Studies
- Burkitt's Expository Notes
- Daily Study Bible
- McGarvey'S Commentaries
- Box on Selected Books
- Living By Faith
- Lapide's Commentary
- Dunagan's Commentary
- Hampton's Commentary
- Godet on Selected Books
- Hodge's Commentary
- Smith's Writings
- International Critical
- Ironside's Notes
- Beet on the NT
- Layman's Bible Commentary
- Restoration Commentary
- Utley Commentary
- Kelly Commentary
- Zerr's N.T. Commentary
VI. The Use of Meats offered to Idols, and Participation in the Sacrificial Feasts. Chaps. 8-10.
The apostle passes to a new subject, which, like the preceding, seems to be suggested to him by the letter of the Corinthians, and belongs to the domain of Christian liberty. The believers of Corinth and the other Greek cities found themselves in a difficult position in regard to the heathen society around them. On the one hand, they could not absolutely give up their family and friendly relations; the interests of the gospel did not allow them to do so. On the other hand, these relations were full of temptations and might easily draw them into unfaithfulnesses, which would make them the scandal of the Church and the derision of the heathen. Among the most thorny points in this order of questions were invitations to take part in idolatrous banquets. The centre of ancient worships was the sacrifice; it was in this religious act that all the important events of domestic and social life culminated. As in Judaism (comp. Deuteronomy 27:7, the peace-offerings), these sacrifices were followed by a feast. All that remained of the victim's flesh, after the legs, enclosed in fat, and the entrails had been burned on the altar (see Edwards), and after the priest had received his portion, came back to the family which offered the sacrifice, and these consecrated meats were eaten either in the apartments or sacred wood belonging to the temple, or in the worshipper's house; sometimes, also, they were sold in the market. And as the sacrifice usually took place in connection with some joyful circumstance, relatives and friends were invited to the feast, among whom it might easily happen that there were Christians. So also, when those meats were sold in the market, a Christian might find himself exposed to the eating of them either at his own house or that of others.
Now various questions might be raised on this subject. And first of all, Is it allowable for a Christian to be present at a feast offered in the temple of an idol? Some, in the name of Christian liberty, answered: Yes! They boldly took advantage of the adage: All things are lawful for me (1 Corinthians 6:12, 1Co 10:23 ). Others said: No! for in such a region one subjects himself to the danger of malign and even diabolical influences. The scruples of the more timorous went further: Even in a private house, even in one's own house, is it not dangerous to eat of that meat which has figured on the idol's altar? Has it not contracted a defilement which may contaminate him who eats it? Not at all, answered others. For the gods of the heathen are only imaginary beings; meat offered on their altar is neither more nor less than ordinary meat.
The latter were certainly of the number of those who, at Corinth, called themselves Paul's disciples. Must we thence conclude, with Ewald and others, that the former were solely Christians of Jewish origin, who styled themselves Peter's disciples? There is nothing to prove this. It is even somewhat difficult to maintain, as we shall see, in view of certain passages of chap. 8, that these sticklers were mainly Christians of Jewish origin. Several commentators, last among them Holsten, rather regard those timid Christians, and rightly I think, as believers of Gentile origin, who could not free themselves all at once and completely from the idea in which they had lived from infancy, that of the reality and power of the divinities which they had worshipped. They might be confirmed in this view by the Jewish opinion, of which traces are found still later in the Church, that idols represented evil spirits. As to Jewish Christians, the passage Romans 14:0 shows that in any case we ought not to exclude them wholly. These were men whom the gospel had only as yet half freed from their national prejudices, particularly from that which held the heathen deities to be so many diabolical personalities.
The solution of these questions bristled with difficulties. The one party held strongly to their liberty, the other not less seriously to their scruples. The apostle must avoid favouring either superstition in the latter or libertinism in the former. He needed all his practical wisdom and all his love to trace a line of conduct on this subject which would be clear and fitted to unite hearts, instead of dividing them.
It has been asked why he did not here simply apply the decree of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:0), which called on the Gentile believers of Syria and Cilicia to give up the use of meats offered to idols, out of regard to the repugnance of Jewish Christians. And some have even gone the length of alleging the apostle's silence as an argument against the historical reality of the decree. But (1) this decree, from its very nature, could only have a temporary value, and it soon came out at Antioch, in connection with Peter's sojourn (Galatians 2:0), what practical difficulties stood in the way of its application. (2) At the time and in the circumstances in which Paul had accepted it, this apostle did not yet hold his normal position in the Church. His apostolical authority had just been recognised with difficulty by the apostles. In Syria and Cilicia he was not yet on his own domain, for it was not he who had founded the Church there. But it was now entirely different in Greece; and it would have been to derogate from his apostolical position, as well as from his evangelical spirituality, to resolve a question of Christian life by means of an external decree like an article of law. It was from the spirit of the gospel that, in virtue of his apostolical authority and wisdom, he must derive the decision which the Church needed. (3) It was the more important for Paul to act thus because he had above all at heart to form the conscience of the Corinthians themselves, and to educe spontaneously from it the view of the course to be followed: “I speak unto you as unto wise men; judge yourselves what I say” ( 1Co 10:15 ). It is precisely because of this method followed by the apostle that the discussion contained in these three chapters may still be so useful to us, though referring to wholly different circumstances. Paul on this occasion ascends to the first principles of Christian conduct, and we have only to gather them up to apply them to our own circumstances. (4) Finally, this subject presented a host of complications which could not be resolved by the summary decree of Acts 15:0, and which demanded a detailed examination.
The following is the order adopted by the apostle: He first treats the question by putting himself at the viewpoint of love. A Christian ought not to ask: What suits me best? but: What will most surely contribute to the salvation of my brethren? ( 1Co 8:1 to 1Co 9:22 ). Then the apostle passes to a second consideration: that of the salvation of the man himself who is called to act. He must take care while using his liberty not only not to destroy others, but also not to destroy himself ( 1Co 9:23 to 1Co 10:22 ). Finally, he concludes by recapitulating the whole discussion, and laying down some practical rules in regard to the different particular cases which might present themselves ( 1Co 10:23-33 ).
Vv. 1, 2. “Indeed, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
The connecting particle δέ , then, in the T. R. would indicate a gradation which the preceding remarks easily explain: “And there is more here than a simple figure, such as that of the games.” This reading is therefore quite suitable; the other, found in the Alex. and Greco-Latins, γάρ , for, is also suitable; the for bears especially on the last idea of the foregoing verse, the being found worthy of rejection. “And indeed the danger exists; what happened to our fathers is the proof of it.” This second connection is simpler.
In saying: I would not that ye should be ignorant, the apostle would not insinuate that they do not know the account of the exodus from Egypt; he means that he is afraid they do not sufficiently understand the meaning and bearing of the events to which he here refers.
Meyer has concluded from the expression: our fathers, that Paul is here speaking as a Jew, and in the name of Jewish Christians. But by the address: brethren, he has just comprehended the whole Church in one and the same body. He therefore sees in the Christian Church the outgrowth of the ancient Israelitish community. Indeed, according to Romans, chaps. 4 and 11, the Church is grafted on the patriarchal trunk; and, in virtue of this spiritual relation, the fathers of the Jewish people are also those of the Christian household.
The prominent place which he gives to the word πάντες , all, as well as its repetition in 1 Corinthians 10:2-4 (five times), show that we have here the essential idea of the passage: “Those people who almost all perished, began with being all blessed of the Lord.” This is the counterpart of 1 Corinthians 9:24: “All run, but one obtains the prize.”
The verb in the imperfect, ἦσαν , were, denotes a state which is prolonged, while the crossing of the Red Sea having been an event of the day is denoted by the aorist ( διῆλθον ).
The preposition ὑπό , under, is construed with the accusative, because it has not merely a local sense here, but expresses the moral notion of protection: they were under the shelter of the Divine presence manifested by the cloud.
Vv. 2. After stating the fact, this verse indicates its religious signification and bearing; it was a true baptism which was conferred on them all. As the baptized person enters the water and receives the sprinkling on his head, and as this water by the sacramental words becomes to him the pledge of salvation, so the Israelites, placed under the cloud and crossing the sea, possessed the visible pledge of Divine blessing and salvation. This miraculous crossing separated them thenceforth from Egypt, the place of bondage and idolatry, exactly as the believer's baptism separates him from his former life of condemnation and sin. In this parallel there is no petty and Rabbinical typology; everything is well grounded from the moral point of view. The material water did not play any part in the passage of the Red Sea: it is not said either that it rained from the cloud on the Israelites, or that they had their feet plunged in the water. The crossing was to them as baptism is to the believer, the threshold of salvation. This spiritual analogy is expressed by Paul in the words: and were all baptized into Moses. By following their God-given leader with confidence at that critical moment, they were closely united to, and, as it were, incorporated with Moses to become his people, in the same way as Christians in being baptized on the ground of faith in Christ become part of the same plant with Him ( Rom 6:3-5 ); they are thenceforth His body.
There is room for hesitation between the two readings ἐβαπτίσαντο (the middle), they had themselves baptized, and the passive ἐβαπτίσθησαν , they were baptized. In favour of the middle form, it can be said that the copyists could easily have substituted for it the passive form, which is more generally used in the New Testament in speaking of Christian baptism. Then the apostle required to bring out in this context the idea of faith in Moses as the active principle of the conduct of the Israelites.
