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Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ 1-corinthians-1.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 1:1. Concerning the city of Corinth, see Acts 18:1-2.—a city no less famous for its luxury and vice, than for its wisdom and elegance: but notwithstanding the luxuryof the rich, and the profligacy of the poor, notwithstanding the pride of its wise men, and the prejudices of its priests, St. Paul, without using the charms of eloquence, the advantages of philosophy, the splendour of riches, the favour or concurrence of the great, planted a church among them, and won them to embrace a crucified Saviour. So great was his success, that he abode near two years in this place; but about three years after his departure, the church was overrun with great disorders, and split into various sects and factions. This occasioned thefollowing Epistle, which was written by St. Paul just before his departure from Ephesus, about Easter, (see ch. 1 Corinthians 16:7-8.) in the year of Christ 57, and the third of the emperor Nero. It was intended partly to correct some corruptions and abuses among the Corinthians, and partly to answer certain questions which they had proposed to him. In the introduction he expresses his satisfaction at all the good that he knew of them, particularly at their having the gift of the Holy Ghost for the confirmation of the Gospel; ch. 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. After which, he first corrects their corruptions and abuses; first, rebuking the sectaries among them, and defending himself against one or more false teachers, who had alienated most of the Corinthians from him; ch. 1Co 1:10 to 1 Corinthians 5:1. Secondly, considering the case of a notorious offender, who had married his father's wife, that is, his own step-mother; ordering them to excommunicate this person, and to acknowledge no public fornicator as a brother; ch. 5. Thirdly, reproving them for their covetous and litigious temper, which caused them to prosecute their Christian brethren before heathen courts of judicature; ch. 1 Corinthians 6:1-9. Fourthly, cautioning them against fornication, a vice to which they had been extremely addicted before they were converted, (ch. 1Co 6:10 to the end,) and which some of them still reckoned among the things indifferent;orwhichmightbepractisedorletalone, without breach of morality. And we can scarcely wonder at this inveterate prejudice, when informed that Corinth was so notorious for fornication and lasciviousness, that a Corinthian woman among the ancients, was a synonimous term for "a prostitute." The natives made the increase of prostitutes one part of their prayers to their gods, and the bringing of prostitutes into the city a part of their vows. In the next place, he answers certain questions which they had proposed; and, first, he determines some questions relating to the marriage-state, ch. 7. Secondly, he instructs them how to act with respect to idol-offerings; ch. viii-ix. 1. It could not be unlawful in itself to eat the meat which had been offered to idols; for the consecration of flesh or wine to an idol did not make it the property of an idol, an idol being nothing, and therefore incapable of property; but some Corinthians thought it lawful to go to a feast in the idol-temples, which at the same time were places of resort for lewdness, and to eat the sacrifices, while praises were sung to the idols: this was publicly joining in idolatry. St. Paul advises to abstain even from such participation as was lawful, rather than give offence to a weak brother; which he enforces by his own example, who had abstained from many lawful things rather than create offence to the Gospel. Thirdly, he answers a third question concerningthe manner in which women should deliver any thingin public, when called to it by divine impulse: ch. 1 Corinthians 11:2-17. And here he censures the unusual dress of both sexes in prophesying, which exposed them to the contempt of the Greeks, among whom the men usually went uncovered, and the women veiled. He also takes occasion here to censure the irregularities committed at their love-feasts, &c. and in the exercise of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost; ch. 1Co 11:18 to 1 Corinthians 15:1. Fourthly, he affects the resurrection of the dead, which some among the Corinthians doubted, and others denied, ch. 15. He then concludes with some directions to the Corinthian church concerningthe manner of collecting alms, promises them a visit, and salutes some of the members, ch. 16. See Michaelis, Locke, Whitby, Lardner, and Calmet.
1 Corinthians 1:1-2. Paul, called, &c.— Paul, a called Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Sosthenes the brother, 1 Corinthians 1:2. Unto, &c.—to them that have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that invoke the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, in every place both theirs and ours. There is great proprietyin every clause of the salutation prefixed to this Epistle, and particularly in St. Paul's asserting his high call to the office of an apostle, as there were those in the church of Corinth who affected to question the authority of his mission. See on Romans 1:1. Sosthenes was a Corinthian minister who attended St. Paul in his travels; compare Acts 18:17. It was both humility and prudence in the Apostle thus to join his name with his own, in an Epistle in which it was necessary to deal so plainly with them, and to remonstrate against so many irregularities. See Locke, Doddridge, and Calmet.
1 Corinthians 1:2. To them that are sanctified, &c.— Nothing could better suit the candid and catholic views whichSt. Paul was so much concerned to promote in this Epistle, than the declaration of his good wishes in this verse for every true Christian upon earth, whether Jew or Gentile, learned or unlearned, Greek or barbarian. The original, which we render call upon the name of Jesus Christ,— τοις επικαλουμενοις το οιομα, Mr. Locke renders, all that are called by the name of Jesus Christ,—the Greek words being a periphrasis for Christians, as is plain from the design of this verse, and from a variety of proofs given by Dr. Hammond on the place. See on ch. 1 Corinthians 8:6.
1 Corinthians 1:5. That in every thing ye are enriched— These respectful congratulations and acknowledgments of the things in which they did really excel, had a most happy tendency to soften their minds, and to dispose them the better to receive the plain reproofs that he was going to give them, and which, in their circumstances, faithful love extorted from him.
1 Corinthians 1:6. Confirmed in you— Among you. Doddridge. As they could not but know that they had received these gifts by the hand of St. Paul, this expression suggests a rational and tender argument to reduce them to their former affection to him, as their spiritual father.
1 Corinthians 1:9. God is faithful— That is, "If we continue obedient, God for his part will certainly perform his promise faithfully."
1 Corinthians 1:10.— There were great disorders in the church of Corinth, caused chiefly by a faction raised there against St. Paul; the partisans of the faction mightily cried up and gloried in their leader, and did all they could to disparage St. Paul, and to lessen him in the esteem of the Corinthians. The Apostle makes it his business in the first part of this Epistle, to take off the Corinthians from siding with, and glorying in this pretended apostle, whose followers and scholars they professed themselves to be; and to reduce them into one body as the scholars of Christ; united in a belief of the Gospel, which he had preached to them, and in an obedience to it, without any such distinction of masters and leaders, from whom they denominated themselves. He also here and there intermixes a justification of himself against the aspersions which were cast upon him by his opposers. See 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. Many are the arguments used by St. Paul to break the opposite faction, and put an end to all divisions. The first before us, from this to 1Co 1:16 is, that in Christianity they all had but one Master, namely, Christ; and therefore were not to fall into parties denominated from distinct teachers, as they did in their schools of philosophy. Locke.
