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in the midst of the rankest heathenism. In the words of Dean Stanley," we are here allowed to witness the earliest conflict of Christianity with the culture and the vices of the ancient classical world; here we have an insight into the principles which regulated the apostle's choice or rejection of the customs of that vast fabric of heathen society which was then emphatically called the world'; here we trace the mode in which he combated the false pride, the false knowledge, the false liberality, the false freedom, the false display, the false philosophy, to which an intellectual age, especially in a declining nation, is constantly liable.”
The epistle is thus eminently practical, dealing with questions that had actually emerged in the experience of the Church to which it is addressed. In form it is orderly and logical, taking up one point after another in regular succession; in style it is more simple and direct than most of Paul's compositions, rising at times into the sublimest eloquence, as in the great eulogium on charity, or love.1
As already mentioned, the epistle was in part the reply to a letter of inquiry which had been sent to the apostle by the Corinthian Church in consequence of a letter which he had previously addressed to them.2
But the first six chapters have mainly reference to certain dangers threatening the Church, of which information had reached the apostle from another quarter, causing him the utmost anxiety and grief. These dangers were mainly twofold--the prevalence of party spirit, and the tendency to immorality. Hence the prominence given, in the opening salutation, to the holiness to which Christians are called, and to their unity in Christ;1 hence, too, the fact that in the accompanying thanksgiving for tokens of grace in the Corinthian Church, it is gifts of knowledge and utterance rather than graces of character that are specially mentioned.2
i Chap. xiii.
2 v. 9-11: “I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world: but now I write unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named å brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner ; with such a one no, not to eat." vii. 1 : “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote.
18 : “And I rejoice at the coming of Stephanasand Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours : acknowledge ye therefore them that are such."
2 Cor. ii. 3, 4: “And I wrote this very thing, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears.
(1) The tendency to sectarian division mentioned in the first chapter 3 seems to have been fostered by emissaries from Jerusalem, who wished to undermine Paul's authority and wrought upon the feelings and prejudices of the Jewish portion of the Church.4 The visit of Apollos, a learned and eloquent Jew of Alexandria,5 after Paul's departure, had tended in the same direction, by leading to an invidious comparison between his philosophical and rhetorical style of preaching and the more simple method of Paul, although the latter continued to regard him as a valuable coadjutor. But there were some-probably the Judaising party-who were content neither with the teaching of Paul nor of Apollos, but were disposed to range themselves under the name and authority of Cephas, as the leader of the twelve apostles and an observer of the Law. Others
1 i. 2:
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours.
2 i. 4, 5: “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge."
3 i. 12: “Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." 4 ix. 1-6 (quoted p. 103, note 3); vers.
If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap our carnal things? If others partake of this right over you, do not we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right; but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ"; 2 Cor. (passim).
5 Acts xviii. 24-28 : “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, a learned man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the scriptures. . And when he was minded to pass over into Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him : and when he was come, he helped them much which had believed through grace: for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ"; cf. i. 12 (quoted above, note 3);
• For whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and walk after the manner of men? For when one saith, I am of Paul ; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not
iii. 3, 4:
6 xvi. 12: “But as touching Apollos the brother, I besought him much to come unto you with the brethren: and it was not at all his will to come now; but he will come when he shall have opportunity."
professed to be independent of human teachers, and claimed a more direct connection with Christ, probably through their personal acquaintance with "the brethren of the Lord," or their national and historical affinity with Christ.1 In opposition to all these divisive courses, the apostle insists on the supremacy of Christ as the one Lord and Saviour. He introduces His name more frequently in this epistle than in any other of his writings (nine times, for example, in the first nine verses), and represents himself and other apostles as being not the heads of different schools, but siinply the ministers of Christ, by whom their converts were brought to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.?
(2) With regard to the immorality invading the Church, the apostle begins by referring to a terrible scandal—the taking to wife, by a Christian, of his stepmother during his father's lifetime. In the exercise of his apostolic authority he pronounces a stern sentence on the offender, and
urges the necessity for an uncompromising opposition to all such sin, and separation from those guilty of it, if they be members of the Church.3
In the next chapter, after deprecating the bringing of legal actions by Christians against one another in the heathen courts, he rebukes the antinomian tendencies among them, and lays down the fundamental principles on which the Christian law
of purity must rest.
The apostle then proceeds to answer the inquiries of his converts on the subject of marriage and celibacy, distinguishing between his own personal views and the expressed
1 i. 12 (quoted p. 110, note 3); ix. 5 (quoted p. 103, note 3).
2 i. 23, 24: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." iii. 5: “What then is Apollos ? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him.' iii. II: “For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which
is Jesus Christ.” iii. 21-23: “Wherefore let no one glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's ; and Christ is God's."
3 Chap. v.; cf. 2 Cor. vii. 12: “So although I wrote unto you, I wrote not for his cause that did the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered the wrong, but that your earnest care for us might be made manifest unto you in the sight of God.”
will of Christ. In the next three chapters 2 he deals with what was to his readers a subject of vast importance—the duty of Christians with reference to the feasts that were held in the idol temples, and more particularly with regard to the use of the flesh of animals offered in sacrifice, which was almost the only kind of animal food that could be bought in the market. This question he bids them consider not in the abstract, but as it bears on the interests of Christian society, and as it is likely to affect not only their own character but the character and feelings of their fellowChristians. In this connection he cites his own example of self-denial even in things lawful.3 In the next four chapters * he lays down directions for the guidance of his converts in matters of public worship,- dealing with such questions as the wearing of a covering on the head in the public services, the duty of a modest reticence on the part of the female members of the congregation, the necessity for sobriety and decorum in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, the harmony and common end of the various gifts conferred by the Spirit (of which he enumerates no less than nine), the superiority of love to all such gifts, the relative value and importance of the several gifts, and the propriety of making the religious services intelligible to all, so that they may be able to join in the loud Amen as the token of their fellowship. He sums up his teaching on public worship in the two cardinal principles, “let all things
1 vii. 10:
“But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord"; ver. 12: But to the rest say I, not the Lord" ver. 25: “Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful"; ver. 40:
“ But she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgement: and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.” 2 viii.-X. x. 23:
“All things are lawful; but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful; but all things edify not.' x. 32, 33:
“Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God: even as I also
please all men in all things, not seeking nine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.'
5 xii. 8-11: "For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom ; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues ; and to another the interpretation of tongues : but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.”
be done unto edifying,” “let all things be done decently and in order.”i The fifteenth chapter contains a dissertation of incomparable value on the resurrection of the dead-a doctrine which some of the Corinthians had begun to call in question, partly in a spirit of worldly-mindedness, and partly as the result of a sceptical philosophy. It was the future general resurrection that they doubted, not the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ, the latter fact being so fully accepted that one of the apostle's chief arguments against their scepticism was that it would involve the rejection of the testimony to Christ's resurrection. In the course of the argument we have a summary of evidences for the historical reality of our Lord's resurrection, delivered within twenty-five or thirty years after His death, while most of the witnesses were still alive. The last chapter contains a number of directions and intimations having reference, among other things, to the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem (which the apostle hoped to find ready on his next visit to Corinth),-after which the epistle concludes with the usual kind messages and autograph greeting
1 xiv, 26, 40.
2 xv. 33-35: “Evil company doth corrupt good manners. righteously, and sin not; for some have no knowledge of God: I speak this to move you to shame.
But some one will say, How are the dead raised ? and with what manner of body do they come?"
xv. 13-16 : But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised : and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he
raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised.”
4 xv. 4-8: “And that he was buried ; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures ; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as unto one born out of due time, he appeared to me also."