Here, probably, with the words of the Old Testament, of which the apostle is thinking, we have the only passage of Scripture in which a man is presented as the object of faith; comp. Exodus 14:31: “And they believed the Lord, and His servant Moses.” No doubt faith, according to the scriptural view, can only have a Divine object, God Himself, His word, His promises, His work; but when a servant of God is absolutely identified with the Divine will and work, as Moses was, then the absolute confidence which attaches to that which is Divine may also be extended to him. Without faith in the Divine mission of Moses, Israel would not have followed him to the wilderness.
The preposition ἐν has rather the instrumental sense ( by) than the local ( in).
But the Jews not only received a baptism, they partook also of a Holy Supper:
Vers. 1-4. He begins by recalling the favours bestowed on the Jews in and after their deliverance from the Egyptian captivity, and he compares these favours with those enjoyed by Christians. For the salvation founded by the ministry of Moses in Israel is one and the same work with the salvation brought in by Christ; and the laws of Divine action, which directed the former of these deliverances, are exactly the same as those to which final salvation is subject.
2. The example of The Israelites. 10:1-11.
This passage is the continuation of the foregoing. What the apostle has just indicated as a possibility for himself, he now points out as a reality in the history of the Jewish people. In them we have a nation who, after having been the object of the most ample favours from God, favours even which were perfectly analogous to those we enjoy as Christians, nevertheless perished because of its failure in self-renunciation. In fact: 1, the Israelites having come out of Egypt had all participated in the extraordinary favours which accompanied this deliverance, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 10:2, and yet they almost all perished in the wilderness, 1 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Corinthians 3:0, such is the image of the lot which threatens the Corinthians if they act in the same manner, 1 Corinthians 10:6-11.
The analogy between this passage and the preceding is striking: this nation, that had come out of Egypt to get to Canaan, corresponds to the runner who, after starting in the race, misses the prize, for want of perseverance in self-sacrifice. The one runner whom the judge of the contest crowns is the counterpart of the two faithful Israelites, to whom alone it was given to enter the Promised Land.
But in the following passage we have no longer to do with a simple comparison; it is more serious; we enter into the realities of history. The apostle, as has been remarked here, becomes a Jew to the Jews, as he had formerly become a Greek to the Greeks.
II. The Question considered from the Viewpoint of the Salvation of the Strong Themselves. 9:23-10:22.
As Paul concluded the preceding development by giving his own example, he introduces the following in the same way. In 1Co 9:23-27 he shows the danger which he himself ran, if he ventured to deviate from the austere path of voluntary renunciation. Then, in chap. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, he presents a second example to the Corinthians, that of the people of Israel when they had come out of Egypt, whose numerous chastisements in the wilderness were called forth by their loose abandonment to their lusts. Finally, 1 Corinthians 9:12-22, he applies these examples to the present situation of the Corinthians.
Vv. 3, 4. “And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4. And did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.”
As the Holy Supper serves to maintain in salvation those who have entered into it by the faith professed in baptism, so the Israelites also received, after the initial deliverance, the favours necessary to their preservation. These benefits, corresponding to the bread and wine of the Supper, were the manna daily received, and the water which God caused to issue from a rock in two cases of exceptional distress. The epithet πνευματικός , spiritual, cannot refer to the nature of these two Divine gifts; for they were material in substance. We may interpret it in two ways: either in the sense of typical, if we regard the material gift as the figure of a higher and future one; or in the sense of supernatural, in so far as these gifts were the immediate products of creative energy, regarded as proceeding from the Divine Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Psa 33:6 ). I doubt whether examples can be quoted sufficient to establish the first of these two meanings; Revelation 11:8, the only passage adduced by Edwards, is not convincing. The second meaning, on the contrary, is in harmony with biblical language in general and with that of the apostle in particular, though Holsten alleges the contrary; comp. Galatians 4:29. Moreover, it must be considered that the first meaning, by lowering the gifts made to the Israelites to the level of mere figures, would so far diminish the force of the argument; while the second, by representing them as miraculous gifts, gives it additional solidity: Heavenly food, and He did not save them! Supernatural water, and those who drank it perished under condemnation! The pronoun τὸ αὐτό , the same (food), does not refer, as is thought by Calvin and Heinrici, to the identity of these gifts with those bestowed on Christians. The one point in question is the relation of the Israelites to one another. All partook equally of this miraculous nourishment; and two were saved!
Vv. 4. Paul here refers to the two events related Exo 17:6 and Numbers 20:11. The miraculous character of the water which came from the rock is explained by the following proposition ( for); it follows from the spiritual nature of the rock whence it flowed. The word spiritual cannot therefore have here a meaning exactly similar to that which it had in the foregoing propositions. There this epithet denoted the supernatural origin of the material gifts. Applied, as it is here, to the source of the miraculous water, it can only designate the nature of the rock; for it is this nature which explains the creative energy that was inherent in it and the supernatural effects it could produce. To produce this supernatural water, there was needed a rock Divine in its nature. Several commentators, Rückert, Baur, de Wette, Meyer (1st edns.), have thought that Paul was here appropriating the Rabbinical fable, according to which a material rock rolled over hill and dale across the desert beside the camp of the Israelites, so as to supply them with the water they needed; it was Miriam, Moses' sister, who above all was said to possess the secret of getting this water. But how can we imagine for a moment the most spiritual of the apostles holding and teaching the Churches such puerilities? In any case, even if he meant to allude to so ridiculous a fable, which we greatly doubt, he has done so in such a way as to make palpable the wide divergence between the Rabbinical opinion and his own.
In fact, the object of the two epithets ἀκολουθούσης and πνευματικῆς , accompanying and spiritual, is certainly to distinguish exactly the invisible and spiritual Rock of which he himself speaks, from the material rock spoken of in Exodus, that of which the Lord said to Moses the first time: “I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb, and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it,” and the second time in the wilderness of Sin: “Take the rod...and speak to the rock..., and thou shalt bring forth water from the rock.” These two rocks already stood there when Israel arrived in these localities, and they remained there when Israel left them. Paul, therefore, can only mean one thing: that behind these material and immoveable rocks, there was one invisible and moveable, the true giver of the water, to wit, the Christ Himself. If anyhow such is the meaning of the narrative of Exodus, in Paul's view, where is place left for a third sort of rock at once spiritual and material and of a nature wholly incomprehensible? The imperfect ἔπινον , drank, indicates duration, a repetition of similar cases; and this because the spiritual Rock was always present in the mysterious cloud which accompanied Israel. This is what the apostle expresses when he adds: and that Rock was Christ. Meyer, after abandoning his first explanation, adopts the view, since his 4th ed., that these words constrain us to hold that Paul regarded the Rock as a visible and real manifestation of the Christ, who accompanied Israel in the cloud, according to the words of the Targum of Isaiah ( 1Co 16:1 ) and of Philo, who say that “the rock was wisdom. ”
But the idea of the incarnation of the Christ in a rock is so contrary to the spirit of St. Paul, that one cannot entertain it seriously, and 1Co 10:9 represents the Christ in the wilderness acting as the representative of Jehovah, from the midst of the cloud! Is it not perfectly simple to explain this figure of which Paul makes use, by the numerous sayings of Deuteronomy, in which the Lord is called the Rock of Israel: “The Rock, His work is perfect” ( Deu 32:4 ); “Israel lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” ( Deu 32:15 ); “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful” ( Deu 32:18 ), etc., and by all those similar ones of Isaiah: “Thou hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength” ( Isa 17:10 ); “in the Lord is the Rock of ages” ( Isa 26:4 )? Only, what is special in the passage of Paul is, that this title of Rock of Israel, during the wilderness history, is ascribed here, not to Jehovah, but to the Christ. The passage forms an analogy to the words John 12:41, where the apostle applies to Jesus the vision in which Isaiah beholds Adonai, the Lord, in the temple of His glory (ch. 6). Christ is represented in these passages, by Paul and John, as pre-existent before His coming to the earth, and presiding over the theocratic history. In ch. 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul had designated Christ as the Being by whom God created all things. Here he represents Him as the Divine Being who accompanied God's people in the cloud through the wilderness, and who gave them the deliverances which they needed. We have the same view here as appears in the angel of the Lord, so often identified in Genesis with the Lord Himself, and yet distinct from Him, in the Being who is called in Isaiah the angel of His presence ( Isa 63:9 ), and in Malachi the angel of the covenant, Adonai ( Mal 3:1 ), the Mediator between God and the world, specially with a view to the work of salvation. It is easy to understand the relation there is between the mention of this great theocratic fact and the idea which the apostle wishes to express in our passage. The spiritual homogeneity of the two covenants, and of the gifts accompanying them, rests on this identity of the Divine head of both. The practical consequence is obvious at a glance: Christ lived in the midst of the ancient people, and the people perished! How can you think yourselves, you Christians, secure from the same lot!
It is clear that there is no good ground for holding, as Holsten does, the second part of this verse to be interpolated. It enters perfectly into the course of the argument.
Reuss alleges that with such a conception of history as the apostle here expresses, “one comes very near seeing nothing more in it than pure allegories, and not realities.” It seems as if this critic would like to make St. Paul the forerunner of his own critical system. He forgets that it is one thing to derive a moral application from an accomplished fact, and another to assert that the fact itself is only an illustration of the moral idea.
It has been justly observed that in this passage we find for the first time the combination of the two sacred acts of baptism and the Lord's Supper, as forming a complete whole: the one representing the grace of entrance into the new life, the other the grace by which we are maintained and strengthened in it. The combination of these two acts, under the particular name of sacraments, is not therefore an arbitrary invention of dogmatic.