By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ——Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is, and ought to be named. If any one has thought St. Paul a loose writer, it is only because he was a loose reader. He who takes notice of the Apostle's design will find, that there is scarcely a word or an expression which he uses, but with relation and tendency to his immediate subject:—as here, intending to abolish the names of leaders, by which they distinguished themselves, he beseeches them by the name of Christ,—a form which we do not remember that he uses any where else. Instead of in the same judgment, some read, in the same sentiment. It was morally impossible, considering the diversity of their educations and capacities, that they should all agree in opinion; norcould the Apostle intend this, because he does not use any argument to reduce them to such an agreement, nor so much as declare what that one opinion was, in which he would have them agree. The words must therefore express that peaceful and unanimous temper which Christians of different opinions may and ought to maintain towards each other; which will do a much greater honour to the Gospel and to Christian churches, than the most perfect uniformity that can be imagined. See Locke and Doddridge.
1 Corinthians 1:11. Which are of the house of Chloe— Grotius supposes Fortunatus and Achaicus mentioned ch. 1Co 16:17 to have been her sons. We may observe, that St. Paul uses twice, in the compass of this and the preceding verse, the word brethren, as a term of union and friendship, in order to put an end to their divisions.
1 Corinthians 1:12. Now this I say, &c.— I mean that one or other of you says, &c. Chrysostom and Augustin place a full stop at Cephas.—But the next clause may stand in opposition to all the others. "Some or other of you saith, I am of Paul, I of Apollos, and I of Cephas:—but I am of Christ; 1 Corinthians 1:13 and is Christ divided?" See Beza and Bengelius.
1 Corinthians 1:13. Was Paul crucified for you?— As if he had said, "Are your obligations to me equal or comparable to those which you are under to our common Master? To him who died for us upon the cross?" He mentions himself, as it was least invidious to do so; though the application was equally just as to every other instance. See ch. 1Co 3:6 the word εις, rendered in, properly signifies into: so the French translate it here. The phrase βαπτισθηναι εις, —to be baptized into any one's name, or into any one, means, solemnly by that ceremony to enter himself a disciple of him into whose name he was baptized; with profession to receive his doctrine and rules, and submit to his authority: a very good argument here, why they should be called by no one's name but Christ's. See Locke.
1 Corinthians 1:15. Lest any should say, &c.— If any one should object that others might do it for him, it may be answered that St. Paul's attendants, who seem to have been Timothy and Silas, (Act 18:5, 2 Corinthians 1:19.) were persons of an established character, so as to be above suspicion; and that the Apostle herein, as it were, appealed to the baptized persons themselves; challenging any one of them to say that the ordinance was administered to him in Paul's name. See Doddridge and Cal
1 Corinthians 1:16. Besides, I know not, &c.— This expression of uncertainty as to such a fact, is by no means inconsistent with that inspiration wherewith the Apostles of our Lord were endued; which certainly was neither continual, nor reached to every accident and circumstance in life. The office of baptism was probably in general assigned to inferiors, as requiring no extraordinary abilities. The proper office of an apostle was not so much to perform the ceremony of baptism with his own hands, as to attend constantly to the work of preaching the Gospel. See the next verse, and Burnet on the 27th Article.
1 Corinthians 1:17. Should be made of none effect— If the doctrine of the crucifixion of the Son of God for the sins of men be indeed true, it is undoubtedly a truth of the highest importance; and it might reasonably be expected that a person who had been instructed in it by such extraordinary methods, should appear to lay the main stress of his preaching upon it. The design of this wonderful dispensation might therefore have been in a great measure frustrated, if it had been the care of the first preachers of it, and particularly of St. Paul, to study a vain parade of words, and to set off their discourses with those glittering ornaments which the Grecian orators so often sought, and which the Corinthians were so ready to affect. But amidst all the beautiful simplicity which a deep conviction of the Gospel tended to produce, there was room left for the most manly and noble kind of eloquence; which therefore the Christian preachershouldlabourto make habitual to himself, and of which this Apostle himself is a most illustrious example. From this verse to 1 Corinthians 1:31. St. Paul uses another argument to stop their followers from glorying in these false apostles; observing, that neither any advantage of extraction, nor skill in the learning of the Jews, nor in the philosophy and eloquence of the Greeks, was that for which God chose men to be preachers of the Gospel. Those whom he had made choice of for overturning the mighty and the learned, were mean, plain, and illiterate men. See Doddridge and Locke.
1 Corinthians 1:18. For the preaching of the cross, &c.— "The doctrine of the cross is a doctrine of such a nature as could not recommend itself by human eloquence to the imaginations of vicious and vain disputants, such as were most of the heathen philosophers; but to those who are saved,—to serious and well-disposed persons, who embrace truth wherever they find evidence of it, and who are more pleased with what improves their minds, than with the vain eloquence of the heathen oratory; to such persons the Gospel, in its greatest plainness and original simplicity, is, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, the power of God,—not to amuse men's understandings with needless speculations, but to convert their wills to righteousness and true holiness." See Calmet.
1 Corinthians 1:19-20. For it is written, I will destroy, &c.— See Isaiah 29:11, &c. and Isaiah 33:17-18. By the words wise, scribe, disputer, the Apostle probably meant persons most eminent for their learning and sagacity, whether among Jews or Gentiles. The sages of the latter, and the scribes of the former, are well known: and the disputer of the age may include such of both, as, proud of their natural sagacity, were fond of engaging in controversies, and fancied that they could confute every adversary. If, according to Mr. Locke's supposition, the false apostle, or chief leader of the faction against St. Paul, called himself a scribe, there will be a peculiar propriety in the use of the word here. But without that supposition it might easily be understood by the Corinthians, who had so considerable a synagogue of Jews among them: see Doddridge, Locke, and Godwin's Heb. Antiq. lib. 2: cap. 6.