The Israelites, after their exodus from Egypt, all received Divine favours analogous though inferior to those which Christians themselves enjoy; and, notwithstanding, what a judgment!
Vv. 5. “But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” ᾿Αλλά : notwithstanding so great favours. They were overthrown..., an allusion to Numbers 14:29: “Your carcases shall fall in the wilderness.” What a spectacle is that which is called up by the apostle before the eyes of the self-satisfied Corinthians: all those bodies, sated with miraculous food and drink, strewing the soil of the desert!
Vv. 6. “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.”
These things: this rejection, this curse after such blessings. Examples for us; strictly: examples of us, that is to say, of what will happen to ourselves if we follow their example. The use of the plural ( ἐγενήθησαν ) follows by attraction from the predicate τύποι . The word τύπος , type, which comes from τύπτω , to strike, strictly denotes an impression in which an already existing image is reproduced. But, strange to say, in the history of the kingdom of God, the figure which serves to produce the impression does not appear till after the impression itself; it has indeed a pre-existence relatively to it, but only in the Divine mind. In history, the derived impression appears first, on one of the lower stages of revelation, and the model figure does not appear till a more advanced epoch of the kingdom of God.
That we should not lust after...Literally: “that we should not be lusters of evil things.” The noun ( ἐπιθυμητής ) denotes the permanent disposition, the inward vice, while the particular acts are denoted by the verb in the aorist ( ἐπεθύμησαν ).
The word ἐπιθυμία , lust, expresses, as is shown by its composition, the motion of the soul ( θυμός ) toward ( ἐπί ) a good thing which God does not give, egoistical and discontented aspiration.
By evil things are to be understood the enjoyments which God does not grant, either because they are evil in themselves, or because, perfectly legitimate as they are, God requires them to be sacrificed in the service of love or for the sake of watchfulness. The phrase: desirous of evil things, includes all the following sins, and reveals their common cause, just as the phrase to be overthrown sums up all the judgments which are about to be enumerated.
These examples are four in number; two refer to pleasures which God refuses, 1 Corinthians 10:7-8; two to the feelings of irritation and rebellion excited by this refusal, 1 Corinthians 10:8-9.
Vv. 6-11. From these facts the apostle derives this lesson: The greatest blessings may issue in the greatest judgments.
Vv. 7, 8. “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.”
The μηδέ , neither, connects this proposition closely with the preceding; we pass from lust to the acts in which it seeks its satisfaction.
The example quoted is that of the worship of the golden calf, and of the profane feast which followed it, Exodus 32:0. The verb παίζειν , strictly: to play, is specially used of dancing.
Vv. 8. The danger of fornication was always connected with idolatry. At Corinth, therefore, it might easily follow participation in the sacrificial feasts.
The example quoted is that mentioned in Numbers 25:0, where, according to Balaam's treacherous advice, the Israelites were enticed to a sacrifice offered by the Midianites to the god Baal-Peor, and where they let themselves be drawn into this sin.
The Old Testament relates ( 1Co 10:9 ) that 24,000 perished of the plague, inflicted by the wrath of the Lord. St. Paul speaks only of 23,000. We might admit a slip of memory. But the figure 24,000 is exactly reproduced in Philo and Josephus and the Rabbins. Are we to suppose that Paul did not know his sacred history so well as they? The same fact prevents us from supposing a variant in the text of the Old Testament. May we not here suspect a piece of Rabbinical refinement, similar to the: forty stripes save one, spoken of in 2Co 11:24 ? To avoid the risk of exaggeration, it had become the habit, in oral teaching we may suppose, to speak of 23,000 instead of 24,000 (see Calvin).
The transition from the second person ( that ye become not, 1Co 10:7 ) to the first ( that we commit not) seems to arise from the fact that the second danger was much more common than the first, and might apply to Christians in general.
Vv. 9, 10. “Neither let us tempt the Christ as some of them tempted Him, and were destroyed of serpents; 10. Neither murmur ye as some of them murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”
The first of the two sins against which the Corinthians are indirectly put on their guard in these verses, is evidently the discontent which they feel on account of the self-denial required by their Christian call. The example quoted is that of the Israelites dissatisfied with the food to which they are reduced in the wilderness, and who are punished by the scourge of the fiery serpents ( Num 21:5 seq.).
The expression to tempt God, so often used in Scripture, signifies: to put God to the proof, to try whether He will manifest His goodness, power, and wisdom either by succouring us from a danger to which we have rashly exposed ourselves, or by extricating us from a difficulty which we have ourselves wilfully created while reckoning on Him, or by pardoning a sin for which we had beforehand discounted His grace. This, according to the biblical view, is one of the greatest sins man can commit. The Jews committed it in the wilderness by their murmurs, because they sought thereby to challenge the display of Divine power in the service of their lusts. The Corinthians in their turn committed it by pushing to its utmost limits the use of their Christian liberty in regard to heathen feasts. Could our Christianity, said they, really forbid to us those pleasures? Is not God able to keep us from falling even in such circumstances? And even if we should fall, would not His grace be ready to pardon and raise us again? They thus claimed to make God move at their pleasure, even should it be necessary to work miracles of power or mercy to save them.
Of the three readings τὸν κύριον , the Lord, τὸν Χριστόν , the Christ, and τὸν θεόν , God, the last should be set aside without hesitation; it has only the Alexandrinus in its favour; it is a correction following the usual biblical phrase to tempt God. The other two come to the same thing in point of sense; for the term the Lord always denotes Christ in the New Testament when it is not found in a quotation from the Old. It might be said in favour of the reading the Lord, that it explains more easily the other two; but in favour of the Christ, we have, first, the agreement of the two Greco-Latin and Byzantine families, then the more extraordinary form and the greater difficulty of the expression, finally, its appropriateness in the application of the saying to the Corinthians and the comparison of 1 Corinthians 10:4. This reading is also preferred by Osiander, Reuss, Heinrici, Hofmann, etc. For the meaning of it, see on 1 Corinthians 10:4.
Vv. 10. Here is the fourth trespass of which St. Paul speaks: the murmuring against Moses and Aaron. The fact which he cites is that related Numbers 16:0; the revolt of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, in consequence of which a sudden plague destroyed the despisers of the servants of the Lord. Some have thought of the event related Numbers 14:0, where, in consequence of the report of the spies sent to Canaan, the people murmured and rebelled. But this sin was not followed by any immediate judgment; it became the occasion of the sentence pronounced on those who were more than twenty years of age when they came out of Egypt, a sentence which was executed only slowly during their whole journeying in the wilderness. The intervention of the destroying angel indicates a sudden and mortal plague; this circumstance is certainly not mentioned in the narrative of the punishment of Korah and his companions; but it is supposed by the term maggepha, the plague, v. 48 (Hebrew text, 17:13), which St. Paul interprets by Exodus 12:23. In quoting this example, he certainly has in view the irritation felt by a party among the Corinthians against himself, his fellow-labourers, and those of the leaders of the flock who along with them disapprove of taking part in heathen rejoicings. This party chafed at their severity, which gave rise to so painful a situation for Christians in relation to their friends, and they asked, as Korah and his followers did in respect of Moses and Aaron, Whether the authority they exercised over the Church was not a usurpation?
Of the two readings murmur and let us murmur, the first ought to be preferred, in the first place, because the second probably arises from an assimilation of this verb to the verbs of 1 Corinthians 10:8-9; and next, because we have here an admonition altogether special, applicable only to the Church of Corinth, like that of 1 Corinthians 10:7, where already the second person was used. The imperfect ἀπώλλυντο , were perishing, is preferable to the aor. ἀπώλοντο , perished; it makes us witnesses, as it were, of the mournful scene.
Vv. 11. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the world is come.”
This verse is the summary of all the foregoing examples; a fact which leads us to prefer the reading of the Sinaït. and of the Greco-Lats., which preserves and even places foremost the word πάντα , all.
The two readings τύποι , “as types,” and τυπικῶς , typically, have the same meaning; but the second is to be preferred, first, because it is read in MSS. of the three families; and next because the word τυπικῶς occurs nowhere else. The substantive τύποι has probably come from 1 Corinthians 10:6.
Of the two readings συνέβαινον and συνέβαινεν , the first goes better with τύποι , the second with τυπικῶς .
The apostle does not mean that these facts did not really happen, as has been insinuated, but that they had a bearing beyond their immediate signification. The Scripture compilation of the facts of sacred history has the same end as the history itself. The same God who directed the latter willed that it should be committed to writing with a view to those who should live in the final epoch of the world, and for whom those facts, without Scripture, would be as though they were not.
The word νουθεσία signifies: rebuke, correction, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. This is what the Corinthians needed at that time.
Τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων , literally the ends of the ages, is a term corresponding to the acharith hajjamim, the end of the days, in the prophets; comp. the expressions the last times ( 1Pe 1:20 ), and the last hour ( 1Jn 2:18 ). It is the dispensation of the Messiah which for us falls into two periods, confounded in one in the view of the prophets, that of His purely spiritual kingdom and that of His kingdom of glory. Paul is here speaking of the former. The ages, αἰῶνες , denote the whole series of historical periods, and the term “ the ends of the ages,” shows that the Messianic period itself will contain a series of phases.