1 Corinthians 1:21. For after that, in the wisdom of God— There is some difficulty in ascertaining the precise meaning of these words. Some understand it to be, "That since the world, in the wisdom of God, that is to say, by contemplating the works of the creation, had not by wisdom, that is, by the exercise of their reason, arrived to the true knowledge of God, it pleased God to take another method, and by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." It may seem strange, that the preaching of the Gospel should be called the foolishness of preaching, by an Apostle of Christ. But the meaning and language of St. Paul will be accounted for, by considering what led him to this kind of expression. The doctrine of the cross, and of the redemption of the world by the death and passion of Christ, was received by the great pretenders to wisdom and reason with scorn and contempt; The Greeks, says the Apostle, seek after wisdom,—and Christ crucified is to the Greeks foolishness. The pride of learning and philosophy had so possessed the politic parts of the heathen world, that they could not submit to a method of salvation which was above the reach of their philosophy, and which refused to be tried by the disputes and subtilties of the schools. The Apostle says, 1 Corinthians 1:17. Christ sent him to preach the Gospel, not with the wisdom of words. The wisdom of the world, thus discarded, took its revenge of the Gospel in return, and called it the foolishness of preaching. "Be it so (says the Apostle); yet by this foolishness of preaching, God intends to save those who believe: for this method is of God, and not of man; and the foolishness of God is wiser than man." Thus we see what led St. Paul to use this expression, and to call the preaching of the Gospel the foolishness of preaching. The great and learned so esteemed it, and so called it: the Apostle speaks to them in their own language, and calls upon them in the text to compare their much-boasted wisdom with his foolishness of preaching, and to judge of them by their effects: The world by wisdom knew not God; but the foolishness of preaching is salvation to every believer. The religion common to the heathen was idolatry; the knowledge of the Deity taught in the schools of the philosophers was such as deprived him of his noblest attributes, justice and mercy; and these very philosophers themselves ran down with the stream, and not only taught that the deities of their country should be worshipped, but likewise enforced their doctrine by their own examples, by worshipping them themselves. Such was the state of religion before the coming of Christ; philosophy had been tried; but instead of holding out a light to those that were in the gloom, it put out the little glimmering of light which remained. See Sherlock's Dis. vol. 1: Disc. 4: p. 139, &c. and Acts 7:18.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24. For the Jews, &c.— Whereas the Jews require signs, and the Gentiles seek after wisdom; 1 Corinthians 1:23. We, nevertheless, preach Christ crucified,—and unto the Gentiles foolishness: 1 Corinthians 1:24. But unto them that are called, both Jews and Gentiles, &c. When we consider how many miracles were continually wrought by and upon the first preachers and converts of Christianity, it may seem an astonishing demand which the Jews are said here to make. From a memorable passage in Josephus,—in which he speaks of an impostor promising his followers to shew them a sign of their being set at liberty from the Roman yoke,—compared with their requiring from Christ, amid the full torrent of his miracles, a sign from heaven, it seems probable that the meaning here is, "The Jews demand a sign from heaven to introduce a Messiah victorious over all their enemies." See Matthew 16:1; Matthew 16:1. The Apostle, 1Co 1:23 says, that Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. Now, I. The Jews were offended at Christ, because he was not received and followed by those of the most learning and authority among them. They were offended at him because he was not a temporal prince, and a conqueror. They were all persuaded that the Messiah would be a great king, under whom they should rule over the Gentiles, and live in wealth and pleasure. When, therefore, they found Christ was poor and despised, and died an ignominious death, and his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, the cross of Christ proved a stumbling-block to them, and they were displeased with a doctrine that suited neither with their prejudices nor with their inclinations. It is well known that nothing exposed Christianity more to the contempt of the Jews than the doctrine of the cross; they therefore called Christ in derision Tolvi,—the man that was hanged, that is, on the cross; and Christians Abde Tolvi, "the disciples of the crucified malefactor;" and by a malignant distortion of the Greek word 'Ευαγγελιον, they called it Aven Gelon, or "a revelation of vanity." Yet it is easy to shew that these objections against the person of our Saviour were not sufficient to excuse their unbelief. For though the law promised temporal blessings to the good, yet the Jews knew by long experience, that those promises had not been fulfilled at all times, nor to all persons. Extraordinary interpositions in behalf of the righteous were grown less frequent. They therefore had no reason to judge of the characters of men by their station and circumstances in this life, or to imagine that fortunate and virtuous were synonimous terms, which implied the same thing. They might have found examples of good men, who had undergone much trouble, and had received here below no recompence of their faith and obedience. They might have learned from the prophets, that the Messiah, to whom so much power, prosperity, and splendour was promised, was also to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; that his soul was to be an offering for sin; and they might have seen, in the sufferings of Christ, and his resurrection, the accomplishment of those otherwise irreconcileable predictions. II. The causes of the unbelief of the Greeks and Gentiles were some of them the same as those which occasioned the unbelief of the Jews;—a great corruption of manners, the purity of the precepts of the Gospel, the temporal inconveniences which attended the profession of Christianity, and advantages which might be secured by rejecting or opposing it; the poor appearance which Christ had made in the world, and his ignominious death. But yet they ought not to have slighted and rejected the Gospel upon account of the low estate and sufferings of Christ and his apostles. The little light they had, yea, and some of their most approved authors, might have taught them not to value persons according to their greatness and riches; nor to measure the favour of God by temporal happiness, but to love and honour oppressed innocence. They might have remembered, that the best man and the wisest philosopher mentioned in their histories lived all his days in poverty, was exposed to slander and calumny, and at last was accused by false witnesses, and condemned to die by unjust judges. They knew that virtue seldom obtains the respect which it deserves. They knew that virtue, though it be so amiable in itself, has a lustre offensive to the vicious, who will join to obscure and misrepresent it, and to make it contemptible. They knew that he best deserved the name of a wise man, who lived up to the rules of morality which he had prescribed to others; and they ought to have admired the man, who, at the same time that he recommended humility to his followers, was a perfect example of all that he taught. The Gentiles could not conceive how one who seemed forsaken of God, should restore men to the favour of God; and how his sufferings should be serviceable to that end. It is reasonable that the divine mercy should constantly display itself in cases within the reach of compassion, consistently with his moral attributes. Such was the case of mankind: who, though sinful, are weak; though offenders, are within the reach of his almighty grace. It is also reasonable that God should also be displeased at rebellion and transgression, and that he should so grant his pardon, as at the same time to vindicate the honour of his laws. Now this he has accomplished in a most illustrious manner in the death of his Son, shewing thereby his hatred to sin and sinners, in refusing to hear them in their own name, and in bestowinghis favours only through the mediation of one who suffered for our offences. The paternal and tutelary deities worshipped by the Gentiles were dead heroes and kings; they were consequently loth to deify one who appeared in the low circumstances of a carpenter's son, and was at last executed like the meanest slave. Yet they should have recollected that the inventors of arts, however low, were worshipped by them as gods; and that the husbandman, the gardener, the vintner, and the lowest mechanic, were enrolled among their deities. The Gentiles thought it strange to ascribe such power and authority to a crucified man. But the greatest power that any one can shew, consists in performing such things as no one else can do, unless God assist him. To destroy the peace of mankind, and carry ruin and desolation through populous countries, is no more than what human strength and policy can affect. Many have done this, who have not possessed one commendable quality. To be honoured, admired, reverenced, are advantages which may be attained without any supernatural aid; but no man by his riches, or the eminence of his station, can deliver his brother from death. Therefore he who can heal all sicknesses by speaking a word; who can restore the dead to life; who can confer the same power on others; who can deliver himself from the grave; is as much superior to the rulers and heroes of this world, as the heavens are above the earth. And such was our Saviour, though he was crucified; who was the author of salvation to those who believed his doctrine with the heart unto righteousness, though the Greeks foolishly imaginedthat the doctrine itself was nothing but foolishness. See Jortin's Discourses, p. 9, &c. Leigh's Critica Sacra, and Archbishop Tillotson's Works, vol. 2.