The verb καταντᾷν , to meet, represents the ages which follow one another in the final dispensation, as coming to meet the living. We must prefer the perfect κατήντηκεν of the Alex. reading to the aorist of the T. R.; Paul does not mean to speak of the meeting itself, but of the whole state of things constituted by this constant approach of the end. This final period is the most solemn of all, for it is during its course that the laws of the Divine kingdom, imperfectly manifested in former periods, display their conclusive effects. Formerly blessings and judgments, all have only a provisional and figurative character. With the final period of history, everything, whether for weal or woe, takes a decisive, eternal value. This is why everything which happened in former times took place with a view to us to whose lot it has fallen to live at this last hour ( ἡμῶν εἰς οὕς ).
The apostle did not himself know the duration of this final period, which in his mind coincided with the development of the Church; but the phrase: the ends of the ages, shows that he did not regard it as so short as is commonly alleged; see on 1 Corinthians 7:29.
Vv. 12, 13. “Thus, then, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall! 13. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
The ὥστε , so that, which we render by thus then, indicates that this exhortation to watchfulness is the inference to be drawn from the foregoing examples. There is here in the term δοκεῖν , to think, a notion, not of illusion, but of presumption. Paul allows indeed that the person addressed by him is standing, for he afterwards speaks of the danger he is in of falling; but the very claim to be standing may lead to neglect of vigilance, and thereby to a fall. ῾Εστάναι , perfect infinitive contracted for ἑστακέναι or ἑστηκέναι . The two figures to be standing and to fall do not represent the state of grace or condemnation, but the state of fidelity or sin; comp. Romans 14:4.
Vv. 13. This verse is undoubtedly one of the most difficult of the whole Epistle, at least as to the logical connection joining it to what precedes and to what follows. This is very apparent when we study the commentaries. Many commentators (Meyer, Heinrici, Holsten, Beet) find here an encouragement fitted to soften the severity of the warning of 1 Corinthians 10:12, in this sense: “And it is easy for you with watchfulness not to fall; for your previous temptations have not hitherto exceeded your strength, and should they be even greater, the faithfulness of God is a pledge to you that they will not go beyond it in the future.” The absence of the particle δέ at the beginning of the verse seems to me incompatible with this meaning. Besides, the Corinthians had more need of being admonished than tranquillized. Finally, and above all, the asyndeton with the preceding context leads us rather to expect an emphatic reaffirmation of the need of vigilance, than an encouragement. This has been felt by the ancient Greek commentators, Chrysostom, etc., and several moderns, such as Bengel, Olshausen, Rückert, Neander, and, to a certain extent, Edwards. The meaning, according to them, is this: “Take so much the more heed as you are not yet out of danger. Up till now you have not been very greatly tempted” (Edwards: “It has not yet gone” the length of blood, of persecution; Heb 12:4 ); “but how will it be if there should come on you stronger temptations than the former? God no doubt will still protect you, but on condition that you watch.” But is not this whole series of ideas very complicated? Then the force with which the faithfulness of God is expressed in the second part of the verse is not in keeping with so threatening a sense. The following, as it seems to me, is the true order of the apostle's thoughts: “If you should fall thus ( 1Co 10:13 ), you would be without excuse; for the temptations which have met you hitherto have not been of an irresistible nature, and as to those which may come on you in the future, God is always ready to sustain you and to save you in time from peril.” The conclusion is drawn in 1 Corinthians 10:14: “Wherefore beware of throwing yourselves into temptations to which you are not exposed by God Himself, and to which you would certainly succumb.” This meaning seems to me to be nearly that of Hofmann. The Corinthians must be made to understand that they run no risk of sinning and falling away from faith, if they have only to encounter the temptations which God allots to them, but that they have no pledge of victory whatever in the case of temptations into which they throw themselves with light-heartedness. The passage is therefore at once an encouragement in respect of the former, and a grave warning in respect of the latter.
The term πειρασμός , proof, temptation, comprehends all that puts moral fidelity to the proof, whether this proof have for its end to manifest and strengthen the fidelity it is in this sense that God can tempt, Genesis 22:1; Deuteronomy 13:3; or whether it seeks to make man fall into sin it is in this sense that God cannot tempt, James 1:13, and that the devil always tempts. It may also happen that the same fact falls at once into these two categories, as for example, the temptation of Job, which on the part of Satan had for its end to make him fall, and which God, on the contrary, permitted with the view of bringing out into clear manifestation the fidelity of His servant, and of raising him to a higher degree of holiness and of knowledge. There are even cases in which God permits Satan to tempt, not without consenting to his attaining his end of bringing into sin. So in the case of David, 1 Chronicles 21:1; comp. with 2 Samuel 24:1. This is when the pride of man has reached a point such that it is a greater obstacle to salvation than the commission of a sin; God then makes use of a fall to break this proud heart by the humbling experience of its weakness. Such undoubtedly is the meaning in which we are to say: “Lead us not into temptation.” These remarks will find their application in the immediate sequel.
It is possible to refer the term ἀνθρώπινος , human, to the origin of the temptation. There is not one of your temptations which did not proceed from man, either from the evil heart and its natural lusts, or from the example of other sinners. The temptations of which Paul thus speaks, would be opposed either to those which come from God, or rather to those which have Satan for their author. And indeed the context might lead us to think of the diabolical temptations to which the Corinthians did not fear to expose themselves when they took part in those feasts where the breath of Satan diffused an atmosphere all impregnated with idolatry and sensuality; “God has never put you into positions so diabolical; it is yourselves who seek them.” This meaning would be natural enough in the context; but the following words of the verse would in this case seem intended to encourage the Corinthians to brave such dangers by the promise of Divine succour, which it is impossible to hold. It is better, therefore, with most commentators, to apply the epithet human to the nature of the temptation: “A temptation proportioned to the strength of man;” but without isolating man from God, for God only can give man victory even in the slightest temptation. And to account more fully for this unprecedented expression, must we not contrast it with an angelic temptation? Suppose the Corinthians, impatient of the apostle's exactions, should in their ill-humour express themselves thus: “We should require to be angels to live as he demands!” “No,” Paul would answer; “I do not ask of you superhuman sacrifices in the name of your Christian profession. Your faith has not put you into a situation which a weak man cannot bear; but God is faithful, and He measures the temptation to the amount of strength.” Then the apostle adds, that if the situation became difficult to such a degree as to appear utterly intolerable, the faithfulness of God would show itself by putting an end to such a situation. Thus everything seems to me to find its natural connection.
The words ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε , beyond what ye are able, come as a surprise. Has man then some power? And, if the matter in question is what man can do with the Divine help, is not the power of this help without limit? But it must not be forgotten, that if the power of God is infinite, the receptivity of the believer is limited: limited by the measure of spiritual development which he has reached, by the degree of his love for holiness and of his zeal in prayer, etc. God knows this measure, Paul means to say, and he proportions the intensity of the temptation to the degree of power which the believer is capable of receiving from Him, as the mechanician, if we may be allowed such a comparison, proportions the heat of the furnace to the resisting power of the boiler. It is evident from the words: with the temptation, that God co-operates with it in the sense we have spoken of above, and this is precisely the reason why He can also bring it to an end at any moment He chooses.
The issue, ἔκβασις , may be obtained in two ways. Either God by His providence can put an end to the situation itself, or by a ray of light from on high He can rid the believer's heart of the fascinating charm exercised over him by the tempting object, and change into disgust the seductive attraction which it exercised. Of the two ways, the struggle to the death between inclination and duty issues in the victory of the believer. The conclusion is this: “Victory being assured over the temptations which God sends you, seek not to throw yourselves into those which He does not send” ( 1Co 10:14 ).
Hofmann rightly observes, that nothing rendered the breach of the converted heathen with his past and with his surroundings so conspicuous as his refusal to take part in the sacrificial feasts. And so, many Corinthians sought to persuade themselves that they might harmonize this participation with their Christian profession. Had they not declared the nothingness of idols? Such a feast, therefore, had no longer for them the character of a sacrifice; it was a purely social act, to which the great maxim of Christian liberty in regard to external things applied: “All things are lawful for me.” Paul well knew that here was the most difficult sacrifice to be obtained. Accordingly with what prudence does he proceed! His whole handling of the question is a masterpiece of strategy. In chaps. 8 and 9 he treats the Corinthians as strong; only for the sake of their brethren does he ask them to deny themselves meats offered to idols; he encourages them by describing the sacrifices which he has made and is daily making for the Churches and the gospel. Then suddenly ( 1Co 9:23 ) he passes to an entirely new order of considerations: “And if I act thus,” he adds, “it is also for the sake of my own salvation, which I should certainly compromise by acting otherwise.” Then he demonstrates the reality of this danger by the case of the Israelites who drew down on themselves the Divine condemnation by revolting against the self-denial which the wilderness life imposed on them. “Do ye also, therefore, fear to fall by refusing to God the sacrifices which He asks of you!” At this point, after having gradually enclosed them in his net, he all at once ties the knot so long prepared for, and finally pronounces in 1Co 10:14 the decisive word:
3. The application of these examples to the Church of Corinth. 1 Corinthians 10:12-22 .
The parallel which the apostle had proposed to draw between the Israelites and Christians is closed. He now makes the practical application of it to the spiritual state of the Corinthians, an application which has, in the first place, a general character ( 1Co 10:12-13 ), but which soon passes more specially to the important point which Paul has in view from 1 Corinthians 9:23, participation in the sacrificial banquets ( 1Co 10:14-22 ).
Vv. 14, 15. “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee far from idolatry. 15. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.”