1 Corinthians 1:24. Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God— St. Paul in the 21st verse argues thus in general: "Since the world, by their natural parts and improvements, did not attain to a right and saving knowledge of God, God by the preaching of the Gospel, which seems foolishness to the world, was pleased to communicate that knowledge to those who believed." In the three following verses, he repeats the same reasoning, a little more expressly applied to the people whom he had here in view,—namely, Jews and Gentiles: and his sense seems to be this: "Since the Jews, to make any doctrine palateable to them, require extraordinary signs of the power of God to accompany it, and nothing will please the nice palates of the learned Greeks but wisdom; and though our preaching of a crucified Messiah be a scandal to the Jew, and foolishness to the Greek, yet we have what they both seek; for both Jew and Gentile, when they embrace the Gospel, find the Messiah whom we preach, to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
1 Corinthians 1:25. The foolishness of God is wiser than men— As it is absolutely impossible that there should be either folly or weakness in God, so it is certain that the world did not in general believe there was; and consequently these strong phrases must be used in a very peculiar sense, and must mean that scheme which was really his, though the world, for want of understanding it, represented it as weakness and folly, unworthy of God. See Doddridge.
1 Corinthians 1:26. Are called— Call you: which words I would supply from the first clause of the verse. Our translators have supplied the words are called, for which there are no correspondent words in the original, and which convey a sentiment neither true nor suitable to the Apostle's design. It is not true: for even in Judea among the chief rulers, many believed on him, Joh 12:42 particularly Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Other Jews likewise of rank and learning were called; such as the nobleman whose sick son Jesus cured, Joh 4:53 and Manaen, Herod's foster-brother, and Cornelius, and Gamaliel, and that great company of priests mentioned Acts 6:7. Who were obedient to the faith. At Ephesus, many who used the arts of magic and divination were called, and who were men of learning, as appears from the number andvalue of their books which they burned after embracing the Gospel, Acts 19:19. And in such numerous churches as those of Antioch, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome, it can hardly be doubted, that there were disciples in the higher ranks of life. There were brethren even in the emperor's family, Philippians 4:22. In short, the precepts in the Epistles, to mastersto treat their slaves with humanity, and to women concerning their not adorning themselves with gold and silver and costlyraiment, shew that many wealthy persons had embraced the Gospel.—On the other hand, though it were true, That not many wise men, &c. were called, it did not suit the Apostle's argument to mention it here. For surely God's not calling many of the wise, &c. joined with his calling the foolish ones of the world to believe, did not put to shame the wise and strong, &c. Whereas, if the discourse be understood of the preachers of the Gospel, who were employed to convert the world, all is clear and pertinent. God chose not the learned, the mighty, and the noble ones of this world to preach the Gospel, but illiterate and weak men, and men of low birth: and by making them successful in reforming and converting mankind, he put to shame the legislators, statesmen, and philosophers among the heathens, and the learned scribes and doctors among the Jews, who never had done any thing to purpose in that matter. See Macknight.
1 Corinthians 1:28. And base things— And mean things. In this and the preceding verse, though the Apostle makes use of the neuter gender, which occasioned our translators to insert the word things, yet it is evident from the context, that he means persons; and if the word things were omitted, the sense would be more plain. By the things which are not, may be understood the Gentiles, who were not the visible people of God, and were counted as nothing by the Jews. By the foolish and weak things, that is, by simple, illiterate, and mean men, God would make ashamed the learned philosophers and great men of the age; and by the things which are not, he would abolish the things that are, as in effect he did abolish the Jewish church by the Christian; taking in the Gentiles to be his visible people, in the place of the rejected Jews, who till then were his visible people. St. Paul mentions this here, notby chance, but pursuant to his main design, to stop their glorying in their false apostle, who was a Jew; by shewing that whatever that head of the faction might claim under that pretence, as it is plain he did stand upon it, (see 2 Corinthians 11:21-22.) he had not the least title to any esteem or respect upon that account; since the Jewish nation were laid aside, and God had chosen the Gentiles to take their place, and to be his church and people instead of them. See on ch. 1 Corinthians 2:6, Deuteronomy 32:21, Isa 40:17 and Whitby.
1 Corinthians 1:30. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus— "For, on the whole, all that we have that is worth mentioning we receive from Christ; and we receive it from him as the gift of God, since it is of him; and his free mercy and grace, that ye are called to share in the blessings given by Christ Jesus his Son. He exhibits this blessed Saviour to us, and disposes our hearts to accept of him; Who, amidst our ignorance and folly, is made of God unto us a source of wisdom; and through him, guilty as we are, we receive righteousness or justification; polluted as we are, we obtain sanctification, and, enslaved as we naturally are, to the power of lusts, and the dominion of Satan, the faithful obtain by him complete redemption." See Doddridge. As the conversion of the Corinthians, to whom this and the followingEpistle are addressed, is a fact of a peculiar nature, and one which affords a striking testimony to the truth of our holy religion, we shall here subjoin an Essay instead of Inferences.
Essay.—A very masterly writer has proved, that the conversion and the apostleship of St. Paul, alone, is of itself a sufficient demonstration to prove Christianity to be a divine revelation. And I cannot but think, that the conversion of the Corinthians is another strong proof of the truth of our religion. We have the greatest reason to believe that God did perform the promise which he made to this great Apostle, when he said, I am with thee. For if we duly consider the condition of St. Paul, the nature of the doctrine which he taught, and the manner in which he delivered it, we shall be ready to conclude, that the success which he had in preaching the Gospel at Corinth must be ascribed to the divine power.