The address so full of tenderness: my dearly beloved, expresses how much it costs him to be obliged to impose on them a sacrifice which he knows to be so painful.
Διόπερ , precisely on this account: because you can reckon on God's help in the temptations which He appoints to you Himself, but not in others.
The expression: flee far from, is certainly used designedly. In a similar passage, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul had used the verb flee simply with the substantive as its object. If he here interposes the preposition ἀπό , far from, it is to tell them, not only to flee idolatry itself (that would have been superfluous), but to flee far from all that approaches it or might lead them into it. The sacrificial feasts were not quite idolatry, but they bordered on it and might lead to a fall into it.
Vv. 15. Then he appeals to their own judgment. For he would have the decision to proceed from their conscience. The Corinthians boast of wisdom; he appeals to this very wisdom. The second proposition of this verse has sometimes been taken as the object of the verb of the first: “I pray you as intelligent people to judge what I say.” But it is much more natural to take as the object of the verb I say the whole argument which follows in the passage, 1 Corinthians 10:16-22: “I proceed to expound my thought to you; judge yourselves what I advance.” On the term φημί , see on 1 Corinthians 7:29. He would impose nothing on them; but he proceeds to submit to them certain premisses which they cannot gainsay, and from which there will follow a consequence, which they cannot refuse, without rejecting those premisses themselves.
The following passage rests on these principles: that any religious act whatever brings us into communication with the spiritual world, that this exercises a power, and that the nature of the influence thus exercised depends each time on the character of the invisible Being to which the worship is thus addressed. Thus the Holy Supper brings the believer under the influence of Christ ( 1Co 10:16-17 ); the Jewish sacrifice brings the Israelite into contact with the altar of Jehovah ( 1Co 10:18 ); and the heathen sacrificial feast brings man under the influence of the demons whose arts have given birth to idolatry.
Vv. 16, 17. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17. Seeing that there is only one bread, we, being many, are one body: for we are all partakers of one bread.” The Holy Supper is, in the New Testament, the corresponding action to the feast which completed the peace - offering in the Old. The sacrifice once offered, the Jewish worshipper with his family celebrated a sacred feast in the temple court, in which the priest participated, and in which the part of the victim not consumed on the altar was eaten in common. It was in a manner the pledge of reconciliation which the Lord gave to the sinner on his restoration to grace. So the victim sacrificed is eaten by the believer in the Lord's Supper in token of reconciliation, and the result of this act is the formation of a real communion on the part of the worshipper, first with the victim ( 1Co 10:16 ), then also with all the other worshippers ( 1Co 10:17 ).
As in the second proposition of 1Co 10:16 the accusative ἄρτον , the bread, is an attraction arising from the following ὅν , Meyer, Hofmann, Holsten, etc., have thought that it must be so also with τὸ ποτήριον , the cup, in the first proposition. But this reason would only be valid if the proposition relative to the bread was placed first; reading the text as it stands, it is impossible to take τὸ ποτήριον otherwise than as a nominative.
The genitive εὐλογίας , of blessing, must contain an allusion to the famous cup of the Paschal feast, which bore the name of cos habberakia, the cup of blessing; it was the third which the father of the family circulated in the course of the feast; he did so while pronouncing over it a thanksgiving prayer for all God's benefits in nature and toward Israel. Jesus had reproduced this rite in the institution of the Holy Supper, but substituting, no doubt, for the Israelitish thanksgiving a prayer of gratitude for the salvation, higher than the deliverance from Egypt, which He was about to effect by His death, the foundation of the new covenant. The meaning therefore is: “The cup over which the Lord uttered the thanksgiving which we repeat when we celebrate this ceremony.” Some give the genitive εὐλογίας an active meaning: “The cup which produces blessing.” Heinrici compares, in an analogous sense, Psalms 116:13: “the cup of salvation,” and Isaiah 51:17: “the cup of fury;” he thus explains this complement: “The cup which contains the blessing of Christ.” This meaning is less natural in itself; and next, it does not answer to the meaning of the corresponding Hebrew expression. There is only one reason that might lead us to accept it, the desire to escape a tautology with the following phrase: which we bless. We could not escape from this awkwardness if, with Meyer, we regarded this last expression as only the explanatory paraphrase of the τῆς εὐλογίας , of blessing. Such a repetition would be superfluous. Besides, Paul would have required to say in this case ὑπὲρ οὗ ( for which), and not ὅ , “ which we bless.” This pronoun in the accusative shows precisely that these words contain a new idea. It was not only God that was blessed for this cup, the symbol of salvation; but the cup itself was blessed as representing that which Christ had held in His hand when He instituted the Supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” The complement: of blessing, expresses the idea: “May God be blessed for this cup!” and the words: which we bless, this: “May this cup be blessed to us!” Comp. the phrase Luke 9:16: He blessed the loaves. It was by this blessing or consecration of the cup as a figurative sign of the blood of redemption that the cup became to the consciousness of the Church the means of participation in the blood of Christ.
The plural: we bless, alludes to the amen whereby the Church appropriated the formula of consecration. In the age of Justin (middle of the second century), it was the presbyter, presiding over the assembly, who performed this act; we cannot say whether it was so already in the apostle's time. The Didache ( Διδαχή ) of the Twelve Apostles, describing the ceremony of the Supper (chap. 9), tells us nothing on this head.
In the principal proposition, the notion of being ( ἐστί ) is certainly not the essential idea in Paul's view, as if he wished to insist and to say: “is really. ” In this sense the word ἐστί would have required to be placed first both times, before the predicate κοινωνία , the communion. The emphasis is on the predicate: the communion. By this term κοινωνία , does the apostle mean to designate a material participation in the blood of Christ, or a moral participation in its beneficent and salutary efficacy for the expiation of sins? In the former case we must hold, that as the instantaneous effect of the consecration, a physical act is wrought, either in the form of a transubstantiation, which makes wine the very blood of Christ, or in that of a conjunction of the blood with the wine of the Supper. But if the real blood of Christ was in one of these two forms offered to the communicant, this so essential element of the rite would certainly have been wanting the first time it was celebrated when Jesus instituted it; for His blood being not yet shed could not be communicated to the apostles. The reference, therefore, could only be to the blood of His glorified body. But the Apostle Paul expressly teaches that blood, as a corruptible principle, does not enter as an element into the glorified body ( 1Co 15:50 ). The two theories, Catholic and Lutheran, seem to us to be overturned by this simple observation. On the other hand, the apostle's words cannot merely denote, as some commentators have supposed, the profession of faith made by the communicant in the expiatory virtue of Christ's blood, and the thanksgiving with which he accompanies this profession. What does Paul wish to prove by appealing here to the analogy of the Holy Supper? He wishes to demonstrate, by the salutary influence which the communion exercises over the believer's heart, that demons exercise a pernicious one over him who takes part in the heathen sacrificial feasts. The Holy Supper is not, therefore, according to the apostle's view, a simple act of profession and thanksgiving on the believer's part. It is, at the same time, a real partaking of the grace purchased by Christ, and which He communicates to the devout soul of the communicant. This conception is a sort of intermediate one between the two opposite views which we have just set aside, a conception of the kind which Calvin sought to formulate. Especially as to the cup, the communion is an effectual partaking in the expiation accomplished by the blood of Christ and in the reconciliation to God which is thus assured to us; it is our taking in possession that remission of sins, of which Jesus Himself spoke when handing the cup, and by which we are placed in the pure and luminous atmosphere of Divine adoption.
The accusative τὸν ἄρτον , the bread, is explained by attraction of the following pronoun ὅν ( Mat 21:42 ). It is occasioned by the fact that the bread is here contemplated in its close relation to the act as a whole; the bread only appears as broken.
The words are not used in connection with the bread, nor with the thanksgiving, nor with the act of consecration, but solely with the breaking of it. It is so, undoubtedly, to avoid repetition; for the bread also was consecrated with thanksgiving. This appears from the passage of Justin in which he calls the Holy Supper: ἡ εὐχαριστηθεῖσα τροφή , the Eucharistic nourishment, for which thanks are given, as well as at a yet earlier period, from the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, in which there is express mention of the double thanksgiving for the cup and the bread in the primitive Jewish Christian Churches.
The plural κλῶμεν , we break, either suggests the moral participation of the whole church in this act which the president performed in memory of Jesus breaking the bread for the disciples, or it supposes a form such as prevails in the Churches where every communicant himself breaks off a piece of the bread which passes from one to another. The term κοινωνία , communion, is repeated in connection with the bread; it is, in fact, the notion which unites the two acts in one, and from which has arisen the ordinary name of the sacrament, the communion.
Holsten thinks he can apply this word to the relation formed between believers by participation in the Supper. This is to do violence to the term which denotes the inner side of the participation of believers in the sacrament; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:9. The idea of the relation between communicants will not come till 1 Corinthians 10:17, as a corollary from the idea of their union with Christ. It is to get at the same meaning of κοινωνία that some commentators, such as Erasmus, Zwingle, etc., have here applied the term σῶμα Χριστοῦ , the body of Christ, to the Church, the community of those who believe in Christ. This explanation is as untenable as Holsten's. It is incompatible with the parallel proposition relative to the blood of Christ; in this connection it is quite certain that the body of Christ can only denote the physical organism which Christ possessed here below, an organism represented by the bread broken in the Supper, and of which the blood, taken literally, was the life. The believer's communion with the body of the Lord adds a new element to communion with Christ, founded on participation in His blood; the latter is participation in a benefit purchased by Him, that of reconciliation; the former is participation in His person, the assimilation of the very substance of His being. In the blood, represented by the cup, we contemplate and apply to ourselves Christ dead for us; in the body, represented by the bread, we appropriate Christ living in us. Our communion with this body broken for us, and then glorified, is therefore of a more intimate, more direct, more living nature than communion with the blood. St. Paul himself has expressed this profound fact in all its force and reality in the words: “It is no more I that live, but Christ that liveth in me” ( Gal 2:20 ). No doubt this fact is above all of a spiritual nature; it is His holy person whom His Spirit makes to live in us; but this spiritually holy person is at the same time a corporeally glorified person, and Paul himself teaches us that we are in a living relation to it, similar to that by which our natural descent unites us to the first Adam ( 1Co 15:48-49 ). Participation in His glorified body thus follows from communion with His holy person by the power of the Spirit. If it is so, we find here, though Holsten seeks to show the contrary, the same group of thoughts as in John, when, in chap. 6, Jesus speaks of the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood to have life and to be raised again at the last day (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; Joh 6:54 ). It is true, John uses the word flesh rather than body. But this is because he means to designate the substance as related to the idea of eating, which is naturally the dominant one in the context (following the multiplication of the loaves); whereas Paul speaks of the body, as an organism, and that in relation to the notion of breaking, which is particularly prominent both in this passage and in 1 Corinthians 11:24. This shows no difference of view, but only of relation.
It has been asked why in our passage the cup is placed before the bread, while in chap. 11, and in the institution of the Holy Supper, we find the opposite order. Meyer answers: Because the idea of bread afforded a transition to that of the flesh of the Jewish and heathen sacrifices, immediately to be spoken of; Hofmann: Because wine played the principal part in heathen feasts, and so required to be put first. Edwards, nearly the same: Perhaps because the sacrificial meals were rather συμπόσια than συσσίτια . I incline to think that Paul, speaking here in name of the Christian consciousness, puts the blood first, because it is expiation which faith appropriates in the first place; while the bread is placed second, because it represents the communication of Christ's power and life, which follows faith in reconciliation by His death. The opposite order was required by the circumstances of the institution of the Supper; see on chap. 1Co 11:24 seq.
Vv. 17. From the communion of every believer with the Lord, Paul deduces the communion of believers with one another; we shall see with what view. This verse may be construed grammatically in three ways. The first and most obvious would be to make the ὅτι , seeing that, relate to the preceding verse, while understanding the verb ἐστί in the first proposition: “...is the communion of the body of Christ, seeing that there is only one bread.” Then, taking this construction as granted, it might be applied also to what follows: “(and) seeing that therefore we are one body, we who are many.” So Meyer, Osiander, etc. According to this interpretation, the communion of Christians with one another would be here alleged to prove the communion of Christians with their Head in the Holy Supper. The construction is not tenable: 1, because the existence of two parallel propositions not connected by καί , and, would be without example in Paul's writings; 2, because the verb ἐστί , is, could not be understood in the first proposition; it would require to be expressed as corresponding to the ἐσμέν , we are, in the second; 3, because the proof would be defective. The communion of Christians with Christ in the Holy Supper cannot be demonstrated by the communion of Christians with one another, because this second fact is much less evident to the Christian consciousness.
The second construction also makes the ὅτι , seeing that, dependent on 1 Corinthians 10:16, but makes the two substantives one bread and one body two coordinate predicates of the many: “seeing that we, the many, are one bread, one body;” so Holsten. What a strange mode of expression: we are one bread! The more so, as Meyer observes, that the term bread can only be taken here in a figurative sense; otherwise there would be a tautology with the following proposition: “We are all partakers of one bread.” But if the word bread is taken the first time in its mystical sense, why add to it the expression: one body? In no sense can the apostle conclude from the fact that all communicants partake of one bread, that they all become that bread!
We must therefore have recourse to a third construction, the only admissible one, as it seems to us; it is that followed by the Vulgate, Calvin, Beza, Rückert, Hofmann, Heinrici, etc. The conjunction ὅτι , seeing that, is the beginning of a new sentence; and the subordinate proposition: “ seeing that there is one bread,” is regarded as dependent on the following proposition, which is the principal: “Seeing that there is one bread, we, being many, are one body.” The logical nexus which unites these two propositions is explained by the following sentence: For we are all partakers of the same bread. The communicants, by all receiving a piece of the same bread, are thereby bound, morally speaking, however numerous they may be, into one spiritual body; for this bread of which they all partake has been solemnly consecrated to represent one and the same object, the body of Jesus. The bond which thus unites them to Jesus as their common Head, unites them also to one another as members of the same body. Here is a subsidiary consideration which the apostle adds to the main argument, indicated in 1 Corinthians 10:16. And indeed, by taking part in the heathen sacrificial feasts, the Corinthians would not only separate themselves from Christ, to whom they were united in the Supper; they would also break the bond formed by this same ceremony between them and the Church, the body of Christ.
In the use of this term σῶμα , body, Paul passes from the literal sense (the Lord's body), 1 Corinthians 10:16, to the figurative sense (the Church), 1 Corinthians 10:17; this passage is natural because of the close relation between the two notions. If we become one and the same spiritual body with one another, it is because we all participate by faith in that one and the same body of Christ, with which we enter into relation in the Supper.
The verb μετέχειν , to partake, is usually construed with a simple genitive; it takes here the preposition ἐκ , of, from: “We all receive (a piece which comes) from the same bread.” This term differs from the more inward expression κοινωνία , communion, in that it denotes external participation in the bread of the Supper. It is obvious that we cannot, with Rodatz and Heinrici, understand the words one body in the sense of: “one body with Christ. ” For the matter in question in 1Co 10:17 is the breaking of the bond which unites believers to the Church as a whole.
The apostle quotes as a second example the Jewish sacrificial feasts.
Vv. 18. “Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices in communion with the altar?”
Israel is placed here by way of transition from the Church to the heathen. There were also among the Jews sacrificial feasts celebrated in the temple precincts, over which God Himself was held to preside, in consequence of the communion established with Him by the expiatory sacrifice; comp. Leviticus 8:0 and Deuteronomy 12:0, where are found the prescriptions regarding the peace offerings. The special call for the attention of the readers contained in the imperative βλέπετε , behold, arises from the fact that a usage is in question which is stranger to their sphere than the preceding. By the qualifying κατὰ σάρκα , after the flesh, Paul means to bring out the external character of the Israelitish worship, in opposition to the spiritual worship of the true Israel, the Church.
It is no doubt under the influence of the same thought that he says: “In communion with the altar,” rather than in communion with Jehovah. By sacrifice the guilty Israelite was replaced within the theocratic organization, of which the altar was the centre, rather than in communion with God Himself. As an analogous expression, Heinrici quotes the description of Philo, who calls the Israelitish priest κοινωνὸς τοῦ βώμου . The Epistle to the Hebrews shows why the blood of the victims could do no more.
It is evident that an Israelite who had eaten his part of the victim at Jehovah's table, and had thus made fast the bond which united him to the theocracy, could not thereafter take part in a heathen ceremony without committing a moral enormity. In the following verses the apostle gives the application of these examples.
Vv. 19, 20. “What say I then? that the meat offered to the idol is anything? Or that an idol is anything?...20. But the things which they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God. Now I would not that ye should be in communion with demons.”
The way in which Paul had just cited the two previous examples evidently assumed that he ascribed a diabolical influence to the sacrificial feasts of the heathen; now this idea seemed to be in contradiction to chap. 1Co 8:4 ; 1 Corinthians 8:6, where it had been declared that the gods of the heathen are not real divinities, and that the meat offered on their altar is consequently neither more nor less than simple meat, like any other. Paul therefore anticipates the objection which he foresees: “Art thou not now, contrary to thy previous declarations, allowing a disturbing influence to meats devoted to idols, and consequently, a Divine reality to the idols themselves?” In the order of questions, I follow the reading of the Vatic. and the Cantabrig., for it seems to me logical that Paul should begin with the question relating to the meat offered, to ascend therefrom to the question relating to the idol. I admit, however, that the opposite order may also be justified.
The omission of the question relating to the idol in the Sinaït., etc., is one of those many lacunae, especially in this MS., which are caused by the recurrence of the same letters at the distance of a few words. In the first question: That the meat offered to the idol is anything? the word anything signifies anything exceptional, having power to exercise a particular influence. In the second question: That an idol is anything? the anything signifies anything real. Sometimes the word τί has been taken as an adjective: “That any idol whatever is, that is to say exists” ( εἴδωλόν τι ἔστιν , instead of εἴδωλόν τί ἐστιν ). But the τί would be superfluous in this sense. It is more natural to take it as the predicate in the two questions.
Vv. 20. The apostle does not even take the trouble of stating the negative answer which he gives to these two questions; he passes directly to the affirmation which concerns him: Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, certainly, are not real beings; but Satan is something. Behind all that mythological phantasmagoria there lie concealed malignant powers, which, without being divinities, are nevertheless very real, and very active, and which have succeeded in fascinating the human imagination, and in turning aside the religious sentiment of the heathen nations to beings of the fancy; hence the idolatrous worships, worships addressed to those diabolical powers and not to God.
The subst. τὰ ἔθνη , the Gentiles, is omitted by the Vatic. and the Greco-Lats.; it is certainly an explanatory addition. This neuter substantive, once introduced, dragged into the T. R. the singular θύει , instead of the plural θύουσιν .