Without supposing St. Paul to be mad, (a supposition too gross for a man of sense to make) we cannot conceive how he could hope, without God's extraordinary assistance, to convince the people of Corinth that they were in error. He went a stranger thither, unknown to any person there, unless he was before acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla. With these two banished Jews, who were of the same occupation with himself, he worked for his livelihood. His bodily presence was no recommendation of him; for he himself acknowledges, that he was with them in weakness of body, and in much fear and trembling. And he has informed us, that the Corinthians did in fact object to him, that his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible. What they said of his person was true, if we may believe the ancients, who inform us that his stature was low, his body crooked, and his head bald. And it is not improbably conjectured by Dr. Whitby, that a stammering in his speech, or a squeaking shrillness in his voice, or some other infirmity in his speech in teaching, rendered him contemptible in the eyes of some of the Corinthians. He was a base and contemptible person, they said, and one who lived by his labour. Nay, some affirmed that he was mad or beside himself. He himself has declared, that he was made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men; that he was laughed at for Christ's sake; that he was weak, despised; that he both hungered and thirsted, was naked, buffeted, and had no certain dwelling-place; that he worked with his own hands, labouring unto weariness; that he was reviled, persecuted, defamed, made as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things: was a man of St. Paul's character a likely person to convert the richest and most flourishing city in Greece, a city filled with orators, philosophers, and banished Jews; a city above all others infamous for lewdness? Every unprejudiced person, I should think, will grant, that nothing can be more improbable; especially if it be considered what kind of doctrine he taught the Corinthians.
Without having the fullest assurance that God was with him, he could never hope to persuade the proud and vain philosophers, who depended wholly upon human reason, and would admit nothing for truth but what was demonstrable by it, to give their assent to the articles of our most holy faith. He was sure to meet with the utmost opposition when he endeavoured to persuade these wise men to admit for certain truths things above their reason. They were so fully persuaded of the sufficiency of that reason as to think that they could account for every thing. A poor obscure mechanic, therefore, a person who was of a nation which the rest of mankind despised and hated, could never hope to persuade them in a natural way by reasoning and disputation, to embrace for certain truths many points which were above the reach of human understanding,—several things which they had not so much as thought or dreamed of. When this Jewish tent-maker informed them, that when all mankind were concluded under sin, and knew not how to be absolved from the guilt of it, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, came down from heaven, for us men, and for our salvation; was miraculously conceived, was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man,—he delivered to them nothing but the truth. But these wise men knew nothing of Jesus Christ, nor of the Holy Ghost; neither could they conceive how a man could be born of a pure virgin. St. Paul, therefore, could not have persuaded them by any human means that all this was true; for these wise men of the world, these wise men according to the flesh, (as the Apostle styles them) admitted of no higher principle to judge of things by, but philosophy, and demonstration from the principles of natural reason. And therefore he must needs think it an impossible thing, without God's special assistance, to persuade them to believe him to be God, who was born of a pure virgin; to adore him, whose mother was a poor Jewish woman espoused to a carpenter; to pay divine honour to him who was supposed to be a carpenter by trade; to believe him who died, and was buried, to be God blessed for ever; by whom all things were created that are in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones and dominions, or principalities and powers; in a word, to acknowledge him for their Lord and Master, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate between two thieves. Not only in St. Paul's days, but for a long time after, the doctrine of Christ's crucifixion was foolishness. In the days of Lactantius, Christians were reckoned a silly and contemptible people for following a crucified Master and Leader. Arnobius acquaints us, that the heathens said, the gods were not angry with Christians because they worshipped the Omnipotent Deity, but because in their daily prayers they adored a man that was born, and suffered the infamous death of the cross; and because they contended that he was God, and believed him to be yet alive. In another place he informs us, that they asked these questions: If Christ was God, why did he die as a man? Who was it that was seen hanging upon the cross? Who was it that died?—"The wise men of the world insult over us," says St. Austin, "and ask, where is your understanding, who worship him for a god, who was crucified?" And in the days of Athanasius, when the Gentiles were told by the Christians, that their images were but silver and gold, the work of men's hands; in opposition to this reproach they answered, that the doctrine of the cross was foolishness. "The Greeks laugh at this mystery as foolishness," says Theophylact, "because by faith alone, and not by syllogisms and reasonings, it is found that God was crucified." The same author informs us, that there were some unbelievers at Corinth who made a jest of the cross, and said, Truly it is a folly to preach a crucified God. For had he been God, he would have defended himself at the time of his crucifixion. But how could he rise from the dead, who could not prevent his own death? They accounted the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead as ridiculous and absurd a tenet as was ever held, and made it matter of their sport and jest. To raise a body that was perfectly dead, and restore it to life again, was not in the power of any being in the world, they said. But suppose it was possible, yet they did not account it a thing worthy of God to raise dead bodies to be united to the souls of good men. Their chief objection against the resurrection of the flesh, and of the body, was this; that the body was the prison and sepulchre of the soul, and that it was her punishment to be tied to it; that the body was the great hindrance to the knowledge of the truth, and that we could not be truly happy till by death we were delivered from it. It was therefore judged by them, as Dr. Whitby informs us, not only an impossible, but even an unjust, unworthy thing, for God to raise these bodies, to be united to those souls whose happiness consisted in being delivered from the body, and whose punishment it was to be confined to it; that being, according to their philosophy, not to make them live, but die again. And therefore Celsus says, The hope of the resurrection of the flesh is the hope of worms, a filthy, abominable, and impossible thing, which God neither will nor can do. He cannot do what is vile, neither will he do what is against nature. And Origen expressly declares, that the doctrine of the resurrection was a mystery which the unbelievers laughed at, and made a jest of. So many, such great and formidable obstacles, the Apostle could not but expect to meet with from the philosophers.
And he was sure to meet with as great opposition from the magistrates, who would suffer no innovation in the theology established by law. Had he contented himself with confuting the Jews only, I believe he would have given no offence to the civil power: but when he attempted to demonstrate the absurdity of the religion of the heathen, he must be very sensible that they would be greatly alarmed. How furiously must they be enraged when he endeavoured to alter their religious rites, the ancient usages, the agreeable and pleasing customs of their country? What an abhorrence must they have of him, when he taught them, that the objects of their worship were not gods; that an idol was nothing in the world but a senseless piece of matter? Could any thing be more shocking to the Corinthians than to hear a poor mechanic affirm, that what they worshipped were no gods, and that they ought to admit Jesus Christ for their Lord and their God? When Plato was in Sicily he brought himself into the greatest danger by endeavouring to render virtue amiable. If a barbarian had not been more humane than the Sicilian tyrant, the philosopher would probably have spent the remainder of his days in servitude in a strange country, only for making some innovations in political affairs. He did not so much as attempt to destroy the gods of Sicily, as St. Paul did those of Corinth. Nay, the Apostle did not only affirm that what they worshipped were no gods, but that his countryman Jesus, who had been crucified as a malefactor, was God blessed for ever. And must not such a doctrine be highly provoking to the Corinthians?