The subject of this latter verb is understood; it is self-evident.
The term δαιμόνιον , demon, which occurs nowhere else in Paul's writings except in 1 Timothy 4:1, has quite another meaning in the New Testament than in the classics. In the latter it is synonymous with θεῖον , something Divine. Plato in the Symposium, says that “demon is something intermediate between God and mortals;” and, in another passage: “That the demons interpret to the gods the things of men, and to men the things of the gods.” Imported into biblical language by the version of the LXX., the word there denotes the fallen angels, so often spoken of in Scripture. Thus Deuteronomy 32:17, the LXX. translate the words: jizebekou laschschédim..., ἔθυσαν δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ ( sched probably denoting in Hebrew idols, from schad, to rule). The Jews identified heathen divinities with the demons themselves; thus it is that the LXX. translate in Isaiah 65:11, the phrase: “to prepare a table for the host of heaven,” by: “to prepare a table for the demon.” The pagan Plutarch ( De defectu orac., chap. 13) ascribes to wicked spirits all that was barbarous and cruel, for example, human sacrifices in heathen religions. We may compare also Psalms 96:5: “For all the gods of the heathen are demons” (in Hebrew idols), and Baruch, chap. 4: “They sacrifice to demons, not to God.” It is in this Jewish acceptation that the term is used here. But the words of the apostle do not imply the idea that every false god worshipped by the heathen corresponds to a particular demon; they signify merely that heathen religions emanate from those malignant spirits, and that consequently the man who takes part in such worship puts himself under their influence. “How was it possible,” says Heinrici, “to sit at such a feast, to be sprinkled with the holy water, to obey the prescription of sacred silence, to take part in the joy of the hymns and dances which filled the interval between the sacrifice and the banquet, and finally to be given up to the joy of the feast which crowned the festive day to the glory of the false god, without acting as a worshipper of the heathen divinity?” The diabolical character of idolatry could be masked to a certain extent in Greek heathenism by the charm or majesty of the forms; but is it not clearly unveiled in modern heathen religions, particularly in Hindoo and African forms of worship, in which God's holy image has come at last to give place completely to hideous and ignoble figures? Besides, the inspiring sentiment of these worships is solely that of fear.
The δέ is progressive: “ Now I would not.” This authoritative form is accounted for by the solicitude of love. A father cannot allow his children to deliver themselves into bad hands.
Vv. 21, 22. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of demons; 22. or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than He?”
Edwards thinks that the matter in question here is an impossibility in point of fact. The heart cannot at the same time receive the holy inspirations of Christ and the impure influences of demons. But in that case the apostle would have used words of a more inward and spiritual character than cup and table. The impossibility is rather one of right: “You cannot morally, that is to say, without self-contradiction, and drawing down on you a terrible judgment, take part at the same time in two worships so opposite to one another.” The cup of demons is an expression easily understood, when we remember that in the solemn feasts of the ancients the consecration of the banquet took place with that of the cup, accompanied by the libation in honour of the gods. The first cup was offered to Jupiter; the second to Jupiter and the Nymphs; the third to Jupiter Soter. To participate in these three cups which circulated among the guests, was not this to do an act of idolatry, and to put oneself under the power of the spirit of evil, as really as the Jew by sacrificing put himself under the influence of Jehovah, and the Christian by communicating under that of Christ? Materially, no doubt, it was possible to act thus, but not without criminal inconsistency. And what proves that this is the meaning of the: Ye cannot, is the fact that, in the sequel, Paul expressly states that the Corinthians already venture to act thus; for he declares the fate which awaits them if they persist ( 1Co 10:22 ).
Vv. 22. The ἤ is taken in its usual sense in Paul's writings: “ Or if, notwithstanding.” In other words: “Or if you will persist in acting thus, do you know what you are doing, and to what you expose yourselves? You provoke in the heart of God that more terrible fire than the fire of wrath, which is called jealousy!” What is the hatred vowed against a declared enemy in comparison with the fury which falls on an unfaithful spouse? The term παραζηλοῦν , to excite to jealousy, is taken from Deuteronomy 32:21: “They have provoked me to jealousy by that which is not God” (idols put in the place of God). The text says briefly: “Do we provoke to jealousy?” Holsten regards this indicative as inadmissible, and thinks the meaning of the subjunctive to be indispensable: “Would we provoke ( παραζηλῶμεν )?” He therefore takes the termination ουμεν to be an irregular subjunctive form, like that which is supposed to be found in 1Co 4:6 and Galatians 4:17 (see on the first of these passages). But the supposition seems to me unnecessary. The indicative signifies: “Are we truly acting thus?” The form supposes that it was really being done; and this is certainly what is proved by the saying 1 Corinthians 8:10, which has by no means the effect of a supposition without reality.
The apostle alludes to the maxim whereby the strong Corinthians justified their carnal conduct: “All things are lawful for us.” The communicative form: Do we go the length of...? Are we...? serves to soften the severity of the merciless irony: stronger than God...? The term κύριος , Lord, might be applied to God, as is usually the case in passages quoted from the Old Testament. But I rather think, with de Wette, Meyer, Hofmann, following the 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1Co 10:9 ; 1 Corinthians 10:21, that in this case Paul applies it to Christ.
And now, after having adjusted this burning question, the apostle reverts in a calmer tone to the less difficult one, of the use of offered meats, giving a few very simple and precise practical rules on the subject, which flow from the principles laid down in the foregoing chapters. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24; 1 Corinthians 10:32-33, prove that these injunctions are specially addressed to the strong (see Heinrici and Holsten).
Vv. 23 forms the transition to this third passage, which is, as it were, the recapitulation of the whole matter treated in these three chapters.
Vv. 23. “All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful, but all things edify not.”
The apostle here repeats the adage already enunciated, 1 Corinthians 6:12, applying it, however, to a wholly different matter. We must beware of concluding from this repetition, as has been done, that the whole intermediate part has only been a digression. Such a subordinate position would not be in keeping with the gravity of the subjects treated. What meets us in these words is simply a sort of dictum which had come to be used at Corinth on all occasions, without discernment and without taking sufficient account of the limitations enjoined by watchfulness and charity. The logical bond between this rash affirmation of Christian liberty and the thought of 1Co 10:22 is obvious.
The term all things applies to external acts, in themselves indifferent, such as using this or that kind of food. The pronoun μοι , for me, ought probably to be omitted in this sentence, as well as in the following, with the majority of authorities, not, however, without remarking that this pronoun is read in the two propositions of the verse, not only in K L and the Peschito, but also in the Coislinianus (H), a MS. of the sixth century, transcribed from the autograph MS. of Pamphilus of Caesarea.
The same meaning is usually given to the two verbs συμφέρει , is expedient, and οἰκοδομεῖ , edifies. But this would be a pure tautology. It seems to me probable, from 1 Corinthians 10:33, that the former applies to spiritual good in general, including our own (comp. 1Co 9:23 to 1Co 11:22 ), and the second more specially to our neighbour's (comp. 1Co 8:1 to 1Co 9:22 ).
Such is the general principle; it will be repeated at the close ( 1Co 10:31 ) in different terms. 1Co 10:24 reproduces it immediately in a negative form, in order to exclude the great obstacle to its realization.
Vv. 24. “Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbour's good.”
It is the idea of οἰκοδομεῖν , edifying, which rules in this verse. It is not necessary to understand the adverb μόνον : “Let no man seek only...” The exclusion is absolute, because it condemns every pursuit of self-interest which is inspired by egoism: “Let no man seek his own enjoyment or advantage; but let him in his conduct always take account of the interest of others.”
In the application of this rule to the particular subject with which Paul is dealing, two cases might present themselves to the Christian: that of a meal in his own house ( 1Co 10:25-26 ), or that of a meal in a strange house ( 1Co 10:27-30 ).
Vv. 25, 26. “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26. for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.”
A Christian whose conscience is free from every scruple as to the eating of offered meats, sends and buys meat at the shambles; he has not to ask whether it is or is not sacrificial meat; it is pure in itself, like everything God has created. The term μάκελλον , shambles, is connected with the Latin macellum, and with the old French word mazel. The proper Greek word would have been κρεοπώλιον . The last words, διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν , for conscience sake, are naturally connected with μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες . Edwards also explains it in this way, applying it, however, to a strong conscience: an enlightened and firm conscience is a reason for abstaining from all inquiry. Holsten, on the contrary, alleges that the conscience here, as in the rest of the passage, can only be that of the weak Christian, of which the strong Christian needs not take account when he is eating alone at his own house. But, in these two senses, Paul would have added, as in 1 Corinthians 10:29, some qualification or other to indicate of which conscience he meant to speak. The simplest view is to hold that he is thinking of conscience, absolutely speaking, as in our expression: for conscience sake. The falsest interpretation is that of Chrysostom, Erasmus, etc.: “Making no inquiry, and that in order that, if you come to learn that it is meat which has been offered to idols, you may not have the burden of it on your conscience.” This meaning would suppose that the direction is addressed to the weak.
Vv. 26. This is a quotation from Psalms 24:1, a passage which, by proclaiming that all that fills the world comes from God and belongs to Him, saps the prejudice of the weak at Corinth at the root. By quoting this saying from the Old Testament, Paul wished to raise the weak to the height of the strong. Heinrici makes the interesting remark that these words of the Psalmist are used among the Jews as a thanksgiving at table.