Anaxagoras, who was the first of the Greeks that taught this theology,—that not the sun, but the Creator of it, was God, was accounted an atheist by a people who had made the utmost improvement of their parts, and was in the utmost danger of being stoned to death. The same Athenians expelled Protagoras of Abdera from their city, and caused his works to be burnt, because he spoke, as they thought, disrespectfully of the gods. They likewise banished Diagoras, and promised a talent for a reward to him that should slay him, because he denied that there was a God, or rather only set at nought the idols and false gods of his time. The great Socrates, prince of the philosophers, being suspected of holding bad opinions of the gods, was condemned to die by drinking a potion of hemlock. And if a bare suspicion of innovation brought the philosophers into so much danger; if persons so greatly renowned for their wisdom and understanding could not effect what they designed; can we account, in a natural way, for the success of our Apostle, who was so far from being held in admiration, as the philosophers whom I have mentioned were, that he was despised upon the account of his nation, his person, his mean occupation, and rudeness of speech?
Plato was greatly admired by his countrymen, and very justly. And yet he himself confessed, that he durst not, consistent with his own security, discover his opinion of God to the folly of the multitude. Was it not as dangerous for St. Paul to discover to the Corinthians his notions, which were far more noble and exalted than those of Plato?
The philosophers and magistrates were not the only powerful adversaries whom St. Paul had to encounter at Corinth. He could not but expect to meet with a very strong opposition from the priests, the augurs, diviners, statuaries, and many others whose interest it was that the superstitious religion of their ancestors should be continued. All these would undoubtedly be as full of wrath, and raise as great an uproar against St. Paul, as Demetrius the silversmith, and the workmen of like occupation did, when they heard him persuade the people, that they are no gods which are made with hands. In a word, a man of his good sense, great penetration, foresight, and experience, could not but expect to be accounted and treated as one who turned the world upside down, a blasphemer of their gods, and consequently a subverter of the whole frame of their religion.
As the Apostle was sure of the greatest repugnance, when he taught the Corinthians what they were to believe; so he must expect to meet with the utmost opposition, when he endeavoured to persuade them to set about the reformation and amendment of their lives: when he commanded them to flee fornication; when he taught them, that every other sin that a man doth is without the pollution of the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against and polluteth his own body; when he forbade them to eat with any brother who is a fornicator, and declared that God would pronounce the sentence of condemnation upon whoremongers and adulterers,—He could not but foresee that the Corinthians would be averse to his doctrine: For Corinth was above all other cities, even to a proverb, infamous for fornication and lasciviousness. How then was it possible for the Apostle, without the help of God, to convince so debauched and lascivious a people, that fornication and uncleanness ought not to be named among them, being crimes of a most destructive nature? Or how could he hope for success when he informed them, that neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient, were to be named among them? Or when he acquainted them, that at the day of judgment men were to give an account of every idle word which they had spoken? Or when he declared, that whosoever is angry with his brother without cause, shall be in danger of the judgment? Or when he told them, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart? Lastly, how could he in a natural way prevail upon a people who were proud and ambitious, debauched and intemperate, revengeful and envious, contentious and litigious, to embrace a religion which taught humility, sobriety, temperance, the forgiving of injuries, love, charity, moderation, meekness, and universal benevolence? We are all of us very sensible what a difficult matter it is to persuade men to become in love with holiness and virtue, who have been long accustomed to a vicious course of life. Even persons who know the terrors of the Lord, who are fully persuaded and do sincerely believe, that a dreadful day will come when they must give a strict account of all their actions, are, with great difficulty, reclaimed from the error of their way, if their sins have had the growth of many years; (though nothing is too hard for grace, when submitted to:) and if old habitual sinners, who really believe the Gospel in speculation, and consequently expect to be judged for their actions, are seldom, or with great difficulty, reformed; how will an unbeliever account for the Apostle's persuading the Corinthians to lay aside such practices as they thought indifferent and innocent; such practices as were pleasant and agreeable to depraved mankind? How will he account for his convincing them that their most sacred and religious solemnities were the greatest abominations?
Having shewn what obstacles St. Paul must necessarily meet with at Corinth from the Gentiles; I shall now inquire what opposition he might expect from the unbelieving Jews, who inhabited this city, when he undertook that glorious work of converting them from darkness to light, of giving knowledge of salvation to them, for the remission of their sins.
When he went to Corinth, the city was full of Jews, whom the emperor Claudius had expelled from Rome. They were as bitter enemies as the Gentiles to the Christian religion, and the preachers of it; and they hated St. Paul much more than the rest of the apostles, because all on a sudden, from being a violent persecutor of the disciples of the crucified Jesus, and making havoc of his church, he gave a convincing proof of the power of grace, by becoming one of the most zealous propagators of his religion. A people so much prejudiced against him, must be, nay, were in fact greatly incensed, when they heard him persuade men to worship God in a manner different from what their law required. What a hatred must they have of him who abolished circumcision? How could our Apostle hope for success, in a natural way, when he preached such a doctrine to a people, who had read in one of their inspired books, that God had threatened that the soul should be cut off which neglected this rite? How, without the assistance of God, could he, who taught such a doctrine, ever think of making converts of Jews, whose religion was so much corrupted at our Saviour's coming into the world, that they held, "that circumcision was a sufficient virtue to render them accepted of God, and to preserve them from eternal ruin: that no circumcised person goes to hell, God having promised to deliver them from it, for the merit of circumcision, and having told Abraham that when his children fell into transgression and did wicked works, he would remember the merit of their circumcision, and would be satisfied with their piety?" They were prejudiced against several other doctrines that he taught, which they imagined derogated from the perfection and honour of their law. Such was the doctrine of making the visible church universal by receiving the Gentiles to the privileges of the true church without submitting to the ritual law, and not being justified by the works of the law, but by faith in the Messiah. They were prejudiced in favour of their law, as unchangeable and eternal; or as the necessary means of justifying a sinner before God. Without the interposition of God, the Apostle could never hope to persuade them who had been informed in their sacred books that the Messiah was to have an everlasting kingdom, a throne for ever and ever—That he should be great unto the ends of the earth, and was to abide for ever, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the preserved of Israel; to have a portion divided him with the great, and to divide the spoil with the strong; to have dominion and glory, and a kingdom; that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; that his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.—Without the divine aid, I say, the Apostle could never hope to persuade the Jews who expected such a triumphant Messiah, in the carnal natural sense of the words, to believe that Jesus was the Christ, who had suffered that death which by the law was counted execrable. The crucifixion of Christ, as the Apostle himself has informed us, was unto the Jews a stumbling-block. And in Justin Martyr, Trypho the Jew says, "Your Jesus having by this fallen under the extremest curse of the law of God, we cannot but sufficiently admire that you should expect any good from God, who place your hopes in a man that was crucified; for our law styles every one that is crucified accursed." And Theophylact informs us, that the Jews objected; "How can he be God who did eat and drink with publicans and harlots, and was at last crucified with thieves?" See on 1 Corinthians 1:22-24.