The second case, that of an invitation to the house of a heathen: 1 Corinthians 10:27-30. Again, two alternatives must be distinguished; in the first place, the case of a feast at which no observation is made by any of the guests regarding the meats which are presented.
Vv. 27. “If any of them that believe not bid you, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.” The reading δέ , but, may be supported as contrasting this new case with the foregoing; but the two cases may also be simply put in juxtaposition without particle, according to the reading of the Alex.
There is much delicacy in the: and ye be disposed...Paul does not forbid acceptance of the invitation; for family bonds ought to be respected; they may even become, in the case of the believer, a means of advancing God's kingdom. But, while speaking as he does, and expressly referring the decision to the Christian's conscience, he yet makes him feel the need of reflection; for many dangers might accompany such invitations to heathen houses, even in a private dwelling, where the meal was always accompanied with certain religious ceremonies. The words εἰς δεῖπνον , to a feast, in the Greco-Lat. reading, are certainly a gloss. For the διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν , see on 1 Corinthians 10:25. Holsten gives to these words the meaning: “The strong believer need not make inquiry, and that because of the conscience of the weak brother, present or not present, who might be offended if it turned out as the result of the inquiry that the meat had been offered to idols.” The same reasons as we have given at 1Co 10:25 seem to us to exclude this meaning.
The second alternative, 1 Corinthians 10:28-30: the case in which the question is raised as to the origin of the meats offered at a feast.
Vv. 28, 29. “But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice, eat not, for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake. 29. Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for to what purpose can my liberty be judged by another's conscience?”
The τίς , any one, of 1Co 10:28 cannot, as Grotius thinks, denote the same person as the τίς of the foregoing verse, the heathen who invited the Christian. He would not be designated by an indefinite pronoun. It must therefore be one of the guests. Are we to suppose him, as has been thought by Chrysostom, de Wette, etc., a malicious heathen, who wishes by the remark to embarrass the Christian, or a serious heathen wishing to call his attention to the mistake he is about to commit without knowing it (Ewald)? But in these two cases the duty of the believer would have been, not to abstain, but, on the contrary, to partake of the meat while stating the motive of his conduct, and justifying his freedom from all scruple in regard to idols in which he does not believe; it was an excellent opportunity for expounding his faith. The person in question, therefore, is a sincere Christian, whose conscience is still hampered with scruples, and whom his strong brother is bound to treat with consideration. In this way, the following words: For his sake that showed it, and for conscience, are easily explained. The two motives refer to the same person, remaining, however, distinct. The first is directed against the influence which the example might exercise over the weak Christian, by leading him to eat against his conscience; the second, to the shock which his conscience will infallibly undergo on seeing the strong believer eat, even supposing he should resist the example which is set him. The repetition of the quotation from Psalms 24:0 at the end of 1 Corinthians 10:28, in the T. R., is evidently due to an interpolation. The only meaning which could be given to the words here would be this: “There is on the table plenty of other meats which thou mayest use.” But such a reflection is far from natural.
Vv. 29. The apostle expressly declares that such a sacrifice by no means implies that the strong believer renounces his conviction and right; his conscience remains independent of his brother's, though he voluntarily subordinates his conduct to the other's scruple.
The reason which the apostle gives for this conduct has been differently understood. Meyer and de Wette think that Paul means: “For on what ground should I subject your conscience to the judgment of your neighbour's? You preserve, therefore, so far as you are yourselves concerned, your entire liberty.” But the conjunction ἱνατί does not signify: For what reason, with what right? This compound conjunction, after which we must understand γένηται , literally signifies: that what good may come about? The meaning is therefore: “For what advantage can there be in my liberty being condemned...?” We have in the parallel discussion of Romans 14 a perfectly similar saying, which leaves no doubt as to the meaning of this. Paul there says, 1 Corinthians 10:16: “That your good be not evil spoken of (blasphemed)!” This good is the liberty of the strong, and Paul asks of them not to make such a use of it as will provoke the disapproving judgment of the weak. Here he asks, besides, what advantage such a judgment, imprudently provoked, can have; what edification it can afford either to the Christians present, or to the non-Christians, who become witnesses of the mutual contradictions between believers, and of the condemnations which they pass on one another. The question put in 1Co 10:29 is reproduced still more clearly in 1 Corinthians 10:30.
Vv. 30. “If I with thanksgiving be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?”
The asyndeton of itself proves that this verse reaffirms and explains the idea of the foregoing. It brings out still more forcibly the absurdity of the strong Christian's conduct by the revolting contradiction which would arise between the thanksgiving with which he partakes of the food offered to him, and the wounding of the conscience testified by the blame of the weak. What! that for which a believer gives thanks, the other converts into a ground of defamation against him! This is what is expressed by the word βλασφημεῖν . “What sort of religion is that?” the heathen would say, who were witnesses of both actions. The apostle concludes by stating generally the principle which, in such matters of Christian liberty, ought to be the supreme guide of the believer's conduct:
Vv. 31, 32. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32. Give none offence neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the Church of God;”
Here again we have both the συμφέρειν and the οἰκοδομεῖν (the promotion of good in general, and our neighbour's edification in particular), which Paul had recommended, 1 Corinthians 10:23; only he here expresses himself in a more concrete way; first positively, 1 Corinthians 10:31, then negatively, 1 Corinthians 10:32. In questions which are not in themselves questions of good or evil, and which may remain undecided for the Christian conscience, the believer ought to ask himself, not: What will be most agreeable to me, or what will best suit my interest? but: What will contribute most to promote God's glory and the salvation of my brethren?
God's glory is the splendour of His perfections, particularly of His holiness and love, manifested in the midst of His creatures. The question for the Christian is therefore translated into this: What will best make my brethren understand the love and holiness of my heavenly Father?
Vv. 32. To this positive criterion another of a negative character is added. Will not my brother's conscience be shocked by the use I make of my liberty, if I act in this or that way? The apostle mentions the three circles of persons of which the Christians of Corinth ought to think in a case of uncertainty: first, the Greeks, who are here put for the heathen in general; next, the Jews, who are intentionally placed between the heathen and the Church; and, finally, Christians, whom he calls the Church of God, to emphasize the preciousness of the least of the members of such a body, in virtue of his being God's property. The believer should avoid both what may prevent those without from entering and what may alienate and drive out those who are already saved.
Paul concludes by reminding them how this principle guides all his conduct.
Vv. 10:33-11:1. “even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 11:1. Become imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
In chap. 9 the apostle had developed at length the example of self-denial, which he was constantly giving to the Church by submitting to the necessity of earning a livelihood for himself, and in general, by becoming subject, when it was necessary, to the legal observances, from which he felt himself set free by faith in Christ. In concluding this whole passage, in which he has asked the Corinthians to make many sacrifices which are painful to them, he once more refers to his example, because he knows that we are not at liberty to ask sacrifices from others except in proportion to those which we make ourselves.
The phrase to please others may denote a vice or a virtue. That depends on the object proposed, whether to gain our neighbour's good graces selfishly, or to gain the attachment of our neighbour so as to win him for God. These are the two cases Paul contrasts with one another in this verse, in order to exclude the first, in so far as his own conduct is concerned; comp. Galatians 1:10. The: in all things, comprehends of course only the things which belong to the province of Christian liberty. The many is opposed to Paul as an individual, and their salvation to his individual interest ( ἐμαυτοῦ , of myself).
Vv. 1 Corinthians 11:1 . Christ alone is the perfect model; each believer is a model to his brethren only in so far as he is a copy in relation to Christ.
Paul has in mind especially the absolute self-denial which was the basis of our Lord's earthly life, Romans 15:1-3.
It is only the fact expressed in the second part of the verse which gives the apostle the right and liberty to write the first. To be quite exact, we must understand in the second proposition not the verb be, but the verb become, used in the first.
The imitation in question is not a slavish one. As Paul was not in circumstances identical with those of Christ, so the Corinthians were not in circumstances altogether analogous to those of Paul. What he asks of the Church is, that it allow itself to be guided by the spirit of self-denial which animates himself, as he is guided by the spirit of self-sacrifice which was the soul of Christ's life.
We have already cast a glance over the course followed by the apostle in treating this delicate subject. It was needful to limit the use made of their liberty by many of the Corinthian Christians, and among them no doubt, by those who directed the opinion of the Church, without placing them again under the yoke of an external law, and while bringing them to understand themselves the necessity of the sacrifice. This sacrifice wounded their vanity as much as their love of pleasure. It is easy to see the extreme prudence with which the apostle required to conduct this discussion. He begins by stating the point about which all are agreed, the monotheism which excludes the reality of idols. He leaves aside for the moment the frequenting of idolatrous feasts, appealing only to charity for weak brethren. He encourages the strong by his example, deters them by that of the Israelites. After this preparation, he strikes the great blow. Then he concludes calmly with some simple and practical rules in regard to the eating of meats, rules which admirably establish harmony between the rights of liberty and the obligations of charity.
Justly does Rückert exclaim, as he closes the analysis of the passage: “Truly I could not conceive a more prudent or better calculated course; we have here a masterpiece of true eloquence.” Pity, only, that this eminent exegete does not stop there, but thinks he must ascribe to the apostle's eloquence, in this case, a certain character of craftiness. Evidently in the course followed by the apostle we are bound to recognise the wisdom of the serpent; but it does not for a moment exclude the simplicity of the dove. For prudence is throughout ever in the service of the love of truth and of zeal for the good of individuals and of the Church.