To all that has been said I may still further add, that the danger which attended the profession of Christianity, might deter both Jew and Gentile from embracing it. A man no sooner became a Christian than he exposed himself to all the miseries that human nature is capable of suffering. Had our Apostle therefore made use of all the eloquence he was master of, yet had not God been with him, he could not have persuaded the Corinthians to become Christians. But he preached the Gospel in the most plain and simple manner, to as wicked and debauched a people as any in the world: he delivered the most pure and heavenly doctrine, the strictest and severest precepts, that had ever been taught mankind; and yet he confounded the mighty and the noble, and gained a victory over their orators and philosophers. I concluded, therefore, that this success must be attributed not to a natural, but divine cause, and, consequently, that the Gospel is the word of truth.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle opens his Epistle, 1. With an assertion of his apostolic character; which some among them affected to traduce and vilify, as if he had assumed an honour to which he was in no wise entitled. He affirms, therefore, the divine authority upon which he acted; not self-constituted, but called of Jesus Christ to the high honour and important charge of apostleship. And Sosthenes, a fellow-minister, joins him in affectionate salutations. Note; There are times when, to vindicate our real character and magnify our office is not pride, but a debt that we owe to the church of God.
2. He addresses himself to the church of God at Corinth, as to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, separated by his grace from the world which lieth in wickedness, and incorporated in his name; called to be saints, justly so denominated, and proving by their conduct the propriety of the name they bore; with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's, in whom we have a joint interest, and are all one in him. Note; (1.) All who profess the name of Jesus, are called to prove their relation to him by the holiness of their walk. (2.) Since Christ is proposed to us as the object of our worship, he must needs be very God. (3.) The life of a Christian is an habitual course of calling upon God. To live without prayer is the surest mark of a Christless soul.
3. He gives them his apostolical benediction. Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.—Grace, the source of every blessing, and peace with a reconciled God through Jesus Christ. Note; (1.) Every mercy that a sinner enjoys in time, or hopes for in eternity, flows purely from the free and boundless grace of God in Jesus Christ (2.) All solid peace of conscience can only arise from a sense of God's favour and reconciliation through the Redeemer.
4. He thanks God on their account for the graces and gifts which were bestowed upon them. I thank my God (and blessed and happy are they who can call him so) always on your behalf, (so constantly did he feel a tender concern for them upon his heart) for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, as the great Head of his believing people, to whom they are united, and from whom, as the fountain of vital influence, they draw continual supplies of strength and consolation. And as he charitably hoped the generality of them were partakers of the grace of God in truth, he had also another cause for thankfulness, because in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance and in all knowledge, endued with clear views of that rich salvation which is in a crucified Jesus, and capable of expressing themselves on the subject with singular fluency of speech and energy of diction, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, the Holy Ghost giving the fullest demonstration to their consciences of the truth of that Gospel which was preached unto them; so that ye come behind in no gift, in nothing inferior to any church which had been planted, in these distinguished gifts of the Spirit; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the declarations of his word, which they had heard and embraced, preparing to meet him, and with patient but joyful expectation, looking for the day of his appearing. Note; They who are Christians indeed, cannot but rejoice in the prospect, that, when Christ who is their hope shall appear, then the faithful also shall appear with him in glory.
5. The Apostle professes his confidence in them, that they will not swerve from the hope of the Gospel: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, in faith and holiness, enabling you to persevere, if you continue to cleave to him, unshaken amidst all your trials, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, being found complete in him, and then transformed wholly into his image: for, he adds, God is faithful to all his promises, and will assuredly do his part, if we do ours: by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
2nd, One chief end of St. Paul's writing this Epistle appears to have been, the healing of those divisions of which he had been informed. He therefore,
1. Exhorts them to union among themselves; in sentiment and affection to have their hearts knit together, avoiding, as the most dangerous rock, those disputes and divisions which must be the bane of Christian love, and could not but end in the ruin of the church.
And he urges this by the most powerful motive, even by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; not only as one authorized to enjoin this upon them, but suggesting that the very mention of the endearing name of Jesus should silence every jar, and fill their souls with love to him and one another. Note; Internal divisions among the members of Christ have more wounded his cause than all the external attacks of earth or hell.
2. He informs them whence he received his information of those evils which he so justly condemns; and solemnly remonstrates against their making so ill a use of his name, as well as of his brethren, to range themselves in different parties; while some said, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, or Peter, depreciating the one and exalting the other; as if it mattered aught by whose instrumentality they were converted to the faith: whilst others, as if above all means and instruments, boasted, I am of Christ, and so immediately under the teachings of his Spirit as to need no other instructor. But how absurd were these pretensions, and how dangerous these discords! Is Christ divided? so as to act separately from the means of his own appointment? or can there be the least sort of division between him and those who act by his authority? and with whom he has promised to be to the end of the world? or can his church, which is his body, and one with him, be disjointed, and his members subsist separately from each other, without infinite injury? Surely, no. And as for those ministers, under whose names you range yourselves, let me ask, applying it to myself, Was Paul crucified for you? Did I, or my brethren, ever pretend that we were your saviours? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul, by my authority, as my disciples, professing your faith in me, or obedience to my service? God forbid. Neither I, nor my fellow-labourers, ever taught you to hope for any other atonement than in a crucified Jesus, nor baptized you in any other name than his. I thank God, since this matter has been so abused by many of you, that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius, lest any should say, that I had baptized in mine own name, and sought to set myself at the head of a party. I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. Note; A faithful minister of Christ rejects with abhorrence all attempts to set him at the head of a party, solicitous only that his Master should be glorified, and jealous above all things never to rob him of his peculiar honours.
3rdly, Having vindicated himself from every insinuation that he designed to form a party by baptizing disciples, he disclaims every attempt to aggrandize himself by the manner in which he preached the Gospel unto them. For, says he, Christ, from whom immediately I received my commission, sent me not to baptize as my principal business; but to preach the Gospel, according to the revelation made known unto me; and he informs them,
1. Of the manner in which he preached,—not with wisdom of words, with affected flourishes of oratory, or to gratify philosophic pride, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect, the simple truth of a crucified Jesus should be obscured, its efficacy defeated, its honour tarnished, and the success be ascribed, not to the divine simplicity and native force of the truth, but to the art and eloquence of those who preached the Gospel. Note; Though eloquence, without ostentation, is both lawful and laudable, yet, as Luther says, he is the best preacher that can speak the most familiarly, and suits his discourse best to the capacity and understanding of the hearer, more solicitous to be understood than to be admired.
2. Of the effects of his preaching. For the preaching of the cross, and the great salvation obtained by the blood-shedding of the Redeemer on the ignominious tree, is to them that perish, foolishness. They who are puffed up in pride in their own sufficiency, or ignorant of their guilt and sinfulness, and their need of the redemption which is in Christ, reject the Gospel as nonsense and absurdity, and perish in their impenitence and unbelief. (1.) The doctrine of the cross was to the Jews a stumbling-block. They could not bear to receive him for their Messiah, who made so mean an appearance in his life, and died as a malefactor on a tree. Rejecting all the amazing miracles which he wrought, they required a sign from heaven, (Matthew 12:38.) expecting that he should appear in all worldly pomp and grandeur, as their temporal, instead of a spiritual, Redeemer. (2.) To the Greeks this doctrine was foolishness. They sought after wisdom, they received nothing but what was demonstrable on what they termed the principles of reason; and since their philosophic minds could perceive no connection between a man who was crucified, and the redemption of sinners; nor esteemed it possible, on their principles, that he who could not, as they conceived, save himself from the cross, should be able to save others from death and hell; they stamped the declaration with folly, and rejected it as absurd. But, (3.) unto us who are saved, however proud Greeks or self-righteous Jews may think of it, Christ, and the doctrine of salvation through his cross, appears to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God. The power of God is seen to be most gloriously displayed in the Mediator's undertakings and sufferings; in his miracles, resurrection, ascension; and especially in the mighty efficacy with which his Gospel is attended, through the influences of his Spirit, effectually quickening the dead in trespasses and sins, turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. The wisdom of God is astonishingly displayed in the stupendous scheme of man's redemption, wherein the sinner, consistent with the glory of every divine perfection, can be received into the bosom of mercy; and pardon, holiness, and glory, be bestowed on him, without dishonour to God's government or law, and this through the substitution of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, in our stead.
3. He shews the triumph of this doctrine of a crucified Jesus over all the inventions of the wisest sages: their schemes and systems could never relieve a guilty conscience, or lay a solid foundation for the sinner's hope. The Lord therefore, according to his word, (Isaiah 29:14.) stamps all human wisdom as folly. Where is the wise philosopher? Where is the learned scribe, deep read in traditions? Where is the disputer of this world, whether Jew or Gentile? Can the one or the other give the least satisfactory account, how a guilty sinner can be reconciled to an offended God? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? and left philosophers and rabbins to grope for the wall as blind? For after that, or since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, but their most learned sages were permitted to become vain in their imaginations, (see Romans 1:21-22.) ignorant of God, his worship, and ways; it pleased God, in his infinite grace and love, to make a more transcendant display of his own glory, by the foolishness of preaching, (for so would a wise world call the doctrine of the cross) to save them that believe, making it effectual to their peace, and joy, and holiness. This contrivance of divine wisdom to save lost souls by the incarnation of Jesus, is deemed the greatest folly; but the foolishness of God is wiser than men, infinitely excelling all their boasted researches, and ingenious systems; and the weakness of God is stronger than men, however inadequate the Gospel method in their eyes may appear; and however weak the instruments are, which are chiefly employed in the work, yet it was clear to demonstration, that what all the precepts of philosophy and the power of oratory never produced, the doctrine of the cross effected, destroying the kingdom of sin and Satan in the hearts of men, and causing such an evident change in their tempers and conduct as spoke the finger of God. Note; Wherever the Gospel is truly preached, however weak the instrument may be, God will bear testimony to his own word, that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God and not of us.
4. He appeals to them for the truth of what he had advanced, as verified by experience. For ye see your calling, brethren; how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; (see the Annotations;) some few singular instances to the contrary may be observed: but, in general, the proud philosopher, the self-righteous scribes, and the men of high birth and affluence, refuse to submit to the humbling and self-denying doctrines of the cross: and, leaving them to their folly and ruin, God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, that an illiterate Christian should shame the proud philosopher, and shew the surpassing influence of the doctrine of Jesus, above all his learned precepts. And God hath chosen the weak things of the world, men in the meanest outward circumstances, to confound the things which are mighty, to stamp vanity on human grandeur, and to shew that his kingdom stands without any earthly supports, nay, in defiance of all worldly power and influence; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, even the poor Gentiles, whom the self-righteous Jews would scarcely deign to put among the dogs of their flock, these hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, who never had a name or place in the church of God before, to bring to nought (καταργηση ), to abolish, the things that are, putting a period to the covenant of peculiarity, under which the Jewish people formerly stood, thinking themselves, exclusive of all others, the only favourites of heaven. But now all difference ceases, that no flesh should glory in his presence, on account of any imagined superiority in wisdom, wealth, nobility, or any external privileges; but that, as it is written, he that glorieth should glory in the Lord, ascribing the whole of their salvation to his rich and boundless grace, as revealed in the Gospel of Jesus to the miserable and the penitent.
5. He reminds them of the inestimable blessings to which, in virtue of their interest in Christ, they were entitled. They had of themselves nothing to glory in; but of him are ye in Christ Jesus, incorporated into the mystical body of Christ, who of God is made unto us, according to the constitution of the covenant of grace, wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption. (1.) Wisdom; we are naturally foolish, deceived, and ignorant; but all the treasures of wisdom reside in our exalted Head: and, as the prophet of his church, it is his office to lead us into all truth, for which end he has given us his word, and promises his Spirit, that we may be taught of God, and thereby be made wise unto salvation. (2.) Righteousness; as, by his sufferings and obedience unto death, he has satisfied the law and justice of God in our stead; and as this is accepted for us, and placed to our account, through faith in him, for the remission of our sins, and discharging us from condemnation, and for our justification in the sight of God. And since it does not become the holy God to take away the guilt of our sins, and at the same time leave us under their power and dominion, he has also made Christ to be, (3.) Sanctification; he is the head of vital influence, and, as a quickening Spirit, works effectually in the hearts of his believing people, mortifying and destroying their corrupt and vile affections, and daily renewing them in the inner man, that their spirits and temper may be brought to a nearer conformity with his own, until his whole mind be established in them. Lastly, God has made Christ to be Redemption to all his faithful saints, as he is their great and final Deliverer from all that is contemptible and miserable in this world, as well as in that to come; and as he will raise their dead bodies, and make them like unto his own glorious body, by the working of his mighty power; and, so complete their felicity: and thus Christ will become all in all to his saints; and to him alone shall all the glory be eternally ascribed.